24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: hacks

Pro Talk: How to Read More Books

At the end of 2018, I knew I wasn’t going to make my reading goal. I’d aimed for 110 and “only” managed 100. I didn’t count picture books, which I read at least four of a week during the course of story time at my day job, and I typically don’t listen to audiobooks just because of personal preference. If you’re not ultra-concerned about quality but want 2019 to be the year of quantity when it comes to books, check out the twelve tips below to maximize the number of books you read.

Read what you love, not what’s popular or prescribed.

There’s a lot of pressure to read the latest and hottest, especially if you work in the book world. And there is something to be said for staying aware of trends in publishing and popular works. But just because Oprah says you should read it, doesn’t mean you have to. Read what appeals to you, not just what’s popular or prescribed, and reading will keep from feeling like a chore. The more enjoyable it is, the more you’ll want to do it — the more you do it, the more books you’ll read. Simple!

Three letters: D. N. F.

I really need to take my own advice on this one. If a book just isn’t “doing it” for you, there’s no shame in putting it down and marking it as “did not finish.” A book, if it had expectations at all, cannot expect you to put in more than a good faith effort. That might mean the first chapter, the first thirty pages, or a solid 25% — whatever makes sense to you. Ultimately, there’s little sense in pushing through a book you’re not enjoying. If DNFing makes you anxious, consider instead giving yourself permission to put a book aside for a period of time — whether that’s days, weeks, months, or even years — and come back to it. Sometimes, our situation in life can make all the difference as to whether or not a book can hit its mark in you.

Read multiple books at once.

This strategy may be counterintuitive and, indeed, not work for some — for others, it might be a game-changer. The benefit of having multiple books going at once is that, the second you get bored of one, you can easily switch to another and keep the momentum going before you get too frustrated and give up entirely. When you’re in the right frame of mind, you may find you can easily return to a book with which you were easily frustrated. I find it’s useful to have a bedtime/house book and a going out book (and sometimes a gym book and a work book). The bedtime/house book is primarily read in bed or otherwise at home, going out typically stays in my bag and goes out with me (my Kindle is great for this because it’s small, lightweight, and fits into all my bags), the gym book keeps my brain entertained at the gym (also often via my Kindle as it’s easier to hold one-handed), and the work book is sometimes something I’m reading for work or have checked out from work (a library, if you didn’t know) so it’s naturally easy to have it available for slow periods or lunch breaks. I used to also keep a book going on OverDrive’s desktop reader, which allowed me to read bits and pieces during downtime at an office job.

Always have a book with you.

You’d be surprised at how much reading can accumulate when you sneak in a few minutes here and there. With my ereader on me all the time, it was easy to grab a few minutes of reading while waiting for the train, in line at the grocery store, or waiting on food at a restaurant. With my ereader, I had a small library on me at all times — and sometimes connection to my actual library’s digital database if I also had a wifi connection — and I could take it with me everywhere because of its small size and low weight. Soon enough, reading a few pages here and there added up to a whole book that I might not have otherwise been able to add to my have-read list.

Go for series with cliffhangers.

What’s better than a book you can’t put down? A series you can’t put down! Fly through a handful of books in a short period of time when you just have to know what happens next. You can’t know, of course, whether a book will land on a cliffhanger or not, but you can Google around — there are a few lists out there. Even if a book ends in a cliffhanger and doesn’t have a sequel, you might just plow right into the next book to avoid a book hangover.

Pick books with simpler prose.

The easier is something to read, the faster you’ll read it. Meant for younger readers, juvenile chapter books are often overlooked by adults but are actually the perfect place to start here. As a children’s librarian, I’m always encouraging adults to read juvenile literature. You might be surprised by how complex and poignant many of the stories are. If you aren’t sure where to start, try some award winners or revisit old favorites from your childhood to see how they hold up for you. These books also tend to be shorter, so many of them are easy to breeze through and push you to add another tally to your count of books read!

Listen to audiobooks.

I should preface this with the fact that I don’t consider myself an audiobook person and I very rarely listen to them — my attention span just can’t handle it. But I know a few folks who really bolster their have-read list with audiobooks, whether they listen at the gym, while cooking, on their commute, or some other time. Like ebooks, eaudiobooks can often be accessed through your library’s digital catalog and via your cell phone, so they’re easy to get when you’re out and about so long as you can get a quick wifi connection. Multitasking while reading (listening to audiobooks) naturally increases the time you spend reading and therefore the number of books you read in a year.

