Many people say they want to get better organized, but in order to act upon that wish, you must deeply examine your motives for wanting to do so. Your motives must be strong enough to sustain you through the change process. DECIDE is an empowering process that leads to change. It will assist you in achieving results at home, at work, and in life in general. While the process guides a person in making decisions that lead to a more organized state, it is itself a decision; a decision to take control. How do you do that? 

If you are ready to change and need help with any of your organizing or time management projects, then join me for the DECIDE to be Organized Online Group Coaching Program,a 6-week teleclass series that allows participants to be guided through the entire DECIDE process in a group coaching environment.

  • Dates: Tuesday evenings, February 9 to March 16, 2010
  • Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm EST
  • Investment: Early Bird Special – $199 if register by Jan. 25th ($249 thereafter)
  • Bonuses:  Includes MP3 recordings of all classes, the DECIDE to be Organized 58-page e-book, e-mail access to me and the group members, laser coaching session, and more!
  •  Click here for details and to register

During these teleclasses, I will offer guidance, support, and expertise as you embark on this empowering process for change. Through DECIDE, you will learn the tools needed to get better organized, take control, and make positive changes.

Listen to my message about this exciting program AND a free 10 minute audio about the DECIDE process. 

What the DECIDE to be Organized Group Coaching Program Includes:

  • Time, motivation and inspiration to work on your organizing projects.
  • A fun, supportive environment made up of individuals that also want to get better organized. You don’t have to go it alone!
  • Lasting tools to help you learn your organizing style, change your mindset, and maintain your organizing systems long after the program is over.
  • Decluttered physical space and clarity of mind so that you can focus on the things you really want, love, and need in your home, work, and life! 

If you are interested in having your very own organizing coach, but aren’t able to invest the money to work on a one-on-one basis with an organizing expert, this affordable program is the answer! You can achieve your New Year’s resolution to get organized in 2010!

Take a look at the program details and “decide” for yourself.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Many people believe that they have one true vocational calling.  That may be true.  But for some of us, we have multiple areas of expertise and talents and a thirst to share them all with the world.  It is this sense of adventure and drive for reinvention that ultimately led me to create LM Organizing Solutions, LLC (LMOS).

My first calling was as a performer.  I spent my childhood singing, acting and dancing, and wanted to go professional.  But as I matured, I started to fall in love with the law, and switched gears as a young adult, pursuing a pre-law course of study.  I never gave up performing but, rather, turned it into a wonderful hobby that continues to this day.

Another great passion of mine was to work with the deaf.  My cousins are deaf–a lovely married couple that are a generation older than me.  As a child, when I visited and saw them signing with each other, and with their two hearing children, I was enthralled and vowed to learn this beautiful, expressive language.  Thus, when I graduated from college and was admitted to law school, I deferred admission for one year to teach at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains, NY.

I was hooked!  I loved teaching deaf students, and developed proficiency for American Sign Language.  A year later, I decided to continue teaching and attend law school in the evening. 

Upon my graduation from law school, I practiced employment, labor, education and disability law for 9 ½ years.  Although I had a profound respect for the law, I did not appreciate the way it was practiced in our society.  It became too negative in the hands of those that wanted to use it to fight.  I started to become restless and knew that there were other ways I could share my talents and expertise with people and organizations to improve the world.  I did a lot of soul searching and arrived at the conclusion that I needed to leave the traditional practice of law and become an entrepreneur in order to truly make a difference.

During that time of career transition, I realized that I had been organizing people’s lives on an “amateur” level my whole life, and that my organizing and coaching skills transcended my work as a lawyer, teacher, mediator, writer, speaker, and performer. 

In 2002, I launched LMOS, which serves as the umbrella for my areas of expertise, and provides a platform to offer a variety of services to clients.  Through LMOS, I am able to offer organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations.  These three main focus areas allow me to combine my lifelong passion for creating order with my skills gained as a lawyer, educator, and performer.  LMOS gives me the ability to enact positive, proactive change.  My clients rely on me for leadership, guidance, support, encouragement, and coaching.

