a daily todo list

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

Ray Cummings, The Time Professor (1921)

If you skimmed through my journals over the past 25 years, stopping every five years to take a look, you would likely discover five completely different ways of organizing my to-do lists. I’ve used notecards and notebooks, Remember the Milk and Todoist, plain text files and markdown. I’ve tried most systems under that sun. But regardless of the platform, I’ve usually modeled my process, to varying degrees, on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method. Since the introduction of time blocking, however, I’ve slowly moved away from the GTD workflow, focusing less on context-matching and more on prioritizing for the time I have in front of me. 

My current system is a combination of Cal Newport’s time-blocking system and the format of the Full Focus notebooks. I add the fixed meetings to my schedule and then, examining the time I have open, determine the top 3 things I want to get done. There is a section for “other tasks” as time permits, and the rest of the page is dedicated to daily notes. 

It’s a system that works amazingly well. It’s worth noting though that this is the “bottom of the stack” in my planning process. I make my daily plan each morning, but that’s after having already set my weekly, monthly, and quarterly plans in advance. So I don’t have to look at my full to do list (which I keep in Microsoft 360) and I can stay focused on what matters most. I would say 9 times out of 10, I get at least one thing from my “top 3” done every day, and more often than not, I complete all three. 

What I’m reading

Cory Doctorow on Vice: “This is *not* the moment to be ‘social first.’ This is the moment for POSSE (Post Own Site, Share Everywhere), a strategy that sees social media as a strategy for bringing readers to channels that *you* control.”

Call it spoons, call it energy, or: “If you give your fucks to the unliving—if you plant those fucks in institutions or systems or platforms or, gods forbid, interest rates—you will run out of fucks.”

Adam Kotsko on students’ reading habits: “Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing [the world’s] complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.”

Benjamin Santos Genta on metaphors: “We owe it to ourselves and others to reflect on the appropriateness of the metaphors we employ to frame the world. These choices – conscious or not – can be constructive or disastrous.”

Garden update

young loquat tree growing among birds of paradise plants

Sneaky little bastard. When we first moved into our house over a decade ago, there was a loquat tree in the backyard. It was one of the first plants I removed because it was growing in and among two other plants. It’s not a fruit I enjoy, but they are all over the neighborhood, so I’m sure this was the result of an errant seed dropped from above.

Links to the past

Overheard online

Occasionally I see posts that look like this: “I’m just starting my MLIS and I don’t know if I should specialize in cataloguing VHS tapes or storytimes for dogs. What do you think I should do?????” Just take courses you think are interesting and take whatever job you can get when you graduate.

MidniteLibrary on Mastodon

man smoking pipe at a typewriter

(photo credit: NC State Archives on flickr)

I was brought up to believe that the only thing worth doing was to add to the sum of accurate information in this world.

Margaret Mead, quoted in New York Times, 9 Aug. 1964

If you had told me five years ago that my main source of news would be email newsletters, I would have thought you mad. If you had told me I would also be paying to subscribe to these newsletters, I would have walked away laughing. Obviously, e-newsletters have been around for decades, but the meteoric rise in platforms like Substack was not on my bingo card pre-2019. So I thought I would share what’s currently coming into my inbox on the regular in the hopes that you might find them as enjoyable as I do! 

What I pay for

Culture Study: This was the first paid subscription I bought. I heard AHP speak at the 2022 CALM conference and immediately realized that she is someone who deeply understands her audience. An author, podcaster, and gardener, she has an incredible critical eye and the ability to make any subject interesting. I love everything she writes. 

Content Prompt [referral link]: Written by Meghan Kowalski, an outreach librarian working in DC, this is a daily list of ideas for social media content creation. I heard Meghan speak at last year’s Library Marketing and Communications conference and was so impressed that I signed up for her newsletter while she was still speaking. It’s a simple, but useful format that also includes prompting questions that I’ve occasionally used in my personal journalling as well.

Link in Bio: This was a recommendation by Meghan. Rachel Karten is a social media consultant who writes about current trends. As someone who only uses social media for work, I don’t often encounter trending content outside my industry, so this is a helpful way for me to know what’s up. Subscribers also get access to a Discord that seems to be mostly populated by social media professionals, so I get to feel like an industry insider. 