Read more graphic novels.

Like juvenile fiction, graphic novels are another easy way to pump up your have-read numbers. Generally, with fewer words to read and process, graphic novels (or memoirs, etc.) are typically faster reads than novels or nonfiction. It took me a long time to come around to graphic novels, but I finally discovered it was the kind of graphic novels I was reading that was holding me back. Highly stylized art and action stories don’t work for me, but bold, simple styles with more social or emotional plot lines are perfect. I found a lot to read in juvenile graphic novels and of the 25 books I’ve read so far this year, 10 have been graphic novels.

Select shorter books.

When racing against the clock for my annual Goodreads challenge the last couple of years, I’ve definitely resorted to selecting shorter books to read. For obvious reasons, this helped to ensure I’d finish on time. (Poetry is often a great candidate for this strategy!)

Ask friends/the internet/your librarian for fast-paced suggestions.

Shameless plug! Librarians handle books all day long, even if they haven’t read everything in their collection (spoiler: it’s impossible; I’ve tried). Therefore, they often have a good idea of which books are fast-paced and quick reads. Visit your library, fill out a reader’s advisory form on their website, or give them a call to get some suggestions of books that will keep you glued to your seat as you flip through them. Don’t underestimate your friends, either — crowdsource on social media or ask one-on-one, there are bound to be a few fast-paced books you haven’t heard of or read yet that they can suggest. And if all else fails, Google it. As for why this works — well, it’s pretty obvious: if a plot is exciting and compelling, you’ll be more interested in reading it.

Say yes to reading, not no to distractions.

One of the best pieces of advice I got last year during my own reading slump was from a coworker. She had taken the approach the previous year of saying yes to reading, rather than saying no to distractions — and it worked for her! I tried the same thing this year and even this simple reframing made a big difference for me. Don’t say no to your phone, social media, television, music, or whatever else might distract you: say yes to reading. Don’t say, “I’m not going to look at Facebook,” instead, say, “I’m going to read my book.” Simple mental reinforcement here may change things significantly for you, so don’t give up on it if it doesn’t work pronto.

Use a tracker/timer.

There’s nothing like good old shame to get your eyes on the page. Use the stopwatch feature on your phone or computer (or a real stopwatch) to track how much time you actually spend reading. Every time you pick up your phone to check the latest on Twitter, pause the watch, and only restart it when you begin reading again. Snack break? Pause it. Checking the mail? Pause it. You might be surprised by how little you’re actually reading. Take note of it and see if you can compete with yourself to read more going forward. You’ll be proud to see how you progress, and you may even notice a difference in your ability to focus for longer periods of time in your life outside reading.

Schedule reading time.

Ah, guilt, the great motivator. Studies show writing down your goals increases the likelihood of completing those goals. So, whether you track your to-dos with a bullet journal, keep a traditional planner, or you love Google Calendar, start putting reading time into your schedule. You might task yourself with a certain amount of time spent reading or opt to challenge yourself to read twenty pages a day. Whatever you go with, you’ll probably find checking that item off your to-do list super satisfying. And if you read more than what you’ve assigned yourself, there’s no shame in rewarding yourself — add a fun sticker to your to-do list proclaiming your success, get a special treat from your favorite bakery, or invest in a new book to keep the momentum up.

Reflections on C3 at Hollins: 8 Tips on Networking and More

When I was a junior in college at Hollins University, the school instituted a new program that would be known as the Career Connections Conference, or C3. The idea was that the school would bring alumnae/i back to speak with current students about various topics relating to the professional life. At the time, at least six individuals in my class (which had a total number of around 100) were interested in pursuing library science. We were disappointed to discover none of the alumnae/i invitees had backgrounds in library science, despite the strong student interest. The following year proved to be about the same.

So when I received an invitation to attend C3 as an alumnae this year, I knew I had to make it, whatever obstacles came up. (And, naturally, they did — finding time off from work, travel, expenses, you get the idea.) I drove to Roanoke, Virginia from Washington, D.C., spent some time visiting old haunts, and before long I was in Lorimer House (previously known as the President’s House) at a reception hosted by the brilliant President Pareena Lawrence. Before I headed back to my hotel, I realized that reception was an example of successfully meeting fellow alumnae/i (many for the first time) and, well, networking.

