missrachelsmith

Posts Tagged ‘IT

Managing my time

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One of the training needs I identified in my initial Personal Professional Development Plan for CILIP Chartership was to ‘improve my time management’. I’ve looked at how I cope with lots of deadlines to meet in a short space of time before, but I thought it might be a good idea to think about how the ways in which I organise my time have developed over the last couple of years and whether there are things I can do to manage my time more effectively.

Time management

I’ve always had to manage my own time at work. As a Library Assistant in the Academic Liaison team, I spent 10 hours a week assisting customers on the Help and Information desk. For a while, I digitised resources for taught modules for one morning each week. But apart from that I was given a range of tasks and jobs to do and it was largely up to me when I chose to do them, as long as they were completed. So I organised this by putting all of the activities which had a scheduled time into my Outlook calendar.

Let’s have a look at my Outlook diary…

That was then – November 2010:

November 2010 calendar

And this is now – April 2012:

April 2012 calendar

The obvious change is that the balance of what I spend designated time slots on at work has definitely shifted. In 2010, the vast majority of appointments were the green and orange hours on the service desks. Fast forward to 2012, and there are very few service desks, but I’ve traded them in for lots of meetings, one off appointments like the Staff Information Fair, and regular visits to other sites.

The good thing about having less desk slots is that I can manage my time so that I can try to create longer blocks of ‘free’ time (Tuesday, Thursday afternoon and Friday morning look quite empty in April 2012!) so I’m able to concentrate on detailed tasks such as design work. My 2010 diary, in comparison, wasn’t massively efficient as I kept having to interrupt tasks to go out to the service desks, and then just when I was getting into the customer service tasks, head back to my desk to pick up where I left off.

And the times where there’s nothing in my diary? Well, when I started working towards Chartership, a lot of the things I was working on were long-term Library activities – processing records for the institutional repository, checking reading lists, administering our student book request service – so I just tried to spend a bit of time each day on them. That’s certainly different now, because although there are things I do regularly (such as updating the Library webpages, creating notices, putting things onto our digital displays, etc), most of my work is project-based or made up of small individual tasks.

And for those kind of jobs, I have a ‘to do’ list.

Here’s what my ‘to do’ lists look like:

To do list

I absolutely love ‘to do’ lists. That hasn’t changed, since I started Chartership back in 2010. But the thing is, when I started writing these lists as a Library Assistant, they were usually fairly short and contained. A 2010 ‘to do’ list would only have perhaps six or seven items, because there wouldn’t be that many unique tasks to do.

Now, as you can see, my to do lists have become really long. I usually fill almost the whole page before I even begin – enough to add only one or two more things before I need to start a back up list (sometimes I have two or even three going at once when I’m really busy).

Let’s have a look at this list in more detail: there are three ‘statuses’. Items which have a massive tick at the front of them, perhaps unsurprisingly, are the activities I’ve finished. Jobs which have a heavy dash after them (but don’t have a tick at the beginning) are jobs that I’m in the middle of, or I’m working on, but haven’t yet completed. And then things which don’t have a dash or a tick are things which are still ‘to do’. So far, so straightforward.

But there are some problems with my beloved ‘to do’ lists.

Firstly, I’m pretty much inseparable from these lists. If I go to another site for a morning and I don’t have my reporter’s notebook which contains the list, then I am pretty much lost (in fact, I regularly email myself a mini-list when I know I’ll be away from my normal desk to avoid this very problem). But I think there’s probably an argument to say that something that I could access online might be more effective there.

Next, there’s very little prioritisation of the tasks on my ‘to do’ list. They pretty much go down in whatever order I think of them in. So as you can see, I don’t necessarily do the things at the top of the list first. And the time required to complete the tasks that go onto the list is massively varied. Putting up a pull up banner, for example, will take me 5 minutes. All of the design work, however, will take a good few hours, and will require some time when I’m not likely to be interrupted as I need to be able to concentrate.

