End of Summer Thoughts: Design and Otherwise

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope the end of August is going well for you and you have something grand planned for the end of summer (even if that is eating more watermelon before it turns into sweater weather). Today I wanted to share a few bits and bobs for the end of summer–design, books, and other things.

I apologize for not having a post out last Friday, but I was at a weeklong bookbinding intensive at San Francisco Center for the Book. It was absolutely fantastic and now I’m trying to figure out how I can find room in my itty, bitty space for crafts to hold bookbinding supplies. If you are in the area and ever have the chance to take some classes at SF Center for the Book, I highly recommend it. Both bookbinding and letterpress classes are great. Last week reinvigorated my love of crafting by hand, away from the computer. It was inspiring to work with such beautiful materials, to learn something new, and to connect with others who share my fascination with books and journals.

The workshop reminded me that we all need to have people to connect with who share our passions for designing, crafting, and creation. Talking with my classmates got me excited to think about ways to bring back what I’ve learned into my teaching and work at the library. Paper crafting for finals week? Sounds like fun to me! We all need to take time to recharge our creativity through learning from experts and talking with others. I’m so glad I had that opportunity this summer.

And summer should be a time for recharging and getting ready for the push to the end of the year (especially if your life revolves around the academic year, like mine does). So it seems fitting to share this Lifehacker article, What Psychology Teaches Us About Structuring the Workday. As we transition from summer into fall, it seems like we lose our laid back attitudes and replace them with stress. So we might as well use everything to our advantage to make our workday work for us, instead of against us, as much as possible.

While I love summer, there is something lovely about fall, too. Although it sometimes makes me sad as it ushers in the ending of another year, the one thing that never makes me sad is finding out there are a bunch of awesome books I can look forward to reading. So check out this guide to fantasy and science fiction books coming out this fall. Time to update my reading list.

Finally, if you are in the Bay Area this weekend and are a fan of pens, you should really go to the SF International Pen Show. It has an inexpensive admission and looks like it should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to walking around this weekend as I try not to buy everything in sight!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of art, design, and lots of good times. I’ll be back with more news and notes soon. Allons-y!

Design Short: Figure Out How You Work

Happy Friday, dear readers! It has been quite the week, hasn’t it? I was out for a bit with a summer cold (aren’t they the worst? I find it highly unfair to be sick in the summer.), but am back to day with a design short that I hope will help with all facets of your life and not just your design work at your library. If you are going to avoid burnout (topic of this month’s CR&L News Internet Resources column), stay healthy, inspired, and productive, you’ve got to figure out how you work best.

Now I don’t think you need to devote a morning or a retreat to figuring out how you work best, you probably just need to sit quietly for a few moments and actually write down how you work. When do you do your best work? Where do you do your best work? Can you work with music? Do you work best in silence? Does your best work always happen before 2 pm or after 9 pm? Are you easily distracted or so focused on a task you lose track of time?

You probably already know how you work best, but it is a good habit to remind yourself of your best environment and parameters as it is easy to get your routine pushed around by others’ demands. And, although flexibility is important, you also need to stand firm about protecting your most creative and productive times–especially if you are designing for your library.

Trust me when I say that you don’t want to see anything I’ve ever had to design between 1:00 and 3:00 pm in the afternoon. It’s just not a good creative time for me. I can respond to emails, process collections, attend meetings, and even teach, but I can’t come up with my best designs then. It is my creative time slump and I know it. So I have to do the hard work of creating and designing either early in the morning or in the evening. Otherwise, I’m just wasting my time and my library’s time because I’ll have to redesign it later.

If you need some help on figuring out how you work best, check out Lifehacker’s article on how to optimize for productivity instead of fighting your surroundings and self. Also, check out their great article on how to focus on boundaries not elusive work-life balance. Both I’ve found useful as I gauge how I’m doing in using my most creative hours to do the hard brain work of my job.

