Library Friends Groups: A Case Study

Library Friends and Public Libraries

I love libraries. I’m an avid public library user. I have spent my career bettering libraries. This summer I was excited to learn about the importance that library friends groups hold for public libraries.  My purpose in writing this to inspire library friends groups to increase both community engagement and funding for their local libraries.

Library Friends and Capital Campaigns

My best friend from college, Jennifer White Farrar, is Vice President of the Friends of the Millis Public Library (FMPL). The really remarkable thing about this library friends group is their involvement in a recent capital campaign.  By offering naming rights to rooms and book shelves in the newly constructed facility FMPL raised over $150,000 which paid for the computers, the TV system, the furniture, throw rugs, desks, and Friends room furnishings.

Library Friends Groups

Friends of the Millis Public Library raised funds to pay for furniture for the new library building.

Getting local businesses to sponsor projects is one of FMPL’s most successful endeavors.  They arranged for a local business owner to sponsor the automatic door opening system for disabled user and a local electrician to install it. They arranged for the donation and sponsorship of the landscaping and a volunteer to maintain it.

During preparation for the move, an historic quilt was discovered in the old library building. The fabric had not been properly stored and this town treasure was in danger of deterioration. Jen wrote a grant to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Committee to frame and preserve the quilt, which now is a showpiece of the new library building.

Library Friends and Community Engagement

Library friends groups are not just about fundraising. They are also about community involvement.  Not every fund raiser is a huge money-maker but that’s ok.  Every activity a library friends group undertakes is an opportunity for community engagement. The FMPL organized an opportunity for town citizens to decorate a tile.  This project only netted only a couple thousand dollars, mainly because the cost of hanging the heavy tiles in custom frames was expensive. But the tiles serve as community-created art work decorating the walls of the town’s treasured library.  More importantly, the community got involved. And Millis has an unbelievably committed community. Writing the grant to fund a preserving display for the quilt for instance helps to leverage town pride. Town pride translates to an investment in the library’s well being.

Library Friends Groups

Framed tiles, a Friends of the Millis Public Library fundraiser, now decorate the children’s room.

FMPL not only worked to raise funds to furnish the new library building, they also work on ongoing support initiatives.  FMPL has about 50 dues paying members and raises about $8,000 annually through dues and events.  They use this money to  buy museum passes, support a book delivery program to home-bound library users and most of all sponsor programming, which is where the lion’s share of the budget is spent.

Library Friends Groups:  More Information

ALA offers resources for starting or reinvigorating library friends groups, both through their United for Libraries section and their I Love Libraries initiative. These are great resources if you are looking to form or reinvigorate a friends group at your library!


Library Construction: A Case Study

Library Construction:  How One Town Succeeded

As library services evolve and information needs change, library buildings require updating. When a town realizes its library not only falls short of meeting user needs but also requires  expensive capital repairs, it makes sense to consider new library construction. This summer, I had the good fortune to visit the Millis Public Library, a newly constructed library which opened in 2013.

library construction millis public library

Millis Public Library (From the Millis Public Library Newsletter)

Millis is a rural town in Eastern Massachusetts with a population of approximately 8,000 and an estimated household income of $83,000. Although higher than the state average of $67,000, Millis’s household income average is lower than all of its neighboring communities. The Town of Millis saw an opportunity, got behind its library and created a state of the art facility that meets the needs of its community.

library construction Millis Public LibraryThe former Millis Public Library was built in 1967 at a time when the town population was a fraction of the current population. Its 5,400 square feed had become inadequate for the town, and the building itself was showing signs of age. Major roof and ventilation repairs were near-future expenses for the town to contend with. At the same time, Millis was eligible for a state grant in excess of two million dollars to partially fund construction of a new library. The town’s Library Board led the rally to mobilize the residents and, in 2010, Residents of Millis voted to fund a new library with both a special ballot question and an overwhelming majority vote at the June 2010 town meeting.

Library Construction: What Does it Cost?

