Podcast 134: Set achievable goals

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This is podcast 134 and it’s about setting achievable goals. We live in a culture where we’re encouraged to set daring goals for ourselves. There’s even an acronym, BHAG, that stands for big, hairy, audacious goal. I approve of goal setting as a way to keep yourself motivated and to be able to tell whether you’ve gotten to the place you want to be so you can stop and acknowledge your progress.

But for many people, setting a BHAG for everything we want to do in life is just stressful. Big goals demand a lot of attention and energy and if there’s not room in your life for one, you may just end up feeling overwhelmed and disappointed in yourself.

Goals don’t have to be big to be effective. I’m putting out this podcast episode now for all of you who have time off from work during the holidays who may have a big audacious plan to organize the entire garage. I’m here to tell you that if you’re not sure that’s do-able, you can bite off a smaller goal and I will still give you the Clutter Coach seal of approval.

I suggest picking a smaller organizing project. It could be your bedside table, or your kitchen junk drawer. I did a whole episode on the junk drawer a few years ago. There are several reasons I like the idea of picking a smaller, very do-able goal.

First, you will accomplish it! It’s not cheating to pick a project small enough to be totally confident you’ll finish it. Stack the deck in your own favor! Keep those training wheels on your bike until you can pedal without them!

I’m a big believer in being motivated by the carrot and not the stick. I want to feel good about myself because it makes me more receptive to doing things that are harder or that I don’t really want to do. I’ve already succeeded at something so my confidence is high.

Second, working toward a goal you know you can reach is much less stressful. Stress can certainly stimulate people to stick with their goals, but when you can work toward one without stress, you have time to pay more attention to what you’re doing. You have time to reflect on why the things you find on your bedside table are there, whether you want to keep them there and where a better place might be to keep them.

Organizing isn’t a race. It works better when you understand the concepts you’re applying and think carefully about how they work in your life. Maybe you had a plan to read all the books stacked on the nightstand, but it doesn’t seem to be happening and the pile is getting higher. You could choose to renew your commitment to reading, or you could whittle pile down to a less challenging height, or you could give the books away because you realize that you only read on your Kindle now.

Any of those decisions is based on you noticing what’s happening and making a decision about it, even if the decision is to leave things as they are. One of the points I make over and over in this podcast is that you can’t be truly organized if you aren’t aware of all the things you own and have committed to having them in your life.

The third reason I like small goals is that they encourage a regular organizing practice. Organizing isn’t a one time thing, no matter how much we might like it to be. Neither is decluttering. Even if you did that big hairy entire garage organizing and declutter project, you’ll have to do it again next year. Such is the way of stuff.

I find it simpler to do a little here and there on a regular basis, just the way you maintain other parts of your life. Think of little doses of decluttering as being like doing the laundry. It may not be your favorite way to spend time, but you do it anyway. It’s clear to you that it has to happen and has to happen regularly.

You don’t want to keep wearing sweaty clothes or sleep on dirty sheets. It’s not so much that those consequences inspire you to do the laundry; it’s simply an accepted part of life. If you can get to the point of treating organizing and decluttering that way, you are winning.

My advice for spending your time off is first, play and have fun and rest. Then, spend a little time on a small project you know you can finish. Feel good about that. Feel so good about it that you won’t resist doing it again next week, and the week after, etc.

What you can do right now: Pick that little project. Here are some more ideas: kitchen counter, dining table, front hall entryway, linen closet or medicine cabinet. No matter what you pick, you’re getting the Clutter Coach seal of approval!

Podcast 133: How to create good habits

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This is podcast 133 and it’s about how to create good habits. I was inspired by reading a review of a new book called Good Habits, Bad Habits, by psychologist Wendy Wood. The author says what I already knew and have podcasted about before; that willpower has little to do with forming good habits, or being successful, or even having self control. The best way to form a good habit is to set up your environment to make success easy.

Question for you: What about all those dang emails you supposedly subscribed to that are clogging up your inbox? Some evil senders don’t give you the chance to politely unsubscribe, or worse, they just ignore your requests. My sponsor, Clean Email, has a Smart Unsubscriber function to do that cleaning up for you and keep your inbox tidy. You can sign up with my special link here: https://clean.email/clutter

If you don’t have any candy in the house, clearly you aren’t going to be eating candy. Pretty simple. If you turn your phone volume down, or even turn it off for awhile, you won’t be distracted by it as much. If you’ve got your checklist in front of you, it’s pretty seamless to get through your task. I talked about the power of checklists two episodes ago.