Once you figure out how you work best, get to work! Don’t make excuses and don’t put off the hard work of designing. All you need to start is a pen/pencil and some scratch paper, as I’ve shown in previous posts of my design process. You don’t need to go out and buy anything new to start your next design project. There’s no magic pencil or sketchbook you need. There’s no new app you need to download to your phone. It’s just you and the project and your ideas. So go have some fun and figure out just how you’re going to design the flyer for the next library program–or whatever your next project is.

So, do yourself a favor, step away from your Smartphone (don’t worry, there will be more Pokemon when you come back) and figure out how you work best. You just might thank yourself and your library colleagues might, too, once you get inspired to create great design projects for your library.

I’ll be back more with news and notes soon. Allons-y!

Break Week Thoughts

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope this week has been treating you well. We are on Spring Break at my university so the campus and library have been quiet and it has been a wonderful week for getting things done. I wanted to share a few thoughts on the importance of break weeks, or something similar, along with a few bits of fun.

I love being an academic librarian. I love the students. I love the work. And I sometimes even love the frenetic energy on campus. But this last term just about had me crawling under my desk in search of some quiet and calm. It was a chaotic term for everyone I talked with, not just those of us in the library. No one is sure why, but it completely zapped our energy reserves. This break week, even though the library is open (albeit limited hours), has been a joyous bit of calm between the storms.

Break week isn’t a week of zoning out or goofing off. We don’t have it as vacation, unlike some of the other faculty and students. Instead, it is a week of catching up and diving into those projects that take a backseat to the urgent demands of teaching and other work during the term. For me, it has been a week of research and writing, getting to delve deeply into projects that I had to neglect while teaching two credit-bearing classes and doing more committee work than I care to remember.

I’ve actually been able to get into a state of flow with my work, which never happens during the quarter. I’ve been able to finish another round of analysis on a large stack of transcripts, complete a conference paper and presentation, and check of a half-dozen other smaller projects that need to be finished. And, I’ve hardly had to look at the clock at all. Without interruptions or meetings that section off my time into hour increments that may work for busywork, but don’t work for deep thinking and analysis, I’ve felt more relaxed and accomplished at the end of the day than I have for a longer time than I care to admit.

It is hard brainwork, deep thinking, but satisfying in a way that urgent emails and fixing work for committees will never be for me.

It is a reminder that we need time like this to think and to plan so that when we take action, it will be thoughtfully considered instead of a reaction. If you can carve this out into your week or month, you are fortunate indeed. If you are an administrator, my hope for you is that you would figure out a way to carve out this time for your staff if you aren’t as fortunate as my library to have built in “downtime” like the break week, where work can be done without interruption.

We, as the faces of the library, are public serving and public-facing, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need some time for reflection and flow work, too.

As for fun, because we need fun, too, check out Smashing Magazine’s Easter Icon Set (it’s free). And, if you are in the San Jose, California area on April 9th, check out the S.F. Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose. It sounds like it should be fantastic!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with good times and good reads! I’ll be back soon with thoughts on our spring exhibit and graphic design for librarians.

2016 and We're Back

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe that we are already over a week into the new year? I can hardly believe it myself. The campus is full of students again and everything is chugging along at its usual frenetic pace. So I thought we’d slow down a bit today and focus on some articles and items that can help us try to keep calm as we rush headfirst into the new year.

I love being organized, don’t you? It makes work and play that much easier. While it isn’t gift-giving season per se, this article on the Gift of Organization from Lifehacker is still useful if you are trying to figure out how to get a bit more organized before the month is out. I recently bought some new storage containers for home, now I just need to find some time to actually get things organized in them…

A new month of course means new beautiful Desktop Wallpaper Calendars from Smashing Magazine. If you have to stare at a screen all day like I often do for work, you might at least have a lovely desktop wallpaper. This month’s batch of wallpapers run the gamut from cute to quirky to beautiful so I’m sure you can find something to perk up your screen.

