time management

Work Life Harmony...it's more than a balancing act

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Or so the song goes.

How often do we hear people say, "My life is crazy busy right now?!" To me, it's a badge of honor that comes with a price. What if we focus upon giving ourselves permission to let some things go, and commit instead to nurture harmony within our hearts and within our lives? Could this shift in thinking pave the way to a more peaceful sense of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays? I say, "Yes!"

Less-Stress Organizing Solutions Blog

This season, I've decided to lessen my grip on balance and redirect my energies toward harmony.

What do I mean by this?!  Do you remember the movie, "One Fine Day?" It is a story of a single mom (Michelle Pfeffier) in New York City who has trouble letting anyone help her. There is a scene where the protagonist (George Clooney) offers assistance which she flatly refuses saying, "I've got all these little balls up in the air and if someone catches one of them for me I will probably drop them all." 

I can certainly relate to her statement. The thought of a milion balls crashing around me is overwhelming. Yet, if I don't delegate, prioritize, and share the load, they will fall despite my best efforts. There are not enough hours in the day, as Michelle's character also learned.

By definition, balance is a point between two opposing forces. Balls up, must come down, and this juggling takes constant effort. Harmony, on the other hand, takes a slight detour on a gentler path. Finding a pleasing arrangement of parts, or harmony, requires attention to the details, a vision for the bigger picture, and a willingness to edit. Ask anyone who has been a part of a vocal group. 

Moving past balance to the place of harmony allows us to be completely present and immersed in whatever we are doing whether it is a work project, a meeting, watching a movie, or ice skating by the sea. All deserve our full and undivided attention. 

Just as you declutter and purge stuff you no longer use or need, your schedules and task lists require the same refresh. This is a good time of year to make space in your days to savor and slow down, to be selective when saying yes to social gatherings and festivities, and to leave time for the unexpected. 

Here's what I will keep on my list: self-care and daily activities that provide stress reduction and health benefits, connection to the people I cherish, conversations with stake holders before making decisions, current work commitments, and, a few weekend days for merriment for its own sake. I already feel better with this plan.

This weekend began a little rough. I was fighting a virus. Yet, it turned out to be the perfect time to put my "holiday harmony" plan into action. I worked from home, rested and took a few breaks; and, when I felt a little burst of energy, I made space for a few of my favorite holiday traditions, lights and decorating the Christmas trees. 

A few little trees near my kitchen.

A few little trees near my kitchen.

I expect to find that my quest for harmony will lead to more joy and less stress this year. It is my wish for you as well.

Happiest holidays!

Overcoming Procrastination...Habits Worth Having

We all want to work smarter, not harder, to feel accomplished, successful, and significant in our work and at home. And yet, we get in our own way when we put off doing the things that are the most important and most likely to move us toward our goals. Whether or not you consider yourself an organized person, we all experience times when we procrastinate.

Fortunately, procrastination is not a fatal flaw; it is just a habit that can be changed by substituting it with better ones.

So what does this look like? There are foundational skills and patterns that have a positive influence on most of us regarding procrastination. Motivation is what gets us started and moves us into momentum. Habits of working at our peak performance times, conquering fear of failure and anxieties, and setting up productive work spaces are all important in maintaining momentum. And yet, we procrastinate. Why?

We procrastinate when we lack focus or direction.  You wouldn’t just get in your car and start driving and expect to arrive on time to your destination if you haven’t determined where and when that is.

The first step is making a plan.

We all know that written goals are more likely to come to fruition. I begin each year with a free-formed list of all the ideas and goals and tasks as they come into my head. I don’t worry about content, order, or structure at this point. Once I have 100 things written down, patterns emerge and I begin to see what is important for the year ahead.

The second step is to be clear about your core values (i.e., compassion) and your business mission (i.e., inspiring others to find more joy and less stress as they manage their belongings, their living spaces, and their time).

Your core values really don’t change much from year to year, but reviewing them is useful as you decide where and with whom to spend your time, money, and energy. Your mission statement should reflect who you are now and who you are becoming. When these are in alignment, moving forward into action becomes easier, and you will have a clear direction.

