Get a Deadline

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Originally posted 2010-03-17 15:45:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Calendar At a presentation I did the other day, one of the participants came up with a great way to manage her time better: get a deadline. Someone had asked her for information and she wasn't willing to take time from her own work to give it right away. However, she didn't want to leave the person hanging either. If she knew when the info was needed by, she could work it into her schedule and not let it interrupt her.

Be proactive and give deadlines yourself. Make it easier for others to help you by letting them know exactly what you need and when you need it.

Idea > Decision > Action

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Originally posted 2012-01-26 10:07:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For many people, it’s easier and more fun to think up new ideas than to take action on the ones they already thought of. Buckling down and focusing on one idea and making it happen can make them antsy.

Sometimes the project you take on is very large and there are so many things to address that you’re tempted to start them all at once. When it comes to organizing, this can get you into trouble.

The process is this: have an idea, make a decision, take the action.

For example, the idea could be “organize the bottom shelf,” the decision is “only have notebooks, pads and file folders there,” and the action is getting those items into the spot and finding other homes for anything that doesn’t fit those categories.

Here’s what happens when you leave off the action part.

My client, Annie,* is a big picture kind of gal. She’s very good with coming up with ideas and making decisions. The action part, not so much. She’d rather move on to the top shelf, or the counter above the shelves, or the table on the other side of the room.

She had numerous shopping bags with things sorted into them. Some of them were marked, some not. There were also piles and collections of items on which decisions had been made. This is definitely progress, but it’s not enough.

We needed to spend some time moving the physical stuff around.

For Annie, this was the tedious, low priority part. But not doing it was impeding our progress. It was like having puzzle pieces all over the floor and knowing exactly where each one went, but not assembling them into a completed picture.

Is this a sticking point for you? Look around and see if you’ve collected some piles of decisions that need a nudge to get to the next step. If taking the action seems dreary and monotonous, approach it like washing the dishes. It’s a chore that needs doing and you don’t really need to like it.

The good news is that you’ll stir up some good energy by moving things along. You’ll also see some inspiring progress when you see the results of all that decision making!

* Not her real name. In fact, whenever I write about my clients, I’m usually combining events and compositing people.

Winner: most hilarious cleaning product

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Originally posted 2008-04-19 11:08:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I just laughed out loud when I saw these dusting slippers in the current issue of Organize magazine!  They also come in hot pink!
Dusting_slippers
I must confess, I love to Swiffer, but these also look like swell fun. My floors are wood, and I can easily imagine myself getting up some speed and then sliding across the floor in them. I bet they’re nice and slippery. Just put on some music and bust your best moves.

Clutter is Tiring

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Originally posted 2012-01-17 15:58:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It’s exhausting, actually.

It’s hard on the eyes.

It hems you in.

Sometimes it feels like it’s just in the background, just there in case you need it. But then you remember how relieved and calm you felt last time you cleared out that clutter, as if a weight had been lifted.

Clutter niggles at you, subtly draining your energy.

Old magazines whisper “read me!” Piles of clothes coax “come sort me!” Your crafts bag says “come play with me!” This creates a low level of background chatter in your brain that’s more distracting than you realize.

One of my clients has a lot of clothing. More than will fit in her closets. The last time I saw her, the ironing board in the bedroom and the chair next to it were piled high with clothes. We’ve made progress, but it’s a big project.

It seemed to me that she was feeling worn down by constantly seeing the piles and waking up to them every morning. So, we moved them to her office. Now, that’s not a solution, it’s just an interim step in this long project.

Her mood lightened up right away.

She took a big breath and stretched her arms out. The room suddenly felt bigger and more restful to the eyes. I predict she’s sleeping better at night too.

If you have a lot of sorting to do, try to keep it contained or covered in between sessions. You’re not hiding the truth, you’re letting yourself focus on other parts of your life instead of being nagged all the time by this undone project.

Here are a couple of sorting techniques to try: triage and quick declutter.

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.

 

Remind me

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notebook with handwritingAlthough I use an electronic calendar, I love to write by hand. It’s been proven that moving your pen across a page induces “motor memory.”

That means that simply writing something down can help you remember it, even if you don’t look at your notes again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Even I need reminders. Actually, I especially do. In some ways, I feel blessed that I seem to have inherited a lack of short term memory from both my parents. Because of that, I have always been eager to use tools to help me remember things.

My dad was a reporter. He carried a little notebook, spiral bound on top, in his breast pocket all the time. Often I’d see him with a faraway look in his eye, then he’d pull out the book and jot something down. He was the one who told me you should always write important things down.

Case in point: somehow my calendar reminder to do my newsletter lost its repeat function. This repeat function is the single best reason to use an electronic calendar, in my view. Write an appointment once and have it repeat forever.

I did have a niggling feeling that it was time to write last Thursday, but since I didn’t see it on my calendar, I ignored it. (I look at my calendar multiple times a day. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do anything at all.)

So, the newsletter was a week late. :)

But it gave me a topic to write about, one that comes up with my clients regularly. I understand that

like you’re sliding down that inevitable path to senility.

