Lori Reed | A Passion for Learning | Time Management

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

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.

Library Day in the Life: Thursday and into Friday

8:30am

  • Wake up. Get dressed. The usual. Plan to go in a little later today because it’s going to be a long day. If only I’d known what was to come.

9:00am

  • Leave for work.
  • Remember that I need to research taking the bus because gas is not going to get cheaper.

9:20am

  • Arrive at work.
  • Last night I had a chance to read the first few chapters of Total Relaxed Organization: The Field Guide. Am inspired and ready to get caught up on the hundreds of message piled in my inbox since ALA.
  • Start processing email. Delete. Delete. Delete. Respond. and. so. on.
  • Print name tags for a workshop.

10:38am

  • Receive an email that Main Library has been evacuated while simultaneously hearing a knock at the door telling me we need to evacuate the building.
  • Don’t grab anything because it’s never a good sign when a building is evacuated and the fire alarm has not been set off.
  • Find out that a suspicious package was found on a nearby street and the bomb squad has been called in. Several buildings evacuated as a precaution.


Photo from Charlotte Observer. Read full story here.

11:00am

  • Waiting.
  • Ask nice police officer nearby about the body I saw yesterday (interestingly enough in the same area where the package is). He tells me it was natural causes. They think it was a heart attack. Sad for the person but relived that it was not a crime.
  • Make mental note to work on lowering my cholesterol.

12:00pm

  • Wishing I had grabbed my wallet when I left so I could go get lunch.

1:00pm

  • Getting really hot.
  • Wishing I hadn’t worn black today.
  • Wishing I had a bottle of water along with my laptop so I could connect to wireless and get some work done.
  • Seriously though…I did get a chance to catch up with coworkers I rarely get to see or talk to. Despite the fact that we were all stuck outside for just over three hours, everyone was in good spirits. We even started collecting books for customers who wanted to turn them in.

1:50pm

  • Get the all clear to go back in the building.
  • Briefly check email. Nothing urgent.
  • Grab my wallet and go get a sandwich for lunch.

2:15pm

  • Smell smoke on my way back in the building. Realize that the fire alarm technicians are testing the fire alarms. Never a dull moment.
  • Back at my desk. Eating. Catch up on twitter, friend feed, email.

2:30pm

  • Respond to emails about new training system and decide to call the contact person.
  • Call my boss at home to see how he is doing after surgery and to ask a few questions that can’t wait.
  • Begin an email to upper management about training.

3:00pm

  • Create a report of training attendance and no shows for the current year and previous five years.

3:30pm

  • Complete the report and email. Send.
  •  A knock on the door. I have a reference question…what park nearby is good for kids and has a train? Being a member of the mommy mafia, that’s easy! Dan Nicholas Park.
  • Complete a draft of another email and send for review.

4:00pm

  • Realize I need to start getting ready for ASTD meeting tonight.
  • Make sure my calendar is up to date.
  • Synchronize my PDA/phone.
  • Check my mailbox, pack up the things I need to bring home.
  • Fix hair. :)
  • Receive a chat message with a subtle reminder…”can you please resend your document.”
  • Call WebJunction about my August webinar.

4:40pm

  • Time to go. Update my out of office response.
  • Drive to South Charlotte for ASTD meeting.

5:30pm

  • Arrive at ASTD meeting. 30 minutes to network. Then an hour-ish for dinner. Then an hour program.
  • Meet a theatre employee of ImaginOn, which is part of the library (It’s a small world!). But wait! She also knows my husband, and knows my BFF who is ironically named Lori Reed. Yep spelled exactly the same. (It gets very confusing in chat and on Facebook.)
  • Meet some instructional designers from Time Warner Cable. Talk with them about what their jobs are like and what their graduate programs in IST were like.

6:45pm

  • Announcements begin. Somehow I volunteer to run for a board position for next year.
  • Program begins about elearning–what we are doing that’s wrong and what we can do to make it better. More about that in a later post.

8:30pm

  • Program over. Last minute conversations over. Drive home.