I look at my 100 Things list and ask myself if the things that are listed are congruent with my core values. If they are, they stay on my list (i.e., attend NAPO National Conference). If they are incongruent, I know they won’t be a priority for me – and that is okay. It doesn’t mean that I don’t do them, but they fall lower on my list of priorities.

Next, I look for the tasks that can be easily scheduled onto my calendar. Writing them down is a commitment to yourself, and allows you to move on to the more difficult task of breaking down the projects on your list into manageable steps.

For me, mistaking projects for tasks is the primary reason I get stuck. When the big picture is broken down into manageable tasks, I feel more in control of my days, and by extension more successful.  And I feel a sense of accomplishment and completion. By breaking down projects into tasks, I have learned to appreciate how much time it truly takes to do certain things and have become more reasonable in making lists and prioritizing my time.

Finally, we procrastinate when we lose sight of the big picture and allow perfectionism to cloud our judgment. It is important not to make assumptions and to gather the information that we need to make intelligent decisions about our work and personal lives. But continuing to overthink and over-analyze, allows us to put off the difficult task of making a decision when we already have what we need. Be confident in your ability to make decisions. Trust yourself. Get back to the task at hand.

Remember, what is delayed is often forgotten. Make your lists. Schedule your time. Break it down into component parts. Keep going. Do this every day until it becomes second nature. These are all habits worth keeping.

Priorities and Peak Performance...timing is everything!

Prioritizing is a bit like eating a green frog, which, according to Mark Twain, is "best done first thing in the morning." That's fine if you are a morning person and tremendously disciplined. But, I have to wonder if Mark Twain was a morning person, because eating a green frog at any time of the day is challenging much less on an empty stomach.

I propose that tackling your priority, or your highest value task, at your peak performance time has the highest return of satisfaction in the least amount of time. And, that leaves you more time in your day to pause and reflect and smell the roses. But more on that later!

Scheduling my highest priority task in the morning is important because I AM a morning person. Putting off an important task until later in the day is a bit like hanging a 100 pound weight over my head by a tiny thread. It hovers and threatens and demands my attention. I have noticed that when I don't begin my work day with my highest value task, I am much less productive and easily distracted all day until I pause, focus my energy on the most important thing, and get it done. Once I follow my own advice everything else seems to fall into place.

But what if you work best later in the day? I ask you to seriously consider what times of the day you do your best work. Consider when your energy for tackling mental work is at its peak, and when your physical energy is at its peak.  Even when your most important task is something you are anticipating with great enthusiasm, it can be  difficult and actually take more time than allotted if scheduled during your lower peak times.

Breaking your projects down into tasks is an excellent beginning to organizing your time. It is equally important to plan your most difficult tasks when you have the mental and physical energy to match the task at hand. Once you have established your patterns for productivity, you can block out those times on your calendar using them for your most important tasks. Eventually this habit will become second nature and you will thank yourself daily. And, perhaps, you will even have a little time left to savor a few pages of a book at the end of your day!

Tasks vs. Projects...Making a list, and checking it twice

This is the time of year that people tend to feel an increase in stress. As much as we love the holidays, and family gatherings, and all of the merriment, we may find it difficult to get everything done. Our lists are longer than usual and intimidating at times.

According to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, "...much of the stress that people feel doesn't come having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they start." I cringed when I first read this, because like so many people, I, too, get caught up in believing my stress comes from having too much to do. But after I thought about it, I concluded that I also say, "Yes!" when perhaps I should say, "Not this time!" or "Let me think about it and get back to you." AND, I hate to admit it... I don't always finish what I start.

By this, I mean, if my plan for the day includes a project, I am setting myself up for failure. This is true, not because I am incapable of completing an entire project, but rather because projects contain a broad range of tasks some of which may need to be spread out over days and weeks and months.

When the big picture is broken down into manageable tasks, I feel more in control of my days, and by extension more successful.  And I feel a sense of accomplishment and completion. By breaking down projects into tasks, I have learned to appreciate how much time it truly takes to do certain things and have become more reasonable in list making and prioritization of time. But, more on priorities later. 

