Can a Professional Organizer Help You Stop Procrastinating?

While posting an installment of OrganizeU that focuses on the benefits of leveraging effective time management, the issue of procrastination came to mind. Before introducing strategies to overcome procrastination, I thought it may be helpful to delve into reasons people tend to procrastinate. If you are a person who is prone to procrastination, your first step on the road to improvement should include taking time to think about the underlying causes of your procrastination habit.

Are You Doing What You Love?


The most straightforward reason people put off doing a task is because they simply don’t look forward to the process of completing the task. While the thought of doing what you love may sound cliche,  and perhaps unattainable, level of interest and motivation directly impact productivity. Having a genuine interest in an activity naturally reduces the likelihood of losing focus and becoming distracted.  But how does this translate to mundane daily tasks and the unfulfilling jobs many of us are required to work to make ends meet?

To the person who is working an unfulfilling job, I would suggest that ideally the motivating factor each workday should be to take a step toward a more fulfilling career path. You may not be able to change careers overnight; however, you can use your current occupation to hone your skills, figure out exactly what you would like to do, and at the very least, discover what you are completely opposed to doing as a long-term career.

Dealing with the monotony of daily tasks such as chores inside the home is much easier. Those who can afford to outsource household chores and errands absolutely should if doing so would improve their overall quality of life; time is priceless; therefore, the money spent will be worth it. The on-demand economy has created more opportunities than ever for everyday people to affordably outsource the most basic tasks. More and more households are not only hiring cleaners, but also professional organizers, laundry services, and even food shopping services to help keep their homes running efficiently each week.

Those who are unable to outsource their most dreaded tasks may break up the monotony in more creative ways. Arranging to complete tasks such as grocery shopping or doing laundry in a more communal setting may make the time seem to pass more quickly and also make the activity more enjoyable. For example, scheduling a weekly grocery shopping trip with a friend or family member may make standing in long lines and perusing the aisles of the grocery store a more social experience and, therefore, more enjoyable. Traveling to a laundromat with a friend or inviting a friend over to fold laundry together can also serve as an opportunity for two or more busy people to connect and catch up while remaining productive. In most ancient cultures, chores were performed with other members of the community. Nowadays, humans in industrialized societies are more isolated than ever. A large contributor to the isolation many modern adults experience is the change in which we complete household tasks and chores. Returning to our communal roots may effectively help combat the loneliness and anxiety many adults experience in addition to reducing procrastination. 

Are You Afraid of the Outcome?

One of the most common reasons for procrastinating is fear of the direct outcome of taking action. As a home organizer in New York City, I have encountered procrastination that is fueled by fear of outcome in multiple different situations. Moving out of an apartment or selling a home may feel like leaving behind cherished memories. Therefore an individual in this situation may subconsciously dread packing for the move. Clearing out the home of a deceased parent is often very uncomfortable for the surviving children. In these cases, hiring a compassionate professional organizer to help sort through the household items and a packing company to help with packing and removal is highly advisable. In much simpler cases, some people are reluctant to get organized because they fear not being able to maintain their new organized space, no longer being able to find everything they need in their space, or they simply feel too embarrassed to show their clutter to another person. In these cases, I recommend the individual consider the numerous benefits of having a more organized home or office and carefully choose a compatible and understanding professional organizer with whom to work.

Do You Simply Need to “Grow Up?”

And now it’s time for the tough love section of the program. Sometimes we procrastinate because we do not establish mature boundaries for ourselves. In some cases you may need to tell yourself no. This often occurs when deciding to allocate time to completing an essential, yet unpleasant or mundane task. One of the best implications of adulthood is the notion that we can do what we want whenever we want once we are living under our own roof. However, with that living arrangement comes responsibility. No longer having a live-in authority figure to whom we must answer means it is up to us to establish healthy boundaries and to implement structure that will lead to balanced, productive, healthy living. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. 

Bring In the Professionals

If you struggle with maintaining an organized space due to procrastination, a professional organizer can help. If your procrastination has led to a chronic issue with time management, a productivity coach can help. I happen to be both. For more information on how working with a professional can help you achieve the balanced, organized lifestyle you desire, check out related topics in our blog, or contact us to learn more about our services.

