Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Organizing Lessons Learned on the Dance Floor

July 5, 2017

F7E92B04-B6E2-4C95-BC60-5EC0BADFB567Many of you know that one of my hobbies (a hobby about which I’m passionate) is ballroom dancing. A couple of weeks ago I attended the 20th Anniversary of the Millennium Dancesport Competition run by Mr. Michael Chapman. This competition is absolutely one of the best. It is really well organized and lots of fun! Mr. Michael Chapman always has a theme. This year his theme was Addicted to Love.
As you might imagine the colors in the ballroom reflected his theme. The chair coverings were black with a red band wrapped around the chair back. The table tops were adorned with fuschia pick feathers or miniature Eiffel Towers (you know Paris is the city of love, right?) or a very high heeled shoe with sparkles. The stage had enormous three-dimensional fuschia pink letters on it spelling out the word LOVE. The ballroom was so festive and everyone – all of us dancers – looked gorgeous with our ball gowns, hair and make-up.
This year there were over a thousand participants with more than seventeen thousand entries. WOW! The competition started on a Tuesday and continued through the week ending on Saturday. My partner and I danced on Thursday and Friday. We were there for the whole competition because part of the fun is watching the other dancers. In fact, I always learn something from watching the others.
The competition officially ended on Saturday evening with a fantastic professional show. Sunday morning these same professionals got up early to give a master class. Each of six professionals gave a 30 minute mini-class. The information they shared was terrific. I took lots of notes and plan to incorporate much of what they said in my dancing.
Are you wondering what all this has to do with organizing?
The competition, as I said before, was very well organized. We, participants received a terrific tentative schedule of events. It listed each day and that day’s events. We also received a HUGE binder with all the heat lists. Every event ran on time or a little early which was great. I know that lots of time and effort went into the planning. This made it easier to plan my time on and off the dance floor. My partner and I could predict when we’d have time to do a little practicing and when we could leave the ballroom to get a snack.
I was fascinated to hear each of the professionals talk about organizing as an important skill to employ with their dancing. They emphasized the fact that they must be organized in their body before beginning any dance.
They check the basics: they stretch, check their alignment, their breathing and notice if there is any tension in their body. If there is tension in their feet it could throw them off balance.
They talked about keeping it simple. They like to do simple steps within challenging patterns. They said do not mistake simple for easy. There is nothing easy about doing simple things really well and seamlessly.
Interestingly, they also told us if they are having trouble with a series of steps they break the series down into small components and tackle each one independently.
These are some of the same strategies I teach my clients.
I ask that my clients be ready to organize when I arrive. This means that they are mentally prepared to work with me.
We talk about the purpose of each room understanding that some rooms are multi-functional.
If the organizing project is large we break it down into small, manageable steps so that we can make progress and not feel overwhelmed.
Take small breaks when tackling an organizing project. This helps to clear the mind and let you reset your focus on the task at hand. It gives you renewed energy when you can walk away for a few minutes, take a breath or two, relax and then come back to do the next step.
I also teach straight forward simple strategies tweaked to the learning style of my client. Creating these strategies is never easy as changing what you do habitually is never easy but it can be done through regular and repeated practice.
I loved learning that so many of the organizing techniques I employ with my clients these professional world champion dancers use when practicing and perfecting their dances.

 

Do you have a simple organizing technique you incorporate into your daily life?

 

Face It! Life is Messy!

February 8, 2017

Recently I read the book titled: MESSY: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford. This book has really opened my eyes to all the ways in which the best intentions for tidiness and order can sometimes have a negative impact. My plan is to look at several sections of the book that directly relate to what I do as a professional organizer over the next few weeks.

