Time Tips from a Tabbed-Out Librarian

IMG_0001_NEWWhen you have too much in your brain to process during your work day, you are tabbed-out. Welcome to my world.

Many librarians are working in an understaffed library situations where most of the day is spent on the floor responding to immediate requests for assistance. Then, when all is finally quiet (like, when we’re supposed to be sleeping), our brain invents resolutions to problems and comes up with new programs to try.

One of my bosses gave me this note after I’d complained how little I sleep when I’m overly excited about work. It’s posted above my desk at home. Well, I’ve gotten tired of not sleeping! (No pun intended.) So, in honor of the New Year, I’ve listed some good habits that may help you and I both to manage our day-time schedules better and allow time for thinking… and, perhaps potty breaks as well.

Time Tip #1: Estimate Task Times– In Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern recommends to write down the amount of time it will take to complete a task. That would include travel and clean-up time. I thought this was silly at first, but then I added up a single list of Saturday To-Do tasks. Apparently, I had 18 hours worth of work to get done in one day. Oh dear! Including the estimated time it will take to complete a task might help everyone involved, especially those who are a bit time management-challenged!

Time Tip #2: Designate Task Times – Instead of generating one long running list of tasks to do,  Morgenstern suggests to add a task to the day you plan to work on it. How often have I written down, “schedule tree trimmers.” The same thing appears on lists going back two years. But, if I write this task down on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. in my new (and biggest possible) Franklin planner when I know I will have two minutes to make the call, it has a much higher probability of getting done.

Time Tip #3: Close the Tab; File the Task for Later – In the book Getting Things Done, the author, David Allen, suggests to create an inbox of everything that’s on your mind. Stereotypically, if you’re a woman, this an impossibility! I myself would need an entire room to pile all the incomplete and ongoing projects I need to do around the house and at work. But! I could close some of the tabs in my brain if I simply wrote down a task, e.g., “update magazines list,” and filed it in a January folder that I plan to look through at the beginning of every year. I’ve already created monthly folders for both home and work. Now it’s just a matter of jotting down a To-Do and dropping it in the appropriate one. If I buy a folder to hang during Comic-Con, for example, I can now add it to the “May” folder when Comic-Con is scheduled to take place.

Time Tip #4: Shrink Email Time – Up until recently, “inbox to empty” has been a myth for me. Then, I watched this video by Steve Dotto. (Start at 25 minutes if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing.) Using Steve’s fabulous tips, I now I try to limit the time I check my email to a few minutes in the morning and evening. When I “check” my email, I deal with it. The trick is to start at the top and plow through all the messages in one sitting. I no longer pick and choose the interesting messages. No longer do I abandon an opened message without doing something with it. I delete (or archive), delegate, or respond to the emails in my Gmail tabs. Using the tabs helps to focus energy on what’s important, meaning, the primary tab, of course. Trust me. I’m still developing this habit.

Time Tool: Use Boomerang! – The most useful tool of the year so far is a FREE add-on for Gmail. You know how you open an email and think to yourself, “Hmm. I can’t deal with this yet because I’m still waiting to hear back from Bob.” or “I don’t have time to write a response today.” Instead of letting such emails pile up on top of one another, you can use Boomerang to re-send such messages back to your inbox at a time that better suits you. This allows you to keep your inbox clean, but you won’t forget about the task. Check it out.

With any luck, I won’t be tabbed-out with as much frequency as I have been in the past and neither will you. Happy New Year!

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