Thursday, November 30, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Bringing the Christmas Spirit

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about creating balance in my work life but, at this time of the year, that's only part of the story. All of those end-of-semester responsibilities I'm juggling are set against a very important backdrop: the holidays.

My love for Christmas runs deep and, although this will be my first Christmas without my mom, I still want to celebrate, even if it will feel different. Last weekend, bored of our usual outdoor holiday decorations, my husband started cooking up some new ideas and after some shopping and discussion, we created a new look -- one I love.

In addition, for the second year in a row, we put up the tree -- much earlier than I was ready for -- because we wanted to do it while my daughter was home from college. And, as I type this, I'm doing so by the light of a small Christmas tree with Christmas in Rockefeller Center playing in the background. The tree used to stand in my parents' living room and, right now, it's bedecked only in white lights. For now, that's enough.

Last year at this time, I reflected on three things I think holiday decorating should be. This year, I'm striving for the same goals. I want my decorating, planning and celebrating to be:

Fun. Although I had no desire to put up a Christmas tree in November, it wouldn't have been any fun putting it up without my daughter, and none of us wanted to wait until the very hectic week before Christmas. While decorating can't always be fun, deciding when and how to approach the task, whether all at once or a little at a time, can make a difference.

Peaceful. While this may be too much to hope for in the actual process, it's not too much to expect from the end product. Decorating, whether for every day or for the holidays, should enhance your home. I love coming home late in the afternoon and switching on the tree, candles and white lights that are part of the decor. It almost makes up for daylight savings time.

Meaningful. Our Christmas tree is bedecked with a collection of ornaments we've been growing since my husband and I were first married. My parents' tree has its special spot, particularly this year. Our nativity scene, which will go up closer to Christmas, will have its place of honor as well. Making sure there's a reminder of the reason for the season and the people who matter is an important part of getting ready for the holidays.

Whenever and how ever you decide to do it, may all of your decorating be merry and bright.

And STYLE-ish, of course.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

And So it Begins

kraphix via Freepik
Last night and early this morning, as I was thinking about this post (that I hoped I would have had time to post already), I had my topic all worked out -- learning to set boundaries for tasks that have oozed out of their allotted time slots and into leisure time. It went something like this:

'Tis the season to grade papers -- it's one set after another -- and I'm working on keeping things on an even keel. I could spend large chunks of days doing nothing but grading and, in the end, I probably will. But it's also the season for other things, and I would like to have a life.

I've been at this long enough that I'm slowly learning how to find balance, though admittedly, it has been an uphill battle. 

I was so excited when I first got this job that I threw myself into it completely. I willingly gave it all of my free time, assuming that at some point, with experience, it would get better. Unfortunately, the schedule I set stuck and, before I knew it, every day was a work day, at least in part.

Now I'm emerging and loosening. I'm realizing that not every paper has to be given back at the next class meeting. And, more important, it's better for both my students and me if I don't do that. Taking time to grade papers means that I grade them more thoughtfully and patiently and the feedback I give is better and more useful. Not responding to emails at all hours of the night means that I'm more prepared to start fresh the next day. Rediscovering weekends means I'm less grumpy when I'm doing all of this.

That was yesterday.

Today, one class and three meetings stayed (mostly) neatly within their allotted time slots, but e-mails of desperation flooded my inbox, joining their comrades that appeared between 11pm and midnight last night, necessitating quick, if not immediate responses.

Tonight, I turn off my phone (and its nagging email chime) at a reasonable hour.

It's a balancing act and...say it with me...

It's a process.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Habits Worth Breaking

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Happy Thanksgiving! Like anyone else, I have bad habits when it comes to keeping things neat and running smoothly. As we head into the holiday season and things get hectic, here are a few of the habits I'm trying to break.

Piling. When I get busy, my default organizational style (
drop and runkicks in. I put things down instead of putting them away. I set stacks of things aside, intending to get to them later. This isn't too bad if the stacks are meaningful and this process doesn't go on for too long. But, when this habit continues unchecked, I end up with a major project on my hands.
Solution? Don't put it down, put it away. As often as possible.

