Manage Expectations with Email

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Originally posted 2008-05-29 09:15:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

People put a variety of information in their email signature files, from business phone numbers to favorite quotations to colorful images of their signatures. I recently got an email that had a very clever sig line, as follows:

"I reply to emails at 8AM, 2PM and 4PM.
Calls returned: 10-11AM, 1-2PM and 5-6PM."

Short and sweet, gets right to the point.

If you find yourself constantly interrupted by emails and calls (and can't seem to resist answering/looking at them), try managing the expectations of your correspondents this way. Tack a similar phrase onto the end of your outgoing voicemail, too.

Multitasking vs. Creativity

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Originally posted 2009-11-10 11:03:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Here’s another, unsung reason that multitasking is not so great: it stifles creativity. I’ve been reading Marc Lesser’s book, Less: Accomplishing More by Doing Less. He focuses a lot on what “doing” is. Much “doing” is what he calls busyness. It’s extra effort we put in because we feel it’s required, or we’re just not comfortable not doing, or we crave activity of some kind.

Often we multitask by listening to tapes while driving, or talking on the phone while taking a walk. It feels good to get those two tasks out of the way by doing them at the same time. Yet when we’re driving or washing dishes or walking around the lake, we’re not really doing just that one thing.

We’re letting our minds wander a bit, observing what’s around us, feeling the soapy water on our hands. Those are the times when insights come to us. I’m talking about “aha” moments such as the famous one Archimedes had in the bath. And this is not just for artists and scientists. Creativity is important in all facets of life.

The next time your find yourself trying to get too much done in too little time by doing it all at once, remember that if you allow some space, some ease to come in, the answers may come with them. You won’t always have a magnificent brainstorm when you let your mind be quiet. Regular practice encourages your brain to think in new ways and make you more productive without working harder.

Peaceful walking from LaPrimaDonna’s photostream

Get Organized with these 52 Simple Ways

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Originally posted 2010-08-09 13:53:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This ebook will help you get organized. What exactly will you get out of it? Lots of creative, helpful and immediately useful tips, including:

  • You’ll get more time. Time to spend the way you want to
  • You’ll be in control of your environment
  • Your life will be simpler
  • You’ll save money. No more replacing lost items
  • You’ll be prepared for the unexpected. Because it’s going to happen!
  • You’ll experience zen-like calm because you can lay your hands on what you need, when you need it

If you use the tips in this book regularly and make them part of your daily life, I guarantee you that your life will become organized and stay that way. Yeah, it’s a commitment, but you can go at your own pace and incorporate only the tips that work best for you.

In the first half of the book, the tips are action oriented and in the second half, they’re are about your mindset. Thinking about your environment and how you interact with it is a huge part of organizing. Make sure you use tips from both sections. You can do it!

Check out some sample chapters here:

Here’s the link to buy the book. You’ll also be getting a complimentary subscription to my monthly ezine.

Add to Cart

“This is the Year” to declutter your life!

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Originally posted 2007-02-09 13:01:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Oprah has declared it! This is the year! And if Oprah says it, well…

On Wednesday, Oprah’s guest was Peter Walsh of Clean Sweep. I saw him speak at the NAPO Regional Conference a few years ago and really enjoyed his down to earth, funny style. With clients he’s direct without being mean and compassionate without being indulgent.

One of the clients he worked with on the show actually works at The Container Store!!! That blew everyone away. But one of the recurring themes of their situation was that they hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten.

I once had a client who looked at photos I’d just taken of her cluttered living room and did not recognize it. She had to look back and forth between the photos and the very same room we were standing in before she believed that it was her living room.

With all the input each of has to handle every day, it’s a defense mechanism to stop noticing some of it. You’d go crazy otherwise. But how do you keep seeing it, so you don’t wake up one day under a pile of dirty clothes and dishes?

Here’s an idea. You know sometimes when you walk in your front door you smell something? The fish you cooked last night, or the cat’s litter box? But once you’re inside for a few minutes, you caArctic_cisco_fishn’t smell it anymore.

So, get a pad and a pen, go outside, close your eyes and pretend you’re someone else: your picky aunt, a new friend you want to impress, or Peter Walsh. Then open your eyes and go inside. What do you see? Use the pad to take notes.

Now is not the time to beat yourself up about how it looks. You’re doing reconnaissance here. Just the facts, ma’am.