True story: my mom quit smoking when she was 84 years old. She’d tried a few times years before without success. After that, she stopped trying. But one day, she ran out of cigarettes. She’d had some health issues by then and driving to the store was not the simple operation that it used to be. It seemed like way too much work to get in the car and go over there and buy the cigarettes.

The next day, she realized she was still out of cigarettes, but also realized she just wasn’t up for going to the store. So she didn’t smoke. This went on for another 4-5 days, noticing there were no cigarettes and noticing that she just didn’t want to go to the store, until she realized that she’d unintentionally quit smoking. Now, I’m not saying that technique would work for everyone. I’m still amazed that she was able to quit so easily after over 60 years of smoking.

But it does illustrate the concept of quitting a bad habit by increasing friction, meaning simply to make it hard, less convenient, to indulge in. Marketers, on the other hand, want to reduce friction in order to get us to consume more. For only a few dollars extra, you can add (fill in the blank) to your order today. Internet cookies tempt you to buy more stuff that’s like stuff you’ve already proved you enjoy just by clicking a button.

Another key element to developing a good habit, whether you’re starting from scratch or replacing a bad habit, is having an immediate reward. Rewards release dopamine and that feels good. According to this book, the dopamine effect is quite short, less than a minute, and this is why an effective reward has to come right after completion of the task. If it’s too late, completing the task won’t be associated in your mind with that dopamine hit.

Delayed gratification isn’t going to work here; that would take willpower. Setting up a reward works with the brain the way it’s wired. In other words, the easy way. I’m all about doing things the easy way.

One way to think about how to get going on a good habit that you’ve had trouble forming is to find a way to like it. Most of us want to be the kind of person who eats sensibly, exercises, doesn’t procrastinate and so on. And we know that willpower isn’t going to get us there and that even admirable people don’t rely on some super human store of willpower to be successful.

Finding a way to like something is how you can discover what kind of reward will work for you. It won’t be the same thing for everyone. You might say that you’d be willing (“like” is too strong a word in this case) to work on your tax return if you only have to do it for 15 minutes. Or you could tell yourself that you’d like filing more if you could talk to a friend on the phone while you do it. For someone else, filing would be likeable if they could watch TV at the same time.

Remember, these are not cheats! These are ways of working with the nature of your brain’s wiring to more easily produce the results you want. Always take the easiest route to your destination.

Even meditation should be approached this way. People assume that you need to force yourself to sit still and think of nothing, but that’s not true, and not even possible. You can count breaths, you can repeat a mantra, you can even walk around. you can find things the body would like to do better than try to think of nothing, while still satisfying the point of meditation, which is to get off the habitual hamster wheel of thoughts.

My two tips for developing good habits today are to structure your environment in a way that reduces the friction to do whatever that new habit entails, and to look for ways to enjoy an activity you want to become a habit, but don’t really feel like doing. You can combine these techniques.

What you can do right now: Identify a habit you want to create. Let’s say it’s taking a walk every morning. First, set up the environment by setting aside time to walk and having the appropriate shoes and clothes handy. Second, pick a route that passes a garden you like to look at or a store you like to window shop at to make it more enticing.

Organize your bedroom

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magazine organizing basketWouldn’t it be delightful to walk into a serene, welcoming bedroom after a hard day’s work? It would invite you to relax and nothing else; nothing to put away, nothing to distract you from chilling out.

The way it is now:

The bed is unmade, clothes are slung over chairs and doorknobs, newspapers and magazine are on the floor, the bureau and nightstand are littered with stuff. People, this is not a room conducive to relaxation!

The good news:

I’m going to give you three quick and dirty tips to get that fancy hotel room feel in your bedroom. This isn’t the full-on, let’s organize overhaul I’d do for a client; you don’t have time for that. It’s just a way to experience how terrific it feels to be in an organized bedroom.

  1. Make the bed! The bed is the biggest piece of furniture in the room. If it’s disheveled, the entire bedroom looks disheveled. If you do only one thing, do this.Simplify your bed making by using a thick quilt or comforter that you can just twitch into place. Warm Things on College Avenue in Oakland always has great deals on comforters and covers.
  2. Hang the clothes. Getting dressed in the morning can be a challenge. To keep cast off clothing under control, install hooks on the back of the closet door, or inside wall. Get big ones, so you can hang a lot on there till you’ve got time to put them properly on hangers.Bonus: get another hamper for your closet if it’s too much trouble to take dirty clothes to your main hamper.
  3. Ditch the paper. Ideally, you want to round up all the newspapers and stick them in the recycling (instead of fooling yourself that you’re going to have time to read them later). Station a big, decorative basket near your bedroom door for that purpose. If you can’t bear to throw them all out, get another container for next to the bed, not on top of the nightstand.Containerizing is one of your best weapons against clutter. Check out local favorite Cost Plus near Jack London Square for baskets galore.

