Archive for the ‘focus’ Category

Pursue Your Hobby to Improve Your Work

June 29, 2016

Do you have a hobby or sport that you love? My brother loves to play golf. I know that several times a year he and his wife travel to play golf. They combine their love for golf with their love for travel. It’s a win/win. Even though he works at this sport – perfecting his swing, strength training and more, I’m sure – he finds this a great distraction from his regular work. Playing golf allows my brother to focus on something else. Interestingly, having this other outlet makes his focus at work that much greater.

I love to dance. I’ve always been involved in one way or another with dance.  For the past four years I’ve been studying ballroom dancing. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I’ve been taking ballroom dance lessons and learning the intricacies of this beautiful art – which is also a sport.

There is so much to learn. When I first started taking lessons I thought; great! I’m mastering these steps. My instructor started off teaching me what I thought I already knew – the waltz. We moved from there to the foxtrot and the tango. Great! And then I learned that there was more to this than just moving my feet correctly. My instructor taught me about the continuity of the dance, the rise and fall, the sway, the timing, the musicality and the list goes on…

I went from a lesson a week, to several lessons, to where we are now – practicing 10 hours a week. That works out to be five 2 hour sessions.  I also decided to start competing at ballroom dance competitions. This is an amazing experience. I get to dress up in beautiful ball gowns and demonstrate that which I’ve learned on a huge dance floor, dancing with other beautiful dancers and being judged by a panel of professional ballroom dance judges.

In fact, I just came back from a competition in Orlando. It was fabulous! My partner (also my instructor) and I competed in three different styles of dance: American Rhythm (Cha-Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero, Mambo), American Smooth (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz), and Standard (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz, Quickstep).

It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.

I’m telling you about this because I believe that participating in something other than what I do professionally allows me to cultivate different sets of skills. I’ve always had a good memory but learning so many different dances and dance styles requires me to focus and memorize dance positions as well as dance steps.

Pursuing this hobby lets me come back to my work refreshed, refocused, and ready to purse my other passion which is creating organizing solutions which work for my clients.

102, Julio Aguirre_M2016_30322What do you do that is different from your work? Do you have a sport you’re passionate about or another hobby? Write me back and let me know.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

April 27, 2016

It’s not unusual to feel a bit overwhelmed at this time of year. Why? Well, if you have children there are all the end of year school activities. These include awards ceremonies, class parties, prom, graduation ceremonies and parties, athletic competitions and the list goes on. If you don’t have children the groups you belong to may be winding down, finishing up activities.

Then there is the yard. If you live in the South you may be changing out the winter annual plants and replacing them with the spring/summer colorful annuals. If you live in the North you may be guarding the tender perennials that are just starting to grow. In fact, yesterday my sister told me they were expecting snow in Vermont. She was concerned that the plants that were poking their heads out of the ground might be damaged by freezing temperatures!

What to do about this feeling of having so many things to do and a finite amount of time?

First of all, BREATHE!

When I’m feeling this way, overwhelmed, I sometimes forget to take deep breathes. How about you?

Start by getting out your calendar and noting all the due dates.

Then get out a sheet of paper and write down the steps you need to take to bring each event to completion.

Some events may just be a matter of getting there on time. Others may need you to take some actions – like buying or making cookies for a class party or planning a pre-prom parent party!

Once you have broken each of these tasks down into steps get your calendar back out and schedule those steps into your planner. Take into account your regular chores and activities and be sure to allow travel time or set up and clean up time.

I know that this is something I have just done for myself as I was feeling overwhelmed by all the little tasks I have to complete in the next few weeks. I was definitely feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared. Writing everything down and breaking the tasks into their steps helped me. I hope it helps you too.

 

Now, what did you do this year?

December 30, 2015

 

Happy New Year

As the new year is dawning and 2015 is drawing to a close I want to take a little time to reflect back on this past year. I do this to remind myself of the many things I accomplished. Sometimes it’s easier to remember the things that have gone wrong, to focus on the things left undone.

