While working with clients on managing their paperwork and filing systems, and/or time management/productivity we often come across very old (meaning over a year) TO DO lists.
Are YOU haunted by these? Know they are out there lurking to challenge and shame you? I AM!!!
Here are some thoughts to guide you as you contemplate your next move against these demons.
Option #1: Look at them
Option #2 Throw them out
Take an hour or two off and, armed with a legal pad or journal, bring those lists to a coffee shop/library or other secret hideaway. Review them in a loving, self-accepting way. Jot down any thoughts that arise.
Then, like you would with the old tub of cream cheese that is festering in the back of the frig, growing green and black molds, TOSS the old to do lists out.
Onward to what calls to you NOW!
As a residential professional organizer, I visit lots of homes. One household system that is quick to fall apart and overwhelm a person is LAUNDRY.
I have strong opinions on laundry:
• dark and light clothing should be separated (my children do not all agree)
• “laundry” is not done until it is all put away
You don’t have to share those views, but I see on a weekly basis how the “putting away” is where the system breaks down. Most of us are pretty good starting the laundry process. There is an obvious and inevitable external motivation to wash clothes when one runs out of clean socks or underwear. Many people are also decent at shifting the wet clothes over to the dryer. The widespread access to timers on our phones has made this step particularly easy for even the “follow-through-challenged.”
I see “laundry overwhelm” during the next 2 points in the system:
1) clean but not yet folded clothes that remain clean…until they get mixed with dirty clothes or buried under other stuff
2) folded clothes in baskets — when not returned to dresser drawers or closets they clog bedrooms and hallways and hold laundry baskets hostage creating a problem for dirty clothes who remain “homeless”
If we focus on these 2 connected steps along the process: 1) folding and 2) putting away and employ task batching, the process goes smoother.
Task batching is a way to manage time and perform tasks in sets where the same mental effort and physical energy is used to maximize productivity and streamline a process.
Even if laundry is not the most stressful task, any project you can simplify will free up your mind for the heavy lifting of life. If you’re a procrastinator, my suggestion to task batch your folding and put away steps is good news! It decreases the distance between start and finish and builds in lots of manageable size “loads.” More, but smaller tasks to quickly complete, offer the satisfaction of a job well done!
Task Batched Folding Steps would look like this:
• Sort clean laundry into categories: if you mix loads from a whole household, your first sort job will be by person, then by category of clothing (socks, underwear, shirts that fold, shirts that hang, bottoms, work out clothing, pajamas…etc).
• Prep each category so it’s ready to be folded (right any clothes that are inside out or button collars).
• Fold each category separately – meaning one category at a time – preferably on a clean and flat surface.
• Do all of your folding at once.
Will task batching your folding process solve all of your laundry dilemma’s? No — but folding by category allows you to delegate small pieces of the project to even the youngest helpers and lets others take pride in the smooth running of the household if you’re lucky enough to live with people who will “volunteer” or as in our household, be volunteered to help 🙂
Here are some strategies that can help. The example we’ll use applies them to paper clutter, but they can help you get moving on any clutter-busting project.
Often, seeing something concrete will get you moving, especially if you’re a visual person.
Professional organizers often apply the 80/20 Rule (a.k.a., the Pareto Principle or the Law of the Vital Few) to decluttering. For example, in a closet, determine the 20% of clothes you wear 80% of the time, purge the 80% of clothes you seldom or never use, and – voila! – you have space for clothes more like your favorite few.
The principle also applies to time. Most of us accomplish 80% of our best work in just 20% of our time, and fritter away 80% of our time doing…what? The key to really accomplishing our goals, to really making an impact, is to focus on the 20% of things we are really good at.
Determining our best 20% when it comes to clothes is pretty straightforward: pull everything out of the closet and start sorting: things I love (or not), things that fit (or not), things that make me look great (or not), etc.
But how do we determine our best 20% when it comes to work? Claire Diaz-Ortiz, in the book Design Your Day, suggests this similar pull-out-and-sort activity to find out:
First, get two pieces of paper. At the top of one write “Big Wins” and on the other write “Activities.”
On the “Big Wins” paper, list things that you’ve done in the past few years, personally or professionally, that have brought you the greatest joy, that have made you feel most alive, that have made you feel like you were in the sweetest of sweet spots. These could be things that happened just once, or continuing things.
On the “Activities” paper, list absolutely everything you do on a regular basis – fun or not fun, significant or not significant, necessary or unnecessary, whatever. Then sort these items into three categories: Things Only I Can Do, Things Someone Else Can Do, and Things I Should Stop Doing. (It might help to rewrite your activities on a fresh piece of paper with three columns headed with these categories.)
Next, cross-check. Things that appear on both your “Big Wins” list and your “Things Only I Can Do” list are your best 20%!
Now, set priorities:
As Diaz-Ortiz says, “ultimately, this activity is a mind-opening way to see where your time and work is really moving the needle and where you’re just running on the hamster wheel to stay busy.”