Reclaim Your Energy by Writing Things Down

pexels-photo-1061576You have enough to remember over the course of a day. Forgetting an important task can be the source of a great deal of stress. Not remembering to pay a bill on time can affect your financial profile. Forgetting to pick up your child from an after school activity can make the child feel anxious and cause you to feel guilty. Forgetting a friend or family member’s birthday can make you feel as if you have to overcompensate to make up for your actions. All these experiences can have quantifiable real world consequences. In addition to impacting your finances, relationships, and self-perception, these situations can be very taxing on your energy level and motivation. While many of us are in the habit of writing things down, most of us overlook the many ways writing can help us save our energy and contribute to our sense of peace of mind.

Writing for “Energy Conservation”

One of the most obvious ways writing can help you save your energy is by freeing up mental real estate you would otherwise allocate to actively trying to remember tasks and other important information. Sometimes, people who are not already in the habit of regularly writing down daily reminders may feel intimidated by the thought of organizing their thoughts and activities on paper. In reality, writing can take whatever form is most helpful to the individual. To-do lists, calendars, and notebooks are helpful starting points that can be customized to meet the individual’s needs.

Writing for Mental Clarity

Journaling is a very flexible, practical activity that can help us feel renewed when we may otherwise feel mentally drained. Using a journal should not be stressful. Therefore, format, regularity of writing sessions, and nature of content may vary widely depending on the writer. A journal is the perfect place for making “pros and cons” lists when making decisions, drawing brain maps when planning, freestyle writing, and simply making personal notes. The vicious cycle of replaying an incident in your mind or trying to think through a conflict can be mentally and emotionally draining. Physically writing these ideas down and working through them on paper can have the effect of freeing your mind and curbing the temptation to spend hours withdrawn and obsessing over recurring thoughts. The act of writing these thoughts down can create a sense of relief that is similar to the way you may feel after talking to a trustworthy friend.

Writing for Improved Mental Health

The process of writing, whether for practical organizing reasons or for mental and emotional clarity, forces us to slow down and deliberate. When implementing writing as a strategy to help you remain organized or to remember important information, your brain is better able to retain information you have written down. Writing for mental and emotional health allows us to take a step back and process our experiences, which can ultimately help us make better decisions and feel less inclined to unnecessarily hold on to excess mental stress.

 

 

On Balance and Perfection

Many busy professionals, and especially entrepreneurs, express exasperation at the notion of achieving life “balance.” Some even say the concept of balance is a myth. Before approaching the questions of whether balance exists and how it can be achieved, there is an important distinction that must be drawn. When people say they are in search of balance, they oftentimes use the benchmark of perfection. Using perfection as a standard automatically sets up the individual, who by this point is usually tired and somewhat frustrated, for failure.

Balance vs. Perfection

Balance is a scientific concept. It requires adjusting the distribution of weight to remain upright. While the positioning may not appear to be ideal or comfortable to onlookers, the end goal is to remain upright and stable. Therefore, achieving balance may not necessarily feel pretty at first. It may require strengthening muscles you’ve never used before, doing exercises that are not necessarily comfortable in the beginning, and stretching yourself in ways that may seem painful, but will eventually help you move more efficiently. The perfect illustration of what balance looks like is ballet. Anyone who has taken a ballet class knows it is not the most comfortable dance art to learn and requires a great deal of conditioning. But once dancers achieve a certain level, the beauty of the art form is undeniable. Like many areas of our lives, the beauty of ballet is all based on the foundational concept of the dancer being able to readily identify his or her center of gravity and move in ways that allow him or her to remain in a balanced state. You can always tell when a ballet dancer is not balanced because he or she will bobble or even fall. In these ways, life and ballet are very similar.

