My clients often feel overwhelmed by the deluge of stuff that impinges on their physical space, their mental space, and their time. They feel they are constantly reacting to things instead of feeling like they are proactively planning ahead and taking control of situations.
Are you reactive or proactive when:
- Mail comes through the front door?
- Email arrives in your inbox?
- Stuff comes home from work?
- The laundry hamper is full?
Steps to being proactive vs. reactive:
- Calendar and complete tasks with fixed deadlines: Schedule and do the things that have to be done within their designated time frame. You probably don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute to sign up for health-care benefits.
- Create plans with clear procedures and checklists for repeated tasks: Making dinner, doing laundry, and paying bills and taxes all happen on a regular basis – whether it is daily, weekly, monthly or annually. Remove repetitive decision-making out of the process by having checklists.
- Set up a maintenance schedule: Build a maintenance phase into your planning and routines. If you have to file paperwork on a regular basis, build a maintenance phase into your process.
- Delegate tasks: With procedures and checklists in place (see point 2), you can hand off tasks and free yourself up to do something else that needs to be prioritized.
When you are able to check off all the things you have to do, you may just find time to start doing the things you would love to do!
It is all about:
- developing schedules and routines
You may also like:
I recently worked with a client who felt snowed under by everything that was happening in her life. By her own admission, she is an “ideas person” with her downfall being a lack of following through on her ideas.
There were piles of things that needed to be taken care of or put away in her home. But on closer examination, it was her computer that was causing her the most stress. Every day as she sat down in front of her computer, she was faced with more than 40 open windows in her browser.
This is some of the digital clutter she faced in the open windows:
- email notifications from stores about their latest products and sale items
- inspirational blog posts that she was in the middle of reading
- craft project ideas she thought might be fun to do
- web pages she needed to log in to, but couldn’t remember the passwords to
- contact information pages of service providers she need to call to schedule appointments
These are some of the things we worked on together to minimize her digital stress:
- Unroll.me: She unsubscribed from email notifications from 45 stores within a few minutes. The alternative would have been to unsubscribe from each store’s mailing list, which some people prefer, but there is more time involved.
- Pocket: She set up an account with Pocket and added the articles she wanted to read, but didn’t have the time for immediately. She can now catch up on her reading when she wants to and have all the articles she wants to read in one location.
- Hit delete: She decided to be honest with herself: Did she have the time and inclination to make her own terrarium, when she’d seen one she’d loved at the local gardening store? Sometimes you just have to let go and hit “Delete” or close a window and move on.
- Logins/Passwords: She is set up a password-protected document of every website she uses and added all her logins and passwords. Moving forward, she is investigating using LastPass.
Which “windows” do you need to close to move on and feel productive, successful, and stress free?
You may also like:
I often hear my clients say variations of, “Everyone else manages to use system X successfully. I have tried it a few times, but it never works. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
Reasons why systems fail
- Demonstration: Nobody has shown you how they use the system and if they make adjustments to suit their own needs and requirements.
- Lead person: The lead person isn’t identified. For example, if nobody is in charge of checking that the camping gear is always up to date, then everyone suffers. Put someone in charge.
- Training: Everyone who is part of the system isn’t shown what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.
- Testing phase: No time is allocated for a testing phase to see if adjustments need to be made.
- Support: The lead person doesn’t have support. Getting buy in from everyone who is part of the organizational system improves the chances of the system being a success.
Clients who succeed:
- Understand that change has to happen to make progress.
- Do not enter “erroneous data” into the system. These clients are honest about what they:
– can do
– are willing to do
– want to outsource because they don’t have the time or inclination to do
- Get the help and training they need. They understand that everyone isn’t born with every skill, but that skills can be learned, developed, and honed.
- Don’t make assumptions about an organizing system. They find out what the feasible outcomes are. Just as you can’t expect to make a soufflé if you don’t have the correct ingredients and don’t follow the techniques and steps required, an organizing system is less likely to work if you don’t have the right tools and strategies.
- Understand the need to test out a system thoroughly.
- Realize that a system that works for one person is not always not the best system for them and they are able to make a different choice.
Photo credit: © Image courtesy of Toa55 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
You may also like:
Have you ever found yourself patting your pocket or purse because you think your cellphone is ringing? Welcome to the world of phantom vibration syndrome (a.k.a. ringxiety): the sensation and false belief that one can feel one’s mobile phone vibrating or hear it ringing, when in fact the telephone is not doing so.
Take some time away from your phone. A regular digital Sabbath may be on the cards for you.
You may also like:
Being in the kitchen was never one of my strengths, but slowly over the years, I have faced my cooking demons and become more comfortable in the kitchen. However, I still have to overcome my roadblock of avoiding recipes that call for fresh chilies or yeast. Until recently, I couldn’t get past the roadblocks of using these ingredients. I had a fear of not knowing how to choose a fresh chili and then of how to de-seed it correctly (and remembering not to touch my eyes afterwards!). And with yeast, I had a fear of killing the yeast as I added water that was not the correct temperature and ruining what could have been delicious baked goods.
“I just can’t/don’t…” are often words spoken by my organizing and productivity clients.
- “I just can’t get rid of…”
- “I just can’t find the time to…”
- “I just don’t know how to…”
- “I just don’t know where to start…”
Roadblocks halt us in our tracks and stop of from being able to tackle tasks, move on, improve, and get ahead. Oftentimes, however, we are unable to identify the roadblock that is preventing us from being able to take the next steps. And when I am working with clients, I often find myself making recommendations like:
- call your tax accountant and ask them which paperwork you need to keep and then you can shred and reduce the amount of paperwork you are keeping
- contact your financial institution to find out the steps you need to take to rollover your 401K
- check in with your doctor to see which exercises are appropriate for your level of fitness so that you can move forward and improve your work/life balance
- ask your child which toys she is willing to part with so that you can downsize/declutter the toy room
If you are experiencing that “stuck in the mud” feeling of inertia:
- write down what you wish to accomplish – putting things in writing takes the swirling thoughts out of your head and makes them more concrete
- identify what is preventing you from reaching your goal, and then
- speak to a friend or colleague who has done what you want to do and find out how they achieved their goals – their input might be the exact inspiration and impetus you need to overcome your roadblock
In the case of my cooking case, I discovered chili pepper paste in the refrigerated aisle. It was a quick-fix solution to being able to add chilis to my food. In the case of the yeast, I have moved from using boxed cake mixes to using the tried and tested recipes on the product packaging. My most recent chocolate cake was not too shabby. Though I have yet to tackle a loaf of bread… baby steps.