Clear Clutter to Create Physical and Mental Space

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I just started a business incubator to get some of my ideas off the ground. It’s called Ladies Who Launch, and so far I’m loving it! For those of us who work solo, as I do, it’s really helpful to get help and support from a group like this.

Our first homework assignment has three tasks, one of which is to get organized! Our fearless leader Jennifer rightly recognizes that whenever you take on a big project or otherwise want to make a significant change, you can get the energy moving by clearing out some clutter. You create flow and also actually make space for something new and wonderful to happen.

Even if you don’t have a project to start, do a little organizing and see if it doesn’t shift something!

Conquering Perfectionism

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I wrote about perfectionism back in December, but it’s a topic that comes up a lot, with clients and in everyday conversation, so I’m addressing it again.

This time I’m going to quote from a great book about procrastination called It’s About Time by Dr. Linda Sapadin. Perfectionism is one of six ways that she identifies as procrastination styles. The others are dreaming, worrying, defying, crisis making and overdoing.

I won’t go into what makes a perfectionist procrastinate because you probably already know! Instead, I’ll paraphrase what Dr. Sapadin suggests to get over it.

  • Do some creative visualization. Perfectionists are often tense. Use the visualization to show yourself that everything is fine, including you.
  • Realize that the rest of the world can’t live up to your high standards. Then realize that you can’t either, because they’re impossibly high
  • "Strive for excellence rather than perfection." Focus on excellence and you’ll focus on results. Focus on perfection and you’ll get lost in all the tiny details before you can get to the results.
  • Stay with what’s realistic, not what’s ideal. There are many ways to achieve any result and your choice may be informed by time and resources available. If you’re realistic about that, you can still achieve excellence.
  • Don’t think in terms of "all or nothing." Life is not a pass/fail course. Give up rigid ways of thinking for more creative possibilities.

See if any of these techniques work for you. Try to resist trying each, in the order presented, even if you are a perfectionist!

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.

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!

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.

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Your Brain: Distracted

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Candy Your brain craves novelty and will be distracted by it whenever it appears. Period. It's neuroscience.

In his article about why it's hard to focus, David Rock explains that attention uses up brain resources, so it's limited (although more coffee sometimes helps). Also, there is always some kind of neural activity going on in your brain and that contributes to its restlessness and distractibility.

To compound these problems, the effect of distraction tends to accelerate. That means once you start giving in to an urge to, say, check email by opening your email program, it will be much harder to keep yourself from doing it than if you nipped that pesky desire in the bud.

What's the answer? You already know. You have to turn off the distractions. Stop fighting your brain's natural tendencies and work around them instead.

The other, more subtle, answer is to develop mindfulness. Rock has another fascinating article about that topic, where he shows that the brain has two different networks to experience the world. One filters through the self (attributing meaning to events, for example) and the other is direct sensory experience (being present in the moment, for example). It's not surprising to find that people who are good at being mindful have more cognitive control and thus can manage distractions better.

Candy store from D'Arcy Norman's photostream

Are You Committed to Getting Organized?

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Have you tried to get organized in the past and just gave up? The culprit might be your level of  commitment. If you're in a situation where you haven't gotten organized for a long time, or clutter has been building up for many years, you're taking on a big project. No doubt about it. Your commitment must be strong or you'll slow down and get discouraged, or stop altogether and decide that it's hopeless.

Blue water branch

Getting committed starts organically. You look around one day and realize that you really want to change your environment. Something clicks inside you and you know you've got to do it now if you're ever going to do it. The question is, how do you stay committed?

Of course, the first answer that comes to my mind is to hire a clutter coach like me to help you. But let's look at what a coach can do for you and see if there are ways you can coach yourself.

As I mentioned, creating a goal or commitment isn't usually the hard part. It's the follow through, the actual doing, that can grind on and on, way past the end of your initial enthusiasm. It's kind of like being in love. At first, you are starry eyed and believe that nothing can go wrong. Then you start seeing bits of reality creep in and they tarnish your original image of love.

Some relationships die at this point. The ones that continue do so because of commitment. You realize that the love relationship you wanted is always still there, despite morning grumpiness and badly squeezed toothpaste tubes.

Coach yourself to remember what was originally exciting and stimulating about your commitment. Feel in your bones the wonderful benefits of decluttering that room, for example. Would you feel lighter? Clearer? More energetic? What about honoring yourself? Making a decision and following through on it? Accomplishing a feat that you weren't sure you could and then feeling proud of yourself? Envisioning a thrilling goal and then seeing it as reality?

A simple way to keep your organizing vision in front of you is to collect pictures that embody it. These can be of actual, organized rooms or they can be of serene landscapes, happy scenes or other inspirational images.