What’s better, though? Using a tool that allows you to get places on time and call people you promised you would call? Or upsetting and annoying others because you stubbornly resist doing that? And that’s in your personal life. What about losing clients or alienating potential clients? Tools are to make life easier.

Organizing as a Practice

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Originally posted 2009-06-22 12:59:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I've been trying to start two new practices recently (I know I shouldn't say "trying;" am I afraid to commit?). One is meditating and the other is writing. Since I used to write fiction I know a practice is important but somehow I didn't think that also applied to non-fiction writing. My friend Deborah assures me that it does (and she gave me some great tips!). So I'm using an online timer and putting in 10 minutes (for now) a day. What I come up with is drivel, of course, but that's not the point.

Zafu My meditation practice is also often embarrassingly bad. Wow, is that really me thinking all those incredibly banal thoughts? Then I remind myself that I'm just practicing. I am not very patient and have never understood delayed gratification, so it's a big thing for me to let my practice be a practice and not a path to perfection.

Being organized, clutter-free and in control of your time is also a practice. You're not going to finally get it right one day and be home free. Some days will be better than others. You'll go through busy periods when your system gets a little frayed around the edges and then you'll take the time to get back on track.

I do emphasize having a vision for your organized life, a goal to work towards. However, if that goal is making you feel disappointed in what's happening today, just think of what you're doing as a practice. Instead of thinking, 'my office has to look like that one I saw on Apartment Therapy,' try 'today I'll clear off the top of the file cabinet.' Focus on action today rather than possible futures.

A practice has its own rhythm and is its own rewards. Try it and see.

Kitty with meditation cushion from jakemohan's photostream.

Cool Bubble Wrap Calendar

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Originally posted 2008-07-11 10:33:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

calendarYes, a calendar where you get to pop a bubble each day! If you’ve been on vacation, a whole row at once!

According to the website, this calendar is great for that special designer / obsessive / compulsive in your life. If you’re really obsessive, you could find a way to write on the bubbles… Found on Guy Kawasaki’s blog.

Declutter the Digital

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Originally posted 2008-01-17 12:27:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Rule of thumb: it’s easier to organize things when there are fewer of them.

How often do you look through a folder or collection of digital photographs and find only a handful that you want to show to anyone? The rest are too dark, out of focus, more versions of the same thing, make you look fat, or you have no idea why you even took them. If you get rid of them now, it’ll be easier to find the ones you like and share them.

Next time you download your camera, really look at each photo and decide whether you want to keep it. This is also the ideal time to tag your photos so you can find them again by keyword. If you’re making the effort to tag them, the pictures should be worth keeping.

Tags can be very straightforward, such as names of people in the picture, where it was taken, what the occasion was, etc. Also, think about what else is good about the picture, or why else you might want to look at it or share it with others. Is there a fantastic sunset in the background? Is it similar to other pictures you’ve taken in the past (and might want to compare it with)? Is the mood calm or energetic? Do you want to remember what camera and settings you used?

Pitch those Pix
I know, you’ve got plenty of space on your hard drive. But think of decluttering your photo collection as a good-habit building exercise. Review all your possessions regularly and get rid of the ones that don’t fit, are beyond repair, have been replaced by something better, are ugly or you don’t like anymore. If you can make this a habit, you will automatically declutter your life. Automatic is good!

Organizing kitchen spices

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I worked with a client unpacking and setting up her kitchen this week. I corralled and sorted all her spice containers; jars, plastic bags, paper bags, plastic boxes, fabric bags; and we saw that there were duplicates and even triplicates of some spices.

One problem is that spices don’t all come in the same kind of container and plastic bags don’t work well in a spice rack. That means that some spices end up packed into a larger container in the pantry, away from the jars in the rack.

They’re usually not very usable there because the bags are rolled up or not labelled clearly. In this case they were also pretty tightly packed together. When it’s hard to find one, it’s easier just to buy more and then you end up with doubles and triples.

With spices, that’s a waste of money because they don’t keep very long. Not many cooks need half a cup of turmeric on hand all the time. I like Spicely brand boxed spices because the quantity is small. So here’s what we did:

  1. We got rid of all the expired spices. Some were dated. Some we judged on their color and smell; lack of either means toss it.
  2. We got rid of extra spices. One average spice jar-full is plenty to keep. We tried to select the newest ones to keep judged as described above.
  3. We now had spare jars to wash and empty the bagged spices into. Even so, the jars aren’t exactly the same size. I recommended that the client either start buying one brand or buy her own jars. Uniform containers with uniform labels make it much easier to find what you need quickly.
  4. We used a labelled to identify the jars and put them in the rack in alphabetical order. Some cooks like to sort by type of cuisine, or by the spices they use most often; those methods are fine too. With alphabetical sorting, I put the blends in their own section at the end.

Other spicy notes:

Don’t keep spices above your stove. The heat will destroy the flavor.

Select a spice container based on your cooking style and preferences. If you have a drawer available, you can get handy inserts to keep the jars in place. To save space, attach a rack or two to the inside of a cabinet. If you like having them on the counter, use a tiered lazy Susan. A graduated riser shelf unit is great if you have cabinet space for one.

Photos courtesy of The Container Store