Organizing Your Life 201: Getting Organized to Go to Work – Winding Down at Night for a Better Morning

Rolanda L. continues the OranizeU series by discussing the importance of properly winding down at night to prepare to be more positive and productive the following day.

For many of us, getting out the door and arriving at work on time is one of the greatest challenges we face in a day. Nevertheless, the process of transitioning from home to professional life is also one of the most important tasks we have each day.

The Significance of a Good “Launch”

Leaving the comforts of home to interact with the world outside is a process that is not to be taken lightly. In fact, the morning routine is more analogous to a daily “launch” in contrast to the way many of us typically view our mornings: as a mundane process through we we drag ourselves from our place of comfort to a place of obligation.

Good and bad days both begin with how we prepare for the hours we will spend way from home (or in the home office for those who work from home; that is a separate post entirely). We could even go one step further and say the outcome of the following day is frequently influenced by the preparatory measures we take the night before. These measures may include getting enough sleep, finishing a work assignment the night before OR going to bed early enough to allow yourself time to comfortably prepare the next morning. Therefore, spacing and proximity are critical considerations when planning an effective schedule; a well-planned and executed schedule will consistently lead to better days overall.

Getting Started 

In crafting a morning routine that is most conducive to having the best day possible, the process begins with the here and now. First, think about all your pain points and struggles that regularly occur in the morning: do you you sift through closets and drawers to find the right clothes to wear? Do you skip breakfast and have difficulty concentrating or later resort to eating unhealthy snacks? Do you simply not feel like getting out of bed and, as a result, hit the snooze button too many times? Next, think about the most frequent reasons you may experience a bad day at work: are you too tired to peacefully coexist with an annoying supervisor or coworker? Do you simply not enjoy what you do for work? Do you miss deadlines or feel unprepared when required to complete assignments? Do you lack energy by the end of the work day? Believe it or not, each of these situations may be remedied by investing a little energy up front to execute effective schedule planning and by tweaking your morning routine.

Planning for Improved Logistics

Factors such as getting adequate sleep, getting dressed, having breakfast, and arriving at work on time are all part of the logistics of a successful morning “launch.” Thinking in terms of launching a space shuttle, the support teams don’t haphazardly drag the rocket out to the launchpad and lean it against the platform. A considerable amount of prep work takes place prior to a shuttle launch. Similarly, a well-executed start to your day will also require a degree of preparation.

Because logistical components like showering, dressing, and eating are largely based on effective time management, remedying related issues is somewhat of a straightforward process. Ensuring you have enough time to include each of these important components of your morning depends heavily on creating a schedule that realistically works for you. If you are unsure of where to get started with creating an effective schedule, see Organize U Lesson 103 for an example.

Getting Enough Sleep

To most people, a reminder on the necessity of getting enough sleep may sound cliche. However, ensuring adequate sleep the night before sets the tone for a more peaceful, productive morning, which is more likely to lead to a better day. Getting enough sleep starts with a plan. As discussed in Lesson 103, I highly recommend creating  a chart and dividing a 24-hour day into 15-minute increments. Using the time you are scheduled to leave work as a starting point, think about how you currently spend each 15-minute period from then until the time you typically got to bed. Then look for opportunities to optimize your afternoon and evening schedule to allow you to get to bed at a reasonable hour. This may require eating out less, spending less time at happy hour, or simply ending television-watching 15 to 30 minutes early to signal your body and brain to enter wind-down mode and fall asleep more easily at the preferred hour.

Crafting the Perfect Wind-Down

Speaking of sleep, many of us have difficulty getting there because we expect our bodies to go from full speed to an immediate stop. While there may be medical and deeply psychological causes that may prevent a person from getting to sleep at night, insomnia is also often caused by lack of an effective pre-bed time routine. For this reason, we must plan a “wind down” period into our nightly schedule. The components of an effective wind down will vary from person to person. Therefore, each individual must think about environmental factors that will help him or her relax. In general, relaxing in a comfortable setting with dim lighting and no electronics will help most people “unplug” from the digital world before going to bed. During this time, lighting candles, reading a book, and/or listening to music are favorable activities. Those who find baths relaxing may wish to use this time to bathe in warm water scented with lavender. Individuals who suffer from muscle tension or other physical ailments may find it beneficial to apply a scented heating pad or other therapeutic treatments to help reduce tension and pain prior to attempting to sleep.

