It’s not what you think…I don’t have an “organized” garden, nor do I have organized spreadsheets listing all the perennials, the kazillion varieties of hosta, or even the annuals I need to buy… annually. Gardening is a passion of mine that I approach more with emotion and instinct than organization.

BUT! (yes, that’s a big “but,” not to be confused with a “big butt.”) I do approach the process of tending our gardens the same way I encourage my clients to tackle large organizing projects – using BABY STEPS. Yep, baby steps.

When Mother Nature finally delivered Spring weather to us, there was much for a gardener to do: rake, gather winter’s abandoned trash, weed, edge, thin certain plants, as well as some general examining and pondering. If I were to look at that as one giant task, I’d feel completely overwhelmed. Instead, I mentally separate our garden beds into sixteen sections. By breaking things down into sixteen parts and then sub-categorizing each part into tasks, it becomes much less intimidating. I tackle tasks based on my available time as well as the mood I’m in. See? Not particularly organized, but certainly more doable.

My husband and I are homebodies for sure. We enjoy eating dinner on the patio or relaxing in the hammock, cooled by a gentle breeze.  We work to entice birds such as hummingbirds, orioles, and catbirds to visit the feeders and flowers. We’ve even got two raised beds filled (this year) with kale, a variety of salad greens, basil, three kinds of peppers, tomatoes, and snap peas. Gardening isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is mine.

If you’d like to learn more about my “baby step” approach to tackling otherwise overwhelming projects, you can check out this blog post.

Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemies. Maybe not intentionally, but still, it happens. We set a common goal like one of these:

  1. “I’m going to lose weight.” 
  2. “I have to save money.”
  3. “It’s time to get organized.”

But before we know it, *poof* the goal falls by the wayside, and we don’t understand why.

Maybe it’s because our goal was kinda wishy-washy, not very realistic, or without a finish line.

The concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals was originally geared towards business management, but it can be applied to everyday life issues just as effectively. As you can see in the graphic, the acronym stands for:

SPECIFIC ~ MEASURABLE ~ ACHIEVABLE ~ REALISTIC ~ TIMELY 

When you apply this to goal #1, rather than saying, “I’m going to lose weight.” a SMART goal could look more like this: “I’m going to lose 10 pounds by October 1st.” It’s specific, it’s measurable, it’s achievable, it’s realistic, and it has an end date. You can then formulate a plan for achieving your SMART goal such as taking a 30-minute walk twice a day.

Goal #2, “I have to save money!” is pretty vague. Are you saving for a new pair of shoes or a new car? How much money will you need, and when do you want it by? Without those details, it’s nearly impossible to formulate an executable plan. Once you figure that out, you decide what money-saving actions can you take. Maybe you’ll make coffee at home and skip the drive-through brew every day.

“I need to get organized!” What exactly does that mean? Is your closet floor covered by a mountainous heap of clothes? Is your kitchen table buried under piles of unopened mail? Could you find a battery or a paperclip if your life depended on it? (← hey, MacGyver could, so can you!) You can make measurable progress by setting SMART goals for yourself.

For example, make a decision about five articles of clothing in that pile on the floor every day after work until the pile is gone, and hang or fold whatever you’re keeping. If you don’t have enough hangers, get some. If you need a dresser, set a SMART goal for obtaining one.

In order to tackle paper piles, you need to systematically chip away at the mail. “I’m going to open and process today’s mail AND take care of ten pieces of the backlog every day.” Start putting junk mail in the recycle bin immediately instead of setting it down in the pile.

You can turn a junk drawer into your “go-to” drawer in about 15 minutes: dump everything out, toss the trash, and use a drawer organizer to sort the “keep” stuff into “like with like” categories.

Positive wording is more motivating, so add a smiley-face phrase as the carrot to dangle when creating your SMART goals:

  • “When I lose ten pounds, my clothes will fit more comfortably!” 
  • “I am looking forward to buying a car next spring when I’ve got the down payment!”
  • “My morning routine will be easier when my clothes closet is organized!”

Being organized isn’t an issue for me, although I recently overhauled my office space to make things flow better.

As for money management, the former accountant in me deals with the finances pretty effectively and efficiently.

But the weight loss issue? Houston, we have a problem. At my annual physical last week, some blood work numbers weren’t good. My doctor threw down the gauntlet: I have six months to make an improvement, which can be accomplished through better diet and exercise. Do I want to deal with it? Ah, no – not really. BUT. Do I want to be healthier? You betcha – for a lot of reasons, and for lots of people in my life.