The Millis Public Library was budged at $7.7 million. Of that, $2.7 million was a state grant, and $5 million was financed by a 20 year debt exclusion which basically translated to a property tax increase for residents. Each household pays an average of $154 annually (based on home value), decreasing over the 20 year period to $89 in the final year.

Library Construction: The Process

The new library was designed by Boston firm Oudens Ello Architechture which was selected from a group of 14 applicants. Library newsletters kept residents apprised of each step of the process. Library Construction began at the end of 2011 and took approximately two-and-a-half years. The old Public Library was officially closed at the end of June 2013 and the new library opened a few weeks later.  While the collection was moved to the new facility by professional book movers, the Town of Millis participated in a symbolic “library book brigade,” marking the move to the new building. The new Millis Public Library hosted a formal opening ceremony in September, 2013.library construction: mills public library

Library Construction:  How to Pay for New Furnishings

Not only did the residents of the town vote to fund the building, the town has rallied around the library in amazing ways. The Friends of the Millis Public library paid for the computers, the TV system,  the furniture, throw rugs, desks, and Friends room furnishings.  A local business owner paid for the ADA compliant automatic door at the entrance, and a resident (a qualified electrician) installed it. A local business donated the plantings in the outdoor space and a resident maintains the grounds. library construction: mills public library

The Friends of the Millis Public Library conducted their first ever capital campaign and raised $150,000 to furnish the building. “One of the ways they raised that money was by allowing community members to sponsor a book stack for $250,” says Alex Lent, Library Director. “Millis isn’t a rich town, but it is a town that cares about its library; within two weeks, every single stack was sponsored, so today, if you walk through the library, you’ll see a nameplate on every stack.” Alex admits that the new building was certainly a draw when he applied for the position of library director, but, “the effort Millis undertook to get the new library was even more of a draw.”

Library Construction: The (Amazing) End Result

What did they create? The LEED certified green building is flexibly designed with ample space for children, young adults and general collection users. It has a large event space that can easily be used outside of traditional library hours as it can be separated from more traditional library spaces.  library construction: mills public library

It is beautifully furnished and meets community needs. Alex reports that the average annual number of visitors in the three years that the old library was in operation was about 64,000. Since the new building has opened the average annual number of visitors has increased about 45% to 92,000!  Circulation is up 20% and the library now produces 69% more programs–like an after school computer programming class, late night study weeks during exam periods, a concert series and a weekly news gathering–with an increased program attendance of 68%.  And, about 20% more residents have obtained library cards since the new facility opened. That sounds like success to me.

Many thanks to Millis Public Library Director Alex Lent and Friends of the Millis 
Public Library Vice-President Jennifer White Farrar who provided photos, 
background information and statistics for this post. I am working on future posts on the contribution each has made to this amazing library.

Employee Accountability

What is Employee Accountability:

I see it time and time again in organizations. They are populated with the “old guard” who can’t seem to adjust to today’s way of working.  Workplace expectations have changed. What today’s mission-driven organization demands is a more efficient, collaborative, flexible approach–employee accountability.  Gone are the days when employees waited for a directive and then carried it out.  Instead, employees need to take ownership of their responsibilities. They need to communicate across previously rigid boundaries. They must “manage” their bosses and colleagues. They need to collaborate and be comfortable with change.  All of this requires a finely honed sense of emotional intelligence.  But this doesn’t always sound like the colleagues we have.  How do you help those colleagues grow into the kind of workers today’s mission driven organization needs?

How to Foster Employee Accountability:

The first step to fostering employee accountability is to be open and honest about what is expected.  Employees need a clear message that expectations are changing and more autonomy is needed. The key to fostering employee accountability is to make it ok for employees to act autonomously. Workplace tolerance for a diversity of solving problems must be increased.  And, the workplace must fully accept that sometimes the solutions people come up with aren’t going to work.

To create an environment of employee accountability where people feel comfortable with solving problems you must create an environment where failure isn’t the end of the world.  Don’t punish people for mistakes.  It truly is better to have a workplace where people step up and try to solve problems rather than asking permission and guidance for every idea they have.  Sometimes employees will get it wrong and that’s ok, because a lot of times they will get it right.