The objective of the wind down period is to focus on calming sights, sounds, and smells to shift the mind from work responsibilities and other stressors to a place in which both mind and body can rest through the remainder of the night. Those who have difficulty shifting their thoughts may find it beneficial to repeatedly remind themselves that all work, personal, and social responsibilities will be there when they wake up the following day and may be addressed in due time. Moreover, an individual who has a well-rested mind and body is more capable of  finding and implementing solutions than one who is exhausted in both mind and body. After winding down, proceed directly to bed, allowing an extra 15 minutes prior to the scheduled bed time to actually fall asleep.

The next lesson will discuss setting the tone for the a successful, less stressful day by creating an efficient and enjoyable morning routine.

 

How to Avoid Getting Stuck “In the Meantime”

Rolanda L., explains how to avoid common pitfalls associated with getting stuck in “in the meantime” situations.

We often commit to things for which we lack passion. We take jobs that aren’t in our intended career field because we need to make ends meet. We spend time in less-than-ideal settings with an incompatible social group because it’s “better than being alone.” We go on dates with people who probably aren’t appropriate matches from the outset because “you never know who will be the one (…debatable…you can often tel who is NOT the one).” We remain in dysfunctional relationships of all varieties because “it could be worse.” This sort of thinking has its time and place. Unfortunately, for many of us, it is often applied virtually all the time in many of the wrong places.

Choosing “in the meantime” situations is only appropriate when combined with an exit plan that leads the individual closer to his or her ideal goal. “In the meantime” is not an adequate substitute for the lack of a goal or plan. While it is true that plans are sometimes delayed or even derailed, an exit strategy must also be malleable enough to accommodate the unexpected hand life may sometimes deal. Otherwise, there may be a great temptation to remain focused on the immediate term instead of looking out onto the horizon and making plans according to the terrain that stretches forth. It is when a person submits to the temptation to remain focused on the immediate term that the risk of encountering long-term lack of fulfillment sets in.

Unfulfilled Life Ambitions Often Lead to a Vicious Cycle

Remaining in an “in the meantime” situation that is not congruent with your overall desire for your life may seem comfortable at first, but eventually, the effects of not actively working toward your goals will emerge in other areas. Working a steady job, but uncompelling may pay the bills at first, but spending large chunks of time in a role that does not feed into a greater passion is oftentimes accompanied by added stress or even feelings of “numbness.” People often utilize their hard-earned income to alleviate stress and avoid numbness by pursuing other outlets, including expensive vacations, drinking, gambling, shopping, or other activities to create a greater separation from “work” during off-duty hours. There is nothing inherently wrong with leisure activities. However, knowing that you are committed to working 5 days a week in a capacity that is in conflict with your life goals can intensify the urge to get as far away from work as possible when you’re not working. The cycle becomes vicious when you realize are spending so much of your income on activities to get away from work, that you find yourself having to work more to maintain your basic, everyday needs throughout the work week (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, electricity, transportation, etc.). Entering the cycle often means having to delay your desired goals even longer.

 

Avoiding the Cycle of Unfulfilled Ambition

The cycle of working to make ends meet and spending the rest on activities that help us forget about work is alarmingly common among many of us. While most people mistakenly think the key to avoiding the cycle is to either be independently wealthy or very lucky, it is not only feasible for some people to avoid the pitfalls of working in an unfulfilling job altogether, but it is even possible for those who absolutely must work an “in the meantime” job and leverage it to pursue a life goal.

