When is good enough, enough?

Just about every trainer, writer, creative person I know has shared that one of the biggest challenges faced is knowing when something is good enough. How many of you write blog posts that you never publish because it’s not good enough? How many of you work on digital images or websites that are never quite perfect enough?

There is a lot of time wasted on striving for perfection, and I would guess that most of us lack the time to achieve the level of perfection we strive for. Look at some of the most successful people you know. Do they strive for perfection for months and months until the idea is no longer relevant? Or do they accept good enough, collaborate with others to achieve something close to perfection, then move on to the next big project? Where would we be today if Steve Jobs had not released the ipod because it was not good enough?

Source: Productivity 501

Lately I’ve controlled my perfectionistic tendencies with strict, and I mean STRICT, deadlines. I plan my schedule carefully. I start by allocating every minute of my working day in my calendar. I schedule time to check email, attend meetings, then allow a few hours of time to respond to customer needs. On any given day that schedule could change in an instant!  When I am working on large projects I use a spreadsheet for project management and estimate time to be spent on each phase. Then I schedule that time on my calendar given realistic time available. Often there is not enough available time and that’s when the tough decisions come in to play. Can I delegate, change deadlines, adjust priorities, or do I need to change my own self-expectations?

Don’t get caught up in the trap of trying to perfect of time management so that more time is spent on planning and managing tasks and spreadsheets than actually accomplishing anything. This is another common challenge for perfectionists.

Perfectionists have a lot to offer to an organization, but they/we need to learn how to balance our need for perfection and decide when is good enough, enough.

How do you do to combat perfectionism?

Here are some quotes to ponder:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Strive for progress, not perfection.”

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
~Thomas Edison

“When you aim for perfection, you discover it is a moving target.”
~Geoffrey F. Fisher

Get More (important things) Done

Earlier this month I presented an online training session to the great folks at NEFLIN on time management and getting things done. The training was based on my personal time management style which is a combination of David Allen’s Getting Things Done and Sally McGhee’s Take Back Your Life which gives detailed instructions on how to implement GTD with Microsoft Outlook.

The slides from the session are below and over the next few months I will be writing a series of posts about time management with the best tips and techniques that I have learned. Time management is my passion, so I hope you will follow along and pass this along to your friends.

Comment Challenge Day 7

Day 7: Reflect on what you’ve learned so far.

Hmmm. I will start out by saying this is a lot of work! All of it. Blogging, reading blogs, and providing meaningful comments. Luckily a wise person once told me to stop watching TV. I took her advice and I have lots of time for fun things like this.

I think the key to being successful in this community is you have to manage your time well. It’s so funny how often this world reflects the real world. In the real world I would not spend hours flipping through hundreds of magazines looking for interesting articles. Instead I would pick a few favorites, read them thoroughly, and occasionally try a new one out.

For me I think blogging needs to be the same. For the past year I have subscribed to almost every library or training blog I’ve come across. That might help explain my 611 feeds. I will admit I don’t read all of them. There are a few that I read daily. The rest I skim for information. I have this fear of missing out on something. But I’ve come to realize that as long as I subscribe to a few select blogs I won’t miss anything! The biblioblogosphere is good about sharing information!

So my task will be to pare down the feeds. I am not going to unsubscribe. Instead I am going to rearrange my folders so that my favorite blogs are in their own folder and focus my time on those. I’ll also work on narrowing down my search feeds. Do I really need to see every post that has the words library and training? Probably not.

So while my reflection has little to do with the comment challenge, it sets me on the path to being able to be a better commenter by focusing my attention.

I’d love to hear from some of the other bibliobloggers who I’m sure have massive amounts of feeds. How much time do you spend a day reading feeds? Do you read all of them? Do you filter feeds with searches? What other tips can you share with the rest of us who suffer from too many blogs, too little time?

Michael Stephens, Meredith Farkas, Helene Blowers, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Jenny Levine just to name a few. Anyone else please feel free to comment too!

Top 10 Tips for Getting Organized

A few years ago I was overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time. Sound familiar? I tried everything–just about every paper planner and organization software out there. Then as I was prepping for a Microsoft Outlook class, I came across the book Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook to Get Organized and Stay Organized. That book changed my life!

It’s based on the principles of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, but you don’t have to have read GTD first. Take Back Your Life tells you specifically how to apply Allen’s time management system using the features available in Outlook.

I have to say it took some getting used to. In the past I’ve managed my life by email. You know what I mean. I was even at the point of emailing myself things that I didn’t want to forget! I had everything in my Inbox from staff requests for training to my user name and password for Yahoo training accounts.