The Problem with Perfection

Many of us seek perfection, but oftentimes people achieve what they perceive as perfection only to realize “perfection” ain’t so perfect. How many times have we thought someone lived a perfect life until we saw what goes on behind the scenes? Some of us have thought we would be perfect if we were to gain or lose 10 pounds only to discover the weight did not necessarily go (or leave) wherever we had intended it to. Some of us chose the perfect major in school and later discovered we hated it; others of us may have even graduated and discovered that the chosen course of study was not necessarily the most employable degree, or perhaps you graduated just as job demand in that particular field changed. All these examples illustrate that we have to set benchmarks that are firm, but flexible enough to be adjusted to accommodate changing conditions. Otherwise stated, identifying an ideal and striving for it is a fantastic idea; however, in doing so, it is important that we spend time thinking about how we can incorporate a sense of balance into that equation.

What Does Balance Look Like?

Balance looks different for everyone, but it is generally characterized by a lack of chronic stress. If you find yourself constantly stressing over the same thing (money, relationships, weight, work-life balance), there is usually something you may be doing or allowing that is no longer working for you. An effective approach to discovering what may be contributing to imbalance is to evaluate every area in your life, write your findings down, and even track your moods and behaviors over the course of a week. Many of us have taken on practices that are in direct opposition of our overall goals and objectives, but we are unable to readily identify which part of our life is out of alignment because we adapt and continue to repeat counterproductive behaviors until they become habits. I should note that achieving a state of balance will not necessarily mean that you will not have to make sacrifices. Oftentimes, living a balanced life may mean cutting back on work to support children in their after school activities or enfing the party earlier in the interest of getting home earlier and waking up at a comfortable time to prepare for the upcoming workday. Once you achieve balance, you will know. Your basic needs will be met, you will feel less “strained” in certain areas of your life, and you will generally be at peace. Experiencing your personal version of true “balance” will ultimately compel you to continue to prioritize things in your life in a manner that allows you to maintain your newfound peaceful state.

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Brain Dump Strategy – Creating a Chronological Notebook

Most of us can relate to having stray thoughts that emerge throughout the day while we are trying to complete our scheduled tasks. For some, these thoughts come one at a time and are generally not too bothersome. Others may be plagued by nagging recurring thoughts or a mind that constantly races and makes focusing on any task a challenge. This particular method of brain dumping is a quick way to transfer stray thoughts from your mind onto paper. By transferring things from your head to a physical page, you can permanently save the thought and revisit it later when you are not attempting to focus on another unrelated task. Storing your thoughts on paper can also help ease the anxiety that drives some people to replay the same thought over and over again. When you have written the idea down on paper, you no longer have to burden yourself with repeatedly reminding yourself of it.

How to Maintain a Daily Brain Dump Notebook 

 

  1. Select a small, portable notebook, and keep it accessible throughout the day.
  2. Begin a new page each day by labeling the page with the current date.
  3. Whenever you have difficulty focusing, write down all stray thought, reminders, recurring ideas that enter your mind and distract you. Make a note if the thought requires revisiting.
  4. Once the thought is written down on paper, give yourself permission to move on and complete the current task at hand.
  5. At the end of each day, set aside 15 minutes to review what you have written on the current page of your brain dump notebook. Revisit all thoughts that required further evaluation or action. If you have written yourself reminders, transfer them to your upcoming to-do list and/or daily calendar.

OPTIONAL: Reserve the first two pages in your notebook to create a running index. As you fill in pages chronologically, update your index by labeling each week or calendar month and listing the page range that covers it (example: “January: Pages 3 to 32” or “January 1st – 7th…….Pages 3-11”). Labeling your index according to corresponding dates will help in the event that you need to review your notes from several weeks or months ago.

Brain Dumping for Prioritization

Conducting a brain dump is a productivity strategy that essentially allows us to transfer the information that fills our mind to paper, a dry erase board, or a digital format. Brain dumping has several benefits:

  • Facilitates the process of getting organized
  • Minimizes the risk of forgetting important dates, details, and ideas
  • Creates more “free space” in the brain for creative thought
  • Helps quiet the mind

There are many ways to do a brain dump. This post will cover a more intensive brain dump strategy that can be especially helpful to those of us who struggle with schedule-building and indecisiveness. The following method is an adaptation of an article that was published by Lifehacker.