 

The Role of Detailed, Yet Flexible Planning

Plans are made and broken all the time. However, attempting to reach a desired destination without utilizing a map is the least efficient way to get there. Similar to traveling to a new restaurant or shop on an unfamiliar side of town or visiting a friend in a new city, employing the use of a “map” when working toward a goal can be very beneficial. When working to achieve career goals, an action plan or “career map” might include the level of education required to achieve the ultimate goal, schools that award the required degrees or certificates as well as their entry requirements and tuition costs. In addition to education, a plan might include related part-time jobs that will not only help cover the costs associated with achieving the goal, but also help develop skills that can be used in pursuit of the ultimate career destination. Internships and related postgraduate entry-level positions may also be included in the plan.

Planning is not only helpful when working toward a fulfilling career. “Mapping” is also effective when navigating the road to personal and relationship goals. A person who would like to dedicate more of their resources to philanthropy may wish to map out a course to working for a non-profit organization or create a detailed budget to determine how to achieve a goal of giving a certain amount to charitable organizations each month or year. An individual who wishes to allocate a certain amount of time to community service projects may start by creating a detailed schedule and determining changes that may need to be made in the interest of freeing up time to do volunteer work. When seeking new friends or a romantic relationship, mapping out shared interests you would like to have with a potential friend or partner and planning to participate in related activities is an excellent starting point for meeting like-minded people.

Conclusion

Whether you are feeling stagnant in your job, relationships, or any other area in your life, take a step back, evaluate where you are in relation to where you would like to go, and plan accordingly. By continuing to reassess your current whereabouts and reevaluate your plan, you will eventually end up where you would like to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Have I Been!?!

The blog has been completely quiet the past couple weeks because I’ve been working tirelessly to complete my first video course! The course finally went live Saturday night. Today is the official weekday launch! So far, just under 600 students from around the world have signed up. With that huge milestone crossed, I can now get back to more regular updates and organizing tips!

I know you’re curious, so…sign up for FREE access to my video learning course, click HERE!

Combating Indecisiveness

Most people who have been paralyzed by indecision also know the deleterious effect the chronic inability to make decisions can have on an individual’s life. Being caught between two equally appealing plans for a Saturday morning may end in spending half the day in bed laden with guilt. Inability to decide whether to start a home organizing project by rearranging the kitchen cabinets or purging the linen closet may quickly lead to clean towels remaining on top of the dryer for a week and a load of dishes that never really make it out of the dishwasher. A plan to start exercising and lose weight may be completely derailed when it’s time to choose a gym. While most of us have experienced indecisiveness on a comparatively small scale (“Should I wear jeans or something less casual?…Now I’m running late.”), there are people from virtually every walk of life who find themselves gripped by the inability to feel at ease when prompted to make a decision. As a result, their lives become stagnant and are oftentimes filled with anxiety at nearly every turn.

If the notion of struggling to make basic decisions resonates with you, you may be wondering whether you can be helped. The answer is yes.

Your Life is the Product of a Series of Choices

At first, imagining that a person’s life is the sum of his or her choices might seem like more of a reason to feel overwhelmed. However, re-imagining decision-making as the act that propels us through each day can also help us feel less pressured from moment to moment. Instead of concentrating on the potential for things to go very badly as a result of one misstep, a more empowering approach is to view each opportunity to make a decision as another chance to right a wrong or to build upon a previous good decision; focus on the good that may result from your choices. Shifting your perspective to one that looks forward to deciding, observing the outcome, and using that outcome as the basis upon which to make better decisions will eventually replace the familiar feelings of indecisiveness and dread with a sense of moving in a much more positive forward trajectory.

Decision-Making is Information-Gathering

Most of us are familiar with some variation of the phrase “Live and learn.” We can, in fact, learn from our experiences and use them to predict outcomes, oftentimes with a reliable degree of accuracy. However, sometimes, our progress may be hindered if we begin to think irrationally and become overwhelmed by emotion in attempting to predict the future. Harboring the fear of not making perfect decisions can have an impact that extends beyond preventing an individual from moving forward. Refusing to make a decision may also rob the individual of the opportunity to gather new information through experience. Over time, a consistent pattern of avoiding new experiences may eventually result in stagnation and lack of growth.

What’s the Cure?