Let 2018 be the year where you focus on the few vital tasks that best get you to where you want to be.
80/20 your 2018!
The holidays are upon us! There’s so much to keep track of and so many things to do! How can this wonderfully busy time of year feel less stressful? Make a list! Or several!
I love lists! Just the act of writing a list helps me to feel like I have a clearer direction. A checklist is a concrete tool to help you empty your brain of all the things you need to remember…and then to prioritize them.
There are even more things to do and to remember than usual. I use different lists for each facet of the holidays.
If you like writing lists out on paper, keep one folder or notebook as a central location to record your plans. If you prefer going paperless, keeping documents stored on a computer or in a note-keeping system like Evernote is a convenient way to keep an ongoing record over the years.
The following are types of lists to help you stay better ordered as the activities and tasks fill your schedule:
Menus: Write out a list of the entire meal from appetizers through desserts, including those items being provided by other guests. That way, you have a comprehensive overview of the full meal and can fill in the gaps if there are any. Don’t forget to include drinks, paper products, flowers and table centerpieces.
Shopping list: Go through all the recipes you will be preparing and write out every ingredient into a grocery list. The key here is to write the food items according to sections in the grocery store. It helps dramatically when your list is ordered so you don’t have to revisit different sections of the crowded store.
Tasks: Write out all individual tasks required to prepare for the holidays so you can clearly see the extra demands on your time such as: cleaning the house, decorating, shopping for gifts, wrapping, and mailing gifts (by a designated date).
Holiday cards: Keep a master address list that you can update each year. Many people keep it in a format on their computer to print address labels. I like to sort names according to groups: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.
Gifts: Keep a list of all gifts you plan to purchase according to each person. In the margin, record the store or online vendor and price. You can plan your shopping route according to the stores listed.
Accessory shopping: While shopping for gifts, there are often other details easily overlooked. Designate a master list for details. For example, as you decorate your house or plan your holiday party, keep one list for all those particulars such as a replacement string of lights, a new set of holiday placemats, etc.
A Final Step
Your Calendar: Look through your lists regularly and write tasks into dates on your calendar in order to keep track of what is being accomplished. Write in your planner in pencil to make easy alterations or use an online calendar to easily move tasks around.
Remember: this is a busy time of year. Everything takes longer than expected. In the end, we may need to let go of a few tasks.
The ultimate goal is not to feel harried by the time the actual day arrives so you can enjoy the celebration with those you love!
As a Productivity and Organizing Professional, I am preoccupied with effective ways to calm the chaos in people’s lives. When I saw this short 3 minute video, I thought it was a great demonstration of how disorganization and chaos unfold without notice while everything falls into disarray and nothing gets done. If you can relate, then here are 8 easy suggestions to help calm the chaos in your life.
In the video, the chaos began when the actor put her keys down on the table to pick up the mail. In that moment, she lost her connection to her keys and shifted her attention to the mail. She no longer had a cognitive or tactile association with the keys. Her connection transferred to the mail instead. That loss of connection was played out over and over in the video as the chaos unfolded. She lost her awareness of her checkbook, the remote, her glasses and, ultimately, her ability to complete a task with ease.
If you must pick up the mail before putting your keys in their designated spot (create one if you don’t already have one), hold onto the keys. That is, stay connected to the keys while you are sorting the mail. Then, when your attention turns away from the mail, your keys will be in your hand as a tactile reminder that the task of putting your keys away is not complete.
If the actor had held onto her keys while she sorted the mail, or her checkbook while she walked to her desk and then to the kitchen with her warm Coke, both her keys and checkbook would have signaled to her that the task wasn’t done, and ultimately reduced the number of incomplete tasks left in her wake.
The video shows how random the actor moved from one task to another. What caught her attention became the next priority without thought or question. If this feels familiar, try counting to 8 slowly before you move from one task to another. This allows time to slow down and contemplate which task is more important and should be done first.
If the actor took time to stop and count to 8 before shifting from one task to another, she could have made conscious choices to either stop what she was doing and move to another task or not. Having time to choose lends itself to better outcomes and less chaos.
Taking on and practicing one or more of these suggestions, over time, will strengthen your ability to calm the chaos and be more effective, efficient and productive.
In oftentimes challenging situations loaded with minefields and judgments, have fun trying different ways to “stay connected” to a task. So I can’t forget things while I’m working, I wear a “task pouch” around my waist with pockets like a carpenter’s tool belt. In it is everything I need at my fingertips: phone, markers, scissors, and a pad and a pen to capture tasks to do and things to remember. This is my way of keeping worry and brain chaos at bay.
Be compassionate with yourself when taking on new practices. Misses and backsliding are common during any learning process.
If you find you need support, new ideas, a coach or a cheerleader as you take on new practices, give one of us a call. We would love to assist you in calming the chaos in your life!