Simply productive

Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style by Carson Tate
Hello, my pretty…
3 words: individualized, practical, energetic
Oh, people, I seriously love the productivity books.
And this one is seriously good.
During a conversation with another librarian, I mentioned Getting Things Done (of course I did) and how it had revolutionized my workflow.
And she recommended the book Work Simply by Carson Tate, which she had found similarly helpful.
So I dashed right back to the library to check it out. 
And the thing I liked about this book — well, there were lots of things. 
First, I liked that Tate incorporates a lot of the principles I recognize from Getting Things Done, such as the 2-minute rule (or however many minutes you want to say — 1-minute rule, 5-minute rule, whatever). Basically, the idea is: If you can get it done in 2 minutes or less, do it now.
Second, I was wildly intrigued at Tate’s concept of the four productivity styles: Prioritizer, Planner, Arranger, and Visualizer.
And there’s a quiz that will tell you which is your primary and secondary style.
And of course, I was the boring styles, in a dead tie. 
You’re looking at a Planner / Prioritizer here.
There’s no glamour there, guys — no sparkle, no pizzazz. I simply get the stuff done.
The other styles (those Arrangers and Visualizers) are encouraged use multi-color sticky notes and file folders and cute, decorative office accessories. They’re prompted to use large whiteboards for brainstorming and inspiration. They’re told to decorate their offices lavishly.
This book explains why I don’t like those things (too distracting!) even though part of me wishes I did.
I’m the plain, simply-labeled file folder type. Times two. (Planner + Prioritizer)
I sighed heavily, accepted my fate, and got down to business.
That’s what we prioritizing planners do.  
Here are some tips I immediately implemented from this book:
  • Created a list of “10 Minutes or Less” action steps
  •  Started actually scheduling buffer time (to accommodate the time spent in transition from one task to another)
Seriously helpful stuff here!
I’ve actually made it into a game (the prioritizing planner type of game) that I’ll do one item each day from the “10 Minutes or Less” list, which is forcing me to pick off some of the stuff that I’d otherwise push off to another day. It gives a little jolt of satisfaction that I’ve checked something off the list, and that thing took only a small amount of time.
This book also gives tips for dealing with interruptions, improving productivity of meetings, and writing more effective emails.

There’s really something here for everyone, regardless of work style. 

Talk to me… What are your favorite books about productivity? 

KonMari’d librarianwear

Just in case you thought I was all talk and no action when it came to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (dang, I love that book)…

I give you…

My librarian cardigan shelves!

I know. It’s a beautiful sight.  
My closet doors actually close now (due to all that tidying up), but sometimes I keep them open anyway — because: the view, people! The view!!

Creature of habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
3 words: informative, inspiring, thought-provoking
To a confirmed self-improvement book junkie, this book was as tantalizing as a rabbit to a greyhound. I just couldn’t get enough of it.
Duhigg harnesses the power of story to convey big truths about habit formation, and he’s a darn good storyteller.
He’s selected anecdotes that clearly illustrate each concept, so even if a person (that would be me) tends to forget the details, simpy recalling the story helps to bring the details back into focus.
For me, the biggest takeaway is the concept of keystone habits — the habits that create an avalanche effect on other habits.
With a keystone habit, once you change one habit, lots of other good habits follow, almost of their own accord. It’s like giving yourself a master key that unlocks all the doors.
And I really loved this part:
One of the biggest, most consistent keystone habits is exercise.
Once a person starts exercising, she tends to start eating more healthfully and getting better sleep. And exercise creates some really great benefits that fuel other good things that help a person stick with a habit: increased energy, improved mood, endorphins. It becomes the best kind of feedback loop.

As a running junkie (a habit even more deeply rooted than the reading of self-improvement books), it was fascinating to read this analysis, which so clearly explained many of the reasons that once I started running, I really started smiling.  

Last fall I read Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before. While The Power of Habit covers the same topic, they’re quite different books. And I like them both so very much. They complement each other well.

If you’re into the self-improvement stuff, oh, guys… pick up this book.