Finally, if nothing else works for holding back the chaos at work and/or home, have a cup of tea. There is nothing like a cup of tea to make a few minutes a bit better. In that vein, check out the lovely Tea Time Fashionable Friday post from The Well-Appointed Desk. Tea (and some coffee) plus stationery? Count me in.

I hope you had a lovely end to 2015 and are having a good start to 2016. I’m sure this year will bring many changes, challenges, and surprises. I’ll be back again soon with some more thoughts on libraries and such. Allons-y!

 

 

Time at the End of the Year

Happy Friday, dear readers! Another week in December gone by. The time does really seem to fly by at this time of year. Everything wrapping up (including packages) and the start of anticipating the new year makes it a great time of year to slow down and prioritize what we want to do next in our lives. This post has some resources to help with time, focus, and getting our stuff done (in life and at work).

Do you feel like time is speeding up as you get older? If so, you’re not alone. Goodness knows I’d like to have enough time to be bored sometimes. Lifehacker has an interesting article on why this phenomenon exists and what we can do to get back into the present moment. Enjoy the article on Why Time Feels Like it’s Flying By.

Part of the reason time seems to be flying by is that most of us, if we admit it, are overscheduled, bad at multitasking, and jump from project to project throughout the day. Because of this, our focus suffers. Being reflective and proactive about how we work helps and so do these Seven Strategies for Regaining Focus in Hectic Workplace. Let’s all agree to have a less hectic workplace in the new year, shall we? That would be grand.

I love the idea of taking the time now to Schedule Catch-up Days in the new year. Having a day or even an afternoon to tackle the to-do list and get through everything that keeps getting put off is a great idea. I’m pulling out my planner now to schedule some in 2016.

I hope you have a lovely day and weekend, dear readers. Hard to believe we are at the end of another year. Let’s make the most of it. Allons-y!

Summer Reflections

Happy Thursday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely week and have a wonderful weekend planned. I feel like I’m still recovering from ALA Annual, which was wonderful and exhausting. (Thanks to everyone who stopped by my poster presentation and had a chat. It was a lot of fun!). Today, I just want to share a few thoughts and links before I head off into the 3-day weekend. Summer is a great time for reflection and hopefully some of this post will be useful to you.

Can you believe half the year has gone by already? I can’t. Time is just going too fast, even when I’m bored! I’m going to take some time this weekend to check in with the progress I’ve made this year and what I still want to do with the coming 6 months of the year. Because as we all know, time can just get away from us whether we’re at work or at home. So I think this article was very timely and had some good advice on how to prioritize your life before your manager does it for you. No one (or at least very few) wants to be all work and absolutely no time for anything else. So take some time to think about what you have control over and how you can make your job work for you. It’s worth it.

On the flip side, I know that I’m often drained mentally after work and feel like curling up with a cup of tea and not doing much else the rest of the evening. But I know I should work on my projects and the things that I love to do outside of work, even if it can be hard. So I liked this idea to set aside 20 minutes for personal projects to avoid crashing as written about on Lifehacker. It’s kind of a different take on having an after-work ritual to separate work from home. I need to implement this.

And, of course, we can’t have a post without a little bit of fun. At ALA, I was reminded how many librarians are also cat lovers so thought I’d share this post from The Well-Appointed Desk, Fashionable Friday: Feline Fur-vor. Adorable, especially the copy cat mug.

Also, 3D printing is both interesting and confusing to me, but I can totally get behind this use of a 3D printer: duck waddles and swims with 3D-printed foot. Adorable!

I hope you have a lovely day and weekend filled with all good things. Allons-y!

Work, Goals, and the Light at the End of the Term

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well, you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do, and you have something fun planned for the weekend. At my university, we can see the light at the end of the quarter as we are done to the final week of classes and then the hurdle of finals week. Summer is almost here, even though it looks like January outside with all the fog and high clouds, and we can almost taste it. So today, I just wanted to share a few thoughts and links on work, goals, and the light at the end of the term.

