Thursday, November 29, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Preparing for the Holidays

Daria-Yakovleva via Pixabay
Last week, we celebrated Thanksgiving which means that this week, my husband is ready to start preparing for Christmas.

I, on the other hand, am not.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm looking forward to Christmas -- especially the part where my daughter comes home from college and hangs out with us. I've even done a little Christmas shopping -- the kind I can do online in my pjs while watching television.

You might say I'm not quite motivated yet.

Sometimes, though, we can't wait for motivation to strike. We have to pave the way. So, here are three things I need to do so I can catch up with my husband's Christmas spirit.

Make room. We put our tree in the mudroom, which, when it doesn't house a Christmas tree, is something of a drop zone. As you can imagine, when someone with a drop and run organizational style uses a space as a drop zone, a little decluttering is in order before there's space for holiday cheer.

Make lists. At this time of year, writing things down is both helpful and overwhelming. Once I make the lists, some things will get assigned times (trimming the tree, for example) and others will get done in pockets of time or as the Christmas spirit strikes.

VisualExpert via Pixabay
Make progress. The second step in the STYLE process, Take small steps, is an especially useful one for me at this time of year. I enjoy the holiday preparations when I do them a little bit at a time, which is good since work obligations make things challenging through the middle of the month. Instead of spending one entire day decorating, I'm more likely to pull decorations out a little at a time and slowly transform things. Not only does taking small steps allow me to let the season unfold slowly, it also jump starts my holiday spirit.

Once all of these things have been done, I'm on my way to making merry.

How about you? Are you more like me, taking things slowly, or more like my husband, ready to jump right in to Christmas as soon as the last morsel of pumpkin pie has been consumed?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Organizational Milestone

Last night, I hit an Organizing by STYLE milestone: I hit "send" and my book manuscript went hurtling through cyberspace to my editor. Know Thyself: The (Im)Perfectionist's Guide to Sorting Your Stuff is due out next spring (thank you Our Sunday Visitor!) So, today, I thought I might give you a little sneak peek at the contents.

This is my third non-fiction book, and I've learned that sending a book to an editor is a leap of faith. Changes are always a possibility, so I don't know how much the book they publish will look like the book I submitted. In addition, my manuscript was much longer than I expected (or proposed), so I have no idea how much will make the cut. As a result, there's a chance that what I include in today's sneak peek might not make the cut (and, if that's the case, you're likely to find it here later as new posts!) and so instead of giving you actual text, I'd like to share some of the concepts you'll find inside:
  • the styles (of course!), both personal and organzational 
  • the quiz
  • the STYLE process
  • how to use the STYLE process to put your styles to work
  • dealing with organizing obstacles
  • organizing with kids
  • time management tools
If you think the book sounds a lot like this blog, you'd be right. It's not a collection of posts, though, nor are the contents "ripped from the headlines" here. Instead, the book is a way to find all the things I write about here in one place, organized in a way that makes sense, rather than episodically like my posts. The book isn't the end of the road, though -- I've got lots more to say here as well, at least for the foreseeable future.

As I stand at the crossroads, I'm wondering...what's on your organizational wishlist? What would you like to see me address in future posts?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Throwing Some STYLE at the Problem Areas

Last week, I wrote about staying on the right side of the organizational line. Though I've made a little bit of progress, I still feel as though I'm on the wrong side of the line. With a book deadline in ten days and the end of the semester rapidly approaching, it's tempting to just camp out here and wait until I end up on the other side of those lines before making a difference, but that's not a good plan.

First of all, it feels terrible. I don't like seeing the piles or feeling the incessant nudge to do something about them.

Second, letting it go means that the piles will attract piles and that is not something I want to see.

So it's time for some STYLE.

Start with Successes: No one area is completely out of control. The table in the family room, often a magnet for my schoolwork-in-progress, is nearly clear. All of the accumulated mail and paper on the kitchen counter and the dining room table are contained to essentially one pile. These are, admittedly, small successes, but they're in the areas that most need attention, so I'll take them. More important, they lead me easily to...

Take Small Steps. I can (and will) get up right now and put away the remaining items on the family room table. Done! (And in about five minutes). In addition, I put away a couple other drop and run bonuses I'd left myself and morphed right into...

Yes, it has a Home (putting that stuff away meant it had to go where it belonged) and...

Let it Go! (extraneous/outdated items were easily tossed in my desire to clear the space).

As for Easy Upkeep, the fact that I could make that much actual progress (as opposed to just putting the stuff in a random location to get it out of sight) in that little time is an indication that I have systems that are working.

Why, if it was that easy, did these piles form in the first place? No matter how good our systems (and mine, although imperfect, are pretty good because I've been doing this for over a decade), real life intervenes. A shortage of time. The urgency of a deadline. A different priority (dinner with friends and watching a movie with my daughter, who's home for only a week, rose to the top of the list Saturday night). Sheer exhaustion. Too much stuff. A sense of overwhelm.