9:00pm

  • Arrive home to total darkness and peace and quiet. The entire house is asleep except the cats.
  • Check email again.
  • Start writing this post.
  • Begin my application for a training program at the state library.
  • Respond to email about MaintainIT webinar I’m doing next month.
  • Collaborate with the brilliant trainer Paul Signorelli via Google docs on a project we’re working on together. It’s actually kind of cool. I never realized we could both work at the same time in the same doc and see each others updates. Note to self to use this more at work.

9:30pm

  • Son wakes up screaming. Husband gets him back to sleep.

9:45pm

  •  Son wakes up screaming. Husband gets him back to sleep.

10:00pm

  • Son wakes up screaming. Asks for mommy. Husband brings him downstairs.
  • He feels hot but does not have a fever.
  • Hold him for a while andtake him back upstairs to bed.

10:15pm

  • Repeat.

10:30pm

  • Repeat. Decide it’s time to invoke the mommy mafia.
  • Type up a quick post listing symptoms.
  • Within minutes receive responses ranging from ear infection to growing pains.
  • Give son ibuprofen and cough medicine as he now says his mouth and throat hurt.

11:00pm

  • I’ll spare you how many times this goes on. You get the point. :) I imagine it will be a looonng night.
  • IM with Paul some more. Random topics. It is so great to have this network of trainers all over the country!

1:30am

  • See a comment come in from another amazing trainer Marianne Lennox. Last night I convinced her to write a day in the life post. She has done a photo journal of her day and I think it is the best day in the life post so far! Marianne you need to start a Flickr meme.
  • Writing a summary post
  • Calling it a day. Root canal scheduled for 9:50 in the morning.

Library Day in the Life: Wednesday

7:00am

  • As usual can barely drag myself out of bed. Today is different though. (TMI Warning!) I’m actually so sick to my stomach that I throw up. I feel slightly better. Shower, get dressed, feed the fish, feed the cats, scoop the cat box, leave the cat puke for my husband to clean up. Everyone is still asleep and I leave for work.

7:30am

  • Leave for work. Listen to NPR and hear story about how Wikipedia needs to start earning revenue but content posters will not post content if there are ads. Wish I could go to the library in Alexandria to take a tour.
  • One block from the Main Library notice four police cars and the sidewalk is roped off. Make the mistake of looking and see a body under a blood soaked sheet. Luckily? Is that the right word–anyway as a former EMT this does not phase me but it is disturbing that it is where I walk every day.

8:00am

  • Arrive at work and look for news about the body. Nothing, and security doesn’t know either.
  • Feed my fish.
  • Open email–Outlook and Gmail.
  • Respond to more emails about focus groups that we are conducting.
  • Receive an email from a colleague that makes my day. Apparently she was so excited about a time management article that I forwarded her that she stayed up all night emptying her Inbox. Yay for GTD!
  • Read and respond to comments and emails from last night’s post.
  • Look through Wowbrary to see if any new titles have been ordered on learning, training, or time management.

9:00am

  • Begin the daunting task of entering August training into a new system. Since this is the first month of using it there are lots of extra steps…add classes, add trainers, add sessions.
  • Decide we need to rewrite our learning objectives to make them measurable.
  • Get stuck on the term patron versus customer and what should we call them.
  • Realize that to add a class I need to know what room in a library it will be in. Call libraries to ask what room training will be in.
  • Receive a phone call from a staff person who cannot figure out how to order toilet paper with our new supply system. I’m not the SME on this, so I refer her to the accounting department.
  • Keep entering the data for classes. Get timed out from the system every time I get interrupted. Note to self to schedule uninterrupted weekly appointments for this in the future.
  • Email Kevin Crenshaw who left a comment on Monday’s post about a company called Priacta and a product they have for time/email/project management  program called Trog (Total Relaxed Organization). I’ve downloaded the free trial of Trog but really need the book to help me get started using it. Ask for a copy of the book so I can review it and blog about it.

10:30am

  • Attend a web conferencing session with another library system to learn about the web conferencing tool they are using and how it works compared to the tool we use (Wimba).

