Ready to celebrate?
When we think about the “holidays”, it’s generally the big ones in December that bring on stress and overwhelm. But for many of us, the true holiday season starts in November with the gathering of family and friends for Thanksgivings (or Friends-giving). Being organized can be the difference between enjoying the gathering and dreading the festivities. (Check out my blog post on being organized for the December holidays.) So, what’s the biggest challenge? Clutter. Start today in eliminating clutter. Start in a public space – the kitchen, living room, bathroom – whichever space will be getting a lot of traffic and scrutiny. This is NOT cleaning – that will come later right before guests arrive. De-cluttering is about removing anything that does not truly belong in that space and dealing with it now. If you wait until right before guests arrive to deal with this stuff, you’ll end up shoving it all into a closet or drawer or other space, perpetuating the issue. And don’t forget, the other holidays are coming in rapid succession…
Doing the “Sweep”
Deal with the stacks of paper that have been accumulating. Do a quick sort – recycle anything that is no longer timely. This includes newspapers, catalogs, notices, etc. Create a filing pile for anything that you need to keep (bank statements, insurance and medical information) but not act upon. The final pile is the ACTION pile which should be very small. This is anything you need to act upon – a bill to pay or an RSVP to send. Remove anything else that does not belong in that space. Books do not belong in the kitchen. Clothes and other personal items should be moved to bedrooms and put away. Resist the urge to dump items on the horizontal surfaces in a bedroom. Instead, put your clothes in the closets and bureaus – put it away, not down.
This is also a great time to go through front closets and do a sweep for items for donation. Coats and jackets outgrown or unneeded can go right out to open up that space for guests. Happy Thanksgiving!
Halloween is already in the rear view mirror. Which means that Thanksgiving, and then THE holiday season is right around the corner. Yup. I said it. Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the New Year in rapid succession. Do the coming holidays fill you with excitement and joy as well as dread and overwhelm? If you’re like most people, the holidays are a season of both fun and friction so here are some tips to stay organized over the holiday season to find more joy and less Grinch.
Write it down.
On the calendar. On a to-do list. On your gift list. Being forced to remember all the tasks and events we are responsible for is stressful. All through the year, we manage varying priorities in our work and home lives but the holiday time ramps that up significantly. With those additional responsibilities comes overwhelm. We don’t function optimally under stress so we forget things. By writing it down, we can plan and organize better. Add the company holiday outing to the family calendar. Jot down on your shopping list the baking and cooking supplies you need for the holidays. Keep your gift list handy so you can add the neighbor who kindly shovels you out every storm and pick up a gift card in appreciation. Don’t force yourself to keep all of this in your head because it’s noisy and crowded up there. Organize your time and projects.
Start now, today.
Yes, we hate seeing the winter holiday decorations in the stores in September and we vow not to jump into the over-commercialization of the season. And yet it’s not too early to plan and organize what you’ll be needing soon. Visiting a craft fair in the coming weeks? Pick up a few great holiday gifts. And yes, it’s okay to get duplicates of the same item because you don’t need to recreate the wheel for each gift. Will you need extra extension cords for the holiday lights? Pick up a couple of extra the next time you’re at the home improvement store so you’re not running around at the last minute.
Organizing and planning can go a long way in making your holidays merry and bright…
But it’s a good busy…
Do you ever run into a friend or acquaintance and when you ask “How are you? How are things going?”, the response is “busy”. Or “good busy”. So, what does this really mean? In our manic society that always seems time deprived, busy has become the new sign of success. If I’m busy, I must be productive. If I say I’m not busy, I’ll appear lazy and unmotivated. But is any of that really accurate? With many of my clients, and myself, we get lazy with our language and “busy” has become a catch-all phrase like “fine” or “good”. With our multiple responsibilities and often hectic lives, this phrase has become a shield and a barrier to deeper connection and an intentional life. As animals, we are hardwired for connection and we are most successful when we are engaged and involved with others – packs, tribes, clans, communities, etc. But the “busy” label keeps others at a distance and keeps us from that connection.
What the heck are we so busy doing?
There is no doubt that we are over-scheduled and our lives are very dissimilar to preceding generations. But it’s also true that we have more leisure time than ever before. In so many ways, our lives are so much easier than our ancestors and yet we act as if we are busy tilling the land, protecting the homestead and eking out a living – all not true. The question becomes: what am I busy doing? The answer is at the heart of intentional living – taking off “the badge of busy” and starting to rewrite the story of your life. Are you busy with classes, education, volunteering and vocational work? Great – that level of being busy should feel productive and satisfying. Are you “busy” with social media, Netflix and shopping that leaves you dissatisfied and unhappy? What can you do less of or differently?