Back in the hotel room with my nostalgic Wendy’s chicken nuggets, I marveled a bit at how I — I — had successfully networked. I, who had always lamented my inability to do so and regularly felt uncomfortable in regular social gatherings (let alone networking events), had done this thing and even felt pretty good about how I’d done it. Neat.

The following day, I went back to campus, networked more at breakfast — this time with more familiar faces, but still –, spent some time listening to others speak about interesting things, networked with current students at a luncheon, spoke on my panel, caught up with some staff and professors, polished off official conference events with a speed networking session (more on that later), and finished the day with a brief visit to the closing reception where I — get this — networked more, before doing a quick change in a public restroom and hurrying back off to D.C.

I learned a lot throughout the day, mostly that I knew a lot more than I thought I did. Most of this became evident to me during the speed networking session, which worked like speed dating. Alumnae/i sat at numbered tables, students shuffled in, we were given four minutes before “times up!” and then students stood, moved on to the next table, and we were back at it with the next one. These one-on-one interactions with students, though brief, were really eye-opening for me, as was the networking session during lunch.

These things that I learned feel so obvious to me now, but were decidedly not when I was a student during C3. And, what’s more, I was surprised to realize that the things I’d been so concerned about learning and knowing as a student were not things that I consciously learned, but rather picked up over the years in my professional life. Maybe I even knew some of these things, but couldn’t articulate them until now.

Below are those lessons, but I know there will be more in the future. I look forward to potentially serving at C3 again in the future and learning even more.


  1. When you’re young and/or new to networking, no one expects you to be good at it.
    As a student, I could barely define networking and its uses, let alone do it well. The trick, I now know, is to go in to a networking situation not with a goal of networking, but of a goal of practicing networking. Then, you’ll want to pay attention to the kinds of questions people ask, even if it means just listening in a conversation. If you can, go in with an idea of what kinds of actionable or tangible help or things you want and from whom (especially if you know who will be there ahead of time). You don’t have to be shy about straight out asking for those things, either. While I thought the game to play was being coy and overly polite (and therefore, not direct nor clear), it didn’t do me any good — and now from the other side, I see that it just makes sense to go ahead and ask, “Do you know of any openings in libraries right now that would be good for someone in my position to apply to?
  2. Have an elevator pitch with keywords.
    I got this advice as an undergrad and I thought it was some of the stupidest stuff I’d ever heard. Everyone knows how fake elevator pitches are. And yet. Every time I spoke with a student at C3, I found myself hoping for one because it gave me a quick snapshot of who they are and what they want and it made it easier to flip through the files in my brain. “She said photography! Quick, pull up the list of contacts on photography!” They feel silly and disingenuous, but I promise, they’re worth it. (And your partner in networking knows what nonsense elevator pitches are otherwise, so don’t feel embarrassed to use them.) Practice them, if it makes you feel better, but at a minimum, have those career-related keywords ready to go! (Something as simple as, “I’m interested in marine biology” could do you wonders.)
  3. When people offer themselves as a resource, believe them.
    The example of C3 is perhaps more extreme than what most people are likely to encounter, but you can generally count on the fact that if someone made the effort to come out on a weekend to get coffee with you and talk about your career, they’re also willing to do other things, especially if you make the request at that meeting. As a student during C3, I felt that it was very nice of the alumnae/i to revisit Hollins and share their wisdom, but that any offers of assistance beyond that, whether vague or specific, were just them saying it to say it, like you ask, “How are you?” as you pass someone in the hall. Every time I offered to be available for questions or whatever else a student thought I could offer during C3, I sincerely meant it. (And if there’s anyone who responds poorly to you reaching out after an offer, that’s on them for offering in the first place when they didn’t mean it.) I can only imagine on how many opportunities I’ve missed in the past for not taking these offers at their face value.
  4. This goes for professors, too.
    Although I’d heard the advice to make connections with your professors while on campus, I didn’t take it seriously. First, I figured, professors are insulated with other academic connections — not people who would necessarily be helpful in my career (I was wrong to believe this on a few levels, but moving on…). Second, even if I went to office hours, I wouldn’t have known what to talk about to make those connections. That’s still a tough thing, but a great old standby is to share articles in which they might have interest with professors. An email can be as brief as, “Thought of you when I saw this!” (Though ideally you’d also add a comment about the content and maybe a question, even just about their thoughts on it.) The good news is, you can also do this post-grad.
  5. Be confident, but not arrogant or condescending.
    Go into each interaction assuming the person with whom you’re speaking is the missing link between you and your dream job, even if that doesn’t appear to be the case based on whatever information you have about them beforehand. If you go into these interactions assuming the person not only can’t offer you anything, but is also definitely less knowledgeable than you are in the given field, you’re setting yourself up for a useless conversation. Even if the person across from you doesn’t know as much about caring for starfish as you do, any arrogance you project could make the person shut down, and you might miss out on discovering the person’s cousin is the top dog in starfish caring because no one wants to be condescended to. Don’t be that guy.In short: always assume your communication partner has something to offer and treat them accordingly. If you’re someone (like me) who struggles with tone and can come off disagreeably, practice, in earnest, with someone you trust to point out your shortcomings. Always, always be gracious and open-minded. You might be surprised what useful things people can dig up for you.
  6. You know more than you think you know.
    On the flip side, if you’ve had even a semester of college level chemistry, you are basically an expert as far as I’m concerned. At C3 as a student, I imagined myself as a total novice. Surely even the lawyers and professional chefs who came in knew more about libraries and publishing than I did, despite the independent research and academic work I’d done toward both ends. Nooope. Plenty of students with whom I interacted had a better understanding of their area of interest than I did. Or, if not more, then a different set of information. Don’t assume everyone older than you are also knows more than you do. You might have to elaborate a bit and it’s okay to recognize the knowledge and expertise you do have.
  7. Know what you need.
    Frequently early in my job search, I felt at a loss as to how to make myself stand out to employers. Inevitably, I applied to things only to be told I didn’t have sufficient experience. Looking back, I wish I had taken the time to sit down with job descriptions before I graduated and then figure out how to get those experiences in less traditional ways. I couldn’t conjure up an MLIS, but I might’ve sooner applied to write for Book Riot than I did to bulk up my experience with readers’ advisory.

