When I return books to the library, I would prefer to bring them inside and hand them to a staff member.
In doing so, I’m trying to be … I don’t know … polite or helpful or faster in getting them back on the shelves for someone else. This is opposed to dropping them in the large container outside where it says “return books here.”
I’ve done it my way a few times, but a couple of times when I checked out later, my account was flagged for not returning a book.
This was a concern. I knew quite well that I had returned the book – and I denied not returning it. But you can’t argue with a record, and the record said I hadn’t returned the book.
So … what to do, what to do, what to do?
Well, I had a thought. I went to the shelves and looked for what I could see. And sure enough, I found the book in question right where it needed to be. I brought it to the staff member who’d alerted me to the flag and said, “See? I did return the book. Here it is.”
This happened twice before I understood what was probably going on. I was operating outside procedures and expecting someone else to do the same.
It makes sense, when you think about it.
When all the books are retrieved from “return books here,” there is a set procedure for checking them back in and returning them to the shelves. If a book is set on a counter, though, the person at the desk may get busy with the next patron, and the check-in step gets overlooked. Later, when the staff member turns his/her attention back to the book that’s still sitting there, it’s returned to the shelf without the official check-in.
So I don’t take the returned books inside anymore. I drop them outside where it says “return books here.”
One of the morals of this story is: don’t get mad at human nature when any of us could make the same mistake.
The other moral is: most of us operate better when we have set procedures, checklists, guidelines. And if you’re a solopreneur, the nice thing is, you can invent your own.
I like the procedures I’ve established for tending to my tasks, staying in front of my market, and moving forward on my goals. Structure frees me to get the things done that I’d like to do.
Minnie Lamberth is an author, content writer and creativity coach.