Does a To-Do List Have to be a List?

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Most of us are way too busy to remember all that we need and want to get done. That means it’s important to use a tool of some kind to keep track of it all. The most common one is a to-do list.

What if you hate lists? What if the prospect of making a list fills you with terror? What if your list is so long that you want to go straight back to bed and forget about it?

The good news is, you can use other tools.

To get your list down to a manageable size, divide and rename it. If you have an aversion to doing that intimidating important thing on your list, use a little structured procrastination. If you just don’t want to write a list, draw it instead.

Alexia Petrakos of the Alternating Current wrote today about how to-do lists suck. She’s tried written lists six ways from Sunday and they just don’t work for her. Her solution is to make maps and pictures instead.

I like how she describes the activity of map making and how moving her hand, hearing the sound of the marker (and sometimes the scent), and looking at them on her wall all help her remember and keep track of what she’s doing.

Appealing to multiple senses and learning styles is super effective.

I get the same result from writing my lists over and over again. I’m visual but I’m also wordy. Once I’ve written something, I have a visual memory of where it is on the page and the words I used to describe the task. Sometimes I don’t even need to look at the list again because the act of writing cemented it in my mind.

I never get that sense when I make lists on my computer, so I don’t do that anymore.

If you hate lists, quit making them. Try drawing as Alexia does. Try mind mapping, a specific type of drawing with words and pictures. If a technique doesn’t work for you, dump it and go for another one.

Do you prefer drawing to writing? Have a to-do list horror story to share? Let me know in the comments!

Originally posted 2011-10-18 10:05:17. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Making Notes on the Go

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Well, my love affair with Jott is pretty much over. Jott is still a very clever and wonderful system for capturing to do's and other info via cell phone. And in true Web 2.0 fashion, its now offering links to Twitter and Facebook and a ton of other features.Microphone

But the free account does not send my Jotts to my email anymore and that's a drag. I don't blame them for making money from their service; it's very worthwhile. But it's not what I need anymore.

The other problem I've run into is the new California law prohibiting handheld cell phone use. It's too much of a production for me to put in the Bluetooth device every timeI get in the car so I don't do it. When I get an inspiration I don't want to forget, I can't just pick up the phone anymore and Jott it.

So, I'm back to my first love, the digital voice recorder. I had to get new batteries for it, but it works great and I'm relieving our initial romance all over again. These devices are still easy to find in many variations so it helps to know what you want before you shop.

Mine records memos of a few minutes apiece. I think there's room for about 20 minutes of recording (sorry, it's in the car now, where it lives, so I can't check). Some record much shorter messages; great for remembering phone numbers and mini shopping lists, and they fit on a keychain. Others are almost like dictation machines.

I like to be able to record ruminations and ideas, so I need a minute or so of time. I do carry it around sometimes, so it has to be small. And it's only got a few physical buttons so I can easily use it in the car without looking at it. My phone records memos, but there's more button pushing involved.

I don't need it to record video, be USB compatible or hold 68 hours of recording (yes, there's one that does that!). Simplicity is key for me. My basic need is not to forget ideas that come to me while I'm driving and can't write them down. I should probably get another one for the shower; the other inconvenient idea-getting spot. I'm sure someone makes a waterproof one…

Microphone from hiddedevries' photostream

Originally posted 2008-12-10 16:20:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Perfectionism or Death

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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.

Originally posted 2015-09-08 14:21:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

What I Learned at Burning Man about Time

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Hammock I was at Burning Man for about three months. Okay, not really, but it felt that way. I'd talk with my camp mates about something that had happened a few days before and we'd joke that it was six weeks ago.

And it was a good thing! How did it happen? Because I was in the present. Pretty much the whole time.

I did get pretty overstimulated initially by the weather, the constant music, all the new people and not being able to sleep enough. At that point, I really wanted time to speed up, for it to be over.