I’m exhausted and I don’t think I’m the only one. I love teaching at a university, but by the end of the spring quarter I’m pretty much spent. Spring quarter is when all the annual reports are due and everyone is trying to wrap up every project all at once. It is enough to make anyone exhausted and overwhelmed. When I came across this post, It’s not just about working harder, you also need to work faster, I thought I couldn’t have read it at a better time. We don’t just need to work longer, we need to work faster. And to me faster doesn’t mean we run around it a panicked miasma, making everyone around us feel panicked, too. Instead, we channel all our energy, remove all the drama and distractions, and just get work done. Be efficient. Don’t complain about having to do work. Just do the work. It works. I’m not saying I can work full throttle all the time, but it does help to crank out the work at the end of the quarter, especially when I can see the light at the end of the term. (Yay, summer break!)

Doing this at work means we have more time for outside projects, although we have to remember that you can’t achieve your goals if you’re never working towards them. Great, short post by Lifehacker. It reminds me that it is easy to have a goal in my head, but much harder to continue to work towards that goal. But it is worth it because who doesn’t like to level up in achievements? And we all define those achievements in different ways, which is the fun part. Dream big, then get working. Just don’t forget to take a nap once in a while, too.

On the design front, I’m having way too much fun playing with Coolors: the super fast colour schemes generator for cool designers! (Their words, not mine.) It is easy, fast, and a lot of fun to play around with different color schemes. A great tool for those who feel overwhelmed by color choices when designing something new. I’m thinking this might be great for designing our new exhibit color palettes and marketing materials for the library.

And, because it will be summer soon, I just had to share two Joy the Baker recipes that sound amazing: blueberry cheesecake ice cream and strawberry cookies and cream cake. I will have to make these for summer parties this year.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, dear readers, full of fun and play and whatever you want. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Bits and Bobs

Happy Friday, dear readers! Do you ever feel like all you have to talk about are bits and bobs that somehow make sense in your brain, but don’t really seem to have a common thread that would make sense to anyone else? Yeah, this post is kinda like that. I just have a few things to share with you that may or may not be useful for you or your patrons, but they made sense to me, so I’m sharing them now.

I love books. No surprise there. I’m also a fan of adorable and useful infographics, so I had to share this one from BookPal. Yay, books!

Presented By BookPal

If you are trying to teach students that all websites that end in .edu, .org, or .gov are not necessarily great sources of up-to-date, accurate information, you might like this post from Gizmodo on a hidden treasure trove of dead .gov websites. Both fun to look at from a design/history standpoint and as a potential resource for teaching. Also, wow for some of those URLs.

As we get into the weekend, I felt like I had to share this Lifehacker article on the need to stop working on your day off. Like, really, just stop it and go out and do something fun. It will make you more productive at work, promise. I for one am looking forward to napping, reading some new books I just got from the library, and maybe even some baking this weekend. What are you looking forward to this weekend?

I hope you have a lovely weekend full of fun and relaxation. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting about graphic design and libraries. Hopefully you’ll find some of it useful. Allons-y!

Reminders and Work

Happy Friday, dear readers! Today the library faculty at my university are off on a faculty retreat (aka longest meeting of the year) to get our plans in place for the next academic year. Being a quarter campus, our fall term starts next week and so I think everyone is getting a bit of the start of the term panic. I’m looking forward to the new year and am hoping my class in the fall goes well. Fall will always be the start of the new year for me since my calendar and plans still revolve around the school calendar. So I thought it would be a good idea today to share a trio of articles to perhaps inspire you and your colleagues at this arbitrary start to another year.

While this blog often has a lot to do with reporting on libraries and archives and work in there, I often find some of the most useful articles for me come from blogs that are not from within the library or archives world. Lifehacker is one of my favorite, although only in RSS feed; I find their website interface overwhelming and distracting. But that is neither here nor there. They’ve been having some really wonderful reminders about building reputation and being success at work in the recent months, so I wanted to share two with you.