It is often useful to give colleagues an opportunity to solve problems on their own without interfering.  I once worked with an library in which the manager of one department had an office very close to the frontline staff.  Staff had developed the habit of running any situation that seemed the slightest bit unusual by the manager.  It became clear to the manager that many of these things did not need managerial approval or intervention, so he began simply asking staff what they would do if he was out of her office and they could  not ask.  When they provided the answer he would simply say, “that sounds like a good idea, why don’t you do that.”  By encouraging staff to think up a solution on their own they had the opportunity to flex their problem solving skills.  Pretty soon the number “problems” that were run the by manager decreased significantly.

It can also help employee accountability to proactively create guidelines for staff empowerment.  For example, the Ritz Carlton Hotel chain famously allows staff to spend up to $2,000 per day per guest to make sure guests are happy.  One library I know of allows circulation staff to waive up to $25 in fines, no questions asked.  The implementation of this guideline was a game changer for that library which historically did not offer user-friendly customer service.  In addition to creating a situation in which users could be given the benefit of the doubt, this guideline also allowed staff to work more independently. Not comfortable with giving staff that level of freedom? The converse is management retaining control of all decision-making, which is pretty time-consuming given the demands of today’s workplace.  If $25 is uncomfortable for you, propose something you are comfortable with.  Maybe it’s $10. Maybe its $25 total per day. Give some thought to what would work for your organization and what level of expected responsibility makes sense.

Why is Employee Accountability Important

Employee accountability is an important aspect of organizational culture.  A rigid culture  creates workers who aren’t comfortable with being independent, autonomous members of staff. Customers and clients expect whomever they encounter to assist in solving their problems and if frontline staff are not empowered to do so then the result is an unsatisfactory interaction in the customer’s opinion.  Organizational culture should not be an accident.  It must be deliberately crafted.

Think about the challenges in your organizational culture and what works well.  How can you improve?


Customer Service

Customer Service: Nothing New?:

As people who work in libraries we are continually challenged by providing excellent customer service to our users. I remember a few years ago I sat through a campus-led customer service training in which the facilitator, someone from our university’s professional development office, stated how frustrated she found leading customer service training. Her reason? There is nothing new in customer service.

Well, I just found something that rocked my world: episode 286 of the HBR Ideacast “The End of Customer Service Heroes.” To be fair, this isn’t a new idea–the episode dates from 2012 and features the authors of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business, which was also published that year. I’m not really sure why this just showed up in my iTunes now, but I’m really glad it did.customer service excellence

Customer Service: The Case Against Heroics

Library users expect great customer service. We all want to provide great customer service. But somehow this still doesn’t happen.  Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, the authors of Uncommon Service acknowledge this, and explain that libraries are not alone–this happens in every market segment. How to provide great service is elusive, perhaps counter-intuitive, to most. For most service providers the system is set up to allow for occasional excellence in customer service, but that generally requires heroics on the part of an eager staff member.

They explain that the majority of service providers simply ask employees to try harder to provide great customer service. But it’s not about trying harder.  It is about creating a system in which the average employee can’t help but provide a great service experience and ensuring that customers know what to do to create a great service experience. And by training I don’t mean expecting library users to be expert in every arcane aspect of using a library.  The example the authors give is Zipcar.  Zipcar is a car sharing service that is in several major metropolitan areas around the world. Members reserve cars online, pick them up at unstaffed parking spaces and return them on time, gassed up, and clean for the next user.  Willingly. Somehow, Zipcar has made their users want to do this. How? By creating a community. You don’t want to let the next user down by returning your car late, so you return it on time. Zipsters (as they are known) don’t pay for gas, so why not use the fleet card to fill up the tank before you return the car? And the messages Zipsters receive from Zipcar all underscore the importance of being a good community citizen.

I see applications here for libraries–perhaps we could encourage users to return recalled materials by highlighting the next users need for the book? Maybe this also extends to due dates? Or better yet, maybe in the sharing economy, due dates don’t matter anymore? After all, if fines don’t impact user behavior, perhaps creating community standards would?

