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Expand Your Skills at Your Own Pace, On Your Own Time!
Librarian Relations Consultant
Last month in this space, my colleague Deidra Payne suggested how to acquire new skills and grow professionally on a shoe string budget. Her helpful ideas inspired me and provided the impetus for this column. She discussed the need for professional development, specifically with respect to career skills. I encourage you to also enhance skills that can be applied to your personal life as well as your professional life. You can learn them on your own time, at your own pace with a few of my favorite titles.
And you still have time to add these books to your holiday wish lists, too!
Getting Things Done, by David Allen, Viking, 2001
A few years ago I struggled with all the responsibilities of work and home. At a lunch with friends I described my challenges. One of my friends suggested the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book was amazing! I read it and decided to implement some of Allen's recommendations in the New Year.
If you are struggling and constantly overwhelmed with the demands of work and home, this book could provide the solutions you need. You can choose to adopt the whole system, a few steps, or make a plan to enact the system a little at a time throughout the year.
I revisit the book and the principles every year. When I find that I’ve slacked off on some of the required steps, I recommit to them. I strive to remain open to new practices and constantly improve my overall system.
At 259 pages it is not an intimidating length and can easily be read in short spurts, if that is all the time you have.
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company, 2000
One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, is a regular writer for The New Yorker. When he published his first book in 2000, The Tipping Point, my admiration for him grew even more. He is a brilliant writer who takes complex ideas and presents them simply and eloquently.
In this book he explores why major changes in our society so often happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Ideas, behavior, messages and products, he argues, often spread like outbreaks of infectious disease. Social epidemics, from fashion trends to bestselling books, experience a moment when they take off -- when they reach critical mass. That moment is the Tipping Point.
I found a lot of applicability for Gladwell’s ideas in the library world.
Gladwell talks about the success of messages. In one chapter he explores the idea of the messenger. He describes how different types of people affect the distribution of a message. It is important to involve different types of people to have a message successfully dispersed.
How can this play into the messages you send out? How can you keep your messages from getting lost in the deluge?
- Adjust your message to appeal to different types of patrons
- Use different methods of communication
- Involve different types of people in spreading your messages
This book may inspire you to consider alternative methods of communicating your messages.
If you are intrigued by the idea of social epidemics, this book will not disappoint. Its length of 259 pages is not overwhelming, and the writing is beautiful.
One Small Step Can Change Your Life, The Kaizen Way, by Robert Maurer, Workman Publishing, 2004
I recently read One Small Step Can Change Your Life, The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. The book describes unleashing the potent force of kaizen, the Japanese technique of achieving great and lasting success through small, steady steps. Maurer shows not only how and why kaizen works, but also how to make it work for you --how to position yourself for change and make your life more effective.
I am constantly evaluating what I do and how I do it in the hope of improving my efficiency or tapping into my creativity. I believe in the power of change, and small steps are the logical, easiest, and least risky way to start.
For me this book reinforced a lot of the theory behind Allen’s Getting Things Done. Breaking down a large, overwhelming project into the series of steps it takes to accomplish the project makes it more likely that I will begin working earlier on the project, and not be in crisis mode as the deadline looms. The book for me was a statement of the obvious, and yet oft-times the obvious is what is often overlooked. I learned to ask the questions that lead to thinking about small steps.
How does this apply to work? One topic Maurer discussed was acknowledging colleagues for help and advice. I already engage in the practice of thanking those that help me. But this reminded me to evaluate my behavior and have my “thank you” be heartfelt -- not an automatic response, but a genuine one.
Maurer also discusses how to approach creative endeavors with small steps. This caught my attention, because I have a list of personal creative projects that is sadly neglected. He has encouraged me to start a few, with very small steps.
If you only have a small amount of time to invest in reading, this book is a mere 179 pages that can inspire and energize you.
Even as we face overwhelming and exhausting tasks at work and home, it is possible to seek comfort and help in books. Borrowing or purchasing the titles I suggest, and carving out the time to read them will offer you new ideas, inspire change, and challenge your current routines. All in time for making New Year’s resolutions.
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