    Take a look at the requirements and duties for jobs you have interest in. Then, if you can’t determine the best way to get that experience yourself, ask around (this could be a great networking question! “How would you suggest getting experience answering reference questions outside a traditional librarian position?”). You can also build a portfolio as a response to some of these things — blogs aren’t exactly all the rage these days, but sometimes just writing it out helps and you can always link folks to it who ask about your credentials. Then, make a name for yourself elsewhere — ask to do guest blog posts, write articles and letters to the editor, attend conference (and present, if you can). Eventually, you might find people connecting you to your work and most of the networking is done for you before you even step foot in the room where it happens. (#NotThrowingAwayMyShot)
  8. No one is looking at your clothes (that closely).
    As an undergrad at C3, I agonized over what to wear (and later, in interviews, too.). Was wearing a non-neutral primary or secondary color too bold? What if I chose flats instead of heels? Is the jewelry from Claire’s obviously not from Tiffany’s? Except for one exception, all the students I saw at Hollins who were participating in C3 (all directed to dress to impress) were dressed just fine as far as I was concerned, and some of them were far more casual than anything I would have picked when I was in undergrad. And that’s not a dig — I say this to point out, no one is looking that closely. And, honestly, the folks who included a bit of their personality in their outfits were more memorable to me than those who wore neutrals (looking at you, past me.).

    Bonus Tip: Take pictures of people with whom you network (with their permission), followed by a picture of their business card (and take keyword notes on their business card for maximum memory retention, too) with your phone. I didn’t this time around, but learned from others and will definitely take advantage of this strategy next time!

So that’s the wisdom I have now, with many thanks to those who invited me to C3 this year and who contributed to my education — both official and unofficial — over the years. What have you learned since beginning your professional life that seems obvious now, but was not before?

Up Your Productivity: The 5 Lists that Will Rock Your World

One of the things I get asked most often is, “When do you sleep?”

Answer: At night.