I know, first hand, that life is messy. Things do not always happen as planned. I’m a huge fan of planning but quite often the best laid plans simply need to be put aside to let whatever happen. I started my work life as a preschool/primary school teacher. Teachers create lesson plans but many times the lesson can morph away from the planned lesson into something very different but equally beneficial – a unique learning experience. Something you could never have planned for but which just sort of organically happened. Sometimes it’s a wonderful thing and sometimes it’s a hard lesson to learn – not so wonderful. The trick is to let the lesson happen and not to insist that the planned lesson take place. That has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. I usually wanted to bring the discussion back to its original intention. As the years went on and as I gained experience in the classroom I learned to be more flexible, to go with the flow, and to let the alternative lesson happen.

The book, MESSY, addresses this topic in the opening chapter. The author teaches the reader that some of the best performances have happened when the planned circumstances did not come together as the planner had intended. No, I’m not going to give you any specifics – you’ll have to read the book.

What do you do when life gets in the way, when it’s messy and your plan is foiled?

My son and daughter-in-law had planned for their wedding ceremony to be on a lawn over- looking the water. It was a picture – perfect location. The white chairs were set out on the lawn. There was a tent which was beautifully decorated for the dinner and dancing to follow the ceremony. The morning dawned with some wispy clouds. We thought nothing of it. The hairdresser came to give all us women in the bridal party gorgeous hairdos. I noticed it got a little overcast but didn’t pay too much attention. We were having too much fun getting ready for this wedding to happen.

Wouldn’t you know, it started pouring cats and dogs (as the expression goes) about an hour before the ceremony. Our guests were arriving and went straight into the tent. They couldn’t hang out on the lawn as planned.

We didn’t know quite what to do as there really wasn’t room on the dance floor under the tent to set out rows of chairs.

The Rabbi and the Priest suggested that the wedding ceremony take place on the dance floor with the wedding party in a semi-circle. Our guests could gather around. Those who needed to sit could sit at a table.

The rain stopped just as it was time to begin the ceremony. We stuck with our new plan because we thought the rain might start up again.

It was a beautiful ceremony. Made even more intimate because the guests gathered around, forming this almost magical circle around the wedding party.

We never would have felt that closeness out on the lawn with the guests seated in rows of chairs. It would have been lovely but what actually happened was even better.

Yes, it was a little messy and we, the two moms, were a little frantic at first but we let it be and it was better than anything we had planned.

Are you a planner? Do you have trouble going with the flow? Connect with me for support.

 

 

Changing Routines

August 31, 2016

Last week I let you all know that I spent the last month or so preparing to move and then moving. I am going to spend the next couple of weeks talking about what else has to change – other than the physical address. Are you scratching your head wondering what I mean by that?

Let me give you a little personal history. I grew up in New York City. My family moved apartments 3 times before our final move to Connecticut when I was 16. That’s the house my mother lived in until she passed away in 2009 and the house that I think of as my home but I only really lived there for 5 years.

The longest I ever lived in any 1 house is 10 years and that’s the house I just moved out of! I had established really great routines and places to keep all of my belongings. After all, I am a Certified Professional Organizer and I walk the walk. I don’t keep things I don’t use, I do periodically tweak my filing system, and I’m careful about the things that I keep so that I don’t end up keeping too much.

It’s been really hard to change how I tackle some tasks and to realize that I just have to change some of my routines and habits. I’m not planning to change them completely, just alter them to fit better in this new home.

Are you wondering why? Why can’t I just do the same things I did in the other house, follow the same routines – just in a different location?

It’s not always that simple. Some things I can definitely keep the same – others have to change. Where I lived before I could walk my dogs every morning and evening safely in the neighborhood. There are wide sidewalks that are well lit with street lights. Where I live now there are only narrow sidewalks, there are very few street lights and the sidewalks do not follow the entire length of the road. But there is a park only a short 2 minute drive from my new house that has well-lit very wide sidewalks. My dogs and I love it there. We can still have our 30 minute morning walk safely. We just hop in the car and away we go.

Over the next few weeks I’ll tell you about other habits or routines that I’m changing.

