Thursday, April 26, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys for Getting Out of Your Own Way

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Have you figured out your styles? Found some ways to make them work for you?

Excellent start.

But, while building systems that work with our styles is effective, it's only part of the process. We also need to keep those systems going and, as long as the habits at the root of our styles continue, we can sometimes get in our own way.

Take me, for example. As the not-always-so- proud owner of a drop and run organizational style, I've built my systems around this tendency. When I use them, they work very well.

But, when I get tired or stressed or overwhelmed?

You guessed it. I drop and run.

Identifying the habits that get us into trouble is the first step to replacing them with better ones. Here are a few things we can do to keep clutter-creating habits in line.

  • Zoom in on a habit. Which habit gets you into trouble most often? The habit may be a style itself (like my dropping and running) or it may simply be connected to a personal or organizational style (like the sheer quantity of items collected by someone with an I love stuff personal style). Zoom in on one of these to target. Then...
  • Catch yourself in the act. By targeting the style, you're more likely to catch yourself and intervene early. Ready to drop that item instead of putting it away? Catch yourself and put it where it belongs. Ready to add one more thing to an already burgeoning collection? Think about what spot it will fill and where it will go before you get it home.
  • Use self-talk. Find a reminder that works and say it to yourself every time that clutter-creating habit you're targeting surfaces. For me, it's "Don't put it down, put it away." A cram and jammer might remind herself to store it, not cram it and someone with the I know I put it somewhere organizational style might ask himself "Where does this belong?" Every time we use our words to remind ourselves what we should do instead, we cement a good habit instead.
Pairing our day-to-day actions with our organizational systems can not only take us from cluttered to clear. It can also make sure we stay that way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Good News Wednesday!

I am excited to report that I've signed a contract with Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Books to write the book version of Organizing by STYLE! Due out next spring, it will gather the information you read about here -- from styles to STYLE to tricks, tips and container ideas -- all into one handy volume! 

I'm very excited to be writing a book intended for all of us who have to work at this very necessary process. You can be sure I'll keep you posted as things unfold. Meanwhile, I'll still be here every Wednesday and Thursday.

What would you like to see in the Organizing by STYLE book?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Easy Upkeep

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile

You've done it! You Started with successes, Took small steps, Yes, you found homes for your things and you Let things go! Now it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor: Easy upkeep. 

Here are a few ways to do just that.

  1. Value the clear space. Resist the urge to drop and run! You worked hard to create clear space, so you should enjoy the accomplishment. 
  2. Put your systems to work. If you've set things up based on your styles, easy upkeep should be a snap. And, even if the setup isn't perfect, it should work well enough that a few tweaks can take it from good to even better, so...
  3. Adjust where necessary. A little trial and error can be a necessary part of establishing a system that works. When you've got a strengths-based foundation, trouble-shooting is easier because you can actually put your ideas to the test. Every time you adapt an existing system, it gets better and it informs future organizing as well.
Organizing by STYLE doesn't guarantee a spotless or clutter-free home, 100% of the time, but creating systems based on your styles enables us to have a plan of attack when life happens and clutter resurfaces.

And that is easy upkeep.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Office Intervention Part 3B: Short-Term Stalemate

My office intervention is at a temporary standstill. The end of the semester is just two weeks away and other priorities have to be front and center -- there's just no way around it.

But this isn't all bad. Though my intervention activities have shifted, my temporary inability to devote time to making headway gives me a perfect opportunity for practicing the E in STYLE: Easy upkeep.

Or, in everyday terms, can I keep the clear spaces clear? This is, after all, the goal of getting organized in the first place -- creating systems that are sustainable and that fit into our everyday lives.

So far, so good, with the exception of a textbook that needs to find a home. It's actually been pretty easy to curb my drop and run tendencies with respect to my office counter. I like the way the clear space on the counter looks too much to mess it up. And, perhaps just as important, I found permanent new homes for the things that were taking up that space.