That’s not to say it’s going to be easy, but by setting SMART goals, I hope to address the problems before they get worse. Here’s a link to an interesting article from Harvard Health about making lifestyle changes. It’s not that we don’t know WHAT we need to do, it’s finding our way to the right HOW, and navigating around our sabotaging habits. Wish me luck, and stay tuned…

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It’s a fact: clutter can be overwhelming. buried in papers

Whether it’s a four-day pile of unopened mail or years of accumulated papers, there comes a point when tackling it becomes daunting.

Maybe it’s the hall closet filled with linens you no longer use. Perhaps the spare bed is overflowing with unworn clothes and you can’t muster the energy to separate what fits and is flattering from what’s outdated or no longer appropriate for your lifestyle.

Here’s the thing. The longer you wait for the perfect time or enough time to tackle the entire clutter project, the longer it’s going to build and build and nothing will get done and trust me when I tell you: clutter’s negative energy can affect you mentally, emotionally and physically. It can damage relationships, sometimes tearing families apart.

Fear not; I bring you tidings of great joy – well maybe not of great joy, but of hope. No matter how big your clutter issue is, it is not hopeless.

Stop looking at the big intimidating clutter picture and start breaking it down into manageable bits. Clutter’s ability to overwhelm diminishes when you chip away and begin to see progress. Remember that fable of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady can win the race.

Instead of thinking, “I need ten hours to open and process the mail,” try this: “Each day I will open and process today’s mail PLUS ten pieces from the backlog piles.”

If there are papers everywhere, gather ‘em up. Fill a bin or two or ten. Start sorting into broad categories: Shred/Recycle/Toss/File/Pay/To Do and dig in. Put on some music that will calm or energize you and focus for a set period of time. Make it a game: see how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes and do a little more tomorrow. Instead of just watching a sitcom, use that as a timer and sort a bin of papers. TV AND progress – win-win!

Don’t focus on the roomful of clothing. Get up 15 minutes early and try on three  items in the pile. Decide if you want to keep, sell or donate, then move on with your day. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If it’s a hodgepodge of clutter, pick something and gather “like with like” – all wrapping paper, all books, all seasonal decor, all garbage – whatever it is, gather it up and attack the room one “thing” at a time. Where should those books live? You can’t put something away if it doesn’t have a home…

Ok, that’s a blog post for another day so I’ll leave you with this “What About Bob” movie clip that I reference with clients all the time:

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Sometimes, even an organizer needs to tweak the way things get done. procrastination_thumb.jpg

Many people don’t realize I have a propensity for procrastination because I’m organized. I’m a great juggler, adept at prioritizing and meeting deadlines.

But. That doesn’t mean I enjoy scrambling around to ensure all the things that need doing actually get done. I know that with a little more proactive planning, I could eliminate the pressure that procrastinating creates.

I just re-watched a video by Robin Sharma, an internationally-known life and business coach titled “How I Beat Procrastination.”  I was probably avoiding one thing or another when I clicked the link; the irony of not doing what I should’ve been doing in order to watch something on procrastination is not completely lost on me. I highly recommend checking out the entire video, but to summarize, his 5 tips for beating procrastination are:

  • Create a vision board / dream collage
  • Go on a  30-day procrastination diet
  • Exercise with a focus on a second-wind workout later in the day
  • Create a distraction-free environment (Mess Creates Stress!)
  • Release your self sabotage (self-limiting beliefs) and rewire your brain

For the 30-day procrastination diet, he suggests taking a calendar and on each day for a month, write one thing you’ve been resisting doing and then…doing it.

It’s time for me to re-commit to this, but I tweaked it a titch: rather than using a calendar and trying to figure out which thing to write on which day, I format mine as a list titled, “30 Things in 30 Days.”  That way, I can do any one thing on any given day in any order I choose. The flexibility will work better for me.

Over the next few days I will compile my list, and my procrastination diet officially begins on September 1st. It will be a mixture of business and personal items I have been avoiding, ignoring, fearing, or pushing to the back burner for too long.

For my lists, I use the free computer program/app Wunderlist, which syncs with my Android phone. This allows me to review or update my list from either device. I like that it gives you a little check box to click on and, upon completion, draws a line through the item and moves it to the bottom of the page. It’s a psychological benefit to see the growing list of “done” things just as much as viewing the shortened list of to-do items.

At the end of the month, I’ll report on my progress. Anyone interested in joining me? You don’t have to share your list, but please share your intention to accomplish 30 things in 30 days with a comment! There’s strength in numbers…let’s do this thing.