August 30, 2006

Getting Things Done in the library

Posted in Getting Things Done, GTD, Productivity at 1:51 pm by Alexia

Back when I introduced myself and this blog I mentioned that one of the areas I planned to blog on was work productivity issues. So, here’s my take on time management in the library – you can’t.

Most time management systems advocate setting aside blocks of time to work on certain tasks. Obviously the proponents of such systems are not librarians, or any other professional or worker in a workplace where interuptions are the norm and time is never of one’s own. One day though, while surfing the Net in desperation of finding something, anything that would help me get rid of the feeling of drowning, I ran across David Allen and his methology of “getting things done”. There are two key objectives to his methodology:

  1. Capture all the things that you need to get done in a trusted system.
  2. Discipline yourself to make front-end decisions about your inputs.

In essence, you manage what your “open loops” by writing them down so you don’t use brainpower trying to remember what you have to do and when. It is more than a calendar system, and far less restrictive than an organizational system. David Allen gives us the tools to help us establish stress free productivity but leaves it up to us to decide how to iimplement those tools.

Rather than overwhelm my blog readers with a lengthy summary I will try to post one day a week on GTD and how it can relate to managing workflow in a library. In the meantime, I highly suggest reading “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.

August 10, 2006

Time management for the hospital librarian

Posted in Productivity at 11:30 am by Alexia

While I think that time management for the hospital librarian is an oxymoron (it is hard to manage time that is not necessarily your own when part of your job is interacting with other people, i.e. Patrons) I do believe there is a way for us to organize our work day.  I will elaborate on this in later posts.  Today I wanted to point out an article from the Boston Globe, specifically two paragraphs I think relevant to hospital librarians.

To do this, she says, start by blocking an hour or half-hour each day as power time to accomplish priorities. That may mean coming in early or hiding in the cafeteria to escape interruptions.

Break tasks into 10-minute segments; when you get interrupted, jot a phrase or cue to bring you back into the task later. When people drop in or call, give them your full attention, she suggests.

While hiding in the cafeteria may is probably not feasible, coming in 1/2 hour early may or may not work.  My director found that patrons eventually discover your early arrival and will use to their advantage.

I particularly liked the the suggestion about writing down a cue.  Hospital librarians, especially if they sit at a public reference desk, tend to get interrupted a lot.  Breaking down tasks into 10 minute segments is brilliant.  It’s a small enough segment that it most likely could be completed.  Cueing can help the hospital librarian get back on task quickly, until the next interruption.  We find ourselves torn between the two aspects of our job – helping the patron and keeping the library running.  While using a tool such as jotting down a cue will not solve this conflict entirely it can go a long way in helping us balance the two aspects of our job.