My big take-away is that sometimes we are so comfortable in our routines and habits that it’s hard to imagine doing what we want to do in any other way. This move shifted me out of my comfort zone and put me in a place of discovery. Everyday I’m tweaking my routines a little at a time so that I can still do what I want to do – just differently. It’s all good! In fact, it’s even better.

Is there a routine or habit that you want to change or have to change because a shift in your circumstance makes change necessary?

Write me back and let me know!

 

 

Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning

April 13, 2016

Empty menu board

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking about the kitchen. Buying and organizing supplies; only buying what you need. How do you know what you need?

Do you have a list to refer to when you grocery shop?

Some people have a list of the things they buy frequently from the store and they put a check mark next to the item when they need to replenish their supply. They leave space on the page to make note of the extra items to purchase. This is a very good option.

Other people create a list of things to buy as they run out of them. I have a small pad of paper in a holder on my refrigerator. When I run out of something or when it is running low I can quickly make a note of it on this paper. This way I don’t over buy.

Another tip is to once a week schedule time in your calendar to sit down and create a menu plan for the following week. Check your recipes to see what non-perishable items the recipe calls for and then take a look in your pantry to see if you have those grocery items. If you do, you won’t need to buy them. If you don’t then add them to your grocery list. I like to make a little note on my grocery list what recipe certain items are going to be used for – particularly if it’s something out of the ordinary. That helps to jog my memory!

Buy the perishable items for only a few meals at a time. This way if your plans change and you decide to eat out it will be easy to reschedule that meal.

Another tip is to try not to grocery shop when you’re hungry. I know that if I’m hungry when I go grocery shopping I end up buying food that I don’t need. I buy way too much and I also buy food items that look appealing at the moment but that in reality I won’t eat. I also tend to buy more snack food.

Schedule your trip to the grocery store after a meal if you can.

Please let me know how you plan your grocery shopping and if you think planning your meals will help you?

 

 

Getting Your Garden Ready

March 16, 2016

Recently I’ve been talking about spring cleaning inside your home. To recap this time of year when the light is newly bright again take the time to open your eyes and really look into all the spaces in your home. Get right into the corners and dark spaces. Clean them. Take the opportunity to look closely at your belongings. Dust them off and put them back or remove them from your home (if you determine they no longer fit your decorating style or lifestyle). Remember that spring lasts a good three months.

Schedule time in your calendar to deep spring clean each area of your home. Tackling your whole home at one time is a daunting and overwhelming task. When you plan it out and break it down into small tasks this project becomes much more manageable.

2015 05 summer mailbox flowers

Now is also the time to take stock of your garden. I should ask, do you like to garden? I do. I love to spend time in my garden! The last few days I’ve been out taking a look at my garden to see which plants are starting to poke their heads out of the earth. I love this time of year when my garden springs back to life! I notice where there are empty spots. Places where plants have not made it through the winter. I’m taking stock and thinking about the different plants I may want to add. While it’s too soon to plant it’s not too soon to make a plan and to decide what you’d like to do with your garden.

My garden is full of shrubs and perennial flowers. Is your garden a flower or vegetable garden? Is it a small cottage garden or do you have lots of space to garden? Are you learning to garden and trying one for the first or second time this year or are you an experienced gardener?

No matter your level of expertise or the size of your garden playing in the earth with plants is a wonderful pastime.

Look at the area in your garden you may want to change. Determine if you’re adding plants in the shade or the sun. If it’s a sunny spot try and calculate how many hours of sun that spot gets. It makes a difference as to which plants you want to consider. Likewise, if it’s a shady spot try and figure out if that area gets any sun at all or if it’s deep dense shade. The amount of sun makes a tremendous difference in the plants that will thrive in a location.

Another thing to consider is the size and color of the plants. Do you need to fill in with some low growing plants in the front of your garden? Maybe you want to add a tall plant in the back to add interest. The possibilities are endless.