But let’s back up a little bit. This question is typically prompted by some realization that I currently have three jobs (one full time, two part-time — though, to be fair, “part-time” is loosely defined here) and am enrolled in graduate school full time. I don’t say this because I want people to think that I’m some kind of amazing person who sacrifices everything for some vaguely-defined sense of success. Actually, I say it because I know you (yes, you) are perfectly capable of this, too. And not only that, but you can do it and still have free time. Yeah, I still have time for things I do for fun — though I can’t say that I spend that time as wisely as I do my “not free” time (read: Abby mostly scrolls through Tumblr aimlessly while watching Jane the Virgin in her free time, which is to say she is imprisoned by mindless entertainment that fulfills some desire to mentally engage with concepts regarding social justice, relationships, and funny memes).

Right. As I was saying. You, too, can achieve crazy amounts of productivity in whatever arena you like. You just have to follow me down the rabbit hole that is organization.

Now, to be fair, if you search “organization” on Tumblr or Pinterest, you’re going to find pictures of immaculate to-do lists, notes that have probably been rewritten about a dozen times to ensure a lack of mistakes and perfect handwriting (seriously, it will make you cry), and beautiful, expensive stationery. That’s not how I roll (although I wish I did). I do messy and relatively improvised — at least for my standards. Asides aside, let’s get started on my list about lists (are you surprised?).

1. Blackout

I first started using what I call the Blackout List in summer of 2013 during my internship at the National Science Foundation. It was my first experience working full time in an office and I felt like I needed a fresh organization method that would propel me through each day. As a Resident Assistant, I’d seen my supervisor with  her legal pad every day, crossing out  tasks she’d completed with a black Sharpie. It seemed to work really well for her, so I adopted it. I still use it today in my daily work.


Blackout List

The Blackout List is for anything and everything I intend to do at work. I write up the following day’s tasks every day before I leave. My list currently works in three columns, mainly to save space. Each list has tasks I’m supposed to complete on a daily cycle, plus other tasks that are either completed on a less frequent basis, or are “fresh” tasks that are one-time things. Every day, you’ll see “newspapers” listed first on my list because I deliver newspapers every day. It’s not that I’ll forget to do that task, necessarily, but putting it on there helps me start the workflow for the day. I include bi-weekly meetings, reference requests, and long-term projects, too. Typically, I try to list the items in order that they should be completed, but as things get added throughout the day, I don’t worry too much about it. When composing the list, I always check my calendar for the next day to see what meetings and other unusual tasks need to be added. At the top of every list is “To Do” and the date in MM/DD format. This piece is highlighted in pink to offset it from the actual tasks.

Then the “blackout” part comes in. As each task is completed, I black it out — that is, I cross it out fully with a green highlighter (I find the permanent markers bleed through too much on legal pads). Whatever isn’t finished at the end of the day — long term projects, reference requests I didn’t finish for whatever reason, etc. — gets transferred to the next day unless it’s no longer relevant, in which case I either cross it out with a pen or leave it alone.

I love this method because it’s great for looking back to see what you’ve accomplished. You can see how long long-term projects took to complete, you can see what you worked on on what days, and you’ve got a record of tasks you did on a daily basis. This can be especially helpful for job searching later; filling out applications that detail your previous experience immediately becomes easier when you have a concrete list to pull from.

2. Priorities

The Priorities List was developed when I started getting more responsibilities at my full time job. Just before lunch time, I started lists that I called “Afternoon Priorities” so I’d be able to take off running when I got back from my break. When things get tough in school, I sometimes break out the Priorities List to help me get through.

The Priorities List lists only the most important tasks to be completed by the end of a given set of time (often close of business) in a single column. These tasks are all pending. Typically, I determine the level of priority for each task and do so by figuring out each task’s due “date” (or, how soon the item needs to be completed), if other people are waiting on the task to be completed, how long it’s been on the list, and other factors. Then, I design a key at the top of the list with three or four highlighter colors. The colors are listed in order of priority: first, second, third, fourth. What color I assign to each level depends on the day. I don’t currently have a standing color for each level. For the sake of explanation, let’s say I assign pink to first, yellow to second, and green to third. I then go through my list and highlight all of the first priorities in pink, again weighing the factors I described previously. Second priorities are highlighted in yellow and so on. Each task also gets a check box next to it to be checked when completed.


Priorities List

And so I go through, hitting the pink tasks first, then the yellow, then the green. In some cases, I may skip to what I originally determined was a lower-level task because I need a break from one of the more intense higher-priority tasks or because it’s quick and can be easily checked off. I find that checking something off a list as being achieved boosts my motivation, so checking off a quick, lower-priority task can make accomplishing higher-priority tasks easier.