When you’re done, try to find some patterns. In the show, Peter found that much of the client’s mess was caused by kids’ toys and clothes. The client agreed that the kids had the run of the house. Now they had a specific issue to work with.

In later posts I’ll talk about how to develop a vision of how you want your home to look and how to use that list to hone in on what to do. For now, choose a small area like the kitchen counter and experiment with noticing what’s on it for a week. I have some other hints on my website here.

It doesn’t matter if you clear it off or not during that week; as Peter notes, you can tidy up all you want but until you get to the reason that the clutter is there, it will come right back. So just notice, look for patterns, habits, types of things that accumulate. Noticing what is, now, will help you move toward what you want it to be.

Embrace your personal organizing style

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Originally posted 2012-10-30 20:33:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“I can’t be organized.”

“I never learned about organizing.”

“My mom was a packrat and so am I.”

“My father was super neat and always gave me a hard time about my mess.”

“My grandparents lived through the Depression so they keep everything.”

Have you said any of those things? If so, here’s the truth:

Your ability to be organized has nothing to do with your genes.

It may have to do with your personal history, but only if you want to stick to that story.

Sandra Felton, the founder of Messies Anonymous, says that messies can come from “cleanie” homes or messy homes or any combination thereof. Whatever your experience was, you have the capacity to become a cleanie, or at least move in that direction.

One of my clients told me that her cleanie mother tried to teach her organizing skills and she just didn’t get it. She felt hopeless and dumb. Her story brings up another aspect of being organized.

There’s not just one way to be organized.

Isn’t that great news?

Your thinking style, learning style and personality style all factor into how you organize your world. Your mother may be organized but also visual and sentimental. She crowds tabletops with family photographs. If your style is more “hider”, you won’t grow up with any clues on how to organize in drawers, cabinets or closets because you didn’t witness it. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means you haven’t learned how yet.

We are suckers for systems that lay out exactly what we should do for success, but then we blame ourselves when they don’t work. Here’s the thing: you need to hack the systems to suit you. Discover and embrace your own organizing style, based on who you are today, right now, and how you like to live.

Reduce Gift Clutter

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Originally posted 2010-10-21 12:44:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Cover design2 It’s book chapter Wednesday (um, Thursday). Here you go! Like it? You can buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #8

Reduce Gift Clutter

Request non-cluttering gifts such gourmet food, show tickets, donations in your name, wine, flowers, etc. It may seem awkward at first to tell friends and family about your new policy; after all, they’re giving you a gift! But it can also help them to know that you’re going to like what they give you and they don’t have to try to read your mind. There may always be an Aunt Martha who insists on giving you an unwanted fruitcake. Refer back to Simple Way #7 for advice.

Make it your policy to give clutter-free gifts yourself. Ask what they want. Develop your own selection of gifts such as memberships, special excursions or a personal service that you provide.

Right now:
Make a list of gifts you’d like to get so when people ask you, or when holidays are coming up, you can suggest them.


Are You an Overdoer Procrastinator?

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Originally posted 2009-05-29 13:30:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This is the second part of my series on Linda Sapadin's six procrastination styles, based on her book, It's About Time! Last year I wrote about perfectionism. Today's style is overdoing. The other styles are the dreamer, the defier, the worrier and the crisis-maker.

House of cards People who are overdoers:

  • feel they have to do more work than others to prove themselves, even if it's too much to handle
  • hate to say no or ask for help, again from a desire for approval and respect
  • spread themselves too thin, causing them to have to work even harder
  • let their work rule their time so that personal needs and relationships are put on hold
  • have a hard time relaxing without feeling guilty or ashamed

Now, how do you go about changing those habits? Dr. Sapadin writes that overdoers often have low self-esteem and overwork to compensate for it. In my view, they also let their lives be controlled by external forces.

A good place to start in overcoming overdoing is to bring yourself back to your own goals, your own vision of how you want to live. Take a clear, hard look at all that you do and be honest about whether each activity is fulfilling to you or something you're doing for approval, image or obligation.

Here are Dr. Sapadin's suggestions:

  • Accept that you can't "have it all." You're not superwoman or superman and that's fine.
  • Remember that life is an adventure, not a struggle. We all have different capacities for work; when you exceed yours it starts to be drudgery instead of exciting.
  • Distinguish between what you believe is important to do versus what others want, or what you "should" be doing
  • Don't depend on others for approval. This gets easier the more you reaffirm your own goals and desires.
  • Remember that ultimately it's you who decides how to spend your time. You aren't really a victim of other people or circumstances, so take back your control.
  • Write leisure time into your schedule so you'll remember to take a break!