But I adjusted, with the help of some fantastic camp mates. And then I got into the flow. Time went away. There was day and night still, but nothing had to happen at a particular time. Only a few things had to happen at all: eating, drinking water, putting on sunblock, sleeping (not optional for me ;)).

Everything else was extra, a wonderful bonus. Time never ran out. It didn't feel slow, it just was always plentiful. Conversations flowed. Great ideas for excursions bubbled up. Everywhere we went was just the right place, until we went somewhere else. It was a magical feeling.

Wouldn't it be great to feel that way now, at home (in the "default world")? Here are some ways you can:

  • Keep your to do list short and do-able. Yes, you have too much to do, but putting it all on today's list isn't going to get it done. It will just make you crazy.
  • Do things well enough. Forget about making hospital corners on your bed in the morning when just pulling up the duvet will suffice. Overdoing it is usually not about making it better anyway. It's about being afraid of doing it wrong. Well enough is not wrong.
  • Let things be. Most of the time, you don't have any control over how things play out. You've done your part well (see above). Now stop.

Welcome to the present. Pull up a chair and stay awhile.

Hammock swinging from Meagan's photostream.

Originally posted 2010-09-21 16:14:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

How to get organized for everyday disasters

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5532445369_574cbdcfce_zWhen disaster strikes, being prepared is essential. That means knowing how to get organized to recover. It means knowing where that solar powered radio is is critical. Having a food stash means not worrying about scavenging. Creating a plan for your family to keep them safe and in communication is comforting.

Now, what if you had such a set up for your everyday life? How to get organized so you can recover fast?

I live in earthquake country. You can buy deluxe earthquake preparedness kits that include food, water, a tent and a snap-on toilet seat. I’ve heard of people digging bunkers on their property and outfitting them with months of survival supplies. At the very least, people usually have a few jugs of water, some canned goods and a flashlight.

Our days are full of disasters, small and large, and how we deal with them has a lot to do with our daily quality of life. When we can’t find our keys or watch and have to leave the house ten minutes ago, we get pretty stressed out.

Your earthquake kit is carefully stored in a place that you’ll be most likely to reach it in an emergency. Why not do the same for your keys? If every morning is a chaotic rush, that qualifies as a disaster for which you can easily prepare.

Create your own daily preparedness kit. What are your particular earthquakes? Losing keys? Phone? Getting lost in email? Shuffling through piles looking for things?

If you have all of the preceding, don’t worry. You can prepare for them one by one. Keep it to the essentials, remember. In a disaster, you’re happy to have a tent to live in.

What’s one small thing you can do today to prevent a disaster tomorrow? Tell me in the comments!

Originally posted 2013-02-27 11:31:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Cool Bubble Wrap Calendar

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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.

Originally posted 2015-04-13 23:23:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Four Poxes Upon Productivity

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I'm starting a new four-part series that will include the Packrat Factor, Procrastinators R Us, Prioritizizing and Paperphobia. Each post will discuss a different obstacle to being productive. Keeping too much stuff, not doing stuff, not knowing which stuff to do first and not knowing where stuff is are all common problems.

Trees The Packrat Factor
This just in: Stuff is not the problem, you are. When you keep doing something that you know doesn’t work for you, well, the problem is all yours to solve. Stuff isn’t going to go away. In fact, there’s more right now than there was a minute ago. Ain’t it grand?

Instead of trying to figure out why you collect stuff, which leads straight to the land of rationalizing and excuses, let’s pause and consider the effect of all this stuff.

A confession: I had to stop writing this article to clear off my desk because I couldn’t focus on it. Now all I see is my coffee cup, my pencil jar, my notebook and the view from my window. Better!

If you can think clearly and act decisively while surrounded by stuff, you don’t have a problem. If you can’t do those things, the good news is, you don’t have ADD, you just have too much stuff. Everyone thinks they have ADD. What they really have is an unwillingness to detach from stimulation.

Show appreciation.