I find Priority Lists most helpful in two scenarios. The first of these scenarios are times in which I feel so overwhelmed with things to do that I don’t know where to get started. Writing them out allows me to visually assess what needs to get done and compare tasks to each other to find the most important things to finish. The second scenario is just the opposite — when I feel I have so little to do and can’t decide what to do with myself. By mapping out possible things to work on, I’m often able to find at least a few tasks that really need doing and, as a result, I’m no longer at a loss as to what to do next.

One final perk of the Priority List is that the order tasks are added to the list doesn’t matter. Because priority is designated by highlight color rather than physical location relative to other tasks on the paper, you can easily tack on more tasks to the “bottom” of the list and still highlight them as pink, or a top priority.

3. Bullet

You might’ve seen articles about the Bullet Journal circulating around the web. One of the great things about the Bullet Journal is its adaptability. For those of us who like to follow rules to a T, the creators of the Bullet Journal make it easy to move away from the original design by encouraging the adaptation of the Bullet Journal method as you see fit. I started out using the Bullet Journal method as it’s prescribed, but quickly found that it wasn’t entirely helpful for me. I then made a few adjustments and relied on it to keep track of my school assignments throughout the semester.


Bullet List

For my version of the Bullet Journal, which I just refer to as the Bullet List, I make weekly lists rather than daily. My class schedule at San José State University runs on a weekly cycle, so each page is a new week. For this past semester, I had a class that “started” on Mondays, one on Wednesdays, and one on Thursdays. At the very top of the page was the week’s number for that semester. Fortunately, a lot of the course content is listed by week number, so it was easy enough to group classwork by week. My Monday class, Reference and Information Services, started each weekly list. I wrote the course information and the date range (INFO 210-10: 12/21/15 – 12/27/15, for example) as a header. Then I listed all of the assignments for that week in two columns. If there was a paper or some other kind of assignment with a deliverable, I added the due date for that assignment in parentheses after the description. Other assignments might be readings, discussion board post obligations, and research I needed to complete. Below that course would be the other two courses with similar headings. The next week started on the following page.

Throughout the week, as tasks were completed, they were checked off the list. Unfinished long-term projects got moved to the next week.

The Bullet List is pretty straight-forward as to-do lists go. It’s a slightly more-organized and time-sensitive iteration of the ordinary to-do list, but has the benefit of adaptations floating around the Internet that you can take and make your own.

4. To Do

Speaking of standard to do lists, I make about a million of them. Often, I take tasks from any of the lists listed (ha) above and dash them onto a piece of scrap paper. I use To Do lists whenever I need them. Some are long-term and some are short-term. I do have a little notebook where I keep two running To Do lists: one is a list of blog topics I want to get to, the other is a list of funny things I want to write about in the memoir that will probably be on another To Do list perpetually.

My standard To Do list is usually listed by bullets or dashes, and occasionally both if I have mini tasks within larger tasks. I try to keep the tasks in these lists boiled down to easy phrases like “laundry” or “homework.” Once something is completed, it’s crossed off — easy peasy.


To Do List

While I use To Do lists more than any other list (probably), I actually take them less seriously. As I mentioned, I usually do them on scrap paper, so they have a more temporary feel to them. They should probably be called Should Do lists rather than To Do lists, but we’re all imperfect people and I’m too lazy to write out “Should” when I could write “To.” Anyway, I find the temporary “aura” of the To Do list makes it lower-pressure to complete. If I get to it, I get to it; if I lose the list, I lose it — I can always make another. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s an old standby. I approve.

5. Wunderlist

The Wunderlist is not actually something that I created. Wunderlist is an app that is accessible through Smart Phones, tablets, and computers. Unlike the other lists, I use Wunderlist for items rather than tasks. Right now, I have a lists for groceries, things I want (ie, a wish list), and gift ideas. Admittedly, I use Wunderlist on a superficial basis. I’m sure there are lots of great features that I don’t use, simply because I haven’t felt a need for anything beyond what I currently use it for.

