Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Decision Fatigue, Part 2

Mason jar saladsWhen I recognized the tell tale signs this summer of decision fatigue in my life, I was seeing something that I'd heard about. I remembered reading about it, but I didn't that it applied to me. My first clue was that making lunch (to take to work) became a chore. I got over that hump by making Mason Jar Salads.And then decision fatigue returned this summer. Sigh.

Decision fatigue has a companion which is trying to keep track of too much in your head. Every team member, project manager and everyday human does this. And in our 24x7 world, with projects that get larger and longer, those details - and to-do's - are hard for your head to keep track of. You mind is constantly trying to ensure that it is remembering everything. For project managers, remembering "everything" is seemingly important because you never know when someone will ask you a question about the project. However, it's time to give your mind some help, so it will be less fatigued.

To do
My companion
When I became program director, I recognized that I needed to keep notes. For several months, however, I was inconsistent in where those notes were. Were the on my computer, my iPad, on the Internet, or what? I finally resorted to a medium that several of my colleagues had adopted: a notebook and I'm now on my third. When I'm in meetings, this is where I take my notes and that has helped.  In addition, I've gotten good at filing away into MS Outlook folders emails that I want (or need) to keep and keeping my hard drive organized by topic. Those three things have been "life savers" for me! Do I need to remember everything? No.  I just need to remember where to look.

By the way, a very practical example of this is my syllabus. I tell my graduate students that I will refer to the syllabus when they ask me a question about an assignment or about the class schedule. Why?  Because I've placed all the details in that document so I don't have to remember them. When I refer to the document, I know that I'll be consistent - okay, more consistent - in my answers.

Going back to the to-do list, if you're keeping a simple list and have not discovered how to better organize it OR how to better get all the to-do's on it, I highly recommend the book by David Allen entitled Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  I've listened to the ebook version if twice and recently discovered his podcasts. I think podcast #3 (see below) is awesome! today's homework is for you to think about where you're keeping the information that you need to remember. Are you relying on your head? Could some of that information go on your device or on paper? If yes, adopt a tool (or tools) that you want to try out and give it a go.

Part 3 is coming tomorrow!


Note: I'm an Amazon Associate, which means if you click on the Amazon link and make a purchase, I'll get a tiny commission. Tiny. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Decision Fatigue, Part 1

Decision fatigue.

We've all felt it, but likely have not realized that it is a real thing. Decision fatigue is when your mind (and I think also emotions) get tired from making decisions.  What decisions? All those decisions that we make each day:
  • What time to get up?
  • What to wear?
  • Which emails to answer?
  • How to do ____, which clearly needs to get done?
  • What advice to give _____?
  • Whether to go to the copier first or go to the bathroom first?
  • Where to go for lunch?
  • Whether to talk to _____ or ignore him?
  • Turn left, turn right or go straight?
We make fun of people who eat the same thing for lunch every day or who only wear black, but they are eliminating decisions and helping their brains have more energy for other - and let's hope more important - decisions.

Yes, this about all of those projects that we're doing!

I've been working on a huge project, as well as being an academic program director, a professor, and a person with a life outside of work. I have found myself weary not because of the the work itself, but because of all of the decisions that the work includes. For example, my project includes a 200+ page document, which I'm editing. Every edit...every a decision. Yesterday that was easily over 100 decisions. Sadly, the chemicals in your brain are used the same for small decisions (put a comma there?) as well as large ones (what needs to go into the talking points?). And those chemicals need to be refreshed.

If you're like me and feeling fatigued from all of the decisions you're making, I want you to do three things and then be sure to read parts 2-4 of this series, which will be published later this week. The three things are:
  1. Acknowledge that the day is full of a multitude of decisions (as well as information to remember) and promise to learn how to lessen their impact.
  2. Update your to-do list with everything that you need to be doing. I co-mingle home, personal and work items on one to-do, but you might want to create separate to-do lists.  (Okay...yes, something there is a very home-orientated to-do list on the refrigerator!) As new to-do's appear, add them to your list. And...yes...get ALL of those project to-do's on the list!
  3. Find places where you can stop making decisions. Can you begin to create routines that eliminate decisions? No, you don't have to eliminate every decision, but you might be able to eliminate a few.

Related Articles:
[Updated 08/25/2023]

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Article: What Ever Happened to Google Books?

Digitization in progressTim Wu writes:
Today, the project sits in a kind of limbo. On one hand, Google has scanned an impressive thirty million volumes, putting it in a league with the world’s larger libraries (the library of Congress has around thirty-seven million books). 
I remember when everyone was talking about Google Books. It grabbed our imaginations. As a digitization consultant, I thought it was something we'd be able to learn from. However, the ability to scan millions of books ran into the reality of authors' rights.

If you've not thought about this project for a while, this article sums it all up nicely. Of course, what it doesn't say is whether we'll ever get the access to those 35,000,000 volumes in the way that we want.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Looking ahead to 2016

Floor of the Reception Building at CERNTime is going by too fast and 2016 will be here sooner than we know it.  I'm already scheduling what I'll be teaching in 2016 and what conferences I'll be attending. I'm heartened that IFLA will be in Ohio and hoped to work that into my schedule! I'm also submitting proposals for a couple of conferences. What events do you think I should be adding in? Where do you think I should be submitting proposals?  Leave a comment and give me some ideas.  Help me shake up my 2016!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Just Need 15 Minutes

Flower ClockAs my work life gets more full of activities, my blogging decreases. Great blog posts don't make from my head to the Internet, and I regret that. The fullness of my life also means that I don't have large blocks of time for professional development. If it is something that I can listen to, then I might be able to do it while I walk from my car to my building (nearly a mile), but not every professional development opportunity is an audio file. However, starting this fall, I'm going to carve out 15 minutes each day to engage in a specific 30-week personal development activity. 15 minutes does seem like much, but over 30 weeks that will be 3150 minutes or 52.5 hours, which is a significant amount of time. In order to fit it in, I'm going to get up 15 minutes earlier each day. I'm sure that when I get up and it is still dark outside, that will seem like a real chore, but I know that it will be worth it.

What professional or personal development do you need to be doing? How are you going to fit it in? Could spending 15 minutes a day on it make you a better project manager, a more values employee, or a sought after potential hire?