House of cards from vincegiantesano's photostream

Clear Clutter to Create Physical and Mental Space

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Originally posted 2008-04-18 10:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I just started a business incubator to get some of my ideas off the ground. It’s called Ladies Who Launch, and so far I’m loving it! For those of us who work solo, as I do, it’s really helpful to get help and support from a group like this.

Our first homework assignment has three tasks, one of which is to get organized! Our fearless leader Jennifer rightly recognizes that whenever you take on a big project or otherwise want to make a significant change, you can get the energy moving by clearing out some clutter. You create flow and also actually make space for something new and wonderful to happen.

Even if you don’t have a project to start, do a little organizing and see if it doesn’t shift something!

Brain Dump = Less Clutter in Your Head

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Originally posted 2011-04-08 12:33:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Elaine heard me talk about what I do at a breakfast meeting. She pointed at me across the room and said, “I need that!” We made an appointment for the following week and I could hear the relief in her voice.

Her schedule was full, but that wasn’t the problem. Elaine is a high energy person and likes to stay busy. She has a finger in lots of pies and her calendar was getting kind of messy, with all that cherry juice spilled on it.

What she needed was a brain dump.

She wrote out all that she does on a giant sheet of paper, the kind you use for meeting presentations. There were little notes and arrows added here and there. Some of her projects weren’t getting enough attention. In other areas, she felt she was spending too much time and not getting what she wanted.

Elaine described her days to me, what she did, what she needed to do, what she really wanted to do and how she liked working with various clients.

I helped her step back from the forest of her schedule so she could see the individual trees and how they fit together (or didn’t).

I asked her questions that helped her get even more objective about her schedule. Was her lunch break too short? She agreed it was short, but her priority was to be done with work by 3:30 every day to be with her kids. Was it worthwhile to work for a client she had to commute over an hour to? Yes, because she got a steady stream of new clients there.

She was frustrated that one client wanted more from her than she could do in the four hours a week they contracted. We came up with a couple of ideas to get around that, such as writing a proposal for a new program they could offer that would not only help their clients, but would prevent them from being sued (which had happened more than once) and therefore save them money. She has a lot of passion about this topic and is dying to teach it!

These ideas came out of my asking Elaine questions that she hadn’t asked because she was too close to the situation. Why did the client want her to do the extra work? If it was so important, why wasn’t the regular staff doing it? What would happen if it didn’t get done? What would change for the better if it got done?

What’s all this got to do with managing time?

The brain dump helped Elaine see where she was putting in effort that got great results. She could shift time from one area to another to get more bang for her buck. She realized that she was making a conscious decision to use some time in a way that wasn’t wildly productive, but she was happy with it.

Elaine knows now where her time is going and why. The point isn’t, in her case, to squeeze the utility out of every single minute, but to be intentional about how she spends her time.

Her decisions about time are connected to how she wants to live her life and accomplish her best work.

That leads to her trusting herself more and feeling confident. Investigating her schedule showed her what really matters to her and how to get more of that. Connecting to what’s meaningful to her gives her a sense of ease and assurance so she can get out there and make things happen.


Could you use a brain dump? Well, you’re in luck. I don’t usually do one-off sessions, but for the next month (till May 6) I’m offering these consultations for free. Yes, free. For as many people as I can fit in my schedule.

I’m doing it as a Customer Love thing, first of all. That means I get to find out what will help my people the most so I can do more of that. I’m also doing it to spread the word about how incredibly valuable this service is. I’ll get the details out by Monday, but feel free to ask a question in the comments below.

Brain coral by seanmcgrath

Productivity App

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A software engineer reached out to me last week to let me know about an app she and her partner developed to increase their own productivity as they worked on their start up. It’s called 52 Wins.

There’s a companion blog that will record the successes of the app users as they build a skill, try something new, stick to a plan or whatever it is they choose as a goal over the coming year. Sounds inspiring! Having a community of folks also working on their goals is a great support to working on your own.

They are offering the app to 10,000 people for free, people who truly want to be more productive. You can get in on the action here.