Gettin’ it done

Getting Things Done by David Allen
Project unstuck due to GTD! Next action: find photo for final frame
3 words: life-changing, practical,
invigorating
Wow, people.
This book has changed my life.
While I’ve usually felt good about my level of productivity, I’ve recently taken it up about 10 notches.
And meanwhile, I’ve been
walking around feeling relatively calm and contented.
And this book (plus the not-so-hard work of actually implementing the steps) is completely responsible.
It’s positively weird how effective this methodology is.
So, basically, there are several aspects to this system, and the parts that stick out the most for me are:
– If it can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it now.
– Capture all ideas and store them someplace safe. And then develop a surefire way to make sure you can retrieve the information at the right time. (Man, it’s so librarian-ish, I get all aquiver. Information storage & retrieval!)
– Decide: What’s my next action? And make it concrete.
That “next action” thing is ridiculously powerful. I recently got myself unstuck by changing the wording of my “next action” from “Send email to Person A about Project B” to “Draft email to Person A about Project B.”
I know it seems silly, but it works. 
So — it’s probably a good idea to avoid me for a while, because I’m on the loose in this world, radiating the zeal of a particularly fervent convert. Given the chance, I’ll start talking GTD, and I’ll be all gleeful, and you will wish to flee. 
And then I’ll go and do something remarkably pedestrian but wildly productive. 
And then I’ll cement the bliss by listening to the Getting Things Done podcast or watching a GTD video on YouTube
And then I’ll try to tell you about that, too. 
So: you’ve been warned.

Habitually happier

Better Than Before: Mastering the
Habits of Our Everyday Lives
by
Gretchen Rubin
3 words:
encouraging, practical, inspiring
I’ve
been binge-reading and binge-listening to Gretchen Rubin these past couple of
months, and it’s been making me Happier.*  
After
reading The Happiness Project a virtual lifetime ago, I was a Rubin
convert. 
And then
I read Happier at Home a few months
ago, and: more happiness in my home, too.
Habit helper: setting a bedtime alarm
This
latest book, I feared, might be kind of a buzz-kill. It’s about habits, and
that sounds so very, very earnest. 
And after a long day of giving it all I’ve
got, by the point in the evening when I actually get to sit down to read, I
wasn’t so sure that reading about habit formation was really gonna set my world
on fire.
Wrong.
Sometimes
I love it when I’m wrong.
The
things that save this book are the same things that made Rubin’s other two
books so delightful: her voice and her honesty and her research and her
willingness to throw herself into her work and then put herself out there for
us to see.
Also,
even though I’m tired by the end of the day, I have a weakness for
self-improvement projects, and when I read this on page 5, she had me: “Habits
make change possible by freeing us from decision making and from using
self-control.”
The
thought that better habits could make it easier to do the things I think I
really should do—that’s some
revolutionary stuff right there. 
So I wrote a list of 5 things to work on, and I’m picking away at them. (Currently ignoring my bedtime alarm, so I’ve gotta pre-post this bad boy and hit the hay.)
But first…
3 more words: empowering, exciting, enjoyable
 
 

Happy house

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump
More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the
Practice of Everyday Life
by
Gretchen Rubin

3 words:
domestic, inspiring, pleasant

It’s only 92 degrees as I post this, so: HEARTH.

My home’s
been a regular little hive of domesticity in recent days (which makes it sound
like I’ve been baking bread and whipping up souffles and generally using my
kitchen, which I assure you is not actually taking place; also: no flower-arranging).
But ever
since I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve been changing my life by tidying
up. 
Crazy
but true: this stuff actually works.
[Update:
I’ve KonMari’d my clothes, and a wonderful friend helped me build a dresser to accommodate my little bundles of clothes, and I am almost frighteningly happy every time I
open my closet (which now actually closes).]
And then
I turned to Gretchen Rubin for some more home life inspiration, because I’m on
a roll here.
I really liked Rubin’s earlier book, The Happiness Project (liked it even more than expected).
And I
knew I’d like this one, too—once I was feeling settled enough to read it. 
(I’m
currently feeling wildly, contentedly, excitedly settled, so I went in.)
Rubin
covers some similar ground as Marie Kondo (removing clutter), and she builds on
some ideas in her own Happiness Project (building
shrines: gathering together objects that remind you of happy times).
But the
book goes beyond the physical aspects of home, to encompass things like giving
warm greetings and farewells, and suffering for 15 minutes.
This
15-minute suffering concept intrigues me. Basically, the idea is: we can stand
almost anything for 15 minutes. So
spend 15 minutes a day on one of those odious tasks you keep avoiding, and the
thing’ll actually get done.
I might
also convert it into “relax for 15 minutes”—because sometimes that’s the thing
that doesn’t get done. 
I’m putting “Read for 15 minutes” on my to-do list for tomorrow. (As if I’ll stop at 15…)

Sparking joy all over the place

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

 

Don’t worry—I’m not about to post a YouTube video of my perfectly re-folded sock drawer. (I haven’t gotten to that part yet.)

But I’m here to tell you, guys, this total non-hoarder just dispensed with 3 garbage bags full of clothes after reading this quick little book. And against all
odds, I recently packed for a 5-day trip in a mere carry-on!

I am a changed woman.