I think back through the year month by month. I keep a paper calendar so this is a fairly easy task. I can look at the weeks and see the appointments I kept, the places I went and the projects I worked on.

I believe if you keep an electronic calendar you can set it to keep your schedule for the year. I hope this is true because it’s so helpful to be able to look back.

As I look back on the year that was I can celebrate the things that went well and learn from the things that did not go as well as I would have liked.

I encourage you to take some time over the next couple of days to look back on this year. Write down your accomplishments. Think about the things that you would like to have done better.

I have decided to make a change in one of my habits. I realize upon reflection that I tend to put off the housekeeping side of my business. I fit in all those little tasks in and around other things. I don’t think my business really suffers but I know that I don’t give it the attention it requires to grow. I’m going to change this in 2016 and dedicate a few hours every Monday morning to these business tasks.

Is there something you would like to change in 2016? Write me back and let me know.

Remember to celebrate your accomplishments from 2015 and have a fun, safe and Happy New Year!

 

Feeling Overwhelmed?

February 18, 2014

What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Do you walk away from whatever it is that is overwhelming you? Many of my clients are challenged by that feeling of overwhelm. It doesn’t matter if it is piles of paper, too much to do and too little time, too many emails to respond to or deal with or too many household chores when you’re feeling overwhelmed you don’t know where to start.

My advice is to pick a place and start small. If we’re talking about household chores, look at your calendar, figure out how much time you can give to this task, turn on some music that you love – it should probably be upbeat – something you can (and want to) move to, set your timer for the allotted amount of time, and start. You don’t have to finish. When the timer goes off you’re done! Do the same thing again everyday for a week tackling a different spot each day. Before you know it those household chores won’t be so monumental.

Use the same technique to conquer your piles of paper. Start with one pile and for a specific amount of time. Label each piece of paper with its next action. File it appropriately. I’ll talk more about filing paper next week. The point is if you start tackling the paper a little bit at a time you will get control of it.

If your to do list has too much on it and that is overwhelming you try to delegate some items. Then, look at the tasks you can’t delegate and prioritize the list. Now, pull out your calendar and schedule a few of the tasks each day. Taking action on these items will reduce your feeling of overwhelm. Try to only have two or three of your ‘to-dos’ scheduled on any one day. It’s less imposing when you have only a few things to take care of.

Small steps can have a big result as long as you keep taking those small steps forward! Give yourself permission to only do a little bit at a time. Don’t think about ALL you have to do – that is overwhelming. Focus on the small tasks you’ve set aside to tackle today. Do them, reward yourself and be done.

Let me know if this helps reduce your feeling of overwhelm!

“Focus on What’s Strong, Not What’s Wrong”

September 25, 2013

I attended a conference last week hosted by The Institute for Challenging Disorganization in Denver, Colorado. I go to this conference every year. This group, of which I’m a member, always gets fantastic speakers and this year was no exception. One of the speakers, Lee Shuer, gave us all the above quote during his presentation.

Don’t you think that if people in general would focus on what’s good and strong and think less about what’s wrong we’d all be a little more content? Think about it. As a student teacher I learned that if I wanted to get a classroom of six year olds to lower their voices I would have greater success if I complemented the children who were using ‘inside voices’. Using positive reinforcement worked like a charm! This technique works equally well with teenagers and adults. My mom used to say “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. I, in turn, used to tell my children “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’. I still believe this to be true and practice what I preach!

 It all boils down to the same thing, doesn’t it?  Saying something nice is just as easy as saying something nasty. It might take a little more thought and creativity to come up with the nicer comment as, it seems, the negative comments come so quickly to our lips.

Since this conference was attended by many professional organizers, therapists, coaches and related professionals this quote resonated with us all. It was good to be reminded to bring focus onto our clients’ strengths. Point out to them the things they are doing well. Teach them how to focus on their strengths. For anyone, focusing on what is done wrong only serves to depress or dishearten the individual. This is not to say that things don’t go wrong sometimes but dwelling on those things is counter-productive.  Learning to move on, letting the negative things be over and done, is a powerful skill.

