Podcast 048: Focus on today

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In this episode, I’ll talk about why you need to avoid a big obstacle: getting stuck in the past. To move forward, you need to focus on today.

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This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Photo: tom_bullock

Podcast 047: Dealing with emotional clutter

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In this episode, I’ll talk about the strong feelings behind your clutter and what you can do about them.

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Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Photo: tom_bullock

Fast mode and slow mode

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Today I’m sharing with you a blog post by Leo Babauta who writes Zen Habits. He writes about how he drastically simplified and improved his life and he describes zen-flavored productivity techniques. I highly recommend reading him.

This post is about fast mode vs. slow mode. Fast mode has its place. We’ve all got lot of little jobs on our to do lists that just need to be knocked off quickly. Once we get going on those, the adrenaline helps us power through and get the satisfaction of crossing items off the list.

Next time, I’ll address how to get into slow mode, which is more challenging because it doesn’t give you that buzz or the immediate gratification of fast mode.

On a typical day, I’ll be in a work mode that looks something like this:

  • I’ll check my email and process it as quickly as possible.
  • Then I’ll open a document to write something.
  • I’ll quickly switch to one of my favorite sites for finding well-written or useful online articles.
  • Then I’ll switch back to the writing.
  • Then I’ll go do some cleaning.
  • Then back to the writing.

The problem is that my mind isn’t in a mode for focusing on the writing. It’s in Fast Mode, brought on by the processing of email, where I will make quick decisions on emails, take quick action, and quickly dispose of them.

Even in this quick email processing, I have trouble dealing with the two or three emails that require longer thought or action. The ones that require me to deliberate usually end up sitting in my inbox for a few days, because my mind is in Fast Mode whenever I’m in my inbox.

Writing or otherwise creating when your brain is in Fast Mode is nearly impossible, until you switch to Slow Mode. You’ll just switch from the writing to some smaller, faster task, or go to distractions.

Considering a tough decision long enough to weigh the various factors and make a good decision is also pretty near impossible while you’re in Fast Mode. So you put off the decisions until later, even if it would only take a few minutes to make a decision.

Any task that isn’t a quick click or two also gets pushed back while you’re in Fast Mode. You don’t have time to spend five minutes on a single task, because you’re so busy!

You can’t really exercise or meditate in Fast Mode, either, because those take longer than a minute. They take a block of time that isn’t just a minute or two that you can do in Fast Mode.

You can watch TV, because TV has learned to appeal to Fast Mode, switching constantly to new things every few seconds. But you won’t watch a slower film that requires your mind to pay attention and give it consideration for longer than a few minutes.

Being in Fast Mode leads to constant switching, and constant busy-ness. It leads to overwork, because when do you switch it off? It leads to exhaustion, because we never give ourselves breathing room.

Learn to recognize when you’re in Fast Mode, and practice switching to Slow Mode now and then. It’s essential to doing all the things that are really important.

The original post is here.

Podcast 046: Done is better than perfect

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In this episode, I’ll talk about why getting things done and out the door always trumps trying to make them perfect.

Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Photo: tom_bullock

How to prioritize

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After a business group talk I gave, someone asked me how to figure out what the highest priority task is. He looked at his project list and felt they were all equally important, and then he ended up not doing anything because he felt unsure.

I told him about David Allen’s four criteria model for prioritizing, which takes into account more information than simply how important a task or project is. The criteria are context, time available, energy available and priority.

Context means “what can you do given where you are?” When you’re at the office, you can look at physical files on your desk, but you can’t when you’re home. When you’re in the car, you can make phone calls, but you can’t shop on Amazon (not safely, anyway!)

Time available means selecting tasks that fit into whatever time is in front of you. If there’s a fifteen minute break before your next meeting, you can probably slot a few short tasks in there. If you have the whole morning before a client appointment, it might be a good idea to do a planning session.

Energy available means matching tasks to the amount of energy they need. At the end of the day, you may not be good for anything except some data entry or doing an expense report. During a high energy time, tackle a project that needs some brain power. That also means not wasting those energy-rich times on browsing your email inbox.

Finally, priority means that, given what you know about the previous three criteria, what thing makes the most sense to do right now?

Not everything can be #1 on your list. Using these criteria gives you a way to get something done that makes the most sense and allows you to use your time more effectively.