Once you have these things figured out you may want to take a trip to your local plant nursery. Generally, the people who work there have great information to share about the plants they carry. They can tell you about how tall and/or bushy a plant will get as well as what you will need to do to promote its continued growth.

Young botanists  in greenhouse

As with everything else this is something that requires a plan. Pull out your calendar and set aside some times to really look at the garden space. It will take several observations at different times of day to figure out the sunlight question. Then schedule time to look at different garden websites to figure out the plants you want to add. Soon enough it will be time to plan the trip to the plant nursery, buy the plants, and plant them!

Garden Maintenance is key but that’s a topic for another time!

Write me back and let me know if gardening is one of your hobbies. If it is what are your plans for this year’s garden?

 

Now What? Backwards Planning

October 7, 2015
Many Hands Holding the Word Events, Isolated

Many Hands Holding the Word Events, Isolated

Backwards planning? Why plan backwards? Why not just plan ahead? Well, backwards planning is really planning ahead – it’s called backwards planning because you start with the end result in mind. More details to come.

I have four siblings, many nieces and nephews, and two sons (one is married). This time of year brings lots of birthdays mixed in with all the holidays. Every time I look at the calendar I’m noticing that one of these relatives has a birthday coming up. So, I use backwards planning to stay on top of all these events.

First, I plot all the birthdays into my calendar. I love my phone for this because it automatically shows the birthday in the calendar function and I only enter them once. I admit, though, that I am very much a paper and pencil person. At the beginning of every year I get out my paper calendar and write in all the birthdays and then I count backwards and note in my calendar when I need to mail the birthday card. I also make a note a few days before the mailing date that I have to go and purchase a card! That is backwards planning!

At this time of year with the holidays approaching (I saw on Instagram yesterday that someone had counted the number of weekends left before Christmas!) backwards planning is a handy strategy to employ. You can use it to help in planning a party, with decorating for the holiday, meal planning or any big project you may have.

Here are the steps to take when using backwards planning:

Tools: paper, pen or pencil, a calendar

Steps:

  1. Start with an end date in mind
  2. On a piece of paper, list all the steps to take in order to complete your task
  3. Plot each step into your calendar – schedule enough time to complete each small step

The beauty of using this strategy is that backwards planning allows you to get things done in a timely fashion so that you’re not over scheduled and can actually enjoy the process.

Tell me, how will you use backwards planning as we approach this busy time of the year?

Do You Have Time?

February 25, 2015

Do you wonder how some people seem to have more time in their day? You know, these are the people who accomplish many of their tasks during the day. They plow through their ‘to-do’ lists and still have time to exercise or relax over lunch with a friend.

Other people struggle to get even two items crossed off their ‘to-do’ list. Why is this? We all have the same number of hours in each day to use so why is it that some people accomplish more in the same amount of time?

I think we’re all so busy – our days are jam packed full – that we forget to stop and ask ourselves is this the best use of my time right now. When you ask yourself that question you might be surprised at the answer you give yourself.

Perhaps, instead of spending your time running a quick errand now you can combine that errand later in the day with picking the children up from school. Then, you’ll have time now to work on the project at home that you’d like to complete by the end of the month.

Maybe, you’re hosting the book club at your house later this week. What do you need to do to get ready for this event? Take a few minutes to write down all the small steps to take to make your home ready to welcome your friends. Then, schedule in your calendar to take care of these small steps. You’ll be much more relaxed and ready to talk about the book if you take the time to prepare yourself in advance.

Doing small tasks because you think you should be doing something is not always the best use of time. Take time to think about the things that matter most to you. What is really important to accomplish? Write it down. What are the small tasks that you can do – a little here and there? Write them down. Now get out your calendar and plan your time accordingly.

Before you know it you’ll be one of those people who get all the ‘to-dos’ on their ‘to-do’ list done!

