Organizing Your Life 103: Creating a Schedule – Sample

Rolanda L., Professional Organizer illustrates a sample schedule and discusses recommendations to add balance to each day.

When creating a schedule, there are four major components I personally believe are non-negotiable elements: food, hobbies, spiritual time, and relaxation. A healthy individual is a well-rounded individual. Many of us are prone to forgetting to make time for the things that keep us well-rounded; therefore, making an active effort to schedule these activities is a positive step toward adding balance to our lives.

Schedule your meals.

Many of us are attempting to cram entirely too  many tasks into 24 hours. Consequently, we skip breakfast. Workers often so busy, they miss out on having an adequate lunch period. At the end of the day, we may be more prone to overcompensating with a dinner that is too calorie-dense and lacking in essential nutrients. Scheduling meals, and sticking to your schedule, can help you consume your meals in a more timely fashion, have more energy throughout the day, and become more intentional about the food you eat. Weight loss, fewer nutritional deficiencies, and a better sense of overall well-being are direct results of effective meal planning.

Make Time for Hobbies

In addition to nutritional and health disorders, modern humans may also develop stress-induced disorders as a result of the way we plan and utilize our time each day. Although working and earning a living or studying and earning a degree are important, most people also require time to “refresh.” Participating in the leisure activities we enjoyed before we were required to work or study full-time every day can help keep stress at bay. These activities may include any productive activity such as playing sports, arts and crafts, taking a class for fun, reading, attending social events, watching a limited amount of television, watching movies, etc.

Plan Time to Get Spiritual

Many refer to their spiritual time as “quiet time” set, usually aside to pray, read holy scripture or other religious books, meditate, or simply reflect on general life questions and be thankful. Even people who are not “religious” may benefit from setting aside time and using it to ponder the great mysteries of life and the universe before getting into the their day-to-day routine or prior to winding down at night.

Relaxation

Each year in the U.S., more than 3 million people report experiencing insomnia or difficulty sleeping. The underlying cause of the condition varies from case-to-case; however, for many, lack of a proper sleep time routine makes dozing more difficult. I highly recommend at least a 15-minute relaxation period prior to getting ready for bed and attempting to go to sleep. The 15-minute period may consist of any activity that allows for transition from the regular daytime pace to a more tranquil nighttime state. Examples of relaxation activities may include listening to music, reading, watching a relaxing TV show before bed, dimming the lights and lighting candles, infusing oils for aromatherapy, etc.

Sample Schedule

The sample schedule I created was based on a person who is slightly more of a night owl and works from 9 to 5 during the day.  The schedule begins with the person’s morning routine and picks up later with the afternoon routine when it is time to leave work. When creating your own schedule, I recommend starting by working in 15-minute increments for greater flexibility and accuracy. If you are unable to create your own schedule “from scratch,” you may use the sample as a general guide and adjust the times and activities to fit your current needs.

 

Sample Schedule

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Get Organized to Go Back to School!

Many of my clients are anticipating the start of a new school year for their children. Some are even returning to school themselves, either to teach or to work on earning a degree. This post is for those who are looking to map their route to success by putting an organized plan in place for the year.

[Note: The following products are available by clicking on the images, which will direct you to Amazon’s website. I am an Amazon affiliate; therefore, Amazon will pay me a small commission for all purchases made through the links from my site. The price for the buyer remains the same regardless!…Also…you can DIY many of these ideas should you choose to do so!]

Letter Trays

I am a huge fan of these, and I recommend them in various forms to virtually any client who owns and desk and uses it!

How do I get organized by using letter trays?

I’m glad you asked. For most adults, I suggest having three trays and labeling them as  follows: 1) urgent, 2) mid-term, 3) long-term.

As you may have guessed, the labels indicate the immediacy of the deadline by which you must address the items within each tray. Bills that are due within less than a month should go into urgent. Permission slips for next week’s trip to the zoo? Urgent. Choosing a new cable provider before the contract expires three months from now? Mid-term. A reminder that your yearly donation to your favorite non-profit is due by the end of the year? Long term. However, as a long term deadline nears, you should continue to move the item to the more immediate letter trays until the item is addressed.

I have seen this system work extremely well for even the most disorganized among my clients and those who absolutely hate structure. The key to staying on top of this system is to address the letter trays EACH time you sit down at the desk for the FIRST time within a 24-hour period, i.e. you should visit the letter trays once per day. If you follow these directions meticulously, I guarantee your desk will not overflow with paper.

This system also works well for older students who tend to have mid-term and longer term projects.

For young kids who have homework, I suggest using an inbox/outbox system. When the child arrives home from school, he or she should immediately place all homework in a letter tray labeled “inbox.” Ideally, the tray should remain on the child’s desk or work table. If the child works at a kitchen or dining room table, the inbox may be brought out when the child arrives from school and stored on a shelf or in another location out of the way once all the homework for the next day has been completed. Once completed, homework should be placed in another letter tray labeled “outbox.”  The outbox tray should be placed near the home’s entrance (also a good location for the child’s backpack once packed) to ensure the child and parent will not forget homework on the way out the next morning. One tremendous advantage to using this system is that it provides a very natural way for parents to monitor their child’s progress in school and to ensure homework completion.

Okay, sign me up!

Here are some letter trays:

A dual wall file also works well for a simplified inbox/outbox system when attached to the child’s door or in another prominent place in the home.

Organizing Letters from School, Permission Slips, and Miscellaneous Papers

Younger students often bring notices, conduct reports, permission slips, and artwork home from school to show their parents. For parental notices, I recommend using a wall file or letter sorter with multiple compartments. Each file or compartment can be labeled by document type (i.e. one for permission slips/things that need to be signed and returned, one for PTA announcements, one for artwork/completed work the child brings home, and one very clearly labeled for signed items/notes that are ready to be returned to the teacher).

 

 

Stay tuned for follow-up Back-to-School posts on lunch boxes, backpacks, and school supplies!