And the other problem is – and this is probably the biggest – that not all of the tasks I need to do go onto the list. Some of them live in my inbox as ‘tasks’ – I’ll flag emails if I need to do something with them, and then mark them as complete when I’m done. But worse still, some jobs just remain in my head and seem to come back to me in waves, so I’ll forget and then remember them again at odd times, usually when I’m not in a position to do anything about them (like at 3am in the morning).

I’d also like some way of knowing when I actually completed things. This would be really useful because then I could match up particular publicity activities with web analytics, visitor numbers, etc.

So what’s next?

I read Jo Alcock’s Getting Things Done column in this month’s issue of CILIP Update, so I’ll be following this with interest. I could probably use my work calendar more effectively by blocking out time for particular activities, so I might start trying to do this more! I also think I can’t continue to avoid ‘to do’ list software… does anyone have any recommendations?

And next up, I’ll be blogging about how my project management skills are shaping up…

Written by missrachelsmith

January 22, 2013 at 19:30

Posted in Chartership

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CPD23: The best Thing

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Taking the negative view, I am now so behind with the 23 Things for Professional Development programme I am very unlikely to catch up with everything before we hit Thing 23. But the positive person that I am, I have decided to take this as an opportunity to change Things around a bit. So in this post I’m going to discuss Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox. And the simple reason that I’ve decided to go for this Thing next is because 13 is my lucky number, which makes Thing 13 the best of all the Things. Of course.

Google Docs

I thought that I’d never used Google Docs before. But Google seems to be gradually taking over my life – I’m sure it reads my emails, and now it seems to have started to squirrel away the documents I download from my Google Mail account. So upon logging into Google Docs for the first time, I was quite surprised to see that I had a number of documents there, all of which were not very useful and were promptly deleted. Now that I know I have an account though and can use it to share and collaborate on documents, I might start to utilise this more.

Wikis

Wikis are something I do have some experience of. I’ve contributed to a few, such as the Library Day in the Life Project, which I’ve taken part in for the last few rounds. I also thought I’d contributed to the Library Routes Project wiki, but turns out I hadn’t. So as part of this Thing, I added my Library Routes blog post. Excellent reminder.

At the moment, I think I’m content with being able to add information to wikis. However, in the future I could explore setting up a kind of test wiki, so that I get to know this software better.

Dropbox

And actually, I’m also using Dropbox on a regular basis. I share an account with my boyfriend and it’s installed on our home laptop, and both of our work computers. Paul uses this for SERIOUS WORK BUSINESS. I mostly use Dropbox for something much more fun… I’m writing a children’s book. It started off as a kind of distraction, because lots of nasty serious things are happening in my life and I needed to take my mind off them. I’ve nearly finished the very first draft of it now, and I know that when I have finished it, I will be amazingly proud of my achievement. Whether it sits on my mantlepiece as something to read to my future children, or whether it’s good enough to be published.

But if it got published? Now that really would be the best thing.

Written by missrachelsmith

September 21, 2011 at 17:41

Posted in CPD23

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Adobe wan Kinobe

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This post has been hanging around in draft form for a while now, lost somewhere in the Tatooine desert that is my work desktop. IT skills is an area for development I identified on my original PPDP for CILIP Chartership, where I proposed to ‘learn to use Adobe Illustrator using online tutorials and information’ so that I could ‘take over the updating of Library floorplans’. So when I started playing with the Library floorplans back in May, I started writing this post. It’s now August, and since that point I’ve not only learnt how to manipulate Adobe Illustrator, I’ve also taught myself to use Adobe Premiere and I’m currently dabbling in Adobe Flash/SwishMax as well…

Adobe Premiere

Why did I use it?  I’m creating a testimonial video to promote our institutional repository, and I found screencasting and video editing software Camtasia Studio limited. Having created a first draft of the video in Camtasia, I used Adobe Premiere to create the final version of the video.

