When Your New Year’s Resolution Takes a Sharp Left

Business Insider Magazine reports 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail before February. Now that we are a few weeks into January, you may feel yourself reverting to those habits you’ve wanted to change. The following tips will help you keep going strong into February and beyond:

1. Set benchmarks. Instead of planning to immediately make a gigantic change all at once, set benchmarks that will ultimately lead you to your larger goal. For example, if you want to start cooking at home and eliminate fast food, reduce the number of times you go out for fast food by half. Next month, reduce that number by half again. Keep cutting down until you’re no longer eating fast food. In some cases, you may need to make very immediate changes up front (i.e. if your health dictates an immediate switch), in which case you should do whatever your health professional tells you. But in most cases, gradual change is more likely to become permanent behavior.

2. Get back on the horse! It’s VERY easy to give up on your diet after having a forbidden dinner, throw your commitment to arriving on time out the window the first couple times you’re late to work, or to skip a couple days at the gym and never go back. Instead of feeling like you have to go back to the drawing board, pick up where you left off as if you never missed a beat.

3. Assess yourself frequently. If you are having difficulty making a change or sticking to a resolution, evaluate why you have decided to make the change, and consider all possible mental, emotional, and situation blocks that may be preventing you from making the change. Then work to bypass or, if necessary, eliminate those blocks.

4. Consult someone with more experience. When in doubt, seek help. Hire a coach. Ask a friend who has been there/done that. Join my Facebook group! Transformation is much more easily attained with the support of like-minded people. My goal for the group is to create a community of people who are focused on becoming the best version of themselves and helping others along the way!

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.