Staying Organized

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bridge painter by Noah BergerI live in California near the Golden Gate Bridge (which celebrated its 75th birthday last year). To protect it from corrosive sea salt, it needs to be touched up all the time. As long as the ocean winds blow, the bridge will need new paint.

I’m talking about maintenance, my friends.

There’s really no way to get around it. Once you organize your space, you have to maintain it or, like that bridge, it will fall down. Your bridge is everything that supports you and the systems you’ve taken time to create. Treat them well.

There’s no need to dwell on the horrific consequences of lack of maintenance. You may already be familiar with them. Let’s talk about freshening up instead. Get your hard hat and lunch box and climb up with me.

How do you spot the touch-up areas?

The easiest way to do this is determine what is out of place. An organized space means everything has a place. Further, each place should be as easy as possible to put things away in.

Which touch-up areas do you tackle?

On the bridge, they inspect to find out where the most corrosion is and repaint those spots. Clearly they’re not going to paint the entire bridge in a day. You don’t have to either.

Start with the things that will become bigger problems faster; work you need to do now, bills to be paid, important mail to deal with. Once you do that, just start in a spot and work your way around (like continuously painting the bridge one end to the other, which is what I thought they did).

If you get used to the idea that maintenance is a perennial routine, you can relax and know that you’re going to enjoy that fabulous view every day when you climb up your personal Golden Gate Bridge and know you’re keeping it in tip top shape.

Organizing Overwhelm Cure

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6523852953_592dddf0e1_nWhen you feel overwhelmed by an organizing project or task, it’s often because you’re looking at the entire forest and not each individual tree. You can’t see the trees for the forest, to bend a common phrase.

Looking at the big picture is worthwhile, but in order to get down to work and sort through things and organize, you need to focus on each individual tree. The forest will just distract you.

I went through tote bags and handbags with a client recently. She has lots, enough to more than cover her dining table. When we dumped them all out, she backed away from the table, feeling overcome by the sheer quantity. It seemed impossible to her that we could make any order out of it.

But soon we were putting the bags into categories. Slowly, some sense emerged from the pile. As long as she was able to concentrate on each bag, recognize it and identify it, she could be complete and move on to the next.

That last part is key. When you look at the entire forest, your mind darts back and forth and never settles anywhere. All these unmade decisions and unfinished plans! Putting attention on one thing, making a decision and moving on is the way to get through.

The Pile-Free Zone

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guard your desk spaceYears ago I had a client who was plagued by what she called CHS. That stands for Convenient Horizontal Surfaces. Whenever there was one, she found herself filling it up with something and then had to work to get it free again.

Your desk is a prime candidate for attracting piles, especially when there is empty space on it. It’s a conundrum; you want to have space to work at your desk, yet that empty space inevitably calls out to have paper piled on it.

To maintain your free space, try creating a DMZ for paper. In this demilitarized zone, you make a treaty with yourself not to allow pile attacks. They may occur elsewhere, but this spot is a pile-free zone (PFZ).

It’s helpful to mark your PFZ so you know where it begins and ends and can easily honor your self-created treaty. One way to enforce the PFZ is to use a desk blotter. These come in a variety of materials and sizes. Choose one that allows you enough space to work.

If you can’t find a big enough one, make your own. You could use a rectangle of contact paper or just make a shape with colored tape (it doesn’t have to be a rectangle!). Heck, you can even paint it right onto the desk.

What matters is that you define this spot as the PFZ. Inside the borders: no piles. Outside the borders, piles are allowed. Try to keep them in an in-box if you can.

 

Perfectionism or Death

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Originally posted 2007-12-05 15:52:52. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What’s the biggest problem with perfectionists? It’s that they don’t know they have a problem!

Perfectionism is a habit that people are proud of, even when it causes them anxiety and trouble. This New York Times article describes how being a perfectionist can lead to mental health problems and even suicide, not to mention garden variety unhappiness and stress.

In the areas of time management and organizing, I see people abandoning or not taking on projects at all because they don’t believe they can do them perfectly. Or spending disproportionate amounts of time on tasks that are very low priority, but capable of being "perfected," while avoiding more important, unperfectable tasks.