I will say there are a lot of helpful things about Wunderlist that I do use. One of the best features is that Wunderlist allows collaboration. This has been invaluable for the grocery list, which I share with my significant other. Whenever he or I notice we’re low on something, we can easily add it to the list. Wunderlist has an alert feature that will let you know someone has added something to shared lists unless you turn that feature off. So, if you’re using Wunderlist for groceries and you see someone you live with has added “milk” and you happen to be going to the store on the way home from work, it’s easy enough to know with minimal communication that you should pick up some milk. Shared lists are on a list-by-list basis, so sharing a list does not mean you have to share all of your other lists, too. This has been great for me because I’m able to keep sharing groceries with my significant other without letting him in on my gift ideas for him.



In my experience, Wunderlist loads quickly (I have a two-and-a-half-year-old iPhone 4S, which tends to load other things rather slowly compared to newer phones) even on 3G, so it’s easy to access in grocery stores. Once you’ve obtained an item, you can tap it to check it off and the item disappears from your list. The list also notes how many “tasks” you’ve completed from that list. Lists continue to exist even when there are no items on the list. Each item can also holds more than itself. If you open up any given task item, there are slots for a due date, a reminder, subtasks, notes, files, and comments. You can also “star” that task if it’s particularly important. Tasks can be sorted alphabetically and the app organizes conversations initiated by comments on shared lists.

And the best part? All of this is free.

Bonus: Outline

There is one more kind of list that I use fairly frequently. I first learned, really, to do outlines when I was in sixth grade. My Social Studies teacher loved outlines for lecture purposes and had fairly strict guidelines about what an outline should look like. I’ve seen arguments for different formats since, but have stuck to the one that makes the most sense to me with slight alterations depending on the project. Microsoft Word has leveled list format suggestions, but here’s what I prefer (with increasing indents for each level — unfortunately this editor won’t allow that, even with spaces):

I. Dogs

A. Bodies

1. Heads

a. Mouths

i. Teeth

ii. Tongues

b. Ears

2. Legs

B. Personalities

II. Cats

Obviously this is very skeletal as it’s just for example purposes, but you get the idea. Some will argue you can’t have a sub-level if you only have one or two points (so, for every A, if you’re going to have a 1, you also have to have a 2 and 3). I think that’s phooey. Outline in a way that works for you and you’re doing it right. There will be no outline snobs here.


Outline List

I primarily use outlines to write papers for school or, occasionally, get an idea of where I’m going with a particular blog post. (Yes, I did one for this blog post. No, it wasn’t in my standard format.) Like all my other lists, Outlines are helpful for propelling you forward, always giving you a “next.” Personally, I like to mirror my essays to an extent, so the Outline often ends up propelling itself forward. If I mention dogs, cats, and bunnies in the introduction in that order, I already know what my three main body paragraphs will be. Many people will probably argue that’s just solid writing practice, but there are arguments to be made for other effective techniques. I don’t pretend to be an expert on writing, regardless of how much of it I may do or pretend I do.

Lists are absolutely instrumental to me gettin’ stuff done. They provide clarity, direction, and a sense of accomplishment. There’s no way I could do even half of what I do without a good plan ahead of me. In fact, I honestly believe for every five minutes I spend planning and listing, I save another half-hour down the road. (And I’m not the only one who feels this way.) Time management and productivity are my things. It’s what I do well.

Oh, and sleeping? I also do that well — but only because I put it on my list.

What are your favorite methods of organization? Are you into any list trends? Do you have a Pinterest board full of beautiful lists? Do you hate lists? I want to know! Please share in the comments.

9 Simple Ways to Hack Your Job Search

Since March, I’ve been seriously applying to jobs.  It’s absolutely a full time job that, unfortunately, doesn’t pay. Many recent grads are in the same boat and, with a sea of job sites to navigate, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to start. Here are some things that I’ve learned while job searching.

1. Network

Okay, so maybe you’ve heard this one a million times, but it’s important. Networking can open opportunities for you. They say you’re “six degrees” from anyone you can think of, chances are you’re far fewer than six degrees from a job. Talk to people about what you’re interested in. Return the favor. Even if someone can’t offer you a job or a connection to someone who can offer you a job, networking is a good way to learn how to look for a job and how to talk to people.

An even bigger secret? People have been telling me to network forever. I understood that networking meant talking to people, but I had no idea what to talk about or how to even start those conversations until recently. You’re going to think I’m joking when I tell you this, but I promise, it’s the truth: I learned to network by playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. While you can’t enter personalized responses to things people say, watching those conversations (and their consequences) play out on your tiny phone screen can make a world of difference in how you approach networking in real life. At least, it did for me. Not sure where to meet people? Try joining a Meet Up relevant to your interests. Because Meet Ups are built around hobbies and career interests, there’s already a topic to break the ice.