11:00am

  • Write down a list of major priorities on a sheet of paper so I can begin to prioritize my time for the next month.
    • Leader of Customer Service Champions/Trainers Team
    • Leader of Online Resources Trainers Team
    • Member of Unified Services Team
    • Leader of Unified Services Training/Core Competencies Sub Team – need to recruit members to this team
    • Move training to the new system for August and communicate this to everyone
    • Contact WebJunction to add a list of trainers and classrooms to Wimba
    • Develop training and train managers to use Wimba for meetings
    • Develop training and train other trainers to use Wimba for training and contact vendors to see if it would be more cost effective to outsource this
    • Develop standards for staff training
    • Find a tool for staff to share and collaborate on training handouts across the system
    • Recruit new trainers for Online Resource Trainers Team and to help with Technology Training
    • Create storyboards for HR portions of New Employee Orientation videos
    • Create and edit a screencast about our new security database
    • Plan an afternoon at Main Library for librarians visiting from NewJersey
    • Create and implement a “Training Council”
    • Find a way to track online training that has been completed
    • Create a new form and procedure with deadlines for training requests
    • Create a blog to communicate with staff about learning opportunities that are not on our training calendar (i.e. at other libraries)
  • Receive phone call to confirm my root canal on Friday. “Yeah, sure. I’m looking forward to it. Sigh.”
  • Receive an IM from my husband asking if I have lunch plans.

12:00pm

  • Lunch with my husband. It’s great to have adult conversation and not talk about kids.

1:00pm

  • Back to work. I notice the police are still on the corner and the sidewalk is roped off.
  • Check email again.
  • Prepare to go to a 2pm focus group.
  • Print name tags for the focus group.
  • Receive a response from Kevin Crenshaw that yes I can review the book, Total Relaxed Organization: The Field Guide. Print the book so I can begin reading it tonight. Thank you Kevin!

2:00pm

  • Attend a staff focus group to gather information to contribute towards our strategic plan for 2009-2012.
  • Because I printed name tags I was concerned that the group was large, and was happy to see that the facilitator broke us up into four smaller groups.
  • Our staff are amazing. If you give them a chance to brainstorm and put them in a room together, they can solve the problems of global warming, the Carolina drought, homelessness, and just about anything else. Pleasantly reminded of the “wisdom of crowds” that one of the Michael‘s talked about at our library a few years ago.
  • Add the PLCMC Forum Blog to my RSS feeds (which I haven’t checked since a week before ALA).

4:00pm

  • Check email again. Call my colleague who emailed me at 3am to make sure she is still awake. She is and we have a pleasant brainstorming session about blogs.
  • Respond to emails I received after ALA from other libraries.
  • Respond to a MaintainITProject request to interview staff from our library about public computers.
  • Post a link to a job we have open and info about the Tech Summit on ListServs and discussion boards that I am part of.
  • Try to find someone to fill in for me at orientation next month as I realize I have triple-booked myself. Able to reschedule the other appointment.

5:30pm

  • Drive home. Normally I have to pick the kids up early on Wednesday so my nanny can get her family ready for church, but my husband gets off work early so I stay late today.
  • Make two stops on the way home to pick up wire hangers courtesy of members of the Mommy Mafia. Never in my life thought I would fill up an SUV with hundreds of wire hangers but need them to hang clothes for a consignment sale. Whatever I don’t use I’ll share with other members of the Mommy Mafia.
  • Since I am old enough to remember the days before MapQuest am thankful for MapQuest so I can easily get to these places to pick up the hangers.
  • Until I realize that MapQuest was not aware that it sent me down a street that has been converted into a dead end.
  • Resolve to buy GPS with money I make from consignment sale.

6:30pm

  • Arrive home to…a screaming baby and an affectionate 4-year-old. Wait is this the Twilight Zone? Yesterday was the opposite.
  • Snuggle on the couch with my 4-year-old while he tells me about his day. He tells me he thinks Cameron will grow up to have a mole on her face like me. Then wants to know when he will be grown up.
  • It’s a miracle both children eat all their dinners and take baths without incident.

7:00pm

  • Baby goes to bed. Husband takes son for a walk. I get on the computer.
  • Try to find out if anyone from Mommy Mafia knows what happened this morning.
  • Respond to a few posts about mommy cliques (yes they are real) and about people talking on cell phones in bathrooms. Someone posts a question about library fines and I switch hats and ask for her number so I can call her tomorrow.