So, as the semester winds down and the end-of-semester workload winds up, my intervention has been reduced to picking up this and tossing that in an effort to take small steps that will keep this necessary project going. Motivated by the clear space, I am ready to reduce the piles, even if it means getting rid of things -- perhaps especially so. If it's gone for good, I don't need to deal with it again, which simplifies future organizing tremendously.

Do you struggle with the important but necessary step of getting rid of things? Check out this post for a short list of a few easy-to-part-with items and some style-specific advice.

Meanwhile, where is the upkeep easy at your house?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Digging Out

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
It's 9:50 pm and I am just starting this post. It's fair to say that I'm a little overbooked.

Although I love to be busy isn't my primary style, I do sometimes bite off a tad more than I can chew. When that happens, things pile up, and even making a list of what I need to do can be stressful because that means admitting everything I have to do.

As I see it, there are three ways to dig out when you're overwhelmed.

All at once. Pick a time, grit your teeth and power through. Give yourself a little leeway if you can by setting aside more time than you think you'll need, and don't despair if you don't make it all the way through. You're aiming for progress, not perfection.

A little at a time. No big chunks of time available? Five minutes here and fifteen minutes there can still lead to progress. It's slower going, so the piles linger and the to-do lists stay long for longer, but sometimes, it's the only option. Again, you're aiming for progress, not perfection.

The delegation plan. Is all of this really yours to do? Hand off what you can hand off (and be willing to accept the manner in which the person you delegated the job to does the job) and tackle the rest using one of the plans above. And hey, progress is still progress whether you did it yourself or assigned it to someone else.

If you, like me, have been here before, you've probably learned that what's important gets done and what falls through the cracks might just have landed exactly where it belongs. Take it one step at a time and forge your path. And, if it doesn't all get done...

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Planner Passage

I am a multiple-calendar person. I have hanging calendars in my office, primarily for reference (what day is it anyway?), one in the kitchen for family appointments that I "sync" with the one in my purse (I'm a paper-and-pencil planner person), one in which I keep track of writing projects and one on my desk for the day-by-day stuff -- appointments (yes, I often write them in more than one place), lists, goals....all of the important miscellany that doesn't fit on a traditional calendar and gives a "planner" its name.

For probably the last decade, I've used exactly the same type of notepad calendar as my day-by-day planner. I used it first for my desk at work, then continued purchasing them for my desk at home after I retired. I loved the layout and the possibilities.

But when 2018 rolled around, I still hadn't yet found one for this year. So, with limited desk real estate, I began to question whether it might be time for a change.

One morning in January, I met a friend for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I got there first (a rare occurrence) and had time to browse in their store. Lo and behold, calendars were on sale -- half price, if memory serves. There were no notepad calendars to be found, but I did find a large (9 x 11) spiral bound calendar with a layout I liked and decided to give it a shot.

Three months and several approaches in, I think I've finally pressed it into service in a way that works for me and I've found it a home.

This particular planner is an eighteen-month calendar, but by the time I purchased it, the first six months worth of pages were days gone by. I toyed with tearing the pages out to lighten my load, but decided to wait.

Good choice.

Now, in addition to being my master list keeper, day-by-day to-do reminder, and answer to the question, "what day is it anyway?" my new planner has become my go-to source for things like names I like (character planning) "what's where" (a road map of my works-in-progress), blog ideas and, my most recent addition, a section I've labeled "DID IT!" where I keep track of all the monthly goals I've reached. My writing planner (a thin dollar bin find with a two page spread for each month, but little else) tucks inside it, which is handy when I decide to go elsewhere to write -- this set-up is much more portable than my beloved notepad calendar.

Not my calendar, but I love the black and white,
which matches my office.
(Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash)
Having retained all my new planner's pages (which are connected by a sturdy spiral), I've got room to add plenty of other miscellany I want to keep track of. Not only does this mean I'm probably not finished adding sections, it might also mean that I've found an answer to the inevitable question, "where did I put that piece of paper?"