Become an admirer rather than an owner. The world is full of wonderful things that you don’t currently own. Make that world larger by merely appreciating things you see and not buying them. If you need visual stimulation, go window shopping or indulge in glossy magazines (for best results, find a bookstore where you can sit and read the mags. Do not buy them and take them home).

What about stuff from the past?
Distinguish between things you’ve kept just because you’ve had them forever from ones that have strong feelings attached to them. Memorabilia isn’t just old stuff, it’s personal old stuff that you’re attached to. If you’re not really attached to Great grandma’s tea cozy, get over feeling that you have to keep it.

Re-evaluate every year or so. Over time, things can lose their appeal and relevance. Decluttering is a constant process and it’s also an iterative one. Things that made the cut this year might not in three years.

What about stuff that’s valuable or was expensive?
So, you’ve made some mistakes, bought some things you regretted later. Or you just don’t feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth out of them yet, even though in your heart of hearts you would never miss them if they were gone. If you keep these things just because they’re “valuable,” you are letting things be in charge of your life. You’re letting their importance dictate what to do with them. Turn it around and be ruthless in judging their value to you, right now. 

Pass it on.

If that thing really is important, why is it in a moldy box somewhere in your garage? Again, be clear about its current value to you. Then set that thing free to find a new owner who will truly appreciate it. There, doesn’t that feel better?

Let the chi flow.

Just as a room crowded with furniture and stuff prevents people from circulating in it freely, a packratted home prevents energy from flowing. This may seem woo woo to you, but you can feel that it’s true whenever you go into a stranger’s cluttered home. Moving energy around is one reason we go out into nature to refresh ourselves. Nature is well designed, purposeful and balanced. It’s not cluttered up with inessentials. It evokes feelings of harmony and serenity. Your home can be that way too.

I need a lot of stuff that inspires my art.

Have faith in your creativity. What you need is already here for you. If you’re a visual artist craving stimulation, get out and find it. Go to shops with wonderful wares, visit museums, walk in nature. Inspiration is everywhere. Also, “inspiration” is the breath you’re taking right now. Even though you have a trove of treasures, don’t you find that some of them inspired you at first, but when you didn’t use them, their glow faded? Whatever you’re creating now needs the fresh energy of today and what you find here.

Trees from jumpinjimmyjava's photostream

Originally posted 2009-09-10 14:57:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Get Organized with these 52 Simple Ways

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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


Originally posted 2015-02-02 17:42:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Use Your Laptop at the Beach (!?)

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I’m buying a laptop soon. One of the big reasons I want one is that I’m itchingLaptop_cover
to do my computer work out in the garden, now that warm weather is here. I’m already wondering how I’m going to see the screen when I’m sitting out in the sun.

So I surfed around and came upon this wacky product on Lifehacker that shades the laptop screen. Some commenters point out that you could make one of these yourself with a cardboard box or a couple of file folders. This one does fold up neatly and attach to the lid of the computer, and that’s kind of nice. Don’t think it’s designed to keep out sand though…

Originally posted 2012-06-29 07:18:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The SHED Philosophy of Organizing

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SHED cover
I just heard from Julie Morgenstern that her latest book, SHED Your Stuff, Change Your Life, is now out in paperback. Morgenstern's previous books have focused more on the nuts and bolts of decluttering and organizing. This one delves more into the emotional and psychic issues. You can take a look at it via my Amazon recommendations in the left column, under "I Recommend."

SHED stands for Separate the Treasures, Heave the Rest, Embrace Your Identity, and Drive Yourself Forward. A big obstacle for many people plunging into an organizing project is that so much of their identity is wrapped up in their possessions.

Even if you've made peace with the fact that, say, you're not going to use that snowboard ever again, getting rid of it means part of your identity has changed. You may not be entirely sure who this new person is, and that can be scary.

On the other hand, discovering your new, true self by SHEDding layers that don't suit you anymore can be exhilarating and energizing. Check out this book for great ideas on this process. It's in my Amazon store, right there on the left.

Originally posted 2009-03-18 10:27:41. Republished by Blog Post Promoter