The cure to indecisiveness is fairly straightforward: make a decision; then make another one. Through my work, I have found that among people who describe themselves as very disorganized, there is a certain subset that experiences severe anxiety in combination with paralyzing indecisiveness. My recommended approach to combating indecisiveness is the same as my advice to anyone who is attempting to accomplish any seemingly insurmountable goal: start small. One decision will literally lead to another. Small accomplishments will help you make decisions in areas that are highly unlikely to have lasting detrimental effects, but over time they will enable you to build confidence in your decision-making abilities.

Celebrate Your Successes

When it comes to replacing negative habits with positive behaviors, repetition and recognition are equally important. Pausing to acknowledge progress encourages the continuance of the positive behavior and can make the individual feel less frustrated and more apt to try again if he or she experiences a moment of regression along the way.

Realize Most Decisions Are Impermanent

Overall, decision-making is like wandering through a city park. It is entirely possible to get lost for a while, but parks are finite structures, and so are most of life’s situations. If you observe and note where you’ve been and remained focused on where you want to go, you will most likely find yourself on the right path sooner or later.

Basic Closet Organization Strategy

Rolanda L., Professional organizer shares one of her classic strategies for organizing closets

One of the first questions I ask my clients who request closet organization help is: what is your morning routine? Next question: are you often late for work? The automatic follow-up that is: can you find your clothes easily in the morning?
If you struggle in these area, have no shame. You’re in good company. The following is a fairly simple approach to getting your clothes closet in order. One of the fantastic aspects of this basic system is it’s easy to learn and maintain. You can make it as complex and detailed as you’d like. I would advise adding more detail to the way you organize your closet ONLY if doing so would help you. It is entirely possible to get caught up in the act of organizing and get lost in the details.
Ideal Step 1: Purge your closet. Right now we are nearing the end of summer. The next couple weeks provide an excellent opportunity for you to assess spring and summer clothes you will look forward to replacing next year. If you are a person who likes to shop off season or during clearance sales, perfect! Get rid of some stuff before you go buy something new. Seriously. Do not allow yourself to go shopping for clearance items until you have purged.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I will proceed to the more realistic first step for those of us who may be trying to quickly throw our closet together either a) to avoid going insane because we can’t take it anymore or b) because we simply don’t have time to do a thorough purge over the next couple weeks because [insert legitimate reason]. No judgment whatsoever. Okay. Let’s start organizing!
Step 1: Bring all of your hanging clothes (within one closet) into view. You can leave it on the racks as long as you can see it all. Divide your closet based on intended purpose/frequency of use. For many of us, that means hanging all work clothes on one half of the closet and all non-work clothes on the other half. If you have special occasion items, separate them into their own category, preferably at one of the far ends of the closet (in the corner, following your work clothes would be a great place, assuming you dress up or wear a uniform for work).
Step 2: Once you’ve gotten all clothes on hangers and separated into their categories inside the closet [you should have 2 major categories per closet, no more than 3], sort all clothes within Category 1 [let’s call it Work Clothes] by type. This means you would hang all tops at the front of the Work Clothes section, followed by skirts, then pants, then dresses, then suits. Feel free to vary the order of clothing types for greater ease of access or enhanced visual effect–yes, your closet will also look pretty when you’re done. Or you may simply follow the order listed. I typically order clothing as described. Sometimes I vary when working within someone else’s closet.
 
Step 3: After grouping clothing according to type, work within each group, and sort all clothing according to color from lightest to darkest (or darkest to lightest with stripes and prints at the beginning of each color segment [i.e. pink butterfly shirt at the beginning of the pinks, which are located directly in front of the reds because pink is lighter than red, but in the same color family]).
Step 4: This may be more of a bonus step for some, but a necessity when I do my own closet. If you’ve made it this far, you’re doing well. Let’s kick things up a notch by…sorting all clothing (within each type) by weight and sleeve length. This means within Tops: tops with thin straps first, then sleeveless, then cap sleeves, then short sleeves, then 3/4-length, then long sleeves, finally sweaters. Skirts: short skirts, knee-length, calf-length (if you’re into that), ending with long skirts. The idea is to essentially keep lighter weight, cooler clothing to the front of each group and to progress to longer sleeves (or skirt length or pant legs).
This way, you can look at your closet and easily pull out your green beaded camisole without hesitation. Breath of fresh air, right? Ahhh….
 