The article mentions several aphorisms that perfectionists live by, such as, "Never accept second best." Another one I hear a lot that I disagree with is, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well." Baloney! Plenty of things are worth doing just adequately so you can get on with the really important stuff.

Not Ready to Get Organized?

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Originally posted 2007-02-08 10:17:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Are you using "I need to get organized" as a smoke screen? You could be doing that without even Picture1 realizing it. 

Think about this: what would your life be like if you were already organized? If those boxes were all cleared out of the back closet, if all the Christmas gear were not still on the guest room bed, if those shopping bags of paper weren’t crowding your knees under the desk? After you finish basking in the wonderful feeling of accomplishment, you would realize that you now have no excuse not to start on … The Big Project.

Many of us have a Big Project (and sometimes getting organized IS the Big Project) that we should do, even want to do, but are putting off for some reason. Maybe it’s too big or too scary or too hard. Maybe it will make us realize something that we don’t really want to know. Maybe we will have to make some changes that will be difficult.

Relax, nobody’s going to make you do anything. If you’re not ready, that’s fine. Just don’t let the smoke get in your eyes.

What is being organized worth to you?

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What is being organized worth to you?More time for fun. More time with family. More time with friends. More time to read. More time to relax.

More time to make a dress. More time to drink your morning coffee. More time to be outdoors. More time to smell the roses. More time to take a road trip. More time to cuddle up.

More time to pet the cat. More time to dance. More time to send a card. More time to give a compliment. More time to remember a dream. More time to go to the beach. More time to gaze out the window.

More time to hold hands. More time to go down a slide. More time for yoga. More time to laugh. More time to rub someone’s back. More time to travel.

More time to write a letter. More time to bake a cake. More time to write a screenplay. More time to watch the sunset. More time to learn to paint.

More time to eat bacon. More time to meditate. More time to feed the ducks. More time to volunteer. More time to kiss. More time to ride on a ferris wheel. More time to sit by the fire.

More time to savor life.

More time to live your dreams.

More time for you.

 

Why Multitasking Sucks

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Originally posted 2011-07-19 09:41:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Multitasking has the same effect on your productivity that drinking too much has on your wittiness at a party. You think it’s increasing, but it’s actually decreasing. In both cases, people seem happily unaware of this fact.

By now, you must’ve heard that multitasking is a boondoggle. It doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, it makes you less productive. Just look online for studies galore showing this, going back more than ten years.

I don’t want to harangue you about why it’s a bad thing to do. At least, not in the traditional productivity ways. This is the real reason you shouldn’t do it: it’s really bad for your relationships with people.

People can tell when you’re not listening to them. And they don’t like it.

I get compliments all the time on my listening skills. When people come up with something specific about me that they like, it’s usually that I’m a good listener. That’s delightful, since it’s a big part of my work.

Some things that make me a good listener:

  • I am not thinking about something else when I listen
  • I am not doing something else when I listen
  • I am not planning what I’m going to say next when I listen.

Shall I be more specific? I’m not looking at email, reading text messages, checking voicemail, tweeting, Facebooking, watching TV, having a simultaneous conversation with someone else, planning my weekend, doing a craft project or shopping on eBay.

Here’s a test. How many times have you misunderstood or not heard something, which then caused delays, mistakes, glitches and other time consuming problems?

That pretty much ate up any time you might have saved by multitasking.

When I give my full attention to the person who’s speaking, I’m also giving them other things. Respect, attention, compassion, support and understanding. Everyone deserves those things. People crave those things too.

Truly listening to someone is a gift that’s deeply appreciated.

Your relationships with colleagues, employees, clients, family and friends will all improve when you stop doing nine million things at once and start really listening.

I know it can be hard to resist distractions to listening well. How do you do it?

Home office clutter management

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Originally posted 2012-10-01 20:13:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

home office in the living roomIf you’re not lucky enough to have a separate room for your home office, you’ll make do on the dining table, or setting up a desk in a corner of the living room.