It’s more realistic than simply deciding what the most critical thing to get done is. We are all constrained by resources, time and energy, so it’s logical to consider those factors.

Do you suffer from tomorrow syndrome?

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If you’re the type who is always planning to tackle a particular project tomorrow, but then you don’t do it, you’ll like this.

A behaviorist asked smokers who wanted to quit to smoke the same number of cigarettes every day, not to cut down. Sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

This put the smokers in a bind. They wanted to quit, but they promised to continue smoking. They didn’t even get the chance to promise to taper off slowly by smoking fewer than the day before.

After awhile, though, they did cut down on their own because they couldn’t tell themselves they’d quit tomorrow. They were faced with smoking, say, a pack of cigarettes every day for the rest of their lives.

That knowledge made it hard for them to ignore the health consequences of continuing to smoke. They couldn’t pretend that they were going quit next Monday. They were deprived of identifying with themselves as non-smokers.

So if you tell yourself that tomorrow, once again, you aren’t  going to clear out the garage, your brain doesn’t have the “cognitive crutch” of believing that you will do it. It’s a reality check. Once you see the vista of a year’s worth of Saturdays when you don’t clear out the garage, you can get more serious about actually doing it.

I got this concept from the book, The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

Podcast 045: Decide to decide

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In this episode, I’ll talk about the first step to making effective decisions: deciding to decide.

Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Photo: tom_bullock

Workplace productivity

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Productivity, and increasing it, is a perennially popular topic and it won’t go away anytime soon. New technology changes the issues a bit, as do new work habits, such as telecommuting. But as an issue to be dealt with, it remains.

This fun infographic has some interesting statistics. Two thirds of office workers complain that chatty coworkers disrupt their work! That’s a lot. It’s probably not a new problem. I would bet that if Bob Cratchit had had coworkers, they would have distracted him from his abysmal work.

I’m intrigued that 75% of respondents have gotten more productive with age. To me, that indicates good work habits rather than usage of the latest and greatest productivity app. The don’t believe working longer will help and I’m happy to see that.

An article about this survey said that office workers view their millennial coworkers as the least productive. Ouch! Millennials do have a reputation for chattiness and group activities. Could that be it?

This infographic is from the Fellowes company and promotes using shredders freely. I am on board with that!

Podcast 044: What’s the worst case scenario?

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You can leave a review here!

In this episode, I’ll talk about how asking yourself what the worst that can happen is can help you make decisions.

Subscribe:  iTunes  ⋅  Stitcher  ⋅  Soundcloud ⋅  YouTube  ⋅  Google Play

This podcast is based on my book, 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized, available on my website. Each week I go into greater depth about one of the 52 ways. Some weeks I’ll take on different organizing topics and reader suggestions.

If you’d like to comment on the podcast, you can leave a review on iTunes. I read all your reviews, and  your positive, creative comments help others find my podcast.

If you have a question for me that you’d like me to address on the podcast, please post it on my Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.

Photo: tom_bullock

Overcoming resistance

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I am happy to announce that the interview Mike Vardy did with me for The Productivityist podcast is now available. We had a terrific conversation about productivity, of course, and also habits, how to start, what clutter is, and today’s topic, resistance. You can listen here.

What is resistance? It’s when you don’t do the thing you said you wanted to do. It’s caused by many different things, but mainly fear of failure and feeling that you’re not good enough.

If you resist decluttering it may be because you don’t believe you will ever finish, or that the clutter will just come back again, or that you feel so ashamed of the clutter that you can’t bring yourself to deal with it.

One of my favorite books on this topic is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He presents resistance as an enemy that needs to be battled continually. But behind that, there’s something else: compassion.

Pressfield says everyone suffers from resistance. That means it’s part of the human condition. We humans have failings, some overcome-able and some that need simply to be accepted.

And that requires compassion.

Making the shift from blaming yourself and feeling like a failure to allowing yourself not to be perfect and accepting that is not always easy, but it’s very worthwhile. You may feel that you’re a compassionate person to everyone but yourself but that’s not real compassion. Once you start extending it to yourself, what you can give others is so much deeper and richer.

This may seem like heavy talk for dealing with clutter. But you probably already realize that your stuff isn’t just stuff. It’s imbued with emotions and regrets and worries and hopes. Accepting that is a great first step in overcoming resistance to decluttering.