Do you have an open loop in your life? What’s an open loop?! It’s basically an unfinished project that leaves you with those nagging don’t-ever-finish-anything-I-start blues.
But, you’ve never felt that way in your life, right?
Most people have a whole plate full of unfinished, half-started projects that began as good ideas and ended as guilty daydreams.
So, what should you do?
Well, first off, decide if it really needs to be finished or not. Probably many undone items can honestly be put by the wayside. If there are one or two that genuinely need to be finished, though, then set aside extra time in your daily routine to get them off your to-do list asap. And then do it. Close those loops! Get rid of the guilt!
Now, what about the rest of them? If you’re truthful with yourself, most of them are probably okay to let go. But, that might be harder to do than you first think? Why? It should be easier to take things off a list than it is to put them on one, right?
Not always. As long as something’s on your list, it’s still in that magical realm of possibility. Maybe you really will go to France one day, refinish that old table or invent that next big app. But, at this point, just maaaaybe you won’t. It’s actually kind of freeing to let go of those one-day-I-might-do-it dreams. Who knows, one day you really might. But for now, time to scratch them off and be honest with yourself so you can create a more realistic goal.
Don’t think of it as giving up your dreams. Think of it as coming up with ones that are genuinely achievable. Wouldn’t it feel better to aim for president of your neighborhood association than president of the USA if you’ve never even run for the senate yet? It doesn’t mean you won’t ever open your own business, become mayor or make a million when your stock finally goes public. It does mean, however, that in the mean time, you’ll get that good feeling that comes from actually accomplishing your goals and not just dreaming of them. (And feeling like a loser when they’re just too hard to accomplish right now.)
So, what’s a good way to finally let yourself let go of those just-can’t-accomplish-them-right –now-dreams? How about a R.I.P. file?
Whether it’s a computer file, manila file or file thirteen, consider grouping all the items together and giving them a proper burial. Why? Because part of what’s kept you from admitting you can’t realistically do them is that some part of you may still need to grieve that lost part of your life that is (at least for now) not to be.
Is some part of you still determined that you can really learn to refinish furniture even though you have had that table for ten years and it’s just collecting dust? Whether it’s an around the world trip or being the richest CFO under twenty-five, some things may have honestly passed you by. But, that’s okay. Once you grieve it, you can let it go. And, what’s more important, you can set better, more realistic (and thus more enjoyable) goals as these others, honestly, probably just left you feeling empty inside.
So, get ready to deliriously delete some of those old, out of date dreams to make room for truer, more incredible ones to come. Pick an item, grieve it, and delete it. If you start today, you now have the rest of your life to try out all those new ideas that have been percolating in the back of your brain waiting for their chance to finally come alive.
I know this sounds crazy (and maybe it is) but sometimes I think there's a link to how we're feeling inside and the surroundings we create around us. It's more than just if we're depressed we may not be keeping up with our work, housekeeping or bill paying.
There's something intrinsic about being in the flow of life that seems to make other things work much more easily. You've experienced that before. If things are going well at work, you have more patience with your kids. Since you have more patience with your kids, then their behavior "magically" improves. Since their behavior is improved, you're calmer. Which makes you more serene at work and improves your peformance there.
It's that sort of positive cycle that we want to create with our surroundings in our businesses or home offices, not to mention our homes themselves.
Now, when I say spirituality, I don't mean one specific religion or belief. I do mean feeling that (as much as possible) all's right with the world and you're headed on the path that you yourself need to be on. That's hard for others to determine for you. One person may be destined to be a poet, while "temporarily" working as a ceo. Another may currently be a maid, but ultimately be destined to be an actress. Our outside appearance to the world does not always meet up with what our ultimate destinies are.
A status check that we can do, though, since we can't always measure by how well the world says we're doing is this: Am I stressed? Is my home or business therefore distressed? (Or maybe, you feel it's the other way around, that one causes the other) Either way, it's a sign to take a moment and think about if you're getting what you need in life.
Are you giving too much? Is that why you don't have a moment to sit down and pay those bills that would help you settle debt that would allow you to move into the next step of your life? Are you underearning? Are you not valuing your labor to the point that you must exhaust yourself trying to make ends meet? Or, maybe you have a different idea of what's troubling you on a level that's hard to discuss with others.
Regardless, what's a tiny step you can take to bring a bit more serenity into your life? So tiny it doesn't even count is just fine. (Those are often the most important changes, believe it or not) Can you take a small break in the middle of work for a much needed snack to bring your blood sugar up? If you do that, you might find you don't avoid that next project lined up on your computer as much. And, since you're not feeling guilty and overwhelmed by that, you might even put things back on your desk where they belong.
Similarly, if you can find a way to practice whatever type of spirituality, philosophy or religion that means something to you during your day, you may find it helps you keep a bit more organized. Those happy thoughts, meditations or prayers can be like the snack that brings your blood sugar onto an even keel. You don't even realize you need it until it's too late. So, why not act first? Do a little something nice for yourself, take a moment once an hour or so to just refocus on whatever you believe in to help keep you feeling loved and safe during your daily work.
