Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Lists, Goals and Styles

TP Heinz via Pixabay
For the past couple of weeks, I've been writing about goal-setting and list-making, sharing some of the things that work for me. For example, as an I need to see it person, I love dumping "stuff" out of my head and onto paper. But, if the list gets too long, I need to subdivide it -- and sometimes create smaller lists on separate sheets of paper -- so I don't get overwhelmed. Whether I'm creating lists or setting goals, this process, true to my personal style, leads the way.

Different styles have different preferences. For example:

  • If your personal style is I need to see it,  you might subdivide and color-code.
  • If you're a cram and jammer, you might consider it a personal challenge to get as many items as possible onto a single page.
  • If you're a drop and run organizer, perhaps you make your list, set it down and then forget about it, only to return to it later.
  • If you have an I love stuff personal style, you might need to find just the right paper before you can begin to create your list.
  • If you're an I know I put it somewhere organizer, you might make fabulous lists only to have them go missing because you put them in a "safe place."
  • If you have an I love to be busy personal style, you might separate your lists by activity, giving each its own column, or maybe even its own sheet of paper.
In my case, my list-making (and, by extension, my goal-setting layout) definitely reflects my styles, but that's not necessarily true for everyone. Whether your list-making style mimics your personal and/or organizational styles or deviates from them isn't what matters. What matters is whether or not your process, whether for making lists or setting goals -- works for you. With lists, as with all other aspects of organizing, one size does not fit all. 

If you're not sure what your style is, or suspect it might have changed over time, check out the styles quiz and see where your answers fall. Then, keep them in mind as you create lists and set goals, whether for organization or some other aspect of your life.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Successful Goal-Setting

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about my mid-year goal-setting session. One of the reasons I've come to enjoy this process is that I've come to look at it as me time -- time to think about what I want to do and what I want to accomplish, rather than stuff that has to get done.

Want to do some goal-setting of your own? Whether you jot your goals down on a piece of scrap paper, in a neatly tabbed notebook or somewhere in the recesses of your planner, here are a few suggestions to make the process more helpful than painful.

Dream big. Do you remember being a little kid and having adults ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up? Try thinking of goal-setting in that respect. You can dream as big as you'd like, change your mind at any time and include things like princess, superhero and pro athlete on your list of goals. What would you do if the sky was the limit?

Think small. So, you've done it. You've identified your goals. That part was fun, but now they seem so far away and unrealistic. What is one baby step you can take in the next week to get to one of those goals? When I said I'd made progress on my goals, I didn't mean I'd checked them all off my list; I'd simply taken a succession of baby steps in the right direction. Maybe I'll get there, maybe I'll take a detour or maybe I'll change the route entirely, but in any event I need a destination, and each step takes me closer to where I want to be.

Make recognition a part of the process. Long-term goals, in particular, can be big and intimidating. If we learn to focus on how far we've come rather than how far we still have to go, the process gets easier. In addition, we need to acknowledge our small successes. We don't need to throw ourselves a party every time we do one little thing, but we should at least take a moment to pat ourselves on the back (or put a checkmark on the page) when we take a step in the right direction. If we aim for a succession of baby steps, we creep ever closer to the goal, even if we fall down and get back up again after each step.

How about you? Are there any secrets to successful goal-setting you'd like to share?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Goal-Setting: It's Not Just for New Year's Anymore

Photo: Pexels via Pixabay
Do you make New Year's resolutions? Set monthly, weekly or daily goals?

Yeah, me too. I actually enjoy my January goal-setting session, especially now that I think of it more as a way of planning the future than a self-improvement session.

I think that shift in thinking occurred when I retired. Faced with lots of blank pages, I set monthly goals for myself, and found that I enjoyed thinking about what I wanted to accomplish. Now, back on an academic year schedule, I tend to follow up my January session with at least one summer session. I even have a leather-bound planner I've dubbed my "Brainstorming Book" that I use just for this purpose.

A few weeks ago, I paved the way for my midyear review by spending part of a Saturday morning clearing my head of my to dos by writing them all down in a quasi-organized fashion. You'd think that would have been satisfying -- and it was.

But it wasn't enough.

A new planning session arose from that one, one where I corralled all of my to-dos and wanna dos into one notebook. It's a small, summer-themed journal that will fit perfectly into almost any bag so I can continue to add to it as I go. As such, it's a work-in-progress.

Much like my goals.
Tim Arterbury via

So, it was only natural that creating the summer notebook led me back to reviewing my goals and revising them for the second half of the year.

I happy to report that I've made progress on many of them and, since it's a midyear review, I still have lots of time to make more progress. Writing things down really does set me up for success. Even when I don't realize it, those plans and goals are in the back of my mind, and, because of that, I keep taking baby steps toward them.