You get the picture.

These things happen. It's what we do after they happen that makes the difference between a short-term clutter situation and a long-term problem. I'm off to a good start because I found an easy place to begin taking small steps. Now, I need to make the other piles a priority and either set aside time to deal with them or simply practice Give it Five! consistently until the remaining piles are gone. In addition, I need to not leave myself any new drop and run bonuses along the way because those will only compound the problem.

As I type this, I see other things that need to be done, so I am writing them down to keep myself accountable. The quick and easy ones will probably be swept up and out of sight in my next Give it Five! attack, and the others will stare up at me from my list until I get them done and/or assign them a time slot on my calendar.

Small steps.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Things to do on a Snow Day

Today, I declared a snow day. The college where I work has yet to follow suit but, in light of a forecast with 100% probability of precipitation during my scheduled classes, I canceled them pretty much at the first sign of a snowflake. Not only am I a snow chicken, but I have a lot of students who commute and I didn't want my class to be the reason they were on the road.

So now, a beautiful, empty day stretches out ahead of me -- a beautiful, empty day with a lengthy to-do list, that is. I could double down and see just how much I could cross off that list. Or, I could practice a little balance.

Guess which one I'm opting for.

Sometimes, time management is as much about taking down time as powering through. I have every intention of tackling my list, but a snow day is a gift -- found time -- and I intend to treat it as such, incorporating these three things into my snow day to-do list.

Sleep. If you're a person who practices good sleep hygiene -- going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night -- you might not need to add this to your list. I am not that person. The best part of a snow day, for me, is rolling over and going back to sleep.

Do something intentionally. When our days are packed, we often blaze through them, doing what we need to do and not paying much attention to most of it. Days that are more slow-paced can remind us to take things -- or at least one thing -- slowly, paying attention to what we are doing instead of flying through it on autopilot.

Do something you've been putting off. I made progress on the piles in my family room the other night, but they're not gone yet. Nor is the mail pile on the kitchen counter or the "stuff to get to" on the dining room table. I won't get to all of them today, but I'm determined to eradicate at least one of them. I also realized the night before last that I hadn't set November goals yet. Perhaps the middle of the month would be a good time to tackle those.

I'm not naive enough to think that everyone gets a snow day, or that snow days for parents of school-aged children look anything like mine. But today's snow day was one of my own creation, with a major assist from Mother Nature, reminding me that we don't always have to wait for snow days to drop themselves into our schedules. Some days, we can create a "slow day" of our own.

And we don't even need an assist from the weather to make that happen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Staying on the Right Side of the Line

Conger Design via Pixabay
After being contained into submission not so long ago, they're back. The bane of my I need to see it personal style.

The piles.

They have homes -- good ones. Simple ones. 

Clearly, not simple enough. 

Too many papers, too little time and too many deadlines have crashed headlong into one another. And the result isn't pretty.

As someone with an I need to see it personal style, piles are my default. In moderation, they can actually be helpful, prompting me to take action. The trouble is, the line between moderation and visual overload can be very fine indeed. In fact, I often don't see the line until I've crossed over it.

In the middle of writing this post, I stopped, got up, and tackled the piles -- or the ones in this room, anyway. The clear space on the table now far outpaces the one small stack of items I've left out for tomorrow's class. I still have just as much to do, but the sense of relief is palpable, even though a couple of the piles have migrated to the sofa where I am sitting so that I can organize them before putting them where they belong.

For many of us, our default styles were an obstacle for a long time before we started organizing by STYLE. Pressed into service, these personal and organizational styles can be useful, but it's also easy for us to cross the line and fall into old (bad) habits. Often, the first clue we get that we've crossed the line is a sense of being overwhelmed. When that happens, it's time to take charge and make sure our styles are working for us instead of against us.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I still have a few piles to attend to. I need to show them who's boss.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Organizing by STYLE

DodgertonSkillhause via Morguefile
As I work on the book version of Organizing by STYLE, this poor blog is definitely taking a hit. Today, I was working on a chapter based on these 3 Keys posts and I got to thinking about how these posts came to be.

One of my favorite places to write is on the screened-in porch of the condo where we stay at the beach. Three summers ago, I was working on this blog during one of those beach trips when I thought it might be fun to distill each of the styles down to three key ideas....

And 3 Keys Thursday was born.

So tonight, while it's still Thursday (but barely), I'm sharing three key ideas for keeping Organizing by STYLE going, even when it feels as though it's taking a hit. If I can do it with this blog, you can do it with your home, office, car....

You get the drift.

Look around. Acknowledge your successes. When we organize by STYLE and it works, it lasts. Sure, there’s always more to tweak, more stuff to organize, more spaces to improve, but once we figure out what works, it gets easier. Then, we can replicate our successes to create the order we desire.