7:30pm

  • Husband and son are home. Son has fallen and skinned both knees and an elbow. Mommy provides first aid, ice cream, and kisses…all is well with the world.

8:00pm

  • Back on the computer. Writing this post.

9:00pm

10:00pm

  • Start to write a blog post for a company I blog for.
  • Check my Friend Feeds and see a post about Uncontrolled Vocabulary a live, web-based show for librarians. Decide to join in just in time for a discussion of p, o, r, n. Interesting discussion about whether there is a difference between removing an item from the collection versus not buying it in the first place.
  • Chatting again with Marianne Lennox. Create a new acronym. LOLSOMDC. Most correct guess wins a prize! :)

11:00pm

  • Finished my other post.
  • Back to my post here.
  • Finished this post. Off to take pain medicine so I can sleep (root canal remember) then off to bed.

Library Day in the Life: Tuesday

I realized after reading other library day in the life posts that I neglected to explain what my job duties are. Right now my job is in transition from focusing primarily on technology training to coordinating the training, learning, and development of 550+ staff members. This change happened just a few weeks ago, so I am still in the process of developing a needs analysis–what does our staff need training in? But I’m also looking beyond that into what should our learning process look like? How do requests for new training get submitted and implemented? Who makes the final call on what gets done or not done, and how do we prioritize the needs?

When you think about staff development, what is the underlying goal? Instead of WIIFM (what’s in it for me) think about WIIFO (what’s in it for the organization)? Why does the library need my position?

The bottom line of any training or learning function is to improve the performance of the organization by improving the effectiveness of the employees. Yes there is value in lifelong learning. Yes we know that by providing staff with enrichment opportunities we will improve morale and decrease our turnover. But ultimately any position in any business has a bottom line. In the for-profit world training is often one of the first departments cut or reduced in tough economic times. Therefore in addition to providing added-value it is important to provide a bottom line value.

So on to my day…

7:00am

  •  Woke up, showered, dressed, and ready to get out the door before anyone else in the house wakes up.

7:30am

  • Make sure I have my yoga clothes and mat for class tonight. Can’t find my keys. Look everywhere. Finally found them on the hook by the back door rather than on the hook by the front door. I have no idea how they got there. Suspect a 4-year-old involved.

7:40am

  • Morning commute with a stop at Chickfila. As always impressed by the consistent amazing customer service. Run through the mental list of things I need to do.

8:15am

  • Arrive at work. Feed my fish.
  • Open work email and Gmail account.
  • Respond to a blog reader who is interested in becoming a children’s librarian or school media specialist.
  • Received several emails and comments from vendors regarding yesterday’s post about needing to find the right tool for time/email/calendar/project management.
  • Receive several emails about focus groups that I have placed on the training calendar but I am not coordinating so forwarded them to the appropriate people.
  • Rescheduled the location of a meeting next week due to a conflict with another meeting scheduled in the same place.
  • Emailed back and forth about dates for upcoming training and finally resorted to a phone call. (Sometimes the phone is the best option!)
  • Chat with Stephanie Zimmerman for a few minutes to see how her Outlook training is coming along.

10:00am

  • Stopped by the Communications Department for a meet and greet to welcome the new Public Information Specialist.
  • Had a group discussion about time management and what people use. Most people present use paper lists. One person uses the Outlook task list. Interesting to hear how other people do things, but that is why you are reading this, right?

10:30am

  • Look at my bag of yoga clothes and realize it’s the last day in the semester. Call East Carolina to find out what happened to my application to be readmitted (I had to take a few semesters off when I had Cameron.)
  • Found out that they need copies of my current transcripts to make sure I am in good standing.
  • Print out and complete the form to have my transcripts evaluated.
  • Receive a phone call from an employee who is having a problem but does not want to discuss it officially.
  • Send out an email reminder about a meeting next week.
  • Edit minutes from a meeting that happened last month. Create a list of action items and due dates. Email to the group.
  • Prepare for a team meeting that will take place later this week.
  • Receive a phone call from my husband that our nanny needs us to pick up the kids by 3pm Friday.
  • Call nanny to check in and she asks if she can be off on my husband’s next day off–which is next Wednesday. (This is the only good thing about him working weekends.)
  • Send an ecard to a coworker who is having a birthday. Happy birthday Kim!
  • Try to complete an application for a state library training program but the Web site is down.
  • Work on a draft of an email about a change in our training software.
  • Add names to a list of accounts to create for Wimba Classroom.
  • Registered for ASTD meeting on Thursday and emailed other people in our library who might be interested.