What goals do you have for the remainder of the year? How will you progress toward them?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Key STYLE ideas Inspired by a Calendar

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Ever since I was little, I've loved stationery. I have a particular affinity for notebooks, Post-it notes (and tabs) and planners/calendars. From the vantage point of my desk, I have five calendars within view, which is more than a bit excessive for a small space occupied almost completely by a desk, a counter and a bookcase. I can explain....

But that's another post.

One of those calendars, as I've mentioned before, is my Page-a-Day calendar inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. On several occasions, this calendar has functioned as a blog prompt, and today is another one of those occasions.

Some of the calendar pages are simply three ideas, resolutions or questions, and last Friday's resolutions -- or two of them, at least -- brought to mind key concepts of STYLE.

Gretchen's resolution: Put your keys in the same place every day.
STYLE concept: Yes, it has a home!
Finding homes, or places that you put things every time, is a key organizational concept. If something has a home, it's less likely to be left out to create clutter, and you're more likely to be able to find it when you need it. And, if the homes you choose are suited to your personal and organizational styles, it's as easy to put things away as it is to put them down.

Clear your closets.
STYLE concept: Let it go!
If you've read The Happiness Project, you know Gretchen gained tremendous satisfaction from closet organization. If you don't share her enthusiasm for that particular task, try breaking it down and tackling closets (or drawers or files) one section at a time. This is a great activity for a rainy day, or one that's really hot or cold, provided the indoor temperature is to your liking. And remember that clearing doesn't mean tossing. Sometimes the things that just don't work for you anymore will be a perfect fit for someone else.

Today's third key is my resolution, based on the STYLE philosophy:

Think outside the box. The way I'm using my Happiness Project calendar is a good example. Instead of using it for its intended purpose (as a way of marking time), I use it as a means to reaffirm a mindset and, sometimes, as an inspiration. Looking for new ways to group, store and organize items or thinking of how to use old storage in new ways is a great way to troubleshoot and update your organizational systems.

Organizing by STYLE means looking for solutions that work for you, based on your styles. When traditional (in the box, if you will) solutions don't work, don't assume you are the problem. Instead, look for a solution that matches your styles. Minimizing my use of file cabinets and binders (which allegedly work for "everyone else") and changing to out-of-the-box solutions that match the way I think helped me to create systems that work for me.

What will you do for your styles today?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Home Sweet Home

This time last week, we were in Connecticut with a kid and her carload of stuff. 

Now we're home and making progress. 

Sort of. 

I expected it to take a while before everything found a home, and, on that front, my daughter is ahead of schedule. 

I didn't expect that when my young adult daughter moved back in she'd launch into a full-scale attack on her childhood bedroom. I'm grateful.

But overwhelmed. 

In less than a week, she has generated piles of clothes and toys to donate, and, as I write this, she's tackling her bookshelves. More toys remain to be thinned, and my job is figuring out where it all goes. 

I was prepared to figure out where the carload of stuff that came home would live for the summer, but this is something altogether different--something that stirs pride and exhaustion in nearly equal measures. 

Our daughter is an only child, one who has always had what she needed and much of what she wanted. Still, we've tried to raise her to understand how fortunate she is to have had that kind of upbringing. And now, watching her let go of the excess, culling the things that matter and releasing the rest, I'm not only impressed by her drive to organize.

I feel as though perhaps we've done something right.

Last week, I wrote that this transition would "inspire changes, as transitions usually do," a statement that turned out to be oddly prophetic.

Little did I know how lovely it would be to watch my I love stuff kid morph into a young adult who can distinguish trash from treasure and decide which stuff to toss, which stuff to repurpose and which stuff to donate in order to create the best of all organizing bonuses.

Clear space.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Packing Them up and Bringing Them Home

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, we moved my daughter out of her dorm, piled into our packed vehicle and made the five-hour trek home. Getting ready to do the same thing? Here are three keys to making the whole process go more smoothly.

Preparation. Since they've been entrenched in finals and spring fever (not necessarily in that order), your kids may or may not have actually planned ahead and started packing and/or sending things home ahead of time. Whether you start the packing or they do, encourage them to separate the things they'll need for the summer from the things that are going back to school in the fall and then label the boxes. And, if you live far away, consider renting a storage unit for the summer. Your child's roommates or friends might be interested in sharing the space -- and the cost.

Tools. Even if your kids say they're almost finished, it never hurts to have a few boxes, bins and one-step packing containers with you, just in case. Bins and boxes work well for things that can be stashed away for the whole summer while fabric totes are handy for last minute items and things that need to remain accessible on the way home. In addition, they're lightweight and crushable, so, if they remain unused, they won't take up valuable elbow room on the way home. Don't forget labels and/or a permanent marker for keeping track of which box is which.