Step 1: Make Your Lists.

In this case, the lists will be entitled “Must Do,” “Want to Do,” and “Maybe.”  Be sure to give yourself ample room to list everything that comes to mind, make edits, and add notes to the list.

Step 2: Finalize and confirm the “Must Do” list. 

Your “Must Dos” are events and tasks you have already verbally or mentally committed to doing. In this step, you will simply confirm and reconfirm plans then write your “Must Dos” down on your calendar and, if necessary, set reminders. This is also an opportune time to call and send emails to confirm upcoming meetings and appointments.

Step 3: Evaluate your “Want to Do” list.

“Want to Dos” consist of everything you want to do, but have yet to plan. Look over the Want to Do list, and ask yourself if these are all things you really want to do. Then write a number beside each item according to level of priority; “1” corresponds to the item on the list that is the highest priority to you. You may have to change and reassign numbers as you proceed down the list. Or, on the contrary, it may be 100% clear to you which items you prioritize more than others. Next, look at your low-priority items. Ask yourself whether you are 100% certain that you want to do these things. If not, transfer them to the “Maybe” list. If you are 100% certain that a particular item is something you have zero interest in doing, simply eliminate that item altogether.

Step 4: Evaluate your “Maybe” List.

For people who have difficulty making decisions, the “Maybe” list will probably be the longest of the three. Look at each item on the list, and ask yourself whether the item is 1) something you really want to do, 2) something you really NEED to do, and 3) whether you need more information to decide. If the item is either 1) something you want to do or 2) something you need to do, transfer it to the “Want to do list.” In some cases, you may come across items on the Maybe list that you need to fast-track to the “Must Do” list and add to your schedule, for example, scheduling a doctor’s appointment or applying to a program in which you have decided you want to participate. You will also encounter items on your “Maybe” list that you now realize you no longer want to do. Have no shame in crossing these items off completely. Lastly, f you need more information to make a decision about an item on the list, make a note detailing the actions you need to take to get the information you require to proceed with making a decision. Forward progress is the objective!

With an increased focus on prioritizing, this type of brain dump requires a little more mental energy and critical thinking than a general brain dump. But for anyone who has difficulty with scheduling and decision-making, this is a very effective strategy to help streamline events and tasks in a manner that naturally flows into an organized calendar.

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Quick-Start Solutions: Simple Rescue Strategy for Rooms That Are Buried in Paperwork

Sick and tired of unorganized…*things*? Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of getting tackling that nondescript pile of stuff? I’m here to help. This exercise will help you move one non-painful, very manageable, highly productive step toward getting organized.

Problem: Help! My living room/dining room/bedroom/office/kitchen/the doghouse is overflowing with papers that are of questionable importance!

Solution: Go grab some empty file folders. If you don’t have any lying around the house, run to your nearest office supply store/drug store/grocery store…or scroll to the bottom to see some cool folders Amazon can have on your doorstep within 1 to 2 days…depending on your shipping preferences [note: affiliate links included].

If you don’t have folders right this second, you can still separate the papers into piles, but label the piles CAREFULLY, and clip the papers in each pile together using a paperclip or binder clip. Now. We’re ready to begin:

1. SET A GOAL, and determine how much paperwork you would like to clean up in your current session. Be realistic. If you know you only have the energy to work on the task for 30 minutes, set a timer for 30 minutes. If you can work for a full hour…POWER HOURRR! Let’s Go!

2. Create categories,  and label each folder according to the types of papers you have. If you can’t think of categories, try starting with these: Health, Home, Work, Finance, Bills, Leisure. Some of you may need to add a category for School. If you have kids, each child should have his or her own folder…but for starters, you can keep them all in one folder. For now. You WILL have to go back and separate everything out, though. So it’s best to just make a folder for each child if you have a massive amount of paperwork coming in from school, hobbies, etc.

3. Pick up one piece of paper. Determine which category the paper best fits. Example, if you pick up a car insurance bill, file it in the “bills” folder. If you can’t decide within 30 second, set the paper aside, and revisit it at the end. 