This poses a special challenge because any clutter you leave on your desk is also now in the common living area for all to see. If you live with others this can be, well, a problem.

A former client of mine had her desk in what would’ve been the kitchen dining nook. She needed lots of stuff out and around her when she worked, but her partner was less than thrilled to come home and make dinner in a cluttered office.

Like many creative types, my client balked at being orderly and cleaning up.

It went against her desire for inspiration and freedom and felt confining. Yet she wanted to keep harmony in the household so was open to looking at it a new way.

I came up with the idea of expanding and contracting. When she started her work day, she expanded. Stacks of paper came out and the extra leaf of her desk went up to allow her to spread out. Everything she might need was at hand for her to be productive.

At the end of her workday, she contracted the home office.

The leaf went down, making the desktop smaller. Piles went back into drawers and cabinets. The keyboard tray slid back under the desk. The taboret rolled under the desk. The home office disappeared.

The image of contraction was an effective metaphor. It didn’t have to do with tidying. It felt like an organic response to her shift in focus from work to personal time. The work area contracted so that the kitchen could expand and she and her partner could enjoy preparing food together.

If you avoid cleaning up, can you think of a metaphor that would inspire you?

In the photo above, the shelves are open and could look cluttered if anything was on them. A simple solution would be to install bamboo roll up shades. That was, all the shelves could be opened at once for easy home office productivity, instead of having a set of doors on each one. And the rolled down shade would create a streamlined look after hours.

Unclutter that table

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unclutter that table

I forgot my sunglasses this morning. What a drag! I hate when that happens.

As I was driving, I saw my front entry table in my mind’s eye and I knew what happened.

I had let it pile up with things, so the sunglasses didn’t call my attention. Usually, this table hold my purse, keys, sunglasses and a small box containing dog poop bags, extra keys, business cards and other occasional necessities.

This morning, there was a brochure I wanted to read, a handful of receipts to look over, some items I dumped out of a tote bag to put away and a handful of napkins from take out food. The sunglasses were under there somewhere. They weren’t even totally hidden, but in the visual chaos of the table, I didn’t see them.

Those extraneous items popped up in two days. That’s how fast a spot can get cluttered to the point where bad things happen, like forgetting your sunglasses. Or wasting time feeling around for the keys.

So, now you know! My front hall table isn’t always perfectly organized. The good news is that I can get it back in shape quickly.

Here’s how:

  1. Read the brochure. There’s something I want to research so I note it on my to do list. Then I toss the brochure
  2. Look at the receipts. They’re mostly from my trip to LA which was partly for business, so I’ll put them with my business receipts. The rest are for groceries and other purchases. They go in the recycling.
  3. The tote bag stuff is pens (to the container on my desk), a lipstick (to the box in my bathroom storage area), an empty keyring (to the table top box where I keep keys) and a handkerchief (to the laundry. I have a collection of vintage hankies; love them!)
  4. Handful of napkins: dirty ones go in the trash and the rest go into my glove compartment because, like everyone else I know, I eat in my car.

That took less than five minutes. You can spend more time than that just looking for your keys.

Donations bag for easy decluttering

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Originally posted 2013-06-14 12:13:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Donation bagYou know that pile of clothes on a shelf in your closet that you’re going to give to the Goodwill? But it keeps staying on your shelf? It needs an easier, simpler way to get out of the house.

Here’s your tip: 

Keep a shopping bag in your closet, clearly labelled Goodwill or Donation. Every time you come across something you want to get rid of, drop it in the bag. When the bag is full, take it to the donation center. Voila.

I recommend keeping this bag in your clothes closet because that’s where you’re going to encounter items to donate. Plus, you will see it everyday and not forget about it.

Important point: 

Label the bag! Remember that bag in the garage you had to look in three times because you kept forgetting it was stuff for the Goodwill? Or the one in your closet that you took to the dry cleaners, and then once you were there you realized it was full of clothes you were going to get rid of? Or worse, you realized it after you paid to have them cleaned.

Labeling is ultra important! Do eet!