crossing this off my list

This isn’t really on the list, but I had to take time to write it anyway.

I’ve been struggling lately with feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to do, and not knowing where to start. I realized yesterday that I need to do something to organize my tasks and give me short enough goals to feel like I can accomplish useful things every day that will get big projects done.

I had a stack of professional literature on my desk that needed to be read and then routed on to the next person on the list. Since I get annoyed with my colleagues who hang onto routed journals for weeks and months, I started by browsing through them and reading the articles that caught my eye. One such article was Aaron Schmidt‘s Product Pipeline column in the NetConnect supplement to Library Journal. One of the shiny new tools he writes about is Ta-da Lists, a free online resource that allows you to create lists of things to do and check them off as they get done. As with any Web 2.0 gadget, each list can be shared with others and it also has an RSS feed.

In the afternoon, I spent some time catching up on my librarian blog reading. I’ve resolved to try to stay on top of my Bloglines subscriptions. Steven Cohen’s comment a couple of weeks ago about spending approximately an hour a day keeping up with his 600 feeds every day inspired me to try to keep on top of my 150+ more regularly, particularly since I was a week behind on reading them when I saw his post.

Part of my feed-reading catch-up yesterday included Jenica Roger’s Thinking Out Loud. Last week she wrote about her day in time increments, many of which involved adding and removing items from her to-do list. Her physical to-do list with space for doodling and concrete evidence that yes, something was accomplished today. I’ve never been much of a to-do list person, but something clicked when I read that post, and I found myself over at Ta-da Lists creating an account and making my first digital work-related to-do list.

So far today, I have had the pleasure of crossing off five items and adding two. In a way, my tasks and projects have become a sort of personal competition to see if I can clear off the list before the end of the week, and that is exactly the sort of motivation I’ve been looking for. A hearty thank you to Aaron, Steven, and Jenica for your inspiration!

cutting edge… in a book?

Can you keep up with cutting edge technology by reading books?

I’ve been catching up on library blogs I haven’t had time to read for the past month, and Steven Cohen’s Library Stuff is at the top of that list at the moment. An entry he made several weeks ago struck me because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Steven wrote:

“The great thing about my customized Amazon feeds (made via On Focus) is that I get upcoming books on the subjects I want delivered into my aggregator (I have 4 of them set up). The bad thing is that I sometimes have to wait 6 months for a book to be published.”

He went on a bit more, and then wrote:

“Sometimes it’s painful to be on the cutting edge, always waiting for the new thing to arrive.”

So true. It’s even more painful when that cutting edge is quite dull once the book is published, as I discovered not too long ago. That’s one reason why I like blogs so much, and why I enjoy reading blogs written by folks like Steven who are out there, keeping tabs on the cutting edge both for their own interests and for the rest of us.

Books, as much as I love them, are often not as relevant as they could be once they get published. The same can be said for many journal articles. These mediums are best for exploring topics in depth, rather than introducing interested individuals to new things. However, I think that these mediums could become much more functional for cutting edge information dissemination (scholarly communication, anyone?) if the time frame and technology used was modernized. Some journal publishers have figured this out and now provide articles in print on their websites for subscribers. Some book publishers like O’Reilly have begun providing open access books on their websites. Maybe one solution to the timeliness problem would be to provide downloadable copies of final edits waiting for the press for those who are willing to pay for the ebooks just to have them several months earlier than they would have if they waited for the print copies? We know those books must be ready to go, since they send out review copies well in advance of official publication.