4. Repeat process until you can see the table/desk/floor/interior of the oven (yes, I’ve seen this before) or wherever your unruly papers have been landing. Advanced tip: (file your papers in chronological order as you add them to the folders; doing this now will save time when you need to access these papers later…and you WILL need to access your papers later: either to use them, to file them more permanently, OR to throw them away).
5. When finished, store the folders in a standing file box or file cabinet so you can access them later.
***If you still have remaining papers to clean up, don’t worry. Pull out your calendar, and schedule another time WITHIN THE NEXT 7 DAYS to continue the task. Write it down as an “appointment!” Keep repeating these “appointments” until all papers have been cleaned up and appropriately filed.
Maintenance: Set aside a general basket, bin, or letter tray to collect paperwork throughout the week. Choose one designated day each week to clear out the basket and file paperwork in its rightful folder. Eventually, the papers should go into a permanent file cabinet or drawer. But I will discuss that in a future post in the interest of keeping it simple and just focusing on quick cleanup strategies for now.
Recommended Supplies:

 

 

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5 Minutes of Morning Mindfulness – 7/19/18

Check out my latest morning motivational video on IGTV. Don’t forget to follow @rlprofessionalorganizer. I post daily!
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24 Hours Not Enough? Learn to Manage Time Like Money

To be fair, most of us have felt at one time or another as if we simply don’t have enough money. When that happens, we either look for an additional stream of income, or we refine our budget and try to work within it. Time is similar. However, because we can’t simply make more time, the latter approach is the default. What does it mean to learn to manage time as if it’s money?

Viewing Time As a Budget

We’re all working with the same 24 hours. That part of the equation is set. Where everyone begins to differ is the very diverse ways in which we use our 24 hours. Think of your 24 hours as an allowance you receive each day. You literally can do whatever you please with your 24 hours. But for most of us, it’s not that simple, right? We decide we want housing, clothes, food, financial savings, entertainment. All those things cost. They cost money and time [unless you literally have someone handing these things to you…in which case, please come over here and advertise YOUR coaching services]. Anyhow…these things cost what I’ve come to refer to as time dollars. In planning your schedule–because you should be planning your schedule–start with 24 hours, and subtract from that each time you schedule an activity. For example, your 8-hour workday costs 8 time dollars, leaving you with 16 remaining.

But actually…it’s inaccurate to begin by subtracting from 24…unless you count sleep!

Begin By Planning Time to Sleep

Sleep is so important that I always recommend starting schedule planning by setting a bedtime, deciding how long you want to ideally sleep, and scheduling a wake-up time accordingly. We underestimate the importance of sleep. While you may think you need time to go to the library, pick up your dry cleaning, and attend the birthday party you were invited to, your body places a much greater priority on repairing cells and tissues, encoding learned information into your memory, and restoring your energy. These very important activities are just a few that happen while you’re sleeping.

After Designating Sleep Hours

Let’s say you plan to get seven hours of sleep each night. After subtracting seven from your 24-hour time budget, you are left with 17 hours of time that can be allocated to work, fun, leisure, and everything in between. If you ever find yourself feeling tempted to waste time or engage in an activity that does not serve your well-being or contribute to the well-being of others in a manner you can afford, actively remind yourself of the remaining hours in your time budget. Then asks if it is worth allocating time to participate in the activity.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you are a person who struggles with decision-making and prioritizing tasks, you may struggle at first with deciding which activities are deserving of your time. Don’t be discouraged. Simply do your best to make a decision. Evaluate the outcome of that decision. Then carry that analysis with you as you keep moving forward in approaching each day as if you are on a strict time budget. Eventually, you will become better at ranking tasks according to importance, balancing social commitments, and becoming a better decision-maker and steward of your time.

