Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturday Special: Backwards To-Do List
Last Monday, I created a backwards to-do list. I have a Page-a-Day calendar that I use to create my daily to-do lists, and when I woke up on Monday, I had several lists with undone to-do list items from previous days. Monday's page, however, was blissfully blank.

So I decided to try something. Rather than copying all of those undone to-do items onto my blissfully blank page, I simply hung on to the old pages, copying the items onto Monday's page after I did them. New items went on the old lists, so at the end of the day, instead of another list comprised of both completed and incomplete items, I had a lovely list on Monday's page -- one where everything was checked off.

Some days, we need this. It's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of daily business and lose track of all we've accomplished, remaining focused only on what we've left undone. When we consolidate bits and pieces of previous lists onto a single page, we often feel defeated before we begin.

Daily to-do lists are meant to be about what we can accomplish that day, but in our zeal to do it all (and remember it all), they often become the Mt. Everest of lists. I'm a big proponent of having both a master list (Mt. Everest) and a daily list (the foothills of life), and some days, when the lists have become a mountain range of their own, I wave the white flag, in the form of a Post-it Note sent to me by professional organizer Cindy Bernstein:

For those of you who, like me, prefer the old-fashioned paper-and-pencil list, here's a great article from Forbes about how not to torture yourself with them. And if you have an "I need to see it" style (as I do), here's a piece of advice: abandon the app and pick up the pencil. You need to see it, remember?

How about you? What do you do to show your to-do lists who's boss?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Freebie: What I'm Reading in Ten Minutes or Less: (Not) Falling Down
A few weeks ago, my mom took a tumble. Normally quick-witted and sure-footed, she nevertheless tripped and slammed into a window frame, shattering her shoulder. One minute she was cleaning, the next minute she was on the floor. Though it's been a long, painful couple of weeks, she's now on the other side of surgery, looking forward to a full recovery.

My mom's fall and the subsequent snow and ice have gotten me thinking about just how easy it is to start out standing and end up on the ground -- even when we're normally quick-witted and sure-footed. Today's Friday Freebie from Next Avenue focuses on 7 Surprising Things that Affect Your Balance.

Be careful out there.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ideas: Give it Five!

If yesterday's blog left you feeling overwhelmed about where to start, here are a few ideas (by style) that should take between five and fifteen minutes:
  • I know I put it somewhere: Find a home for the surprises you found while considering what's neat and what's not.
  • I need to see it: Go through any clothing left on the floor (or dresser or chair or ...) to determine what's dirty and what's clean. Dirty clothes should be put in the hamper or brought to the laundry room. Have a hamper that's sitting there taking up space, but not being used? Open the lid or replace it with a laundry basket. Consider installing hooks on a door for repeat clean clothes offenders (bathrobes are a commonly tossed across the furniture item).
  • Drop and run or I like to be busy? Take five minutes to put away items left in your wake. You may stop after five minutes are up, even if there are items remaining to be put away....unless of course you really want to finish -- but stop when you feel yourself running out of steam.
  • Cram and jam: Removing one item at a time, sort through one overstuffed drawer and get rid of anything that is outgrown or no longer wanted. (You may need to set a timer for this one, depending on the size of the drawer. Please don't begin by dumping the drawer because that's almost a guarantee this will take more than fifteen minutes).
  • I love stuff: Make a preliminary list of ways to weed your stuff. Throwing things away is not the only available option. Can you donate or hand down a once-beloved item, or perhaps consign it or sell it at a yard sale?  More later on alternatives to throwing things away.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting Started with STYLE

It's Wednesday again! If you haven't taken the personal and organizational styles quiz I posted last week, now might be a good time to check it out.

If you have taken it, I'm sure you were quite impressed by my very scientific, technical terminology. When I came up with these names, I was working with elementary school students, and so the names needed to be non-threatening and kid-friendly. As I began to transfer the information to adults, I found that they appreciated the silliness of the names, perhaps because they made an overwhelming task seem less daunting. And so the names stuck.

These silly names -- I love stuff, I love to be busy, I need to see it, drop and run, cram and jam and I know I put it somewhere -- will continue to pop up every time we discuss styles. The first three (bolded in black) are what I call the personal styles while the second three (bolded in orange) are the organizational styles. Hmmm....color-coding...any guess which personal style is mine?

Personal styles are the way we naturally function -- a part of our personality. Organizational styles are the methods we naturally use -- unchecked, however, they're more likely to lead to chaos than organizational successes. The key to organizational progress lies at the intersection of our personal styles and our organizational styles.

For example, I am an I need to see it/drop and run person. Left to my own devices, I inhabit a world of piles, stacks and visible cues (and yes, I am quite often left to my own devices, much to the chagrin of my I know I put it somewhere husband). But with the right tools, progress is not only possible, it's easy.

As we embark on this process, there will be some things we cannot control: the size of our living space, the amount of available storage space and the number of hours we have in a day. Sure, we can move, build on and pull all-nighters...but do we really want to?

