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.”
~unknown

“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

Finding the Bathroom at 40

I’m about four and a half months into my new position, with a new organization, in a new city. It seems like a good time for some outward reflection. I started my first week nervous, excited, and open to new ideas. As it had been more than ten years since working for a new employer and many more since living in a new city, I told myself at least once an hour that every trainer/leader needs to experience this feeling more frequently. Granted we’ve all experienced what it is like to be new, but for some trainers/leaders it is so infrequent that that I think we forget what it is like to be overwhelmed on so many different levels. I spent years on the team for new employee orientation at my last job, yet I think that many times we forgot how overwhelming it is to be new. There is so much we take for granted after years or even months in an organization. Think about Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs. What do your employees need above all else before they can learn your mission statement and your policy on social networking? I’ll tell you what they want to know. The same thing our patrons want to know. Where’s the bathroom??!??

My office has not only a security code to get in to the office from the hallway, but there is a code, a different code, to get into the bathroom. Here I am trying to remember new passwords to a million new accounts, how to get to and from work, the names and faces of 60 different people, and for the first two weeks I struggled to remember this code to the bathroom. I remember thinking that if I can’t remember the code how will I ever remember everything else! But like all new employees, the day soon came when I not only remembered the secret code but had to teach someone else the code.

My first week at work consisted of learning the ins, outs, and behind the scenes of each of our products as well as learning the tools for supporting our products. The first month was about building relationships with my new coworkers–going through the group development process of forming, storming, norming. It’s fascinating to go through group development and recognize different phases of the process. It’s also comforting during the stressful storming parts to remind everyone that “this too shall pass.” Most of my time has been spent being a sponge and absorbing as much as possible while also trying to create and maintain relationships and define my role within the organization. I’ve worked on some exciting projects that I’ll write about soon.

My days at work were a piece of cake compared to the rest of my life for the first two months. Accepting a new job with only a few weeks notice, meant that I’d be living apart from my family during the week. Fridays and Mondays meant two and a half hour commutes between cities and the rest of the week meant nights alone or with my temporary roommate (my sister in law).

A few weeks into my job I turned 40! Turning 40 is kind of like high school prom or graduation. You have these big expectations but really it is just another day. I was so homesick on my birthday. But the ladies I work with took me out to lunch at an amazing restaurant and we had a fantastic celebration. My birthday cake looked like a flower with tiny candles that opened up to a gigantic sparkler. I feared the table would catch on fire. It was definitely a birthday to remember.

40th Birthday! Yep we almost set the table on fire!

Life went on like this for two months, and just as I settled into this new routine it was time to move. The week before my family moved, I received a phone call at work that a very close family member had died unexpectedly. In the middle of preparing to move, I dropped everything to go be with my family in Florida. Needless to say the past few months have been overwhelming and exhilarating all at the same time. I’m very thankful to my Facebook and Twitter friends who cheered me on providing both encouragement and comfort.

It feels good to be challenged in new and different ways. My family is settled. The kids are out of school. My husband is enjoying being a stay at home dad. If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that we are resilient. Just when you think things are tough enough, life throws another curve ball or punch to the stomach. It’s hard. It hurts. But we recover, learn, and are stronger for what we have gone through, and above all I know the secret code to get into the bathroom!

Building a Personal Learning Solution: 10 Steps to Control Information Overload and Take Back Your Life

When you look at the statistics of how much training actually gets retained by learners and how much training actually transfers back to the workplace, you have to ask yourself two questions. Why are we doing training? What can we do better? The problem with most training is that it doesn’t fill an immediate need. What’s the point in taking a class on Microsoft Access if I’m not going to use it for six months or worse don’t even have the software installed. Sounds crazy but believe me it happens. One of the other problems with training is that of ownership. We’ve grown up in this 20th century idea of training with the “sage on the stage”–of one person disseminating information and the learners hoping to learn it all through osmosis. It just doesn’t work that way.

Real learning is a participatory act or a dance between the learners and the facilitator and the learners among themselves. But what to do with information pouring in daily by the gigabyte? Too much to do and too much to keep up with. Enter the personal learning solution = personal learning environment + personal learning network. The 23 Things Program was the first widely distributed example of a personal learning solution. Participants used a blog to keep track of their learning, participants connected with other bloggers, and participants learned a lot about Web 2.0 and technology that was new to them.

In many ways PLSs are ideal for library staff who must manage lots of information with a limited amount of time. The following slides were used this week for a presentation for LibraryLinkNJ. Take a look at them to learn more about PLSs.