Patience. You may be ready to empty the room and hit the road, but keep in mind that these departures can be emotional for your child, who is saying goodbye to all of the people he or she has spent the better part of the last year with. Sure, technology makes it easier than ever to stay in touch, but, as you already know from your year apart from your teen, it's not the same. If time is of the essence, warn your child ahead of time, but be prepared for things to be more free flow and less efficient, especially if it's a long ride home.

Already have this pack-up-and-go stuff down to a science? Share your tips in the comments below where newbie empty nesters like me will be sure to appreciate them!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Moving Day

Today's the day! Our daughter is coming home from college! We're optimistic that we can fit all of her stuff into the car and still have room for her (after all, we did it in August, right?), but there's one thing I'm less optimistic about.

Where all of that stuff is going when it gets home.

I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to be tripping over boxes for a bit, and this might actually be cute for the first few days. She's home, after all, and this is the evidence!

But it will also get old fast.

So, last weekend, in preparation for this, I considered clearing some space in the basement. But, it was finals week and I had stacks of papers to grade, along with an out-of-town party to attend, so this was an optimistic plan.

Luckily, when we arrived yesterday, she was nearly packed and the piles were not as enormous as I'd feared.

I think we might just pull this off.

Still, when we get home, all of that stuff needs to find a place to live for the summer. Much of it will go into her room, some of it will go in the mud room, disappearing bit by bit as she eases back into life at home, and the rest will go into the basement, where the lack of available space will, I hope, inspire me to get rid of a few things (mine, not hers).

In any event, this transition will inspire changes, as transitions usually do. I'm sure this move will teach us something about the impermanence of this time of life, along with generating some useful ideas for dorm life next year.

It should be interesting.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Containers to Get Rid of Today

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
We've all done it. We've succumbed. Maybe it was a planner that promised to do everything but organize our time for us. Maybe it was a purse that claimed you'd never again have to dump it just to find the one thing you were looking for. Maybe it was those bins that you just knew would remove clutter from your life.

Except that they didn't.

When is an organizing tool actually an obstacle?

When it doesn't match your styles. (Admit it. You saw that one coming). For me, one of the best things about identifying my styles was that I stopped buying every miracle organizer that came down the pike. If it doesn't match my styles, it doesn't make it into my shopping cart.

When it's too small for the task at hand. The best containers are, like Baby Bear's bed and porridge, "just right." They fit the space we've allocated and they have a little bit of room left over so that other, similar items can be added as necessary. Too big containers are unwieldy, but too small containers are perhaps even more frustrating. By the time we get used to using them, we've outgrown them. While it's reasonable to expect to sort and review the contents of our containers from time to time, too small organizers require this process much too often.

When it's too complicated. Let's face it. Most of us want to make it as easy to put things away as it is to drop them on the nearest counter. The more complicated the container is, the less likely it is that we'll use it on a regular basis.

Take inventory at your house. Do you have any of these containers in your possession? If so, it's time to consider a container upgrade. Ditch the miracle organizers and their empty promises for storage that actually makes your life easier.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Shifting Gears

Sometimes, I can tend toward workaholism. Although I try to be laid back and flexible, there are times when things pile up and I'm afraid to step away. The drive to accomplish is like a constant hum in my head and when I step back or take a break it keeps humming, chastising.

Lately, though, circumstances have made breaks inevitable. I've had to step away to tend to more pressing matters, taking whole days away from all of those things I think I should be doing. Sometimes, I can silence the hum; other days I need to appease it with small snacks from my to-do list.

A funny thing has happened, though. It's not a revelation, exactly, just something that I lose sight of when the hum takes over.

When I step away -- not just for a few minutes or a few hours, but an entire day -- I come back re-energized. Strangely enough, this is true even for tasks I don't relish doing. Pressured by the missed time, I procrastinate less and, even better, stay focused longer.

This is not novel information. When I teach child development, we often discuss the importance of recess -- that wonderful thing we all took for granted in elementary school that gave us both a physical and a psychological break from the pressing matters of reading and writing and arithmetic. Parents and psychologists know kids need this, yet we somehow think we are immune, as if there's some magic that happens that allows adults to power through despite exhaustion, lack of focus and lack of interest.

There isn't.

I wish I could remember this more often. I wish it didn't take more pressing matters to silence the hum that tells me I'm not doing enough, not working hard enough.

I suspect, that, like so many other matters of organization and time management, it's a process. I need to do it often enough to experience its benefits on a regular basis so that I'm convinced that even wasting time is a good thing. I need to become as intentional about down time as I am about work time.

Maybe -- just maybe -- it even needs to make it onto my Big 3 some days. What, after all, is more important than having the energy to do the things that matter?