How did I learn it?  Mainly through using online video tutorials. I have the CS4 version of Adobe Premiere, so I watched a lot of the Getting Started guides on the Adobe website. I also consulted online forums when I had trouble exporting my video.

What worked?  I created a video from scratch, which I’m quite proud of. I was also able to adjust the brightness of the filming and use overlays using Adobe Premiere, which I couldn’t do using Camtasia.

What do I need to work on?  I need to try to remember to save regularly, as I got quite frustrated when I lost an hour’s work when using Adobe Premiere. Also, the video camera I used to film the footage, which was borrowed from our IT department, is pretty old and this means that the quality of the finished video isn’t great, despite my best efforts at editing it.

Adobe Illustrator

Why did I use it?  To update the Library floorplans, which were already in Illustrator format

How did I learn it?  When this responsibility was passed to me by my line manager around a year ago, he went through how to make basic changes to the floorplans using an older version of Adobe Illustrator. I already use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, and the menu structure of Adobe Illustrator is similar, so I mainly used trial and error to pick this package up. Although I was making fairly significant changes, I was also working to update a document which already existed, which made this task a lot easier.

What worked?  I managed to pick up the programme quite easily and created professional-looking maps for two of the University libraries which are undergoing major redevelopment work over the summer.

What do I need to work on?  I tend to try and find quick and efficient solutions to problems. However, in this case, it meant that when I was trying to ‘grey out’ unusually shaped staff areas, for example, I’d go for the primitive method of just colouring those areas in with a paint brush tool. This doesn’t affect the way the finished plan looks, but there’s every chance I’ll be using Illustrator for other projects in the future and I should take some time to pick up more advanced tools and features.

I’ve got to say, being able to add ‘familiar with the Adobe Creative Suite’ to my CV makes me feel like  a graphics Jedi. The force is strong in this one…

Written by missrachelsmith

August 8, 2011 at 17:27

CPD23: Organising opening hours

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The problem:

I’ve mentioned this before – I’m not a big fan of the library’s opening hours pages. They’re not particularly user-friendly, from a customer perspective, and they are horribly difficult to update.

The problem-solver:

Could be Google Calendar, which is what Thing 8 of the 23 Things for Professional Development course is all about. Over the last week, I’ve been investigating using Google Calendar as a interim fix to our opening hours pages problem. I have a Google account, so I’ve set up my personal Google calendar as if it were the library’s opening hours calendar. I’ve inputted some data as if we were undergoing a time where opening hours were changing from vacation, to term, to 24/7 opening hours. And this is the result:

Having not used Google Calendar before, I found it quite simple to schedule appointments, and you can set events so that they repeat on certain days of the week, or for a certain length of time.

There are certain problems, however, when you’re using it less as a diary and more of an opening hours database. When I scheduled appointments to reflect the times the Library was open, they only displayed the start time on the final calendar, like this:

Which looked quite odd. I couldn’t really find a way to get around this, although it might be just a case of digging deeper into the calendar settings, so I ended up scheduling everything as an all day event, and then manually inputting the times, i.e.:

But then this also has some limitations, because Google Calendar wants to order all day events alphabetically. I ended up changing ‘Help and Information Desk Opening Hours’ to ‘Service Desk Opening Hours’ to make sure information about the times at which full library services were available followed the information about the library’s opening hours.

Anyway, I meddled a bit with the display settings, and then Google produced some code so I could embed it into a webpage.

So, it didn’t take any technical wizardry whatsoever – and it should hopefully be quite easy to embed this into the university’s Content Management System. However, if we decide to go down this route without any technical work by the library’s IT team, it will be a bit of a dirty fix and we’ll need to be careful about how we input the data.

It’s not perfect, but it could be a better way of organising this information, particularly if we can add in Library events as well. Watch this space.

Written by missrachelsmith

July 28, 2011 at 17:27

Posted in CPD23

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