Step 5: Repeat Steps 1 through 3 [optionally 4] on the next category of clothing in your closet [If you divided your closet into Work and Play clothes, you would simply proceed on to the Casual side, sort and group all casual clothing accordingly]
This system has served me so well. I hope you also enjoy implementing it! It make getting back on track much easier when things go awry…as they sometimes do in the world of staying organized…

Organizing Your Life 102: Reclaiming Your Time

The Advantage of Learning to Budget Your Time

In the inaugural lesson of OrganizeU, entitled “Getting Organized for a Good Night’s Sleep” we explored steps toward establishing a foundation for better time management. In this installment, we will begin to focus on adding more detail to the way we structure our time by creating a schedule. The ultimate objective of creating a schedule is to gain the ability to optimize the way you utilize the hour you are awake. Budgeting your time will allow you to readily examine which activities add value to your life and are, therefore, more worthy of your energy and attention. I will note that in this case, “worthiness” does not necessarily correlate to “enjoyment.” There are some activities that are not very enjoyable for most people, yet they are of a high level of importance; therefore, we must do them. An example would be standing in line to renew your driver’s license. By creating a schedule and evaluating potential opportunities to maximize your time, you will be in a position to make better decisions in advance such as reminding yourself to renew your license online, thereby avoiding long waits at the DMV, or to better manage your time waiting in line by bringing a book to read or a work task you can complete remotely.

Before You Make a Schedule

For most people who have never operated on a self-generated schedule and stuck to it, structuring their day into preset time slots may seem like a very daunting, possibly stifling task.  Therefore, I recommend individuals spend one week simply assessing how they currently use their time. For seven days, simply keep track of how long it takes to complete each task, from waking up to getting out of bed, brushing teen and showering, getting ready for work/school/other daily activity, mealtimes, even downtime. The time expenditure record can simply be a list of notes regarding all daily activities and the start and end time for each.

Week 2: Create a Schedule

At the end of the seven day tracking period, review the notes, and create a rough schedule based current time expenditures. While the goal is to devise a schedule that overall works with your current lifestyle, some opportunities for time savings may already be evident. Adjustments may be made at this time; however, the schedule can and likely will be tweaked as time passes and more opportunities for better time manage are discovered.

Week 3: Follow the Schedule

Over the next week, do your best to follow the schedule. Expect that you may not be able to perfectly adhere to it, but always try to get right back on track if you exceed the allotted planned time. Also recognize that you may need to adjust your parameters if you find you need more or less time to complete certain tasks.

Week 4: Maintain the Schedule

By Week 4, you will have had time to create your new schedule and tweak it to increase practicality. From this point on, proceed to use your new self-made schedule as a general guide for performing daily tasks as well as for scheduling appointments and social activities. You may find that your confidence grows as you observe all the tasks you are consistently able to complete along with your ability to communicate your newly optimized schedule to others. As outlined in the previous lesson, your schedule should begin with your self-established wake-up time and end with your designated pre-bedtime preparation (shower, reading, quiet time, etc.) followed by sleeping at bedtime.

Adjusting to a schedule may not happen instantly. The key to success is to continue to work diligently in spite of mistakes and to remain patient with yourself.

Lesson 103 will feature customizable sample schedules for those who may have difficulty deciding where to begin when attempting to budget their time. See you in the next installment of OrganizeU!

**In the meantime, check out this handy supplemental list that condenses this entire lesson into four streamlined steps.

Organizing Kids: Reining in a Messy Room

Rolanda L. discusses approaches to helping kids learn to become more organized.

This post was inspired by back-to-school season; therefore, it was written with kids in mind. However, many of the principles are easily transferable to adults. The following suggestions many help ease friction between parents and their children by making the process of getting and staying organized more manageable for a child or older youth. In addition to making the completion of chores a smoother process, families may also realize time management benefits by employing the following tactics to help kids manage their own rooms.