It took some time to actually implement the new system, but it was time well spent. My home and work life feel more organized and efficient.

So now I’ll share with you, my top 10 tips for getting organized.

  1. Don’t use your Inbox as a task list. What’s the golden rule of handling snail mail? Handle it once. Toss it, act on it, or file it. Email is no different. I started setting aside some time each morning and each afternoon to process email. When I read a message I immediately reply, delete, or file (and it rarely needs to be filed). I never let messages stew in my Inbox. It just takes too much time to go through them repeatedly. Any emails that need action become a task on my task list.
  2. Schedule time each day or each week for your system. Use this time to plan the next week, file, straighten up your desk, etc.
  3. Use the same time management system for home and work. It just takes too much time and effort to have two separate systems. Plus these days there is just too much overlap between home and work.
  4. Keep a list of quick tasks. We spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting in line at a drive through, waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting on hold on the phone. Have a list of some tasks that you can do quickly during these times. Take this time to catch up on reading journal articles, make a phone call, enter information from business cards into your address book.
  5. Stop multitasking! I was once the self-proclaimed queen of multi-tasking, but once I stopped I found that the quality of my work improved. Obviously there are times when we have no choice but to multi-task. But when you have the opportunity to give one project your full attention, you’ll be amazed at what you can get done.
  6. Reclaim your life from email. Do you really need to be notified every time you’ve got mail? Turn off all the bells and whistles and stop getting distracted every time you receive an email. A study cited in Time Magazine evaluated the work habits of 1,000 office workers. The study found that interruptions take up about 2.1 hours or 28% of the average work day. Imagine what you could do with that extra time. If you are really bold, try organizing email-free Fridays.
  7. Weed! The principles of weeding books apply to other areas of your life too. Choose what you really love and enjoy and focus on those things. Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies to just about everything. 80% of the time we read 20% of our RSS feeds. 80% of the time we wear 20% of the clothes from our closets.
  8. Cut the clutter! This goes hand in hand with weeding. How much time do you spend looking for lost or misplaced keys, wallets, or other items? Keep only what’s absolutely necessary or what you love and let go of the rest.
  9. Find a safe, secure solution for keeping up with accounts and passwords. It’s not safe to write them down or keep them in an Excel spreadsheet. I use eWallet and have found it to be a huge time-saver and well worth the $20-30 investment. It synchronizes with my PDA so I always have this important information with me.
  10. Stick with it. It takes time to develop new habits. If you fall off the organization wagon, hop right back on.

Do you have an organization or time management tip to share, please post it in the comments.

p.s. Great minds think alike. Shortly after posting this I got around to reading my RSS feeds and saw that Karen over at Library Web Chic is now a GTD fan as well. She’s post links to some great web-based time management tools too.

Week 5 Thing 11: LibraryThing

Ahhh…more blog bling. You’ll have to scroll down to see it but it’s down there on the right sidebar and looks like this:


My recent books added to LibraryThing. Because this list will get updated as I add new books, I want to take a moment to recommend two of these books.

Take Back Your Life: Using Microsoft Outlook to Get and Stay Organized

This is the book I have been reading for a few months, and I have to say it has made a huge difference in how organized hyperorganized I am and how productive I am. As the title says this book shows you how to use all the bells and whistles of Outlook for time management and project management. The key point that this book makes is that the majority of your time should be spent on Meaningful Objectives. After all, none of us will ever have enough time to do everything. So you have to decide what is important to you and then do things that relate to that. I actually took a week and did some of the exercises in the book and typed up a list of my meaningful objectives. Now when I am asked if I can do something, I take a look at, or think about, my meaningful objectives to make sure that what I am being asked to do will contribute to those in some way. This won’t work for everybody, but if you are the kind of person who likes to put things in writing and want to learn more about Outlook this book is for you!

Never Check E-Mail In the Morning: And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work

This book by organization queen, Julie Morgenstern, will give you some strategies to deal with your full inbox. Her biggest tip, as the title of the book says, never check e-mail in the morning. Instead spend the first few hours of the day being productive before you let e-mail take you hostage. For most of us, this rule is impractical at best. But Morgenstern gives some alternatives, such as: check your e-mail in the morning but only to see if anything urgent is in your inbox. Then close your e-mail and only check it every two hours.

This tip is one of the hardest to do, but on days when I don’t leave Outlook open and only check e-mail two or three times in a day, I get a lot more accomplished. Most of the time I do leave Outlook open, but I have turned off all the new message notifiers which I find to be distracting.

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