Podcast 052: Give uncluttery gifts

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In this episode, I’ll talk about how to give and receive gifts that don’t just become clutter in your home. Part of that is refocusing on the experience of giving and receiving instead of the object itself.

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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.

Start organizing with the easy stuff

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You may be having trouble making much progress with getting organized because you’re starting in the wrong place. 

I recently talked with a client about his frustration that he wasn’t getting anywhere even though he purged and organized regularly. After some discussion, it came out that he was focusing on the things that were hardest to make decisions about.

He works at home, for himself, so he’s used to having to plan his own time and get things done without much external accountability. He’s good at prioritizing the truly important work, even if it’s difficult, and leave the simpler tasks for later.

This is exactly the formula for business success (and critical to master if you work alone), but it doesn’t work for organizing your home. What works is the opposite. 

Start with the easy stuff.

This is not cheating! Making decisions is tough work but you get better at it the more you do it. 

  • Doing the easy stuff gives you that sense of accomplishment and progress
  • You can move quickly and blaze through a big chunk of the organizing project
  • Easy decisions have small consequences, so you can be braver
  • You become more aware of what you want and don’t want so decision making is faster
  • You become convinced that the world will not fall apart if you make a wrong decision

You may even find your world comes completely together once all the clutter is gone.

Podcast 051: You get to choose

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In this episode, I’ll talk about how important it is to embrace decision making and take control of it back, if you’ve lost it. It’s always you who’s choosing, so make the good choices.


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.

Getting things done, in a nutshell

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I came across a great, succinct description of David Allen’s Getting Things Done process on the ToDoist blog. Here it is:

  1. Capture – collect what has your attention. From little to big, personal to professional, record every single to-do, project or task that’s on your plate. Use a to-do list app like Todoist or even a simple pen and notebook, but get everything recorded as it pops into your head.

  2. Clarify – process what it means. Make the decision: are these items actionable? If not, remove it from your list. If it’s actionable, decide what action you need to take next. Delegate if you can. If it’s a big project, like Marketing Plan for 2014, break it down into a hierarchical order with subprojects and subtasks.

  3. Organize – put it where it belongs. Place actionable items in determined lists, like people to call, emails to send, or papers to write. Adding priorities to these tasks is ideal.

  4. Reflect – review frequently. “This is where the clarifying step pays off, because you should be able to pick something you have the time and the energy to do right away,” says Alan Henry of LifeHacker. Consistently revise your lists to decide what to do next. Schedule a weekly overview to see where you can streamline and update your lists.

  5. Engage – simply do. “Use your system to take appropriate actions with confidence,” says David Allen.

I’m a big fan of the Getting Things Done system. All the steps are important. Capture and clarify have to go together. It’s great to have all your to do’s and ideas scribbled on Post-Its, but if you don’t figure out what to actually DO with each one, they’re useless.

After you figure that out, it’s usually clear where to put each item, the organizing step. When you haven’t taken time to clarify, your pile of captured ideas remains an undifferentiated and intimidating mess.

Reflect is a big step. It’s partly figuring out when you’ll do each task and also figuring out how each one fits in with your bigger picture. That is, all the other tasks, and all the other life stuff you have going on. You also consider what Allen calls context; what do you have time, energy, resources and the right environment for? For example, you can have a conversation while driving, but not compile your Post Its.

Finally, just do. Trust your system and know that the task you’ve chosen is the best thing to do right now.

This blog post also describes the Pomodoro method (using a mechanical timer for work periods and breaks) and the Seinfeld method (doing something each day on a particular project and not breaking that chain of actions). Check those out too!

Podcast 050: Stay focused on you

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In this episode, I’ll talk about how the only good reasons to get and stay organized are the ones that matter to you, Staying focused on those in a positive way is what gets you there.

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.

Podcast 049: Organizing is a journey

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In this episode, I’ll talk about how organizing is a way of life. It’s something you do everyday, not something you spend all weekend on and then it’s done for good.

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

In box zero: yea or nay?

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If you’re new to the productivity game, you may not know about Merlin Mann, who invented the game. Well, not exactly. But he did coin “in box zero,” which went viral.

His idea was that instead of idly perusing your email in box, you do it with intent. Answer what needs to be answered. File what needs to be filed. Act on what needs to be acted on. And delete the rest. That’s pretty much it.

Unfortunately, many people interpreted the concept to be that you must never let email build up in your in box at all. That meant they checked email constantly to get it back to zero. As you might imagine, they spent MORE time on email that way.

In favor of in box zero:

  • You don’t waste time just looking; you do something
  • You don’t use your in box as a to do list or a file cabinet
  • You’re decisive about deleting emails
  • You set aside time to deal with email so you don’t have to do it all day

Against in box zero:

  • It takes too long. I have room, but not time
  • Some emails need to hang on for awhile till something else happens
  • Many email problems will go away on their own if you do nothing
  • It’s handy to search for items with keywords

I’m in the nay camp. I have 14,000 emails in my in box and I don’t care.

I do spend time unsubscribing to newsletters when I realize I’ve deleted the fifth one in a row. I keep emails that have to do with an upcoming event in case I need to refer back. Once its past, they can just be subsumed into the pile.

I star emails that may require something from me and then I scroll back and look at them when I have time to take action. If I don’t, I usually get another email. I know, that sounds lazy and inconsiderate, but everyone is busy and forgetful. It’s also true that the problem can get solved without me.

I hate folders. I keep forgetting I have them, so I don’t look in them. It works much better for me simply to search for what I need using the senders name or a keyword. Now, that’s just me. If I had large projects to keep track of, I’d probably use folders. The point is, don’t over organize. Don’t organize stuff that’s fine the way it is.

What you really want is to be productive.

That means having criteria in place to let you know what email to respond to now, what to respond to later, what to delegate and what to just ignore. Don’t get hung up on a number.

My recommendation is to use in box zero but leave out the zero part. Answer what needs to be answered. File what needs to be filed. Act on what needs to be acted on. Then just scroll past the rest.

The other essential element is to look at email when you have time to do those actions listed above. The real reason email is such a time suck is that people glance through it constantly in between other activities, not when they have quality time dedicated to taking care of the important items they receive.

Call it “In box 15.” Don’t even open it unless you have 15 minutes to do something with what you find.

Podcast 048: Focus on today

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You can leave a review here!

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.

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

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.