Procrastination. More often than not, the most difficult part of a project for me is simply getting started. Once I stop whining and start doing, I generally get wrapped up in the task I was dreading and find it much easier than I expected it to be. And progress is a wonderful motivator.
Solution? Give it five. Knowing I have an out after five minutes helps me get started, and since getting started is half the problem, giving it five gets me halfway there.

Not writing things down. This one creates less obvious chaos than the others, but it creates plenty of mental chaos. I have notepads in plenty of locations and designated places for particular lists. When it comes to not writing it down, I really have no excuse.
Solution? Just do it.
How about you? What habits will you break this holiday season?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Love the One that Fits

I'm the kind of person who, when she finds a piece of clothing she really likes, runs out to buy another one just like it. This is true for basic pieces, mind you, not every item of clothing I own. But most of my favorite work trousers, comfortable, low-maintenance sweaters and even soft, warm pajamas have twins in my closet.

The same is true for organizing tools. I have a stack of accordion folders, purchased when they were in the dollar bins at Target. I just ordered another set of file bins with open tops to use in our family room and, although I have a drawer full of manila, patterned and colored file folders, I just added a box of colored file folders to my shopping list. I need enough in each color to effectively color-code the files that I'll be moving into the new bins.

I am not suggesting that you go out and buy everything in triplicate. Often, however, it's a good idea to stock up on basic organizational tools that have been proven to work for you, especially those that help to keep paper clutter under control. Amid my go-to tools, I have a number of unique items that add a different sort of style to my workspace, but when it comes time to whip a space into order, I like to know that the tools I depend on are at my fingertips.

Accordion folders, file folders in colors and prints (along with a stash of the basic manila variety) and any storage container I can peer into top my list of favorites. What's on your list?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: Fun Discoveries While Revamping a Room

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Even the best systems need to be revamped from time to time. And the ones that aren't working or that we've outgrown? Well, those definitely need revamping.

I've been in the midst of that sort of project. Spurred by the purchase of new furniture for a room that was overdue for repurposing, I've been moving some things around and trying to move other things out. One piece that had to go had served as significant storage, so it was time to find something that was both style-specific and STYLE-ish to shoulder the organizational burden.

As has probably become clear, I love doing this sort of thing. Part of the reason for that is the challenge, but another reason is that these projects usually serve as a reminder of key ideas, such as:

  • Being open to new ways of doing things. I'd never been happy with the DVD storage we'd set up. It fit and it kind of worked, but it was unwieldy, yet I couldn't come up with a better idea. When I cleared off a shelf in one of the cabinets, a new solution presented itself. My I need to see it style was overwhelmingly excited by the simple sight of a row of DVDs all lined up alphabetically by title. I'd never considered using that space in that way before, but now I have a new solution that works -- and has room to grow.
  • Breaking habits. Sometimes, we've had the same things in the same places for so long that we don't even see them anymore. Such was the case with some catch-all bins (a great drop and run tool) on top of one of the storage units. When I stepped back and really looked at it, the area looked more like clutter than storage, so getting rid of it was a no-brainer. Not only did clearing it off make things look better, but it also provided a place for storage that was actually functional.
  • Remembering the decor. Finishing touches might not be organizationally necessary but, by making the space look attractive, they encourage us to keep things looking that way. I had space for five file bins on top of the storage unit, but I had only four bins. Suddenly, the empty space looked very appealing, but it needed something. A candle on a tall stand filled the space, quickly taking it from practical to polished.
I'm not finished yet but, since watching the new personality of the room emerge is a lot of fun, I'm to in a big hurry. Besides, I sometimes get my best ideas when I remember to relish the process.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dreaming Up New Ideas

gr8effect via Pixabay
One night last week, a freak accident on our street had us awake at 4AM. Aside from damage to cars, the only casualty was a good night's sleep.