Decide what comes nextOnce you create a system that works for you, it becomes self-sustaining, and you can move on to the next organizational challenge. Some days, it feels as though all we're doing is running from one pile to the next -- and some days, we are. Be patient.

Let the spirit move you. Though we can't always wait for the mood to strike, there's nothing like being in the right frame of mind to spark motivation. So maybe the thing you're doing isn't the thing that was at the top of your list -- or maybe you're finally getting to it at 11p.m. The important thing is that something gets accomplished.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reflections on a Love of Stationery

CongerDesign via Pixabay
When I was a little girl, I used to go to the five and ten with my mom. My mom didn’t drive, so we’d walk downtown — or at least that’s how I remember it. Though I loved walking up and down all the aisles to see everything this amazing store had to offer, the stationery aisles were always my favorite. If memory serves, that was where I found my flowered binder in fourth grade, splurging on pink looseleaf paper to put inside it.

Later in elementary school, I discovered the stationery store about eight blocks away from the five and ten — one big place that put single aisles of school supplies to shame. I could literally buy paper by the pound, a concept I'd never before imagined. I could mix and match by color, size and texture.

These days, I indulge my love of office supplies in the stationery aisles at Target and office supply stores. Though I've outgrown my affinity for pink looseleaf paper, as a writer, I'm particular about the pens and notebooks I use. My collection of notebooks, folders, sticky notes, pens and the like probably rivals what I found in those stationery aisles so many years ago. 

There are some loves we never outgrow.

About a decade ago, when I was teaching organizing by STYLE to my elementary school students, I brought a bit of my love of office supplies to my fifth graders. Each month, I offered a school supply giveaway, with one winner in each fifth grade classroom. This gave my students an opportunity to experiment with different organizational tools, but I got a payoff, too -- it was a lot of fun to watch my students get as excited about school supplies as I had at their age.  

These days, organizational supplies have moved far beyond binders and pink looseleaf, which is a boon to all of us who organize differently. In most areas, five and tens are long gone, replaced by dollar stores, office supply stores and, of course, Target and WalMart. Much as I enjoy my weekly trips to Target and my time spent wandering the stationery aisles there, it's not quite the same as meandering through the five and ten.

Finding the "just right" tool for each of our organizational needs can be a challenge but, for me, sometimes it's still as much fun as walking up and down the aisles of the five and ten.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

3 Keys Thursday: 3 Keys to Surviving a Six-Day Week

Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile
Last night, I crept up to bed after my husband was already asleep (the norm when a night owl marries a morning person). He stirred and, before rolling over again, wished me a happy November 1.

Suddenly, I was wide awake, and none too happy about it.

I am entering the month of six day weeks. I've got lots of good stuff going on, including spending this Saturday at the York Book Expo and going to a concert in New York City but, unless I make some adjustments, my writing time will take a beating (not to mention the stuff around the house I usually on Saturdays). The semester will be ramping up at the same time, too, and the holiday season is just around the corner. 

When it rains, it pours.

No matter how valuable or enjoyable the activity that leads us to "lose" one day out of the week, we can be left feeling behind schedule, and a tad stressed out in the week that follows as we try to "catch up."

When this happens, it's helpful to remember to do a few things as you tackle your "six-day week":

Breathe. Tension and stress do absolutely nothing to help us accomplish our tasks or reach our goals. In fact, they often do just the opposite. Breathe, try to relax, and tackle one thing at a time.

Triage. I'm not a medical professional, so my understanding of this term is limited to my extensive experience watching television medical dramas. Fortunately task triage is much less intense than triage in the emergency room, and boils down to three questions: Who matters most? What matters most? and What has a deadline?

I know, I know -- they all matter. It all matters. 

But you know what? It doesn't. Some tasks and some people take precedence. To quote Stephen Covey, "Put first things first."
Stop worrying about what you can't control. This includes other people being miffed because you didn't do what they wanted you to do. It's hard enough to make decisions about what comes first without trying to second guess other people's interpretations of your choices. And often, they're trying to make the same hard choices you are...which means they aren't even thinking about what you're doing.

I know. Easier said than done. The ideal situation is to have just the right amount of stuff to do each day with none that carries over into the next day, the next week, the next month.

Wouldn't that be wonderful?

But we aren't robots, and there's much more to life than checking things off our lists. Luckily, breaking out of routine -- especially if it's to do something fun -- can recharge us. From a time management perspective, it can make us more efficient as we jettison the stuff that's not so necessary in order to get the important stuff done. 

So, this week, I'm ramping up my writing time during the week to make up for the time I'll miss on Saturday. If I weren't on deadline, I might just label the Expo "writing related" and worry less about "lost" writing time. Even better, since we turn the clocks back this weekend, I'm recapturing an hour.

It's not much, but I'll take it.