For more tips on managing your time check out my book: Now What? A Simple Organizing Guide

Proud Navy Mom

February 4, 2015

IMG_0754
A little more than a year ago my son told me that he wanted to enlist in the Navy. I told him that would be terrific. He had just turned 28 years old and was looking at this opportunity with the Navy as a career choice. He also told me that he had some work to do before he would be considered.

Of course, I was curious.. what kind of work did he need to do? To be accepted he needed to meet the weight requirements for his height. I knew that would be tough. My son was in great shape and had been working out so had built lots of big bulky muscles. He had to do more than change his diet he had to change his workout strategy so that he would stay strong and fit but loose muscle mass. That’s a huge challenge. He enlisted the help of a trainer at a local gym. Together they made a detailed plan.

In addition to that he told me he wanted to study hard so that he would do well on the placement test. He figured out what he needed to study, looked at his calendar and plotted the different subjects into the months. He also scheduled review sessions so the material would be fresh in his mind. He also needed to move home – to do that he had to clean out his house and list it for sale. These were very big long-term projects but he was determined. He broke these projects down into small, manageable steps. He set achievable bench marks and rewarded himself along the way. He made lists and stuck to his plan.

He moved home in late September and started boot camp with the Navy in early December. All the while he studied for those tests, continued to follow his diet plan and worked out.

This past weekend I had the honor and privilege of attending his graduation. He is now a sailor! This just goes to show that hard work, dedication to a dream, determination, and planning pay off. I am a proud Navy mom!

Let’s Get Started

January 13, 2015

I don’t know about you but many times I start a project with a picture of what the end will look like to me. I also typically will have an end time in mind. Is this true for you, too? When you think about beginning a project do you have a vision of the finished project in your mind’s eye along with a completed by date?

What happens next? Well, for me, I break the project down into small steps. I like to write each step on a separate line. If I do it on the computer I print it when I’m finished (I could also use a pencil and a piece of paper). Then I get out my calendar and starting backwards I enter each small step into my calendar. Essentially, scheduling appointments with myself. This way I can ensure that all the steps I need to take to complete the project will be done because I have allocated the time each week to moving forward with this project.

What if the project is so big that it is overwhelming? Perhaps you don’t have an end in sight. Maybe the very thought of working on this project makes your head ache!

What do you think would happen if you just started to work on this overwhelming project? Just pick a place and start. Decide how long you want to work on it. Once you’ve figured out how much time you want to spend on the project today set your timer. Just dive in to that one spot where you decided to start. Take a box or a bag with you so that anything that doesn’t belong in that space has a place to go (into the box or bag). When the timer goes off spend a few more minutes going through the contents of the box or bag. Recycle or toss anything that needs to be recycled or thrown out. Have a box or bag ready for any items that you want to donate – put that in your car. Finally, put away any remaining items.

Try to spend a few minutes everyday or every few days working on this overwhelming project. Before you know it the project won’t be so overwhelming. So let’s get started. Write me back and tell me about a project or space in your home that is overwhelming you.

Shopping for Gifts

December 3, 2014

This is the time of year when most of us are looking for gifts for our family and friends. I want to offer you some tried and true tips for staying on task and getting your shopping and wrapping done without too much fuss and bother.

First of all, make a complete list of the people to whom you are giving gifts.

Next, think about the sorts of things that each person likes. Do you want to buy a gift to wrap or would this person like to join you for an afternoon at a spa or a trip to the movies followed by dinner? I love to give gifts that involve sharing time with those I care about. That’s something that works for me but that might not work for you. Particularly if the recipient doesn’t live nearby.

Schedule time to shop and go with a specific person or several people in mind. Try not to shop for everyone at once!

Then, as you buy your gifts or gift certificates take them home and wrap them. This way they are wrapped, tagged and ready to go. You can mail them off when the time is right or deliver them in person whenever at the appropriate time.

I hope these little tips will help you in your quest to doing your holiday shopping!