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The Real Reason You’re Always Late

I’ve always viewed tardiness as a touchy subject. If you’re a person who is consistently on time, you may feel like others are late because they don’t value your time. While this may be true in a percentage of cases, I know…from personal experience…that there are multiple layers to a person’s ability to be on time and that oftentimes, tardiness may not be rooted in a basic disregard for others. Instead, people who are chronically late often have legitimate struggles with learning to manage time effectively and are more likely to be prone to over-committing themselves to a variety of tasks and obligations. In addition, inaccurate time perception is oftentimes a culprit that only makes matters worse. Still, there are other cases in which hidden emotional stress or anxiety inhibits an individual’s ability to regularly show up on time.

Trying to Please Everyone

We live in a time of InstaPots, entertainment on demand, and “there’s an app for that!” It’s very easy to find ourselves taking on the societal expectations of “fast,” “easy,” and “always accessible.” Therefore, many of us have lost touch with our ability to say no, to plan things out, and to do things on timelines that are more feasible for us. We feel like we always have to deliver. We find ourselves always wanting to perform. We never want to let anyone down. Therefore, people are increasingly overstretching themselves without even realizing it until there is a logistical, relational, or physical breakdown. And then there’s the guilt. Society steadily streams the message that there is no room for us to attend to our human needs. But the reality is we must. The irony of adopting a mindset of over-committing in the interest of never letting anyone down is that by doing so, your risk of letting yourself and everyone else down rises sharply.

Taking time to plan your schedule is essential. Only after creating a schedule for yourself and deciding when you would like to make yourself available (and are logistically able to do so) can you realistically ensure you are able to fulfill the time commitments you decide to undertake. Moreover, you must say no whenever a request for your time is made and you are unwilling or unable to either a) provide sufficient time to comfortably meet the request or b) re-prioritize your current commitments to make the new request fit. If you are unwilling or unable to do a or b, saying no is within your best interest; doing so also better for the person who is making the request. The sooner that person is made aware that his or her request will not work with your schedule, the earlier he or she can request an alternative time or make other arrangements altogether. Sometimes we waste time and needlessly cram our schedules with things that don’t serve us or other people. In many cases, we can avoid these situations by being more realistic with our time management and planning ahead.

Inaccurate Time Perception

To some of us, a minute isn’t a minute, and an hour isn’t an hour. Those of us who are challenged in the way we perceive time know that this can easily lead to always arriving a little late or even showing up awkwardly early. But there are ways to overcome this type of time management hurdle. Addressing inaccurate time perception requires an initial assessment. I recommend spending a day or, if your schedule changes often, an entire week timing and recording how long it takes to do your normal, recurring tasks. Make a list of how long your commutes take, how much time you usually spend in the shower, how long it takes you to read through your emails at the office, the average length of your phone calls, all the major events that comprise  a  typical day. Next, you HAVE to begin maintaining a written schedule if you do not do so already. Keep your list of timed activities next to your planner or wherever you choose to record your schedule. When planning your schedule, ALWAYS reference the list you’ve created, and budget your time accordingly. That means if you know your friend wants to meet you across town after work and you know it takes you 45 minutes to commute to that area, go ahead and tell that person you will meet them a full hour after your workday ends. Not only are you accounting for the 45-minute drive, but you are allowing yourself an extra 15 minutes to have a quick chat with your supervisor before leaving, go to the restroom, and attend to any other small time “vacuums”  that tend to pop up whenever we really have somewhere to go. While it is important to actually allow yourself the extra time, the game-changing potential lies in continuing to behave as if you only have 45 minutes to get there. This means recreating that same sense of urgency despite knowing you have a time cushion. That part may or may not take a little practice, so be firm, yet patient and consistent with yourself.

Set Firm Time Barriers

Whether you have to set a very loud alarm, have someone call you at a particular cut-off time, or use an app on your phone, creating unavoidable reminders that you need to stop what you’re doing and move on to the next activity will greatly enhance your ability to avoid being late. Be very intentional about how you structure your activities and transition points (i.e. leaving one place to commute to another, stopping one task and beginning the next). Try to make it nearly impossible for you to ignore the reminders and time boundaries you create for yourself. By giving yourself the right tools and holding yourself accountable, you will immediately begin to see real change in the way you manage time and adhere to deadlines. Inviting other people you trust to also keep you accountable will only add fuel to your self-improvement fire.