I now consider myself a multi-passionate entrepreneur.  My business is both a profession and a passion.  I took a leap of faith and created a business that allows me to meld together many different, but related, “callings” at the same time, while helping people live better lives and run better companies and organizations.  The result has been both successful and rewarding.

Habitat for Humanity 12-12-09I had the opportunity to participate in a very meaningful volunteer project this month with the Young Professionals (YPs) of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce — a Habitat for Humanity project in Newburgh, NY (www.habitatnewburgh.org). I must confess that I’ve always wanted to do a Habitat project so I was thrilled when the YPs decided to take this on as their community service project. And I was not disappointed!

There’s something so satisfying about Habitat’s work; you really get to see the fruits of your labor. Most YPs painted for the day. I hauled materials, loaded up dumpsters, and even got to “organize” in the warehouse a bit! I also had the chance to see their store (aptly named Restore) for the public to purchase used furniture, supplies, and materials.

They require all volunteers to take a mid-morning break and gather in one location for refreshments, food, announcements, and acknowledgements. They recognize groups of volunteers and express their gratitude for all the volunteers’ assistance. They share stories about families that have benefited from Habitat’s assistance, which makes you realize even more the direct impact of the work you are doing.

I may have been sore the next day, but it was a really rewarding experience, and I was very impressed with Habitat. If you are looking for a volunteer project, definitely consider Habitat. I know the YPs plan to volunteer again in 2010, and I very much look forward to it!

Action is the foundational key to all success.  ~ Pablo Picasso

How many of us have heard the old familiar phrase, “The shoemaker’s children always go without shoes?” This phrase has become synonymous with almost anyone neglecting his or her own business. We are all guilty of it now and again. We get so busy working in the business that we forget to ‘mind the shop’ in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, in the process, we wind up losing one of the best experts we have on staff – ourselves! So, take a step back, and hire someone with superb expertise – you.

Let’s say, for example, you are a financial planner, but your finances have become a mess. Or perhaps you are a professional organizer, but your office is in complete disarray and you can’t find anything. What type of image does this project to your clients, and the world at large (assuming anyone knows about it!)? Not a very good one. But more importantly, you suffer because of it. You spend all of your best time and energy on your clients, and don’t take your own advice. This is not a great model for running a successful business. You should ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk the talk’ when it comes to the business advice you dispense to others. You should be a role model for your clients and other like-minded entrepreneurs. 

In the book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor (fabulous book that is really about life, not only cancer), author Kris Carr writes about how a good model for healthy living has been established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): wear your seat belt, don’t smoke in the bathroom, and if the plane goes down – put YOUR oxygen mask on first! Great advice in general, but also for an entrepreneur running a business. If you aren’t taking care of business inwardly, you can’t expect to succeed and exude a positive, productive image to the world. 

So, how do you avoid the shoemaker’s shoes trap? Start treating yourself like a prized client! You must start doing the inward focused work that you often neglect to do in order to move forward in your business. 

  • Audit your business based on your particular area of expertise. All of you have a unique area of brilliance that you excel in. Don’t give it all away to others! Save some for yourself. Audit your business based on your area of expertise and figure out what is lacking, what needs improvement, etc. Couldn’t you benefit from hiring you? Most likely, yes!
  • Set aside the time for a private boot camp or corporate retreat. You probably advise your clients to take time for their businesses, but when is the last time you booked uninterrupted time for your business? Every year, I book a boot camp or “corporate retreat” for my business. I write an action plan of what I want to focus on, and then I go to town and get it done. It is a great way to pump out projects that have been lingering, brainstorm what the direction of my business will be in coming months and years, and develop a future action plan. It is a time to both be productive and plan ahead.
  • Put your business through any checklists, systems, or processes that you put your clients through. You all have them: those great systems, approaches, and processes that you develop and share with your clients. Now, take some time to put your own business through the same systems. Not only will your business benefit, but also you will understand the systems more, see if there are any holes that need to be plugged, and any ways the systems can be improved upon. Therefore, you benefit, but so do your future clients.
  • Continue to hire yourself as needed. Once you’ve done the inward work necessary to keep your business running in tip-top shape, don’t neglect it again. If you start to see the shoemaker’s shoes trap rear it’s ugly head in the future, hire yourself to keep it at bay!