Customer Service: Prioritization

The authors go on to explain that service excellence is achieved by prioritizing the needs of your customers. So, in order to provide excellent customer service, service providers must be the best at those things their users find important and be the worst at those things their customers value the least? Sound familiar? This is where LibQual can be a highly valuable tool to libraries.

Libqual is a service quality instrument that asks users not only how a library is doing in various service areas, but also how important those service areas are to each given user. So, it can tell you not only if users are satisfied with how friendly or helpful library staff is, but also if that’s even important to users. With that type of data you don’t waste time perfecting a service that doesn’t really matter to your users.

Customer Service: How Do We Ensure It?

Service quality should not depend on how well an employee delivers that service. The system should be structured to support customer service excellence across the board.  How is that done? I can’t wait to read the book to find out!


Summer Holiday!

I’m taking a break from blogging. To be our most effective we need quiet moments, we need to tend to our physical well being, and we need to connect with our loved ones.  We need to break from the act of sawing and, as Steven Covey wrote, sharpen our saws.

Thanks to the power of scheduling tweets (@sweetcoachcons) continue throughout the summer, highlighting some of my best blog posts.  I’ll be enjoying a sabbatical from work, spending time with my beloved family,  outdoors, relaxing, reading fiction, connecting with friends and generally giving my brain time and space to process.  I’ll be back in September, rested, restored and ready to work again.  I’d love to hear your restorative plans for the summer!

A Quick Guide to Effective Meetings

Just about every client I have ever had complains about the amount of time their organization devotes to meetings. Everyone wishes effective meetings were part of their daily work culture. It seems a universal gripe that organizations spend too much time in meetings. I even have a client who began a series of meetings about meetings!  And while it is easy to eye-roll this, I actually applaud this organization for the proactive step they took to ensure that time spent in meetings was productive time.

Why Don’t We Have Effective Meetings?

People don’t run effective meetings because they simply don’t know how.  We know enough to suspect when a meeting might be necessary but it is more challenging to know how to structure a meeting for a specific need, know who needs to be around the table and keep discussion moving in a productive direction.

How To Have Effective Meetings

The first step toward having effective meetings is be mindful about them.  Simply scheduling a meeting doesn’t ensure you will accomplish what you need to accomplish.  What is the objective.  Is a meeting the best way to accomplish this?

  • If a meeting is the best way to accomplish this, determine who needs to be there to ensure that this objective is met.
  • Ask participants for agenda items about a week before the meeting
  • Finally, draw up a draft agenda and circulate it.  Be sure to share the objective and any additional reading material to participants in advance of the meeting.

Effective Meetings Come in Many Forms

Choose the most effective format for your meeting.  Maybe you need a brief check in so remaining standing is the best format.  Perhaps you need a traditional hour-long sit-down at a conference table. Maybe you need to schedule a half-day or full-day retreat to accomplish what you need to do.  Or perhaps it makes sense to take a 45 minute or hour long walk to run the most effective meeting.

Inc. recently published an article advocating for more variety in the length of time we schedule meetings for. Just because your calendar software defaults at an hour doesn’t mean every meeting has to be that length.  Consider the following guidelines:

  • 10-15 minutes for brief check-ins and updates.
  • 15-30 minutes for one-on-one meetings with colleagues and reports.
  • 50 minutes for standard meetings addressing multiple issues or topics.
  • 90 minutes for problem solving sessions like brainstorming.

Running Effective Meetings

Meetings are most effective when you stick to the agenda.  It’s advisable to include a rough time estimate for each agenda item to stay on track. If someone brings up something off topic, use a “parking lot” to record the idea.  A parking lot is simply a place to record ideas that are important but not up for discussion at that particular meeting.  People who run effective meetings don’t take meeting time to discuss items off topic.

Effective meetings also have someone taking notes. Usually note-taker is not the facilitator.  The notes should be distributed to participants after the meeting with a list of follow up activities, due dates and people who are responsible for follow up. This keeps the work moving forward.