Christine Arylo on self love, success and clutter

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COVERmebeforewe
Creating an organized space makes it easier for you to lay your hands on the things you need and helps you be more effective because you now have time for the important stuff. It's also an essential part of taking care of the most valuable person in your life, yourself. Christine Arylo, coach and author of the new book, Choosing ME Before WE, graciously took some time from her book promotion schedule (you can hear her speak on June 2nd at 7pm in Oakland at Great Good Place for Books) to do an interview for my blog.

Christine is also an inspirational catalyst who uses the power of self-love to help people liberate themselves into the life they really want… or as she likes to say “Dare to Live and Love YOU!” 

Clutter Coach:
Sometimes clutter results from not deciding where to put things, or just not spending the time to put them away. It's a common problem. But what if you're using clutter as an excuse not to move forward in your life, or to insulate you from discomfort?

Christine_Chair_Cropped Christine:
The clutter we surround ourselves with is the symptom, it’s not the disease itself. The clutter is the outcome of something deeper going on within ourselves, and often times it’s protecting us from something we don’t want to be with… or it’s slowing us down from actually getting what we really want in life. If you have a clutter filled life, you have to stop and ask yourself, “What is behind this clutter? What is it a symptom of? What inside of me am I not willing to be with or look at?” And then attack that problem. The clutter will clear itself up from there. If you only attack the clutter without addressing the underlying issue, the clutter will just keep coming back.

Clutter Coach:
It can be scary to commit to a goal like getting organized if it's a big shift from where you are now. Who will you be once you're organized? Will you lose your creativity? How do you deal with the identity issues that come up with any major change, no matter how positive?

Christine:
One simple fact: structure actually creates more freedom not less. When you have form and structure in your life – such as getting organized – you create more space and that creates more freedom, not less. And within freedom, you are inherently more yourself, not less.  This lifetime is about letting go of all the ‘stuff’ that isn’t really who we are – fears, society expectations, bad training, ego, obligations, etc. – so that we can be free to be who we really are. If you can keep that perspective, that your life is a series of steps that brings you closer to your truest essence, it’s a lot easier to take each change one step at a time, stopping to integrate what you’ve learned about yourself along the way.

Clutter Coach:
Habits can be ruts we get into that prevent us from seeing what's really going on, or they can be welcome time-savers that allow us to focus on the important stuff. How can we become aware of our habits so we can evaluate them clearly and choose the positive ones?

Christine:
Notice what continually works well and what doesn't. Then look for the patterns that cause those results. That is where you will find your habits. Obviously, if your habits are producing good results, keep doing them. For the habits that create unpleasant or unwanted results, it’s time to create a new habit, so you need to cut a new internal rut. Literally, you have to retrain your brain to act differently, to follow a different pathway. It takes time but if you treat it like building a new muscle, it can be a lot of fun. The following four step process is one that I use with all my clients and with myself:

  1. Awareness:  You see the truth of your behavior and the outcome it produces. You take responsibility and commit to change.
  2. Reflection:  You still do the habit, but afterwards, you look back and say, “Oh, I did that again. Here is what happened. Next time, I would like to do …”
  3. Change in the Moment:  You notice the habit while you are doing it and you interrupt it, choosing instead to do something new.
  4. Integration: The old habit has been replaced with a new habit, and you no longer have to think about it.

Clutter Coach:
How can becoming accepting and loving of ourselves help us battle that sneaky little demon, perfectionism?

Christine:
Success begets success, so when you feel good about yourself you will naturally create more things that result in you feeling good about yourself.  Perfectionism never leads to success, only distress, so it’s a habit you want to give up for sure! You can do that by doing two things. 1. Set realistic expectations for yourself that you can meet. 2. When you meet them, celebrate! The more you acknowledge your small wins the more they will add up to big wins. Before I go to bed each night I actually say out loud at least 5 successes I had that day. It sounds so simple, and it really does make a difference.

Clutter Coach:
What's your personal favorite organizing trick?

Christine:
If it doesn't have a place to go, find it a home. I notice that
whether it’s my email box or my desk, what causes clutter more than
anything are those things that are homeless. So I immediately create a
place for them to go – whether it’s a new email folder on my computer
or in my filing cabinet.