I really liked this short post on using the “Old Faithful” method to build your reputation, probably because I both love Yellowstone and wish that more people were as reliable as Old Faithful. The advice given here is so true. It may not be as flashy to always be dependable and show up day in and day out, as opposed to grabbing the spotlight once or twice every year with something grand, but it is the way to become a valuable colleague and employee. I will take someone dependable over someone who gets a stupendous idea now and then any day of the week because I know the dependable person will get their work done and I won’t be left scrambling or trying to cover for them at that last minute.

The post reminded me of a book I just finished reading, Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. The descriptions of the routines that many of the artists have/had were mundane and regular. Those were the ones who seem to produce a lot of work, too. (Always exceptions to the rule, of course, but I’m not arguing about that here) I think that is a good reminder for all of us that people notice our routines, they notice if we keep our word or not, and they act accordingly.

An earlier Lifehacker article reported in a similar vein that the most important trait of successful people: conscientiousness. So let’s all try to be as conscientious as we can in our work. We’ll get more done with less fuss and stress. We might even have time for some fun along the way.

I know from talking with many of my friends and colleagues in the library field that while we often love our work and find it fulfilling, we also want to time to pursue other interests and hobbies. But, as I think many people can relate to, we are tired after work and don’t feel like we have time to do anything else but crash. So I really appreciated this article reminding us to spend more time on energizing activities so we have the drive to pursue our interests outside of our work.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, dear readers. I hope you have the time and energy to do something fun and the time to also relax. I’ll be back next week, most likely with thoughts on starting the new quarter. Wish us luck. Allons-y!

Working Better

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a lovely weekend planned. I’m looking forward to some relaxation this weekend. But before we get to the weekend, we have to get through Friday. I’ve always found Fridays to be both a great day to get a lot of things done (nothing like an impending weekend to fire up the desire to get as many things off one’s plate as possible) and a day that requires a constant fight of inertia (because, really who wants to work when it is almost the weekend?). So I thought it fitting to share some articles about how to work better so we can get done what we need to and enjoy our weekend free from worrying about work. So let’s get to it.

I think we can all agree that sometimes email can be overwhelming. I know I’m not a fan of having a full inbox of emails. So I was happy to see this post on Lifehacker about the key to better work? Email less, flow more. I am a total convert to not having my email on all day long and only checking email a few times a day. I’ve told my colleagues that I don’t have email on all the time so if it is an emergency, or if they just need a really quick answer, they should call me. I love having less interruptions from the constantly updating inbox and also feel like a huge productivity pro when I can quickly run through all my emails when I do log in instead of breaking up my workflow on my other work. How do you like to manage your email, dear readers, and how do you manage to get into your flow state at work?

I think we can all agree that part of working better is knowing how to avoid burnout. I love this suggestion for doing what you love regularly and not having an existential crisis about trying to figure out what you really love to do. Great quick tip and pretty easy to implement, especially if you are not wasting all your time with email (see above).

Finally, I recommend this read on the biggest pitfalls of long term goals and how to beat them. We may be way past new year’s day, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t have long-term goals that we are working on. I really like these tips as they are concrete and I can relate to all the stages that the article outlines. Hopefully you find some good take-aways that will help you with your next long term goal.

I think the most important thing to remember to working better is to focus on your most important tasks and figure out how to optimize the other tasks you have to do (like email, for example) so they don’t take up the best, most productive hours of your day. For me, single tasking, batching emails, and writing down daily to do lists help me work better. Having lists of longer term goals and sitting down each month to determine what progress I’m making and where I need to go next, help me with my longer term goals. Finally, for me, figuring out how to fuse some of my non-library passions with the work I do in the library is re-energizing my passion for librarianship and scholarship more generally, which I think is a great thing.

So, dear readers, how do you work better?

I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing (and possibly even email-free weekend), dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!