How To Enable Effective Meetings

There is a great Ted talk on creating a culture of effective meetings, in which the speaker talks about MAS or Meeting Acceptance Syndrome–this is the condition that makes us mindlessly accept a meeting without knowing what will be discussed and if we are an appropriate addition to the discussion.  If someone invites you to a meeting but has not shared an objective or agenda, question them about the purpose of the meeting. We can all take back our time from ineffective meetings by modeling and encourage effective meeting behavior for our colleagues.

Effective meetings are within our power! What will you do today to ensure meetings are more effective?

Productivity Tips: (Personalized Productivity, part 3)

Productivity Tips: The Most Important is Strategy

Parts one and two of this series highlight the most important tip:  clarify your personal and professional mission in order to clarify your priorities. But I can’t write a series on productivity without including some general productivity tips for managing your time.  This post includes those productivity tips I encountered time and time again while researching this topic.

Productivity Tips:  10 Tips You Can Practice Right Now

  1. Focus : Although you may feel like you get a lot done when you multitask, a Stanford University Study has shown that this feeling is an illusion.  Instead, focus on one thing, and group like tasks together.  For instance, you will be more productive if you do all your editing in one go, group meetings together, and do your reading in one session. Perhaps the most valuable of all productivity tips: check your information inputs only at certain times.  Checking email, Facebook, Twitter, and other informational inputs isn’t a time filler or diversion.  Checking your inputs is a purposeful activity that must be limited or it can take over your day. Interruptions derail your focus. having an “open door policy” is only a good thing if it’s figurative. Sometimes we need to be alone to get something done. Unplug, retreat, close the door, go off the grid if you have to.
  2. Get ready for tomorrow the night before: What can you do today to make tomorrow really productive? Do that. Create a system for preparing for your day. Make your to do list the night before. Know what you will have for breakfast and lunch. Plan your outfit the night before. Think about what you need to have with you and pack your bag. Plan what you will do during your commute time. Have podcasts ready to listen to or reading material ready. Know which short tasks you can complete during down time. Look at your calendar and be prepared for what you will do.  In addition to organizing your thoughts this has the effect of helping you to visualize success, much as a pro athlete mentally goes over his or her game before it starts.
  3. Partner with productive people: Bad habits can be very tempting. Surround yourself with people who use their time well.  If you have a big deadline or are working on improving your productivity, an accountability partner can help you to stay on task. Don’t forget delegation. Partnering with productive people means knowing whom you can trust and trusting them!  And think about delegation broadly. Outsourcing non-work tasks is also a type of delegation.
  4. Advocate productive meetings:  When you run a meeting, have an agenda.  Stick to the time allotted and the objects you set. If you find yourself frequently called in to inefficient meetings, do something about it! Here is a 7 minute Ted Talk from David Grady about taking back your time, one of the most entertaining and contagious productivity tips there is!
  5. Say no:  Keep your mission in mind and work on those tasks that are aligned with it. Lots of us are uncomfortable saying no.  How about, “I can’t give this the attention it deserves right now, ” or “This is a worthy idea but doesn’t really fit in with my strategic priorities right now.” If those sentences also give you discomfort, at least say, “Let me think about it,” to buy you some time to evaluate if the proposal fits with your strategic priorities.
  6. Stand while you work: Spending part of your day at a standing workstation makes you less tempted to be distracted from your tasks. You don’t need anything fancy. Lots of people prop a box on their desk. I sometimes use my laptop on my kitchen counter. Ikea makes some nice wall mounted tables, that if installed at the correct height would be great standing workstations.
  7. Know when not to be productive: Probably the most important of all the productivity tips is to know when you have done enough. Know when you just aren’t going to get it done today. Take breaks to feed your soul and prevent burnout. As Stephen Covey says, sharpen the saw.
  8. Put technology to work: Filters, apps, the right smart-phone, the right software and the right tools can all help you to be more productive.
  9. Consider alternative approaches: Lots of people report that their productivity is enhanced by vision boarding and the law of attraction.  Meditating makes some people (like me) feel like there is more time in the day. The currently popular Marie Kondo tidying plan seems to help some people focus.  Think about productivity tips broadly to include some unconventional approaches.
  10. Consider your productivity style:  Carson Tate has an interesting concept, that our productivity is influenced by our cognitive style.  You can take an online assessment to determine your style and your profile will include suggested tools and approaches to help you achieve maximum productivity.
  Which of these tools have you tried? Which are your favorites?  
I'd love to hear about it!