If you find yourself living among clutter, working harder not smarter, or running around like an energizer bunny gone mad, your life is running you, instead of you living it. Don't feel bad, you’re not alone – we’ve been conditioned to live that way. But do be smart and realize that you need to learn some new habits, skills and super powers to deal with the realities of the 21st century. Also be smart enough to find people and resources that can guide you – none of us can do it alone!

About Christine Arylo
A new kind of self-love expert, Christine Arylo, inspirational catalyst, traded in twelve years of creating powerful images for brands like Visa and Gap, to inspire people to bust through their limiting self-images and self-expectations. As an author, speaker, and coach, Arylo is an expert at helping people to get the success and happiness they want by living and loving their most real and wise selves first. She is the author of Choosing ME Before WE, Every Woman’s Guide to Life and Love, and the founder of the international Madly in Love with ME™ movement. She has appeared on national television and syndicated radio shows across the country, and her opinions have been featured in places like the San Francisco Chronicle, Glam.com and Daily Om.

Don't Put Off Shredding

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Here's chapter three of my new book. Every Wednesday there's a new chapter. You can read them here, or buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #3

Shred
Almost every day you get mail
that’s got sensitive information in it that should be shredded. Don’t
stack it up somewhere to shred later! Shred
it right away.
Otherwise, you end up with a shopping bag full
and the idea of sitting next to the shredder for an hour is not very
attractive (it’ll be too loud for you to watch TV at the same time).
Get a quality shredder (one that won’t jam or freak out over staples)
and put it where you usually sort mail and paper. Then you can shred as
you go.

What you shred depends on your personal comfort level. Some people like
to shred anything with their name and address on it, but that’s a lot
of work and will not do much to protect your identity. The important items to shred are
ones with your signature, social security number or any account number
(this includes credit card offers). Additionally, anything with legal
or medical information about you should be shredded.

Right now:
If you haven’t gone through today’s
mail, look at it now and see if you can find something that needs
shredding. Then shred it!

 

Quick Decluttering Tip

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Decluttering, also known as getting rid of stuff you don’t want or need, is something you should do every day. Tossing out the junk mail counts; I’m not talking about clearing out your closet. It’s a good idea to do it everyday because then you get in the habit and don’t have to think about it so much. You also become attuned to looking for clutter to get rid of.

Important point: each time you declutter an area, look at it long and hard. Memorize the way it looks. Make a mental snapshot of what is there. This will help you see at a glance what doesn’t belong so you can get rid of it.

Very often, clients call me when the clutter level has gotten so high they’re lucky they found the telephone. They’re not lazy or messy, but they don’t have the habit of dealing with clutter when it’s new. It’s such a small amount every day, they reason, it seems perfectly okay to handle it some other time. Then, before that day comes around, they realize that those small bits of clutter have congealed into a solid, sticky mass. Uh oh.

You probably already know where your clutter gathering spots are. Typical ones are the kitchen counter (the gorgeous recycled glass counter shown above is from Vetrazzo), the dining table, the foyer table and your desk. Try this: go to your favorite clutter cache and pick up three things. Now, do the right thing with each one, whether that’s recycling it, putting it away (if you’re keeping it, it needs a real place to live), giving it back to its owner or tossing it out.

Another way to do this is to get in the habit of handling one thing each time you pass a clutter nook. Still another way is to go around to all the cluttered areas with a big box and loading everything into it. Then, sit down somewhere where you have sorting room and go through everything. Then walk around putting everything away.

Choose a method that appeals to you, or try them all. They all have the same end result: decluttering.

My new organizing guide is here!

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Cover-2Here’s the press release.

Oakland, CA. On May 11, 2015, Claire Tompkins, the Clutter Coach, released her new book, Five Minutes to a Relaxing Bedroom, on Amazon. Compact and to the point, this book is designed to be read quickly and acted upon immediately, like an instruction manual.

No one has any time anymore and that’s not likely to change. Yet, we all want our homes, and particularly our bedrooms, to be peaceful, uncluttered refuges from the pace of modern life. This book is how.

The book is a quick read. It’s not A to Z organizing; it gets straight to the point. You can read the book, put it down, and start using the techniques in your bedroom right away. There’s no learning curve. Real-time practice is what gets results.

Pull quote:

“Your eyes want to rest. They’re done with input for the day. They want harmony and calm so that all you need to think about is, well, nothing. You know how relaxing it feels to go into a nice hotel room, or a beautiful guest room? That’s what you’re aiming for.”