1:30pm

  • Meet a coworker in the lobby so we can go to lunch and a seminar on social media and marketing together.
  • While I’m waiting assist two customers at the Circulation Desk.
  • While I’m waiting get approached by an employee who needs training created for staff for a new procedure and system that their department wants to implement by the end of the month (in two weeks). Ask her to email me the details. This happened last month with two other departments and I had to work 12-hour days for a week to get it all done. Note to self to communicate with departments the need to plan ahead for training and not wait until the last minute. This reaffirms to me that I need a project management system so I can prioritize these requests and map out a time line.
  • Go to lunch and talk about…work.

2:45pm

  • Arrive early to this seminar and glad I brought my bag with me as they need ID to let us in the building.
  • 2-hour seminar given to staff at an area business on social networking and marketing. Very inspiring and informative. I took 8 pages of notes (which I’ll transcribe in a separate post).
  • Walk back to work.

5:15pm

  • Leave work to go to my yoga class. One of the few required courses left to finish my undergraduate degree.

5:45pm

  • Arrive at class, turn in my final paper, and find out there is no actual class tonight as the instructor has a pinched nerve in his neck. Relieved as this means I get to go home and see my kids before they go to bed (if the 4-year-old even goes to bed). This 8-weeks of Tuesday and Thursday night classes has been so hard on my family. On Tuesdays I leave before my kids wake up. I get home after they’ve gone to bed. The next morning I leave for work before they get up. So after Monday night they don’t see me until Wednesday night. I’m so thankful the rest of my classes can be taken online.

5:50pm

  • Commute home and traffic is extra bad because of the time and the route home from school.

6:30pm

  • Arrive home and I’m the first one here. I have the house to myself. Total silence. Relaxing.
  • I eat some veggies left over from the party and check my email.

7:00pm

  • Husband arrives home with the kids. 7pm is the 1-year-old’s bedtime and she still needs to be fed and changed. She’s tired and grumpy.
  • After Cameron devours two bananas and starts throwing cheerios at me I decide to give her a bottle of milk to settle her down. Enjoy the 10 minutes we spend gazing into each others eyes and feel sad that she will soon be too old to take a bottle in a month or so.

7:30pm

  • Wrangle Cameron into her pajamas. Give up on trying to snap any snaps. Put her in her crib and she screams for 30 seconds then falls asleep.

7:45pm

  • Go downstairs and open a wine cooler left over from the party. Find my husband negotiating with our son about when he will eat his dinner. Ian refuses to eat his PB&J so I put it in the fridge. The two go outside to play soccer. I have a few minutes of peace.

8:00pm

  • Start a load of laundry.
  • My son wants to know if he can say, “holy cow.” I tell him it’s probably ok at home but not at “school” (what we call his nanny’s house). Ian says “holy cow” about 50 times before we have to intervene and tell him it’s not ok to say it all the time.

8:15pm

  • Husband takes son upstairs to go to bed. Son suddenly decides he wants to eat dinner. He comes downstairs and tries to negotiate juice or milk rather than his sandwich.
  • Now he wants to know what words he is not allowed to say. I tell him I’ll have to think about it.

8:30pm

  • Son has eaten his sandwich, had milk, and goes upstairs to bed. My husband takes his laptop upstairs and lays down on the floor in his room. Ian will not go to sleep if one of us is not in the room.
  • I am downstairs writing this post.

9:00pm

  • I am almost finished with this post and need to go put the clothes in the dryer. I also need to figure out where my husband put the mail so I can pay the bills, iron, eat dinner, read daily sheets from the nanny for both kids and see if she needs extra clothes or supplies.
  • Look over my task list that I created yesterday. I completed about half the items on the list today. Mental pat on the back. Need to add items to the list so I can sleep tonight.
  • Trying to imagine what the night would have been like had my 2-hour yoga class not been canceled.