This is the third and final part in a three part series on productivity. It is based on material I presented at Spark 2015 on June 16, 2015, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The conference was targeted at women entrepreneurs but the material is really universal. 

Productivity Tools (Personalized Productivity, part 2)

Productivity Tools–Using Your Mission:

In part 1 of this series I wrote about the importance of establishing your mission statement.  Of all the productivity tools available, clarifying your mission is the most important. Your mission statement can be used to inform your goals. This ensures that your goals support your mission. Once your goals are aligned with your mission the tasks that comprise them will also reflect what is truly important to you.  Doing tasks that have personal importance is a whole lot easier than doing tasks that do not have personal meaning.  Your mission can also help to filter other tasks.  We receive many tasks through email and other communication modes that are not necessarily related to our goals.  By using your mission and goals as a filter for these tasks you can delegate, defer or simply refuse the ones that do not support your mission.

The Productivity Ninja offers this great workflow diagram for managing email.  This productivity tool could actually be used for any task that comes your way.  When a task lands in your lap the very first question to ask is, “is this important to me at all?” That is the time to compare it to your mission and goals.  Does the task align with your mission? How does it get you where you want to be?

Productivity Tools for Determining Priorities:

The “Wheel of Life” is a simple but effective productivity tool for assessing your fulfillment in various life areas.  You can simply create a wheel yourself or use one of the many wheel of life templates available online.   Keep in mind that you can create whatever categories you wish in your wheel.  Rate each category on a scale of one to 10 and connect the rating dots.  You get a nice little radar chart that indicates areas of your life on which you may wish to focus.  That is to say, areas of your life where you may wish to create some goals and tasks.  Wheel of Life productivity tools


Stephen Covey’s “Time Management Matrix,” also known as the “Eisenhower Box” is another tool that can help to monitor goal and task alignment.  The box simply plots the urgency vs. importance of various tasks.  To use the box, plot items from your To Do list on it, assessing how they stack up in terms of urgency and importance.  Spend your time on important tasks (boxes 1 and 2) rather than urgent ones.  And avoid the “time sucks” of box 4!time management matrix productivity tools


Productivity Tools:  From Idea to Action

An essential productivity tool is time boxing.  Time boxing is putting each action into a time in which you will do it.  Basically, it is making an appointment with yourself to work on a specific item.  One type of time boxing is the Pomodoro technique.  Pomodoro is one of the best productivity tools I have come across.  I have written about this technique before, both on this blog at over at The Productive Librarian. The technique is simple:  set a timer for 20 minutes and work like crazy during that time, then take a break. Repeat as often as necessary.

One of the great things about Pomodoro in particular and time boxing generally as productivity tools is that it will help you to determine how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks.  The ability to estimate how long it takes to do something is really helpful in planning your time.  It can also greatly improve your attitude about certain tasks.  I used to think that certain tasks I hated, like blow drying my hair or washing dishes, took much longer than they actually did once I timed them.  The same is true for work tasks.  Being realistic about time estimates will help you to better plan your day and feel more positive about necessary actions that aren’t necessarily your favorite. And I promise you, many tasks will take less time than you think.

Part 3 of this series provides 10 tips and tools for productivity.

  Have you tried the Wheel of life, the Time Management Matrix, 
Pomodoro or other types of time boxing?   I'd love to hear how they
 worked for you. 

This is the second in a three part series on productivity. It is based on material I presented at Spark 2015 on June 16, 2015, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The conference was targeted at women entrepreneurs but the material is really universal. 

Personalized Productivity (part 1)

Why Personalize Productivity?