Everything else

Here’s a list of all the other newsletters I read regularly. I’m just at the limit of what I have time to read each week, but I do try to read all of these in full when they arrive.

What I’m reading

Obviously from the above, you can tell I already spend a not insignificant amount of time reading, but this last week in particular I was feeling nostalgic about the early days of the web. Kyle Chayka, writing for the New Yorker, basically described my exact experience of the web from the 1990s through 2010s. If that makes you long for a simpler time (and smaller web), check out the Diagram Website. I’ve lost myself in here for hours. Need a soundtrack while you surf? Open a tab for Infraordinary FM, an AI-generated broadcast of mundane happenings around the globe.

Garden updates

close up of a young plant

I’m at the end of the winter growing season here in zone 10, so I’m not putting in any seeds yet. Instead, I’ve transplanted in various leafy greens. Once the heat comes back, these won’t last long but it should provide for the occasional salad for the next few weeks.

Links to the past

  • 1 year ago: I was knee-deep into a research project on burnout in academia that, rather than resulting in a publication, made me realize I was clinically in burnout mode. So I dropped it.
  • 4 years ago: I was turning off all notifications on my phone and finally starting to prioritize sleep.
  • 10 years ago: I was making valentines for our students in the library.

Overheard online

“Strong’s Concordance” would be a pretty cool name for a band.

@hotdogsladies on Mastodon

Last month, I took over the marketing column for Public Services Quarterly, following Katy Kelly’s 10-year tenure at the helm. To signify the transition, Kelly and I co-wrote an article, “The Eras Tour of library marketing,” reflecting back upon the topics covered under her leadership and looking toward the future. 

At one point, I asked Kelly to consider the future of library marketing, and specifically to consider potential threats, to which she responded:

“Lack of respect. Marketing is a management function and library employees who do this work should be compensated at a managerial level or else they will leave, burn out, or quietly quit. In addition, they should be invited to participate in conversations regarding big changes or initiatives at the earliest juncture. Administrators who don’t recognize this will end up with more work and confusion internally and externally.”

Shortly after our article was published, one of my favorite creators, sidneymorss, posted the following on TikTok. The industry is different, but the vibe is the same as Kelly’s quote above. Someone please create a library version!

Book cover of "Binti: The Night Masquerade" showing Black women with blue tentacle-like hair and cradling a glowing ball floating above her hands.

This third book in Okorafor’s Binti series brings the story of the eponymous character to a close. In this final chapter, Binti comes to know her diverse genetic selves in ways that defy her own understanding. Even among her father’s people, she outshines in aptitude and ability, giving a whole new definition to the meaning of harmonizer. Throughout the experience, she stays true to her many selves, but most of all to her family heritage. The emotional arc of this series is perfectly balanced between external and internal struggle. Okorafor’s world building is elegant and subtle, allowing the reader to focus entirely on Binti’s experience. I’m naturally drawn to space opera-type narratives (though even that feels too simplistic a term), and this series did not disappoint. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

old railway bridge that has been converted into a pedestrian walkway

I love it when a plan comes together.

Hannibal Smith, The A-Team

The older I get, the more I enjoy the process of setting goals for the new year. Perhaps I am simply grateful to have been given another year. Maybe I increasingly feel the weight of an ending. Whatever the cause, I am no longer ashamed to say that I enjoy New Year’s planning! (previously: 2023, 2022, 2021). And it has proven successful. While I don’t accomplish everything, I do make notable progress. This past year, for example, I wrote more frequently, I did a better job planning my weekends, and I learned new skills at work. 

Once again following in the style of CPG Grey [YouTube], my theme for 2024 is “creativity.” In 2023, I came to the realization: I am stuck, especially at work but also to some extent at home. This feeling of immobility only dissipates when I am engaged in deep creative work: writing, photography, planning, etc. So this year I want to be attuned to opportunities that allow me to exercise my creative faculties.  