When a client wants to work with me to de-clutter their home I ask them to describe how they want their home to look and feel. Then we review  their priorities. Finally, we create a plan and work methodically through the different spaces – celebrating each and every accomplishment. Together we focus on my client’s accomplishments, even the smallest step toward a stated goal. This enables the de-cluttering to move forward all the while positively reinforcing and teaching organizing skills.

 

Live Now

December 19, 2012

I was at my local grocery store earlier today. Grocery shopping was just one of the many errands I had to do today. I took some time last night to organize my grocery list. I went through the recipes of the special dishes my family has requested for Christmas Dinner. I wanted to include some of the non-perishable ingredients on my grocery list. This will save me a little time next week and I’ll be able to do a little pre-cooking! I love my neighborhood grocery store. I know many of the people who work there. They are always friendly and helpful! One of these helpful people came to help me unload my grocery cart. As is our custom, we had a little conversation. She said, ‘It looks like you’re getting ready for Christmas’. I replied, ‘Yes, I am. Are you ready or getting ready?’ She looked at me sadly and said ‘No, I’m not. I miss my family. It’s just not the same without my family. So, I’m feeling a little lonely and sad. It’s hard for me to get in the Christmas spirit.’  I told her that I was sorry she felt that way. Many of my family members are far from me so I can truly empathize with my grocery store friend. In fact, one of my sons will not be coming home for Christmas. I’ll be seeing him for New Year’s, that’s some consolation, but I will miss him on Christmas Day.

Many people, particularly at this time of year feel a little sad or lonely – missing family members and perhaps shared family traditions. I don’t have a remedy or solution but I do have a couple of strategies.

One strategy is not unique. It’s a mindset. I try to live in the present, to enjoy and remember what has come before but to really live in the now. There was a time when I was almost exclusively focusing on the future and living in the past. I can recall saying to myself something like: I love the way we used to be able to sit outside, I can’t wait until we move from this apartment and I can sit outside with my coffee again. I would say this alot when we lived in a small apartment in Hong Kong. Looking back I really liked our apartment. The photographs I have of it are lovely. I know now that I didn’t truly appreciate it at the time because I was not living in the present.

My other strategy is to be a volunteer. When you are volunteering on a project, helping other people, you can not help but be happier. First of all, you meet other interesting people – always a benefit, and you work to make something better. Sometimes the work is hard but then when you’ve accomplished a pre-set goal or task you can go home and be proud of your work. You’ll sleep well from the physical effort and knowing you’ve helped in some way. That’s a good, rewarding and happy feeling.

So, if you’re feeling a little blue try doing a some volunteer work this will help you to focus on someone or something other than yourself. Remember to live in the present and appreciate all that you have – no matter what that is. After all, we no longer have the past and the future is yet to come. So, live now.

Living in Today

October 2, 2012

Do you find yourself living in the future? I mean, are you the type of person who says something like ‘I can’t wait for …? I know when my children were very little I would say to myself ‘I can’t wait for my baby to roll over’. When he was able to do that I went on to say ‘ I can’t wait for my baby to sit up’. This went on through the years and now both my babies are young men and living on their own. I did appreciate the moments as they happened but what I realize now is that I was always focused on something in the future. Focused on what would (or should) come next. I am learning to be better about living in today.

Now, having said that, you need to know that I still like to plan. I almost always plan my day the night before. That is to say, before I leave my desk at the end of my work day, I create a prioritized list of the things I want to do the next day. I factor in my appointments and any errands as well as household chores and the tasks I want to accomplish. This frees my mind and enables me to enjoy the evening. Planning the night before also allows me to get up in the morning knowing what I am doing today. I am intent on bringing my best self to the day instead of letting my mind create illusions about what the next month or several months may hold in store for me.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I don’t have (or that you shouldn’t have) long term goals. I do have a long term goal. I have broken this long term goal down into a series of shorter term projects. I have further broken these projects down into smaller segments. These segments, or baby steps, are planned into my day – as the day allows. The thought I am trying to convey is that I am not simply striving toward achieving my goal. I will, certainly, celebrate and be happy when that occurs. I am actively living in today – appreciating the small accomplishments of each day – and enjoying the here and now.