If you've started to get organized and there's a place that you've made to look exactly the way you want, take a picture of it and post it. Appreciate what you've done. Celebrate it. This picture can also come in handy if the area starts to get cluttered again. It will serve as a reminder of how you want it to look so you can use it as a template to re-achieve that look.

Acknowledge that you can get organized because here's photographic proof right here that you've done it! If you did it once, you can do it again. Expect that you'll be successful based on that. Positive feelings about your accomplishments are powerful motivators. You don't need to know everything right now about how you'll do it. What you need most is to nourish your commitment so it will carry you through.

Branch and water in my favorite colors from austrini's photostream.

Why You Shouldn't Read This Blog

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Action figure We know it's important to limit our time online when it involves pointless web surfing. But a lot of what we read and discover online is really interesting, helpful stuff (like this blog!). You could easily spend all day finding treasures on the Internet.

This goes for interviews and videos you download too. Those are more insidious because once they're downloaded, out of sight, out of mind. You think you learned something valuable today because you have the thing, but you haven't actually listened/watched yet.

The problem with doing that is that you don't spend any time incorporating that reading into your life by practicing the new skill, trying out the new idea or using that important thought in your thinking. That's the grunt work of change.

I am guilty of this as much as anyone and it takes willpower for me not to read something that could be interesting. I need to remind myself (out loud, if necessary) that I don't have time to take in this new information because I'm busy with the projects on my whiteboard. I've got time to read it, but not to do anything useful with it.

That's not to say that all reading must be purely practical. There's value to reading for pleasure or intellectual curiosity. It's a good idea to be conscious of your purpose though, so you know how you're spending your time.

If you're reading to develop a new habit or learn a new marketing strategy, you'll need to act on that reading, or else it's a pointless as the aforementioned surfing. Be aware of why you're reading and decide on one thing you'll do to take action.

My aim with this blog is to express one simple idea with each post and suggest a way to put it into action. So here it is. The next time you find yourself knee deep in some fascinating article on the web, ask yourself "what action will I take to make this part of my life?"

Action figure from Fuyoh!'s photostream.

Psyche Yourself Up to Get Organized

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Just like dieting or staying on a budget, the hardest part of getting organized isn’t that you don’t know how, it’s the psychological barriers your brain throws up to hinder you. In her current PsychWisdom newsletter, Dr. Linda Sapadin urges readers to practice positive self-talk to achieve their goals (you can subscribe to her ezine at her site; I recommend it!).

Two biggies that get in the way are regret and guilt. Regret that you haven’t gotten organized yet and guilt that you don’t seem to be able to do it or maintain it at all. As for regret, Dr. Sapadin recommends that you “learn to view any setback as temporary.” While it’s important to learn from mistakes, it’s equally critical to do what you can right now and move forward.

Guilt can be tamed in a similar way. Instead of wallowing in what you haven’t done, let yourself start anew today and everyday. Remember Thomas Edison’s statement, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Edison’s lightbulb from Stuti’s photostream.

Helping the Help Desk

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It’s been a long slog moving my blog (mmm, alliteration!) from Typepad to WordPress, but the thing is finally done. Oooof. I did most of it, except for some initial heavy lifting, myself. Now, why did I do that, when I’m always harping on people to delegate or outsource what they’re not great at doing?

Well, I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer. Some things I like doing, some things are more time consuming to explain than to do myself and some things I want to learn about because I know I’ll need to use that knowledge in the future. That knowledge will also help me ask better questions and therefore get more useful information next time.

The initial job of moving all my posts looked pretty daunting, and I don’t plan ever to do it again, so getting help made sense (thanks again, Shannon!). But the next bits; where stuff is in the domain manager, the database password and why I might ever need it; this is good stuff for me to know. I am still a babe in the woods regarding the technical end, but I’m better at not getting into trouble.

I still ask for help. In the past few days I logged about 3.5 hours with the GoDaddy support system. Some of the support unfortunately made the problem worse, but I learned a heck of a lot about what was going on. By the third call, I actually sounded kind of expert-y.

That third call was really short. I explained that I needed to recover my database password. The support guy asked me why. I told him. He said, “That’s a great reason! Okay, let’s get started.” He explained that people often ask for specific information and then completely mess things up. We quickly went through the other issues I had and got things to work. Badda bing, badda boom.

He complimented me on knowing quite a bit about how things worked. It wasn’t just a compliment, though, because he said that my knowledge made it easier for him to help me.

I realized that one my my goals with this blog is to make it easier for me to help my clients (and help potential clients become clients). Whenever a client comes to me and does the four things listed below, I can help them (or it’s obvious right away that I can’t).

Is it clear to you what I do? If not, give me some advice in the comments! We strive to please over here.

  • Know what you want
  • Express it clearly
  • Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions
  • Speak up when things start going south