For now, one strategy to reduce stress, is to know the difference between a project and a task.

 A project is a multi-step idea or commitment with a specific outcome. 

 A task is one step and can be time limited. 

For example, the tending of my gardening is an ongoing, project with tasks added frequently. My garden does not care that Thanksgiving is weeks away and that I have shopping and decorating and travel plans to arrange and pumpkin bread to make!

And, I am not overwhelmed by my garden this time of year, because I am patient with the process and know that time spent there helps me stay calm and centered during the holidays. And, yes, in Southern California, roses are still in bloom, so there is work to be done outside.

There are days when I feel more motivated by a time limit, and will make the task time sensitive, such as "15 minutes deadheading roses."

There are days that I have more flexibility in my schedule and may choose to "deadhead flower beds backyard" however long it takes me. But, my garden tasks will be on the same list as my holiday tasks and my work tasks and, well, you get the idea.

Take a good, hard look at what you are asking of yourself, and then review again. Take the projects on your list and break them down into one step tasks that can be put on your calendar.  Tasks WILL get done, and by extension, so will your projects!

 

 

Time Management..."Today, I will deadhead my roses!" she said.

I love our home gardens! They are not perfect and would not suit everyone, but they suit me and isn't that the point?!

What does this have to do with time management, you ask? Everything! The rose bed that greets me every time I drive up to my house was dropping petals yesterday and in need of a little TLC. I come from a long line of green thumbs, so knew just looking at it that 15 minutes would transform this little space that brings me such joy.

As I tended my roses this morning, my neighbor's words came back to me and I would like to share them with you now.

She commented to me several months ago when I was outside gardening, saying "That looks pretty, but I DON'T have time to garden!" I felt judged and dismissed.  I also smiled to myself and went back to my task. Because what she doesn't understand, is that this is not a chore for me.

It is a time that I set aside to clear my mind, to be grateful for my life and all that is good and to step away from my busy day to day and just breathe. You could say that this 15 minute break in my day is actually prayer time for me.

We ALL have 24 hours in each day and it is up to us how we use that time. Carving out a few minutes every day to do something that reenergizes you physically and mentally and renews your sense of gratitude is a good idea. How will you spend your day?!



Spring Cleaning...time for joy, time for cheer

Finals, projects, graduation and end of the year dance recitals signal summer vacation is quickly approaching! Cherished rituals all!! And then summer slips in as a sweet reward for all the hard work.

I LOVE summer, the change in routine and the opportunity to shift focus. My goals for this summer are to have a clean pallet to begin with and to truly embrace the summer months with my family. I won't be bogged down by the clutter this year...having done so much to open the spaces, makes cleaning a quicker process and leaving tables and surfaces available for new experiences...sewing projects, trying new recipes, and exploring our beautiful city and beyond, camera in hand!

So today I am in full cleaning mode, gloves on, buckets and rags ready. Yes, I could hire someone else to do this for me, and have done so when I could not clear my schedule, but there is something to be said for the immediate gratification gained from doing it yourself. Ideas for changes and tweaks in each space occur to me as I move through the house. Not quite a runner's high, but similar.

Stopping to make changes that can be implemented immediately is a choice that I make, so cleaning is not a straight line for me as I interrupt myself often. I accept this and actually enjoy the process more making a game of it all.

For instance, I am sitting here blogging, gloves still on because, I am, honestly, heading into the bathroom that my teenagers use. I am listening to downloads from American Idol and Smash. Aaaahhhhh...lovely ear candy!!

Keeping your favorite tools handy means you can just plunge in when the day opens up. No need to run out to the store which is important for someone like me who is easily sidetracked. : )

Here are a few of my must-haves, beginning with the most important:

music (cranked up loudly)

thin, disposable gloves (saves my hands)

Swiffer dusters

clean rags

sponges

buckets

Mrs. Meyer's lemon cleaning solution (smells like heaven and environmentally          gentle)

 

Wish me luck! And as always thank you for visiting my blog. Feedback is welcome!