Your business (and your family) may just thank you for it.
Did you remember to reset your clocks this past weekend? I didn't! I did, however, reset my closet. A lot of folks use the time change to remind them to change the batteries in the smoke alarm. Why not use the same day to remind you revisit your closet?
Spring is a great time to purge. Or, if you're not ready or willing to do that, then consider putting away your winter clothes and giving the spotlight to your warmer weather clothes.
The large plastic boxes from the discount stores are a great storage alternative for your winter clothes. There is a slight controversy here, though. Some folks think you should not store clothes in airtight containers, while others feel it's the best way to keep critters, crumbs and kids out. (We'd love to hear which side of the controversy you come down on)
However you choose to store them, get your winter clothes out of your closet as soon as you can. Why? It's time to start a new approach to how you organize your current season's outfits. What's the new twist?
This time, hang up all your clothes with the hanger facing backwards. When you've worn it, then hang it back the normal way. At the end of the season, you'll have an easy time telling instantly which clothes you've worn and which you've ignored all season long. (Thus making them easier to delete by donation!)
It's also a good idea to consider which styles of clothes you look best in. You may unconciously already be doing this. The Stuff Whisperer went through her closets and got rid of all her jewel necked shirts. She realized one day that she'd avoided wearing t-shirts because that particular neckline was unbecoming to her. In total, she was able to jettison 70 plus tops that didn't make her look her best.
What styles do you avoid? A certain neckline? Cap sleeves? Mid length skirts? If you can figure out the type of clothes you can avoid, you can not only figure out what probably doesn't suit you, but also declutter your closet at the same time.
How on earth do you make changes in your life when you don't even have time to water the plants? Sometimes the tiny steps you need to take to make a difference in your life take far less time than you think. Often, procrastinating or worrying about a change takes far longer than the actual change itself!
Have you timed yourself lately? Some of the chores you hate most may take far less time than you expect. How long does making your bed really take? Pull up the covers: 15 seconds. Fluff the pillow: 5 seconds. Put back the throw pillows: 3 seconds.
Of course, your time may vary, but the point is, really, time yourself! Whether with your phone, an egg timer or however else you choose, time the chores you hate most. You might be surprised.
Once you know how long they actually take (as opposed to how long it feeeeeeeeels like they take) you'll be more willing to at least begin them. And, by just beginning a one or two minute chore, you're already half way done!
You may not like your tasks, we can't promise that, but if you can just get yourself started, you'll be done in no time.
Now that you've gotten the hang of timing yourself, what else can you time? How about your worries? If a problem keeps bothering you and you can't get anything else done because you're worried about it, give yourself five minutes and worry to your heart's content. Moan and groan and do whatever else you need to! Then, when the buzzer goes off, STOP. You're done. You've done your worrying for the day.
Ready to start timing another aspect of your life? How about giving yourself a reward break in the middle of a much hated task? Set the timer to remind yourself to take a break, then take it! Don't avoid it because you're "really not done yet." Then, enjoy your break. And, when the buzzer goes off again, get back to your task. By knowing that you really will get back to your project, it can help relieve the guilt of taking a break.
When you're in a hurry and running out of time, that's the most important time to take a breath and slow down. Taken moment by moment, you have more time in your day then you realize. Time really is on your side!
Doesn't it always seem like you need to hear the latest news, download the newest book or read every email within moments of it being sent? Yes, we need information. But sometimes, older information is actually better. Or, at least wiser.
In the search for all that is new, you may be ignoring one of the biggest resources in your life. Your elders. In a small New England craft store, a woman teaches her customers to knit and crochet, for free. They buy materials, create their projects at home, then lug them back up to her to unscramble when they get confused.
She's been helping out her customers like that for years, even as her business has gone up and down with the influx of Walmart and other chains. Some of her customers who originally left for Walmart when it was new and cheap have now come back to her as even Walmart can't supply what they really need. Expertise.
A younger generation is learning to craft and do handwork now that didn't grow up with mom and pop stores. They are surprised that someone would care if they get a project home and can't complete it by themselves. And, that the same person who sold them the yarn would later actually help them untangle their mess.
Though she may not have the bankroll of Walmart, the craft store owner does have the respect and loyalty of her customers.
The Stuff Whisperer remembers her grandfather being a loyal customer of a mom and pop store in his own neighborhood and reaping similar rewards.
It was during the Depression and my grandfather didn't have a lot. Whenever he went shopping, he always said hi to the produce man. It was a ritual and they became almost like friends. I remember whenever my grandfather went in, he got to sample the freshest fruits hand picked by the one person who knew them best.
It's in small ways like this that we build a community, unknowingly trading a smile and a hello for a fresh watermelon or a knitting lesson.