Though I was determined to go back to sleep, sleep eluded me. So, as I often do when my usual endeavors to fall asleep fail, I started rearranging things in my head.

The second bedroom in our house has never actually been a second bedroom. It's been a catch-all for homeless furniture and belongings, an office, a place to stash everything we didn't want falling into the hands of a curious toddler and a playroom. As you can imagine, many of these roles overlapped; there was rarely a time when the room stopped being one thing and became something else entirely.

We are, once again, in one of those transition stages. My daughter, who just turned twenty, has outgrown the playroom, yet many of the trappings of that space (not to mention the collections that lived there) are still in the same places they were in when she was a toddler.

Two months ago, we committed to taking the next step to making the room into a family space that reflected our current family configuration and bought grown-up furniture. We knew it was a little large for the room, and that existing pieces would have to go, but the jury was still out on what was going and where it would go.

So, bit by bit, I've been working on the transition. It's a lot like working a jigsaw puzzle that has somehow collected pieces of another jigsaw puzzle: most of the pieces need to stay, but it takes a lot of sorting to figure out what we need and what we don't.

And so last week, as sleep eluded me, I lay in bed visualizing the room, trying to determine what could go where and, perhaps more important, what could go. This curious combination of zooming in on an image I had to recall actually helped me to arrive at a solution. Somewhere in the midst of this process, I fell asleep, but when I woke up, I was excited to get started.

maklay62 via Pixabay
There's still work to do. One pivotal piece -- a lateral file cabinet I'm attached to -- has to stay put until my dad relocates and can re-claim it. But, in the meantime, I've not only figured out where its contents will go, but also set up the systems that will hold them. Now, bit by bit, I can move things from Point A to Point B.

Eventually, the furniture will fit the room, and the room will have a new personality. In the meantime, I'll keep dreaming up new ideas.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Strategies for Finding (and Working with) Your Styles

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Hi, my name is Lisa and my styles are I need to see it (personal style) and drop and run (organizational style). Yes, I've been at this for a while, and yes, these are still my styles. Organizing by STYLE doesn't mean changing my styles; rather, it means learning to work with them instead of against them.

If you don't know what your styles are, take a minute to take the STYLE quiz. If you're taking it for the first time, you might very well find a little of yourself in every category.

How do you narrow the field?

Think about what's most outstanding. For me, the need to see things stands out more than anything else. Although I file important papers and keep lists and a planner, I'm still the girl that leaves the empty prescription bottle on the counter as a reminder to call in a refill. My strategies keep my style in check, but they don't erase all signs of it, and I'm okay with that.

Look for the overlap in approach. Does one style feed another? If so, finding strategies that work for one style may resolve issues in another as well. My drop and run organizational style and my I need to see it personal style feed one another, so choosing tools and strategies that work for one often helps the other. Containers with open tops, for example, allow me to put things away in a single step, simply by dropping them into the container....where I can see them. Check out the charts section of this blog to see if your style overlaps come with container overlaps, then experiment away, but don't forget to...

Trust your gut. If a tool or strategy feels wrong, it probably is. It really doesn't matter how popular it is. If it doesn't work for you, find something else that does. I ditched binders ages ago in favor of simpler tools like accordion folders and open top files. Their simplicity makes me more likely to use them and visibility they provide suits my I need to see it personal style.

In the end, the style labels you choose should serve only one purpose: pointing the way toward strategies and tools that work for you.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rediscovering the Big Three

geralt via Pixabay
When the fall semester started, I slacked off on my Big 3 list/habit. With so many days already filled with class work and class preparation, what I needed to do seemed obvious. Why write it down?

Because, to paraphrase a book title, when I don't write it down, I don't make it happen.

In the past month or so, I've begun to become frustrated by all of the little things I don't seem to be getting around to. I had a little chat with myself about restoring balance, and that was a good start. Right around the same time, though, I realized that it had been a long time since I'd written down my Big 3. So one morning, feeling a little overwhelmed, I jotted three things down.