There are many good, comprehensive organizing books on the market, but their scope can be intimidating. This book focuses on a single room, the one you spend the most time in; the bedroom.

Getting and staying organized requires actual hands-on doing, not reading or planning. This book is a training manual. If you can master the five simple habits in the book, you are set to tackle a larger organizing project.

Habits can be simple but not easy. For that reason, the scope of the book is small; just one room. It may not seem like much, but mastering a few small changes and integrating them into your life is actually a big deal. Taking on a small amount at a time is important for success.

Activities done habitually get done faster and almost automatically over time. That means more time for fun!

____________________

Claire Tompkins is a professional organizer and clutter coach in Oakland, CA. Her clients over the past 15 years include architects, stay at home moms, writers, entrepreneurs and more. She has been blogging since 2006 and has posted numerous articles and guest posts online, and has written a guide called “52 Simple Ways to Get Organized” available on her site at www.cluttercoach.net.

Daily Practice for Those Little Messes

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It’s Wednesday! That means time for a new chapter. You can read them here every week, or buy the ebook here.

Simple Way #4
Cover design2

Tidy Up

Daily living involves getting stuff out, using it, moving it around and combining it with other stuff. No one stays organized at every moment because life creates little messes. So make it a daily practice to clean up those little messes. Just as it’s better to wipe up a spill right away, the ten minute tidy up will keep your space organized with much less effort than spending half of Saturday on it. If you do this daily, ten minutes should be plenty.

Schedule your tidy ups for transition times, for example, when you get home from work, right after dinner or right before bed. Visit your clutter spots and put things away. This way you aren’t interrupting another activity. As with Simple Way #15, these mini sessions help you segue mentally to the next thing.


Right now:

Make a list of three spots to tidy before you go to bed tonight.

 

How to Make New Year's Resolutions

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This year, don’t let your New Year’s resolutions be just another list of to do’s that you never get to and feel guilty about. Here are some tips on how to make some resolutions that you can actually keep.

  • Don’t pick too many

Challenging yourself is a great idea, but be kind to yourself too. Keep in mind that a resolutions typically involve major changes in lifestyle and habits, and those don’t occur overnight.

If you’ve decided to get organized, for example, which appears on lots of top ten most popular resolutions lists, you’ll need to break that goal down into many subgoals with tasks for each. Some examples are "open and sort the mail everyday" and "spend five minutes clearing off my desk every evening." You could even put those down as resolutions.

  • Set later start dates

The start of the year is a natural time to make changes. If it’s not right for you, though, because you got that terrible cold that’s going around, or you have family commitments that keep you occupied, just postdate your resolutions.

Adding a date to a goal is a good practice anyway. It makes it more specific and more real. You won’t be able to fool yourself into thinking you’ll start "tomorrow." So date your resolutions to start at the beginning of March, or another date when you’ll have the time and energy to act on them.

  • Stagger them

Trying to honor all your resolutions at once will probably just frustrate you and make you quit all of them. Give yourself a better shot at success by starting one at a time.

Pick the most pressing one to start first and then wait until you’ve developed some new habits to support that resolution (hint: when an activity becomes a habit, you don’t have to think about it very much). A few months later, you’ll be ready to take on a new challenge and give it your full attention.

Can You Be Too Organized?

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The keys to my dreams. You're too organized if doing the work of organizing starts taking up half your day. The organizing you do should be at the service of the rest of your life and your work, not the other way around.

People shy away from organizing because they think it's a huge project or it will be enormously time consuming. Now, if they want to organize their entire homes top to bottom and they've been collecting stuff since the dawn of time, this is a realistic fear. For everyone else, it's not.

Organizing can be a few simple things you do to make your life run more smoothly. Things like putting your bag in a place where you can find it again or jotting an event onto your calendar so you don't rely on (cursed) memory.

To find your perfect organizing level, observe what's working and what's not. What bothers you and what's fine the way it is. If what's not working is being able to get out of the house on time in the mornings, figure out what the specific obstacles are. Can't find the keys? Forgot some important information? Trying to squish too many tasks into the morning?

Now you've got something to work with. If you're really bugged by running around the house searching for keys, you'll be motivated to find a special place to stash them when you come in the door. You might not do it every time. Even if you do it half the time, you're ahead of the game.

Analyze what is working for you. Maybe you've got a "don't forget" list on the wall right next to the front door that you see when you leave the house. You always look at it and it helps. How can you use that technique in other ways? You might make a list of morning routine tasks and attach it to the fridge or the bathroom mirror.

It's the little things, people. Small things that help your life work better.

Found keys from Otacon_85's photostream