We don't say hi to someone or ask how they are to get something back later. But, by doing that, we have invested something in them and begun to treat them as an individual. Whether that “hello” bears fruit later on or not, does not really matter. Either way you've done your small part to build a community around yourself.
Share your stories of community with us. We'd love to hear from you!
Frustrated because all your New Year's resolutions are falling by the wayside? How can you keep yourself on track as painlessly as possible?
It's time to not just kick an old, bad habit but add a new one. You need the habit of habits, so to speak.
What can habits do for you? They don't just change your life, they keep it changed. You know how to keep a bad habit, but how do you obtain a new one?
It takes twenty-one days to form a new habit, one that actually sticks. Start small. To keep your new habit of creating habits, you don't want to jump in too fast.
What is one thing you can realistically promise yourself you'll keep doing for the next twenty-one days? Don't think extravagant. Think small. Tiny, even.
Too tiny to count is just fine. It's more important that you keep the promise twenty-one days in a row than it is that it's a difficult promise to keep. You want success your first time out.
Got your promise? Need another moment to think about it? Okay. Found one that's small enough to be do-able? Let's begin.
How will you keep it up the next twenty-one days in a row? What practical groundwork can you lay in place now so you'll have an easier time of it each day with your new habit?
Is your new habit to eat less salt? Can you right now go and take the salt off the dining table? That way, even if you add salt while cooking, it'll be harder to add it while eating.
Is your new habit to take the trash out of the car each day? Can you right now go and put a plastic grocery bag in your glove box? That way, when you fill up with gas or come in at the end of the day, you can gather up odds and ends with no problem.
Maybe your goal is saving money. Don't wait until you miraculously save up a bazillion dollars toward your dream vacation. We're just building habits right now. Choose something small and attainable. To start your habit of saving, stick an extra change purse in your bag. (Even a ziploc will do.) Each time you get change back from a purchase, deposit the change into your new "savings account."
Whatever your new habit is, lay the groundwork right now so that tomorrow (and for the next twenty-one days) you have a good dance of genuinely putting your new habit into practice.
If your new habit works, or even if it doesn't, write us and let us know. We'd love to hear from you.
We just celebrated Martin Luther King Day which not only reminds us to dream for ourselves but for society as a whole. However, change can't happen on a personal (or world wide) level unless we learn to focus our dreams into goals.
But, how do we even know what our true dreams are when they've been so watered down by the trials of daily life?
One useful tool is the vision board. Liz is co-facilliating a workshop Saturday, January 21 to help people learn to use this valuable technique. For those of you who can't make it to the workshop, you might want to try making one at home yourself.
Gather together some old magazines, a piece of cardboard, scissors and a glue stick. (And a cup of coffee, if you like) Sit down with the magazines and cut out words or photos that resonate with you. Don't worry about why you like it or what it means to you right now. Just go with your gut and cut out the pictures and words you are drawn to.
Now, begin arranging them on the cardboard. Do you want to group them into themes? Or, perhaps you prefer a mishmash of color and action? Either way, you're half way through.
Once you've settled on your design (or lack of it, as the case may be), glue the pictures down. Now, take a sip of coffee and look (gently, please) at your new creation.
If you tend to be too hard on yourself, you may want to pretend it's someone else's at first.
What ideas stand out at first glance? What does this person seem attracted to? Are there certain words or pictures that are repeated? Are there any interesting juxtapositions of words and images that strike you as symbolic?
Use your new vision board to help you acknowledge your dreams for yourself. Once you've gotten an idea of what they are, you're that much closer to making them happen.
Well, it's the new year and time for those pesky resolutions. But, what if you could bypass the resolutions (at least for now) and simply ask yourself a few questions? As long as your answers are honest, you'll have a good idea of how you did last year and what you can expect in 2012.
David Allen is well known for being the one who can ask just the right question. For an easy shortcut, let's follow his advice. First, he focusses on several areas. You can be brave and attempt them all at once, or just dip your toe in and pick a few. No one's watching.
(c) Liz Logan
Like many Americans, we've been remodeling and decorating our home, intending on completing it before family comes to visit in December. We started in earnest the second week in November, so wanted to set an ambitious pace. Tomorrow we will be hanging the art on the newly painted walls and setting up our "media corner." Last night DH told me that will symbolize the end of our first round, except for the curtains, which I am picking up today.
When I tell people I'm a professional organizer, they often ask me if my house is organized. Then I must confess: it's an ongoing battle, and the front lines are always moving. For the last couple of weeks, my office has been the site of several skirmishes. My opening salvo was a horizontal file cabinet, purchased at the Goodwill for $19.91. I have kept my eye out for one of those for a couple of years, so when I saw a nice one, I procured it for my arsenal. It enabled me to empty out four file crates that have been standing in for something more permanent. I'll post some pictures of the process on the "before and after" page. Here's a teaser:
about Liz Logan
I'm a professional organizer in Atlanta, fighting the good fight on my own home front and sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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"[The Office Makeover] has made such a difference!" -RA