View more presentations from Lori Reed
My PLS has and will continue to change over time. Initially it consisted of thousands of RSS feeds in Google Reader. But then I got tired of seeing the count of 1000+ unread items. My true unread count–Google can’t even count as high. Next I navigated to Facebook and Twitter where I made more personal connections with other trainers and library staff. I like that the information is instant, timely, and doesn’t give me a read versus unread count. If I miss something, I can be sure that someone else out there will share the information. This past summer I migrated towards having all my information come into my Gmail account where I set up filters to organize and file the information. Your PLS will be unique to you and it will and should change over time.
If you are creating or thinking about updating your PLS, I’d encourage you to start with the end in mind and think about your goal. No one can keep up with everything. Is your goal to be a better trainer? To stay informed on local, community events? To learn more about one topic? To keep up with the latest tech news? Or to keep up with library news in general? Start with a specific goal and add more content only when you feel comfortable with the amount you already have.
In the following weeks as I embark on a new job and new phase in my career, my learning and information needs will definitely change. As I transition from a focus on “training” to a broader scope of customer relationships and end-user experiences, my information needs will look very different. With my thousands of feeds, I’ve decided to delete them all and start over fresh with a limit of 100 feeds. By effectively filtering information as it comes in using Google Alerts and Twitter Searches I should be able to keep my list of feeds to a manageable size. I’m reminding myself daily that quality should be chosen over quantity.
As we enter to into an early Spring, at least here in North Carolina, I invite you to do some early Spring cleaning and take stock of your information consumption by doing the following:
  1. Mark all your RSS feeds as read. I hear stories of people who get stressed just thinking about the number of unread RSS feeds they have. Remember that technology is here to serve us not the other way around. If you miss something important your sure to see it again from another source.
  2. Prune your RSS subscriptions to an amount that is manageable for you, or delete your feeds and start over.
  3. Know when to subscribe to RSS versus when to bookmark a site. Do you really want to read every post? Or do you want to make sure you can find the site again? Delicious and Pinboard are great bookmarking tools.
  4. Use lists in TweetDeck to manage the people and information you follow. Set up groups based on how much you want to see from the people in the group. The smaller the group, the more you will see. Add keyword columns to search on topics that are relevant to you. Twitter can easily get unmanageable without tools to manage lists.
  5. Unsubscribe from people who complain or are just generally negative all the time. Why surround yourself with negativity.
  6. Unsubscribe from people who post little of value to you. The information may be great, but as your needs change so should the people you follow. Get over the Twitequette that says you need to follow back anyone who follows you.
  7. Learn to use Facebook’s lists feature. You can create lists of coworkers, personal friends, family, librarians, or just about any list imaginable. The benefit is two-fold. First, you can click a button and see only the updates from those most important to you–close friends and family. Second, you can post updates that only specific lists of friends can see. If I’m posting about my cat or children, I may not want all 500 of my friends to see the post. Likewise if you are at a conference, you don’t want to overload your non-library friends and family with ALA totebag posts.
  8. Schedule time each day for online information consumption. 30 minutes should be adequate for most people. If you are in a PR, marketing, or role that requires you to keep track of more information, then adjust the time accordingly. If you are a manager who expects your staff to stay current on library news and information, make that expectation clear and schedule time for staff to do it. If it’s not scheduled it won’t happen.
  9. Schedule time each day to play and set a timer! Facebook is a time suck! Acknowledge that and do something about it. If you are ok with spending hours each night playing Words With Friends or preparing a new crop for Farmville, and it doesn’t affect your personal life, great! But if it interferes with your family relationships or causes you to neglect other parts of your life, do something about it and set a timer. Did you know that inpatient centers are popping up to treat Internet addiction? Internet addiction is real and is more prevalent than you might realize. If you are using the Internet to escape some part of your life, get help. Life is too short to live in a virtual world like the folks in the movie Wall-E.
  10. Don’t forget to take time to participate in your networks. Comment on blogs. Post links to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Add to the discussions taking place. If you don’t have anything to add, offer encouragement to someone having a bad day. This is your social network karma.

I hope this information and tips are helpful. I’d love to hear from you in the comments? What does your personal learning solution look like? And how are you controlling the overload of information?

UPDATE: If you are looking for a tool to manage multiple social media accounts. Check out this great review of three products from the Social Media Examiner.

I’m Joining the Team at NoveList

If you’ve been following my blog you might have noticed subtle changes to the site over the past few weeks. The logo for Lori Reed Learning Solutions has been replaced with a different header. Posts have become a bit more personal in nature. When I transitioned to full-time consulting last summer, I anticipated remaining self-employed for life (or at least a few years). I enjoyed working with a variety of libraries and library cooperatives. I loved teaching classes and receiving feedback from participants about how much they learned. I also enjoyed being home with my kids after school and having more flexibility with my schedule. So it’s bittersweet to announce that I taught my final workshop as an independent consultant today for LibraryLinkNJ.