Productivity is more important than ever. We have ever-increasing demands on our time. We are continually barraged with information through all types of media and devices. We need to manage both inputs and outputs. Naturally people turn to productivity and time management systems for relief. But the list of time management systems and tools is equally daunting. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity. Everyone must find their own tools. I focus on the specific tools and tips in part 3 of this series.

Productivity Fundamentals:

Stephen Covey writes that time management is really personal management. Time management is managing yourself. It is self discipline. Certainly a simple concept, but one that’s very difficult to do.  The first step is knowing your personal priorities.

Time management systems all have commonalities. They advise collecting your tasks then dedicating time to do them.  There is a certain amount of variety in the way this is described and the flavor of how this happens, which is great because you can pick a system that works for you.


Most time management systems focus on the Goals to tasks to time box part of the diagram.  That leaves out the most important part: knowing your strategy. Your personal strategy—your mission—helps to inform your goals. Each goal and task will be easier to accomplish because it will be meaningful to you.

Productivity and the Mission Statement:

Organizations large and small need mission statements, as do individuals.  Your mission statement is your “home truths;” your raison d’etre; your statement of purpose. Mission Statements can help you to filter the important from the less important (or unimportant). Your mission statement will help you set your direction. You can begin to unearth your mission rather quickly by reflecting and writing on the following questions:

  1. What do you do? What product of service do you provide?
  2. Who do you do this for?
  3. Why do you do it`?
  4. What makes your product or service unique so that a client would choose you to do it?

For entrepreneurs, the personal mission is often entwined with business mission.  If you work for an organization it can be helpful to write a personal mission as well. Some additional questions might be helpful to personalize your mission.

  1. What do you want?
  2. Are you ready for this?
  3. What commitment is necessary to achieve it?

Some additional exercises that might be helpful to clarifying your mission include the following writing topics:

  1. Write about an influential person. What positive impact did he or she have? What qualities do you admire most? What qualities did you gain from this person?
  2. List 10 things that are most meaningful to you today? What do you live for and love in life?
  3. Write yourself a letter:  write a letter as your future self. What have you accomplished?
  4. Try to encapsulate what is important to you in one word. Focus on that word for a period of time and evaluate how that focus has impacted your work-life. 

In part 2 of this series I will explain some of the productivity tools that help you to use your mission to improve your productivity.

  Has clarifying your mission been helpful to you?
 I'd love to hear why or why not. 

This is the first in a three part series on productivity. It is based on material I presented at Spark 2015 on June 16, 2015, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The conference was targeted at women entrepreneurs but the material is really universal. 

Resolutions (or, Happy Half-Year!)


I read a post recently saying it’s the 6 month mark for New Year’s resolutions. Wow, six months. Where did the time go?  It got me thinking about resolutions.  I thought about resolutions in my own life and resolutions more broadly.  I also thought about goals and how they relate to resolutions.

My Resolutions

To me, resolutions are silly. I don’t mean to say they aren’t worthwhile, but at New Years I always choose something silly for my resolutions.  One year my resolution was to learn more about kangaroos.  While this sounds really silly it was actually a great resolution for me.  Kangaroos, actually marsupials in general, had always kind of freaked me out.  Learning about kangaroos helped me to appreciate them for the magnificent animals they are. Now they are my favorite animal!  This past year my resolution was to be better about carrying a purse.  Again, another kind of silly thing, but for me it was really worthwhile. I had fallen into the bad habit of grabbing the things I needed and keeping them in pockets. As a result I often did not have everything I needed and I spent a lot of time going through numerous pockets to find keys, wallet, bank card, etc.  So my silly resolutions have helped me to learn and grow as a person.

Resolutions vs. Goals

Generally speaking, I’m a much bigger fan of goals than resolutions.  Goals are much more specific. Goals are often measurable. And for me, goals are a lot more serious. Perhaps most importantly, goals are not tied to one specific season of the year. Lifehacker has a nice little post about the difference between resolutions and goals.

The main reason the post about the six month mark resonated with me is that I have been carrying a purse, and it has really worked for me!  I have everything I need whenever I need it.  Do you make resolutions or goals?  How has this worked out for you?

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