And then I did them.

Funny how that works.

Without my Big 3 list, stuff gets done. Time sensitive stuff. Previously scheduled stuff. Already promised stuff. All of that is good, but it still leaves a lot of stuff undone.

My Big 3 list is my way of making sure all of that other stuff gets on the list because apparently, that's the way I get things done. The Big 3 list is not a miracle or a magic wand, but it is an effective strategy. And, whether we're managing time or stuff, when we find a strategy that works, we need to make sure it becomes a habit and remains a habit. It's easy to rationalize, make excuses or even offer good reasons for why we're not using it. But, as I discovered (again) recently, all of these juicy rationalizations are easily counterbalanced by one simple argument.

When we use strategies that work, things get done.

Funny how that works.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Things I Want in that Mythical Work Bag

Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Yesterday, I wrote about my ongoing search for the perfect bag. In the process, I've gone through quite a few contenders and have discovered a few of the attributes that matter most to me.

A pocket (preferably external) for my cell phone. Putting my cell phone in the same place every time saves me a lot of digging through my bag to find it. Putting it in a pocket on the outside of the bag makes the access even easier.

An interior pocket or two. Sometimes one really is better because then I don't have to remember which pocket I put something in. And there's always something I need to put in a pocket.

Strong straps and a bag that distributes weight well. The biggest problem with big bags is the obvious one -- they become unmanageable. When I was younger, I considered it a badge of honor to be able to pick up heavy stuff; now I prefer things that don't strain my back and hurt my shoulders. As I continue to "try on" bags, I'm discovering that two bags of the same size aren't necessarily equal when it comes to manageability.

So, when I find my perfect bag, will it need to have anything else?

Just one more thing. It has to be cute, too.

How about you? What qualities do you look for in a bag, be it a purse, a briefcase or a bag you can use after a productive day at the mall?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Another Day, Another Bag

I am once again engaged in a struggle to find my "just right" bag for work. This is especially ridiculous, given the fact that I sell bags, but there you have it.

Then again, maybe that's part of the problem; too many choices can, indeed, be a challenge. And finding a bag that holds everything isn't my problem.

The issue is finding a bag I can still lift after I've filled it with everything I need.

The perfectly appointed bag would be stocked with all the stuff I know I need, along with the stuff I might need and the stuff I used to need a few semesters ago, but haven't needed recently.

Hmm. Is that what I need or what I want?

I have a great rolling bag, but it's so...conspicuous. I could get past that -- and I often do on days when I have a lot of stuff to transport -- if it were less challenging to lug my wheeled bag up and down stairs. I could always take the elevator, I guess, but that's a habit I've been trying to break.

For now, I've (once again) settled on a combination that works -- a tote bag I can throw over my shoulder, coupled with a laptop case (I have several of those as well). There's room in the tote bag for the laptop, but its addition makes the bag a little too heavy, since the bag is already stocked with all the stuff I know I need, etc., before I put anything in it.

As I write this, it occurs to me that perhaps I've reached the point in the semester when it's time to check the need/want ratio for the contents of my bag. Like any other container, the ones that we carry with us routinely tend to collect both essential and non-essential items, and it's only when they overflow or we begin to have trouble lifting them that it occurs to us that some sorting and -- gasp! -- purging might be in order.

Although this process looks similar in both containers that are primarily stationary and containers that are portable, it can be harder to cull the contents of the bags we carry with us since we're often planning for a variety of eventualities. Not having something in a purse, diaper bag or work tote often means doing without; we can't simply walk into another room to get the item we wish we had.

Still, there comes a time in the life of every bag, tote and purse when a little sorting and re-organizing is necessary. When we reach that time, we have to confront the balance between the essential and the non-essential, as well as the too big, the too small and the "just right."

I know my bag fits my personal and organizational styles. Now it's time to make sure its contents are a perfect fit as well.