Next week I begin a new position at NoveList® as the Customer Relationship Coordinator. The opportunity to work with the fabulous team there was too good to pass up and I’m looking forward to working with many different libraries in this capacity. As happy as I was to begin consulting full-time, I’m even more excited about working with the talented, creative group at NoveList®.

If you have a training need, please contact me and I will be happy to connect you with another consultant who is a good match for your needs. I am available for a limited amount of speaking engagements and look forward to presenting a full day preconference on training skills for non-trainers in May at the Maryland Library Association Conference and a keynote about coping with change as well as a breakout session about working with multiple generations in October at the UW-Madison SLIS-Continuing Education Service Conference for Circulation Managers and Staff.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the following people who were instrumental in my success as a consultant by serving as mentors, advisers, and trusted colleagues: Pat Wagner, Paul Signorelli, Nicole Engard, Andrew Sanderbeck, Polly-Alida Farrington, Chad Mairn, Dick Handshaw, and Guy Wallace.

Thank you also to everyone else who has followed me online through Twitter and Facebook and offered support and encouragement this past year.

So what happens to my blog? This site has transitioned since 2005 from one of the original 23 Things participant blogs, to Library Trainer, to my own domain name. Writing is a great way for me to reflect and share things I’ve learned. I searched for the right name for months and finally out of frustration made a joke on Facebook that I should just call this “A Work in Progress.” Ironically since my passions are personal and professional development, the name stuck. I plan to write about a variety of topics that relate to libraries as well as other organizations but mostly information that is relevant to you on a personal level. I envision this site as becoming the Oprah of library blogs. 🙂 Much of what I share will be practical advice or information mixed in with personal stories. Look for upcoming posts about dealing with information overload as well as what it is like to work as a consultant. If there are topics you are interested in, please contact me. I look forward to sharing this new journey with you.

Feel free to also connect with me on:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lorireed

Facebook: http://facebook.com/lorireed

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/loribreed

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/russandlori

 

Generations in the Workplace, Generations in the Library

Generations in the Workplace, one of my most popular courses, has also been the course with the most discussion, debate, opinions, and follow up conversations long after the course is over. Lyrasis will  offer this course later this year. Keep an eye out for their continuing ed schedule because you will definitely get a lot out of this course.

Before you take the course or look at the slides below, take a few minutes to take the How Millennial are You Quiz from the Pew Research Center.
I’m not surprised at how high my score is, and I would guess most library workers will score high as well. It’s the nature of our work that we stay abreast of technology. From the quiz: I have only a cell phone, have a piercing, play video games, don’t read a newspaper, and don’t watch TV programming. I am the complete opposite of my Boomer parents.

The opening slides with Professor WTF are based on an actual incident that happened while my husband was the Help Desk Manager at a College. Yes generational mishaps occur!

I think the reason the idea of generations struck me is that as a member of GenX, I realize that we often get a bad reputation by default. Without ever stepping foot in a room, someone can see your birthdate or graduation date and make immediate assumptions about everything from your attitude to your tastes in music. It’s going to be an interesting time the next few years as we see the multiple generations expand and see the second baby boomers, the Millennials, not only enter the workforce en masse but quickly move into leadership positions. However younger workers still have much to learn from older, more seasoned workers. It’s a two-way street, and each generation has just as much to learn from the other.

I also find the concept of shared generational experiences fascinating. Think about high school and how important that time was no matter how good or bad. There is a bond with your high school class like no other. The teen years are some of the most formative for setting the final hard wiring of your brain and emotions. For my generation the Challenger Explosion along with the OJ scandal were two of the events that helped make us who we are–skeptical, distrusting of organizations, realists. For Millennials, September 11, 2001 is permanently etched in their memories. Granted 9/11 impacted us all, but imagine experiencing 9/11 as a child or teenager. Imagine never knowing what it is like to fly without full body scans and pat downs. Imagine never knowing a world without terrorism on our home soil. We’ve seen many Millennials search for faith, maintain strong connections to family, and think less about “me” and more about community. My Unitarian Universalist minister was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened. She notes that the events of that year played heavily in her decision to choose a path of spirituality and in helping others.

One can’t talk about generations without some stereotyping of the generations. I invite you to look at this with an open mind, realizing that not all people fit their generational profiles, and to look at this information as a way to open doors and come to a deeper understanding of our fellow coworkers, library users, and fellow man.

View more presentations from Lori Reed
If you are interested in having this training for your library, contact Russell Palmer at Lyrasis at russell.palmer@lyrasis.org or at 404.892.0943 x4916. This session works exceptionally well in a live, online format.