 

And dang, it feels good.

 

So here’s why this book is sweeping the nation: Kondo’s theory is that we should keep only the things that spark joy.

Everything else: out!

 

So she has you go through your home, touching each object (which I thought would be counter to de-cluttering, based on research that shows that once we touch an item in a store, we’re umpteen times more likely to buy it—but it actually helped me get rid of stuff) and deciding whether it brings joy. Then you toss out all the old stuff that no longer does it for you.

 

She suggests going through your home by category, starting with clothes. This also works. (Though I cheated and started weeding my library before I’d cleared all the closets. Book fanatic inevitability.)

 

So here’s what she suggests when it comes to the books: take all the books off the
shelves, stack them on the floor, and then pick up each book and decide whether it gives you joy.

 

I might actually do that.

 

Then you go through everything else in your house, category by category.

 

Then you get to do the fun part and KonMari your clothes.

(This was my carry-on packing secret weapon.)

So I’m all swept up in it, purging things like a wild woman in my meager free time. It’s become one of my treats.

I know.
Sick.

But this place is looking darn spiffy, guys.

 

Everybody writes

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To
Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
by Ann Handley
3 words:
smart, cheerful, encouraging
Of
course you don’t. 
But of course you also knew I’d remind you. I got your back
that way.
Well, Everybody Writes is similiarly
binge-worthy. 
Handley’s voice is friendly and welcoming, and she’s there
coaching you and cheering you on as you flail away at the keyboard.
Here’s
the cool thing about this book: She tells you all kinds of ways to suck less as
a writer. And while you know it’s gonna be work, she makes you want to do it
anyway. And she breaks it down into friendly little pieces, so it’s manageable.
My
favorite chapter—the one that will forever stay with me: “Embrace the Ugly
First Draft.”
It took
first place, even after its preceding chapter (“Organize. Relax, You’ve Got
This”) had been awarded the gold medal only minutes earlier.
That “Organize”
chapter gives us permission to do the easy thing—just jot ideas down on paper
and then pull them together later. Just spew it out, almost like brainstorming. What a relief! (Seriously.)
Then she
motivates you (oh, so gently; oh, so cheerfully) to become a better writer.
I’m
actually gonna buy a copy of this book. That’s
how good it is.

Self-… what?

The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons fron
Extraordinary Lives
by Katie
Couric
OK, so here’s me,
reading any self-help book: “Profound! So simple, yet so meaningful…” 
Then, one week
later: “…What was that book about, again?”
So yeah. I’m
running true to form here.
I listened to the audiobook, and I liked it plenty. Couric contacted a whole passel of
famous people and asked them to write a short essay on the best advice they
ever received. 
And some of the essays are actually great. And a few of them I
had to fast-forward through because they were so self-congratulatory I wanted
to hurl. But most of them
contained some darn good advice.
Which I promptly
forgot.
But here are the
few things that I jotted down in time, so they weren’t lost forever.
“Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”—General David Petraeus 
[I’ll refrain from
commenting about his personal ethics, though I’m sorely tempted to do so.]
Basically, this one’s about learning new things and taking risks and being OK
with the discomfort of trying something unfamiliar. And I’ve been getting some practice in this realm, and I like it.     
This one made me
gasp: “Treat yourself as well as you treat others.”—Gloria Steinem. 
Yeah, some
of us have some work to do there.
And here’s my
favorite line, from Couric herself: “We have an obligation to find and give
joy.” As responsibilities go, that’s one I can happily embrace.

This stuff ain’t for sissies

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be
Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
by Brene Brown
OK, raise your hand if you’ve seen Brene Brown’s viral TED talks.


TED Talk the First (that’s it, just above there) 
Yeah, I’ve seen ’em, too. (After two people
from completely different realms of my life mentioned her within the same week,
I decided that was an indication I should check this stuff out. And I gotta tell you: it was at the perfect moment. [And I gotta tell you: there’s probably not an imperfect moment to hear these ideas.])
If you’re intrigued by Brown’s research about how we need to be vulnerable in order to really fully live our
lives, then this book is just the ticket. 
I found it fascinating, inspiring,
terrifying, and eye-opening. (Why terrifying? Because vulnerability is not for
the weak of heart, people!)
Here’s the other thing to know
about Brown: she’s a great storyteller. So even though, yes, she’s an academic
researcher, she puts the soul back into the data.
There are so many good ideas
packed into this book, it’s hard to isolate them. But here’s what I carried
away:
Vulnerability shows strength,
not weakness.
If we numb the pain, we also
numb the joy.
And guys, that’s all I’m gonna
say. This book has life-changing capacities. ’nuff said.