If your default status is “busy” but you are unfulfilled, stressed and unhappy, it’s time for an internal audit. Revisit your priorities and start living intentionally.
What are you spending your time on now?
As an organizing coach, I help my clients rewrite the stories of their lives. We move from frazzled and overwhelmed to living a more calm, intentional life. To be organized and find more space, more time and more joy, time management is key. While there are lots of tools for time management like calendar systems, timers and “smart” electronics, first determine what is the real value of your time. Most of us don’t know the true value of our time so we waste it on unnecessary tasks that consume too much time, effort and resources. Break down a “typical” day into time chunks – morning, work/school, after school/work, evening, etc. Within those segments, pinpoint the tasks that you need to complete in each block. What tasks can you do best? Are you maximizing your time and effort or is there room for improvement? What tasks can be done better by someone else?
What can I outsource?
Most of us have a strong skill set that makes us effective and productive. And we all muddle through some tasks that we can outsource to make the balance of our time more productive and less stressed. Do you like to cook but hate to grocery shop? Transition the grocery shopping to another family member or use one of the many food delivery services available. Do you love Fido but getting in a long walk just doesn’t fit in your schedule most mornings? Give that task to a household member with more time and flexibility. Also, some folks spend their days walking dogs! Hire a professional dog walker or find a neighbor to hire or even better, barter services with.
There are a few tasks that we must do ourselves so figure out the best way to get it done. And know that there is someone, somewhere who will gladly take over the tasks that don’t fit in your schedule or skill set. Work to your strength and hire to your weakness. Welcome to the new service economy!
What is your biggest distraction? Is it the phone, email, social media, constant interruptions from others? Managing and minimizing distractions are key elements of time management and staying organized. Whether you are trying to focus on a project at work or complete a task at home, constant distractions slow us down significantly. Are you familiar with the term “activation energy”? Activation energy is the minimum amount of energy that must be available for a chemical reaction to occur. The principal is the same for the energy needed to get a project completed. To start a project, we need a certain amount of “energy” but once we get started, it is much easier to continue to completion. It’s the stopping and restarting continuously that slows our progress and expands our timeline. So how do I minimize distractions to keep my activation energy going?
“Do not disturb”
To keep focused on a project or task, you need to minimize your distractions by employing a “do not disturb” mentality. Set the timer on your phone for a reasonable length of time – 60 or 90 minutes. Then one by one, shut off or down those distractions. Turn the ringer off on your phone or set to “do not disturb” – don’t worry, the timer alarm will still go off. Minimize the taskbar which shows that a new email has come in. Place your phone upside down so you won’t see texts or notifications coming in. Are you concerned you might miss an “urgent” message? Set your phone to alarm after 20 or 30 minutes for a quick peek to be sure there is nothing that warrants your immediate attention. Are you in open office space and can’t close your door for a short period of time to work? Move into a conference room or put on earbuds to block out distractions.
You will be more productive and less stressed when you manage your time and distractions. Figure out what solutions work best for you to filter out your distractions and keep your activation energy going.
I’ll just check Facebook//Instagram/Pinterest for a minute…
Social media, in all of its manifestations, is a daily part of our lives. For anyone in marketing, sales or communications, it is a necessary evil. For the rest of us, social media can be a fun distraction, a communication tool and definitely a “time suck” which drains our time and productivity. Have you ever said “I’ll just check Facebook for 5 minutes” and you look up from the screen and an hour has gone by without your even noticing? Social media, for all its useful applications, is absolutely a rabbit hole that we all tend to fall into. In the workplace, the stakes and costs are even higher. Studies have shown a 13% loss in productivity in the workplace due to social media use which costs the economy billions each year. So how do I keep social media from being a time and productivity suck?
Put yourself on a social media “diet”
The Greek poet Hesiod urged “moderation in all things”. For all of us, social media must be limited if you want to remain productive and on schedule. Too much of anything is not healthy so put yourself on a “diet” of social media. Set a timer on your phone and when the timer goes off, get off social media. If you are truly on social media for work, write some bullet points on what you are doing and stick to your outline. Resist the temptation to click on interesting links or check out what others are doing and saying online. Like resisting cupcakes is good for your waistline, resisting checking out our friends’ feeds is good for your productivity.
Turn off social media notifications on your phone to keep from logging on all the time. Like Pavlov’s dog, we hear that little “ding” and think this is something we must check out immediately. Instead, set a time each day to go through your social media feeds and engage online. A couple of hours is not going to make a difference in liking a friend’s photo.