What we can do is impact those things -- and even maximize them  -- by using our styles to our advantage. I don't know about you, but I'm sure I can expand my available storage space just by getting rid of stuff I don't need. (Please don't cringe, I love stuff friends -- I'm not talking about brutal purges).

So let's get started. Your first step is simply to take stock -- what's neat and what's not? Don't judge -- just observe. For example, as I sit here in my living room typing this, I see no less than ten items sitting out that can easily be put away (where they belong, not stashed somewhere just to make the room look better). I also see a bin that needs sorting (we won't discuss how long that's been there) and the dust that I don't need to see, despite my default personal style.

Step two: Before you start beating yourself up about what you see, view it all through the lenses of your personal and organizational styles. Does it make sense? My messy bin is a perfect example of the intersection of I need to see it and drop and run. It has potential, but its current condition needs...tweaking. For now, I'm simply making note of that because it won't fit into step three....

Give it five. I can't tackle that bin in five minutes, but I can put away all the wayward items and make progress in just five minutes. If I still have time left after I've put away my wayward items, I'm certain I can find another spot to tackle in the time that remains. If the timer goes off and I'm still motivated, I can keep going until I've reached a logical stopping point. (For all of you overachieving organizers out there, that's before you've torn apart a drawer, a piece of furniture, or, heaven forbid, an entire room). If you feel yourself getting frustrated, stop. The goal here is see progress because progress is a motivator. Exhaustion is not.

Getting organized is a process...and so is staying organized. Both take time and conscientious, consistent effort.

Next week, we'll talk more about the details of the styles, but for now, I'd love to know where you landed. I hope you'll share your styles and successes in the comments section as we take this journey together.

And stop by tomorrow for a short bonus post -- a few ideas for what you can tackle in five to fifteen minutes.

(All of the photos of organizers in today's post are from thecontainerstore,com)

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Weekend Experiment

It's hard to believe that this is the last week of January. Three weeks ago, people were making new year's resolutions, and I was participating in Facebook discussions like this one:
Facebook friend's status: They say that what you do on New Year's Day will be your focus for the year. Yesterday, I was blessed to spend the day writing. How about you? Did you start the year with a special focus?
My comment: Laziness :-) Since "retiring" and embarking on new pursuits, I've been a hard charger, and because I'm doing what I love, work time and down time boundaries have blurred. I'm working on trying to take holidays when normal people take them.
On January 1, as everyone else was generating resolutions, I was generating a nervous tic. 

My Facebook status: Resolutions? Expectations? Hopes and dreams? Too much pressure for the first day of a new year. I prefer to evolve slowly.
A friend's comment: I was just reading a blog that suggested you select one word for the whole year. Then try to apply that word to your life throughout your whole year. Thought that was an interesting idea.
I did, too. And as I thought about that at the turn of the year, the word that came to mind was "balance." If you read last Monday's blog, you can see how well that's working out for me.

So, I started the new year with no stated resolutions. Lots of ideas, some goals but no "this is the year that..." promises.

But I keep coming back to my own response to the special focus my writer friend referenced. I find it very difficult to separate laziness from well-deserved down time -- not for other people, mind you -- just for myself. There are so many things I want to do that I feel as though I ought to always be doing something, at least until I run out of the physical and/or mental energy to make that happen.

But over and over again the same scenario plays out. When I simply cave in and allow myself to just be lazy for a day (which rarely means accomplishing absolutely nothing), the payoff comes in the days that follow. My energy is renewed, my resolve refreshed and a highly productive day follows. Sometimes, one highly productive day sparks several more as well.
Slowly, I am learning this. Slowly, I am experimenting with the idea of weekends -- a time when I don't make a list that contains more items than hours in the day.

But let's not call it a resolution. I prefer...experiment.

As we move into February, I look forward to more of the "Weekend Experiment." I have no illusions of something as ridiculous as four weekends a month, but the occasional day off when everyone else takes one might not be such a bad idea.

And if it works, I'll have ten more months in 2015 to perfect it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Special: A Surefire Way for Knowing What's in that Folder

I have two great reasons for posting this particular Saturday Special:

  1. Label makers are excellent organizing tools that make everything look just a little more professional.
  2. You can win stuff.
I typically shy away from posts that are pushing something, so to speak, but since this one has good suggestions and an opportunity for you to win tools that will help you in your organizational journey, I couldn't resist.

Happy reading and organizing...and good luck!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Freebie: What I'm Reading in Ten Minutes or Less: Author Successes
Next week, I'm celebrating the first anniversary of my first novel, Casting the First Stone, so today seemed like a good day to do a Friday Freebie that focuses on authors much more famous than I am.

Writing is a profession, and one that many authors work at for years before they achieve visibility, let alone success. Not every author is a JK Rowling, bursting out of the gate with her first book and following it up with multiple blockbusters. Many authors start more slowly, peaking mid-career or even later.

Want to see where your favorite author lands? Check out this infographic. I was surprised to see how long it took some famous writers to get where they are now.

Who are you reading this weekend?