Photography

Years ago, I bought myself a decent EOS Rebel camera and zoom lens. I’ve used it on and off since that time, mostly for photographing work events, but rarely for personal ends. This year, I want to change that and spend some quality time learning (and practicing) how to take better photos, mostly with the DSLR but also with my mobile device. I know many of the basics of the camera’s mechanics and creating a good composition, so I’m starting from a good place. Photography is an art form that I feel, with enough practice and critical reflection, I could get fairly proficient at.

Artist’s dates

Last year, I worked through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. While I have mixed feelings about whether I would recommend the book, one aspect that I did enjoy was the idea of the “artist date.” Essentially, each week you set aside time to “treat your inner artist”. This could be as complicated as going to a museum or as simple as listening to recordings of ocean waves. I wasn’t successful at doing this every week, but I never regretted the experience when I did. So this year, I plan to make “scheduling my artist date” part of my weekly planning process. 

Shakespeare

At some point in the past few months, I got it into my head that I wanted to read all of Shakespeare’s plays. It must have been inspired in some part by my daughter’s tiny role as a Windsor child in Merry Wives this past summer. Even after sitting through no fewer than seven full run throughs of the show, I still found new sparks of joy hearing Shakespeare’s words. So my plan is to not only read all his plays, but also to watch at least one, but preferably two, performances. I may try to throw in some critical and derivative works in there, too, as time permits. 

POSSE-style this website (including more writing)

In the process of moving to Mastodon, I learned about the Indie Web community and POSSE. I’ve been exploring the websites of users in that community and it has inspired me to flesh out my website considerably. In addition to publishing on my own site and syndicating elsewhere, I plan to add new pages for current projects, things I find interesting, and other evolving projects.

What I’m reading

The internet is about to get weird again by Anil Dash

“There should be lots of different, human-scale alternative experiences on the internet that offer up home-cooked, locally-grown, ethically-sourced, code-to-table alternatives to the factory-farmed junk food of the internet.”

Dash’s post contains a number of fascinating examples of the “weird” (read: unique) that I could easily lose myself in for hours. 

Top 14 Social Media Trends (2024 & 2025) by Alison Zeller

“Social media usage is expected to remain on an upward trajectory over the next 2-3 years. New features, such as AI and AR, are ensuring that users stay glued to top social media platforms for longer periods of time each day. Brands are taking advantage by increasing their budgets for content creation, influencers, and ads.”

I am skeptical that social media usage will continue to rise, but there is data to support that conclusion. My skepticism comes from what I’ve observed among Gen Z as a more lassie-faire approach to social media: it’s fine, but it’s not essential in the same way that previous generations have (and continue) to approached it.

January 1, 2024 is Public Domain Day by Jennifer Jenkins

“For the vast majority—probably 99%—of works from 1928, no copyright holder financially benefited from continued copyright. Yet they remained off limits, for no good reason.”

Mickey, Disney, and the Public Domain: a 95-year Love Triangle by Jennifer Jenkins

“Disney is both an emblem of term extension and its erosion of the public domain, and one of the strongest use-cases in favor of the maintenance of a rich public domain.”

How to Lose a Library by Carolyn Dever

“Librarians are by profession information wizards, belying any analog-digital binary by instrumentalizing information as useful and as necessary. The job is to connect users and materials, to create that alchemy that blends the stuff and matter of life with the ephemera of knowledge.”

Garden update 

Washington navel orange tree full of ripe oranges

One of the many things I love about gardening in Los Angeles is that I get oranges during the winter months. My Washington navel was so overburdened with fruit this season that one of its lower branches snapped off under the weight a few weeks ago. Normally, these trees need very little pruning, except for diseased branches and those hanging too close to the ground.

Links to the past

Overheard online 

My wish for 2024 is that every story that starts with “A new study from the [name of institution] found that” includes the name(s) of the author, the study’s title, and a link to the actual study.

@BuffaloResearch on Mastodon

bottle of Justin cabernet half full

Need a new world wine made in an old world style that is drinkable now? Look no further than this wonderfully complex cabernet. Cherry, spice, and dried flowers on the nose. A silky, medium body, with oak and bright berries, finishing off with cherries and watermelon candy. You can feel this one all over the palate. I think the use of 25% American oak gives it a much subtler taste. I would buy a few bottles of these to just have on hand.