Acknowledge that Your Child May Be Overwhelmed

I work with adults who often have significant anxieties around creating organizational systems in their homes and workplaces. Oftentimes, they have long been afraid to experiment with the trial and error that may be involved in finding the right system. This is a common reason some people immediately shy away from the notion of establishing a system or organizing and working within it. Anxieties often begin in childhood. In some cases, a child may not understand exactly why his or room becomes messy because he or she perceives space differently than the parent. In other cases, the organizational system in place may simply not work for that particular child’s way of perceiving and interacting with his or her environment.

Differences in Space Perception

Space perception always comes into play when multiple people reside in the same home. A hyper-organized person may prefer to keep all household items hidden in closets, opaque bins, and drawers. For a child, maintaining the visibility of certain items, such as stuffed animals, Legos, books, or awards, may create a sense of comfort. To that child’s parent, I would suggest solutions that allow a few of the child’s favorite items to be neatly displayed in clear bins or on shelves. The child would then be responsible for ensuring the items are neatly stored in their display areas as one of his or her bedroom or playroom maintenance tasks.

Differences in Organizing Styles

Even at a young age, a child may be inclined to organize differently than his or her parents. An adult may have the focus to separate items into drawers and compartments. While theses exercises may be effective for helping children learn to concentrate while grouping and sorting items, incorporating an organizing system that is too detailed may frustrate and overwhelm some children if the cleanliness of their room depends on it. Therefore, parents may wish to start with simple sorting tasks, such as creating distinctly separate open laundry bins for colored clothes and whites or clearly labeling each drawer and keeping a single clothing item in each (i.e. a drawer for shirts, a drawer for bottoms, a drawer for pajamas, etc.). The key is to keep organizing as simple and as basic as possible when introducing a new system. Also many kids, and even adults, are much more able to maintain their items in clearly marked open bins versus closed hampers and boxes. When using bins for storage, it helps if the container is transparent or only slightly tinted as being able to see the items inside will serve as a constant reminder to avoid placing the wrong items in the wrong bins. Color-coding and keeping the bins in distinctly different, yet still conveniently accessible locations around the room may also make this strategy more effective. When using bins for storing laundry or items that are used daily, it is important to place the bins in an area that is intuitive for the child or adult who will be using them. For example if a child normally piles dirty laundry on a chair, relocate the chair, and replace it with a laundry bin. Helping someone else get organized is much easier when you work with the current habits they have in place. Eventually, they will become more accustomed to having an organized room, and they will be more likely to begin seeking out ways to keep their environment organized.

Break the Task Down Into Steps

Children may need to have the steps for cleaning their room clearly outlined, enumerated, and thoroughly explained. Full disclosure: this was one I struggled with as a child. My mother would simply reference “cleaning my room.” In response, I would tidy up things in the room that seemed out of place to me. My idea of cleaning almost never overlapped with hers. To avoid frustration on both sides of the equation, parents must clearly and kindly communicate their expectations. Making written lists with descriptions of how to perform each task is extremely helpful. Adults use similar tools all the time; we call them contracts and checklists. The overall goal is to ensure both parties are aware of all expectations while providing the performing party with an accurate measuring stick for determining when those expectations have been satisfactorily met.

Be Patient; Expect Trial and Error

Helping a child or family member get organized requires patience. I recommend observing the person’s habits or having a non-confrontational conversation to determine why they store items the way they currently do and to assess approaches that require little behavior modification upfront (such as placing a storage bin in the exact same area where the person typically discards items; suggesting one day at the end of the week to clear out or sort the items in the bin will help the person maintain the area). Trial and error may be necessary. I prefer to work in one-week or two-week increments to give the person time to adapt to the new system and to evaluate the potential for modifications that may make the system easier to follow and, therefore, likely to be more successful.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal in helping a child or other family member get organized should be the well-being of the person in addition to preserving harmony in the home. Before presenting a new organizational system to someone, it is essential that you evaluate your objectives and eliminate all semblances of a desire to control the other person. Any assistance that is offered from a genuine place of wanting to help the person succeed and improve his or her quality of life will consider that person’s perspective and individual needs. Therefore, suggestions that truly come from a place of selfless concern will generally be received much better by the intended recipient.