Do I sound enthusiastic? I am -- now. We had some growing pains, my calendar and I, and although I'm not quite over my precious notepad calendar, I think this new set-up is more than a rebound relationship.

I think this is a planner with potential.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Setting and Achieving REAL Goals

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
On Monday, over at The Porch Swing Chronicles, I wrote about my discovery that there's more than one way to set a goal. While I teach my students to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) and I try to do the same, I've discovered that sometimes a less structured goal can work just as well.

Is this just an excuse for laziness? It could be. But I think that, in specific circumstances, a "mushy" goal can work just as well. When the thing we're aiming to do is meaningful (especially if just doing it is rewarding) and we're striving to fit it into our lives in an unstructured kind of way (e.g. to merely do more of something), a REAL goal (yes, I just made that up)* is less likely to backfire.

What's a REAL goal?
Reasonable (we can imagine incorporating this into our lives)
Enticing      (we are motivated to incorporate this into our lives)
Attainable   (we can reasonably carve out a small space of time to make this happen)
Limited       (we can enrich our lives even by doing this only a little at a time)
Here are 3 keys to setting and achieving a REAL goal:

  • Make it meaningful. A REAL goal should be something you want to do because it matters to you. It should not be something someone else wants you to do or something you think you should do. REAL goals are just for you.
  • Make it accessible. When I made a Lenten resolution to read more, I put my Kindle in my purse so that wherever my purse went, books did, too. At home, I made sure to leave my print books and magazines where I could see them (not all of them at once, of course). In addition to making it easy to grab reading material, even when I had only a few minutes, visibility served as a reminder to make time for my REAL goal.
  • Accept the ebb and flow. If you want a structured goal that makes you accountable on a regular basis, set a SMART goal. If you want to gradually integrate something of importance into your life, set a REAL goal. Because REAL goals are not time-bound, it's fine if we spend five minutes on them one day, fifteen minutes the next and, some days, we neglect them entirely. The fact that REAL goals are motivating in and of themselves works in their favor, nudging us to go back to them if we spend too much time away.
REAL goals weave richness into our lives by giving us the opportunity to step back and think about the things that matter to us. When our days seem like endless to-do lists, it's hard to imagine that will ever change, and it can be a daily challenge to find time to do the things that make us uniquely who we are. REAL goals encourage us to do just that.

*I did a quick search to see if REAL goals were already a thing, just not a thing I'd heard of. A couple of people have written about the concept of real goals, but I found nothing that matches my description.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Just one...

Stevepb via Pixabay
Last week, I wrote about my propensity for doing just one more thing. Though my one-more-thing-itis is detrimental to punctuality, there are times that "just one" can be a good thing.

When life gets busy, it's often hard to stay on top of things. Trying desperately to make progress on getting things organized, but short on time? Consider...

Giving it just one minute. Seriously? A minute? What can you get done in a minute? You might be surprised. While a minute won't be enough time to clean out the garage, it's long enough to put away a pile of clothes, clear clutter off a surface or make a list of steps to take to complete the project when you can give it more time.

Getting rid of just one pile. A pile of clean laundry is usually pretty easy to manage in just a minute (or so) because everything in the pile (most likely) has a home. The accumulated piles of papers and homeless items can be a bit challenging. If you don't have time to take care of the whole pile, set a timer and get as far as you can in the time you have.

Tackling just one drawer or shelf. Sure, it'd be great to clean out the whole dresser, closet or pantry, but often, that's just not possible. Tackling one finite section of the space in question can give you a feeling of satisfaction, which can motivate you to tackle the next drawer or shelf when you have time.

stevepb via Pixabay
Cooling off one hot spot. Every home has them -- the spots that seem to invite people to drop things and leave them there. Creating clear space -- even if only in one small area -- provides both satisfaction and visual evidence of organizational progress. And if you can delegate the putting away of the items to the owners, that's even better.

Next time you're feeling overwhelmed, consider the concept of "just one." Sometimes, doing just one more thing is a good plan.