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2. Keep a List of Keywords

If you’re not looking for a super specific position (like, Professional M&M Taster), keep a list of the keywords you use to search for jobs. This allows you to check back in on those job listings with less hassle and more consistency. It also empowers you to search more creatively. Occasionally, job search engines are smart enough that they will find synonymous listings, but this isn’t always the case. Keep a thesaurus or www.thesaurus.com nearby and handy to help you have a comprehensive search going at all times. Some job search sites also keep a history of your search terms with a number of new jobs posted under those terms since your last visit to their site. This can be helpful, but the history only goes back so far and if you have an extensive list of terms, you’re probably better off keeping track yourself.

3. Track with a Spreadsheet

My “Job Search” spreadsheet is a lifesaver. Every time I apply for a job, I enter it into my database. This not only helps me keep track of the number of jobs I’ve applied to (and thus enables me to be appropriately bitter as I mutter that I’ve applied to ninety-one jobs to no avail and I can prove it), but it also helps me to remember important contact information, passwords for jobs that require a log-in, and a link to the job description should an interview present itself. The categories I use in my spreadsheet are: Job Title, Organization, Link to Post, Date Applied, Location (City), Result of Application, Follow Up (Date), and Notes. When I receive a result, I highlight the row of boxes so I know it’s no longer an active application. You may find other categories more useful to you, but I highly recommend keeping a spreadsheet to help keep your search organized.

4. Add to Hacks to Your Search Terms

It occurred to me recently that many of the hacks you can use to search Google more effectively also apply to other search engines. Use them to your advantage. While some search engines automatically search both “library” and “librarian” when you type just “librarian” in, it’s not necessarily guaranteed. Try typing “librar*” without the quotation marks to search all job posts with the words “librarian” or “library” in it. My favorite alternative search technique is to add a minus sign before the word “intern” to weed out any internships listed in the results. Many of the advanced search techniques in this chart can be transferred to job search sites.

5. Limit Your Searches with Filters

Some job sites, like Simply Hired, allow users to limit search results. Looking for something that requires little experience? Select “0-2 years” under the experience panel. Only interested in working for a non-profit? Click on “non-profit” to find jobs in the non-profit sector. This will save your hours of scrolling through irrelevant search results, thus enabling you to apply to more jobs that better suit your interests and intent.

6. Don’t Just Rely on One Job Site

Although you’ll often be presented with over a thousand search results at just one site, you’ll be better off if you check with multiple sites. My favorites at the moment are Indeed, Idealist, Simply Hired, CareerBuilder, Snagajob, and Monster. Admittedly, I don’t check them all with the same frequency, but even by checking more than one, I increase my chances of finding the right job by quite a bit. It’s unusual to see the same job posted on multiple platforms, so your results are very likely to look totally different. Like your keyword list, take a minute to make a list of sites you want to check on a regular basis and then do it.

7. Check Career-Specific Sites

While I can’t speak for other career paths (though I suspect there are resources for most of them), the library science field has many career-specific resources for job seekers. I Need a Library Job compiles an almost-daily list of job posts with links. The American Library Association has a JobLIST as well. A quick Google search will reveal a number of other resources for job seeking in library and information science and it can help make your search more specific and effective.

8. Follow Librarian Blogs

As an active Tumblr user, it’s easy for me to keep my finger on the pulse of the library job market and trends therein. Of course, Twitter is another useful social media platform to keep up with librarians. With a lot of high profile librarians keeping blogs and other social media accounts, you can watch for advice from the pros. Often, these are the kind of people who can hire you, and I’ve read more than one post on what to and not to do for resumes, cover letters, and interviews in a library setting.

9. Be Optimistic

It’s okay to have glass-half-empty days. Overall, it’s important to keep a positive attitude. If you don’t, it’s likely to show up in your cover letters. Fake confidence until you feel confidence and don’t take rejections personally. When the time and the job is right, it will happen.



Glu Mobile, Inc. (2014). Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. (Version 1.3.1) Glu Mobile, Inc. video game. San Francisco: Glu Mobile, Inc.

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