This is a shift in attitude and perspective for me. It’s one that has brought me peace of mind. I’m happier and I find I’m much more appreciative of what today is offering me. I’m interested to know if you live in today. Do you spend your time revisiting what has happened – living in the past? Or, do you look to the future? Write me back and let me know. I look forward to your comments.

Overcoming Obstacles

September 19, 2012

I’m going to a conference in Chicago this week sponsored by the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. The title of the conference is: Overcoming Obstacles. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the ICD and I am on the conference planning committee. My job as a member of the conference planning committee was to proof read the conference program book. So, I have read all the handouts from the various speakers! I am really looking forward to attending the presentations. The speakers are covering a fairly wide range of topics but each topic relates to an obstacle that many of us encounter daily. Here’s the presentation line up (courtesy of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization)

1. End Procrastination Now: Pause Ponder, Plan , Produce

2. Brain Injury and ADHD

3. Baby Steps – Radically Reducing Your Clients’ Time Clutter

4. Forgive For Good

5. Don’t Call Me Nuts! Beating the Stigma of Mental Illness

6. Walk in Their Shoes! (an experiential workshop that will give you new tools and a new appreciation of your elderly clients)

7. ADHD: What the Science Says

As a certified professional organizer specializing in chronic disorganization I am positive that each one of these presentations will provide me with new ways of approaching my work with clients. Are you wondering about the presentation on forgiveness? Well, think about this… many people blame themselves for the state of clutter or disorganization in their home and have a hard time moving past the blame. I am not a therapist but if I can have a few tips to present a client – different ways to look at the issue, perhaps I can refocus the client on the items to be organized.

Another huge benefit in attending this conference is networking with other professional organizers from around the world! Yes, I did say ‘around the world’. Last year, we had organizers from Japan, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and the United States. It’s fascinating to hear (and learn) what obstacles organizers in different parts of the US encounter as organizing challenges as well as those from other countries.

Small Steps Forward!

August 14, 2012

Are you in the process of learning a new skill? I’m always learning new things. New ways to approach an organizing task, new methods of teaching how to set priorities, new theories on productivity and time management – to name a few. Recently I decided to learn a brand new skill. Well, it’s really not completely new to me. All my life (ever since I can remember) I have loved to dance! I studied ballet and modern dance through my college years and took the pre-requisite ballroom dance lessons as a teenager. Dancing has always been part of how I define myself. About 6 months ago or so I decided to study ballroom dancing with the goal to enter competitions. Learning ballroom dancing is a real challenge for me. Just when I think I have the steps mastered my instructor(and partner) lets me know that if I tweak the series of steps by turning my shoulders slightly it will be that much better. Yes, it’s a little frustrating but at the same time it is challenging and rewarding. I am learning so much more than just how to move my feet. I’m learning how to occupy space and to create beautiful visual lines. I’m also exercising more than just my body.  I’m working my brain as I memorize the steps and patterns for the different dances. Even though I have been studying ballroom dancing for about 6 months now, and I know I have learned lots of steps, I still have many more things to learn to become the kind of dancer I would like to be.

I stay focused in this endeavor by understanding that I am learning. I do make progress. Practicing my dance steps at home while I’m folding laundry or cooking dinner or walking the dog brings me a little closer to mastering whichever step I am working on. I celebrate the small victories. I love it when my dance instructor tells me that series of steps ‘look good!’

Are you learning something new? If you are, practice patience with yourself. Learning a new skill requires time, effort and diligent hard work. You can not expect to be proficient in a day, week or even a month.  Maybe opening the mail everyday and dealing with it is a new skill for you? Mindful practicing  will bring you closer to mastering whatever you are attempting to learn. Developing a new skill is hard work – believe me when I say I know! All your hard work pays off in the end when you accomplish that which you set out to do. Celebrate every small step forward, I do!