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by freelance writer Anna Vitale for her article, Overwhelmed? Getting Organized Can Make Your Workspace Work For You, which appeared in the Missouri Lawyers Weekly on August 31, 2009.

The Missouri Lawyers Weekly is a publication that is primarily written for, and read by, the legal profession. However, Ms. Vitale’s article discusses organizational challenges faced by any professional with an office! She interviewed me, along with another organizational expert, and offers solutions that are practical to implement.

Check out the article here for some great advice on how to overcome overwhelm at work!

Overwhelmed just thinking about the upcoming holiday season?  Relax. If you take a little time to plan your holiday season, it will be more enjoyable for you and your family! Focus on practicing good organizational techniques and time management principles.  Here are some tips to make the holidays enjoyable and the new year start off in a positive manner.

Setting Your Goals for the Holiday Season

  • We are pulled in so many different directions during the holidays: travel, family gatherings, parties and social events, shopping, baking, decorating, etc. As yourself: What do I want? This question is an invaluable guide for the holiday season. Think about what you want to do, as opposed to what you think others expect of you. Decide on your goals for the holiday season. Do you want to spend quality time with family? Do you want to try your hand at hosting or baking? Or, do you want to relax and enjoy quiet time? Achieving your goals and creating a meaningful holiday season requires that you have smart plans in place, especially if you want to enjoy the season without overindulging or stressing out.
  • It is difficult to keep all of the mental clutter associated with the holidays in our head! Keep a ‘holiday central’ notebook or create a memo in your handheld device. List items you want to do (notice I didn’t say need to do!), gifts to be purchased, people to send cards to, etc. Create a holiday budget so you know what you want to spend and stick to it.

Dealing With Holiday Schedule Overload

  • All the things you want to do over the holiday season can bring pressure if you don’t bring your wants and needs into alignment and into a manageable schedule. Holiday joy comes from balance and choosing the activities that are fulfilling for you. Avoid taking on too much at this time of year. If you’re feeling too pressured, look for activities that you can reschedule until after the holidays, delegate, or say no to. Recognize that you can’t do everything, especially if you want to enjoy your holiday season!  Ask yourself: What is the worst thing that will happen if I don’t do this?
  • Identify and avoid triggers. If going to certain events or seeing certain family or friends stresses you out and always ruins your holiday experience, avoid that activity. If you must attend, shorten your visit. If you are watching what you eat, plan ahead by eating a small healthy meal at home, so you won’t be as hungry at the event. Or plan out what you will eat at the event, allowing yourself a few treats that you only get to have once per year and stick to your plan.
  • If you regularly exercise, don’t stop over the holidays! Carve out time for exercise, even if it is not as much time as you usually do. The holidays are stressful enough – don’t miss out on a great form of natural stress relief!

Holiday Decorations

  • Pull out those holiday decorations (yes, all of them!). Take stock of what you will definitely use, and donate the rest in time for a family in need to use the decorations this season. Those decorations that are really just sentimental, but will never be used, should be stored in your Memory Box, not with holiday decorations.
  • Do you need to go all out with decorating this year? Maybe you want to scale back? Ask yourself if you still want to decorate as much as you used to, or are doing it out of habit or others’ expectations of you. If so, then give yourself permission to keep it simple!

Holiday Cards

  • Buy your stamps in bulk or online at www.usps.com. Check that you have current addresses for everyone on your holiday card list. If your contacts are stored on your computer, you can print labels.
  • Use a card sending service, such as Send Out Cards.
  • Consider sending New Year’s or Valentine’s Day cards instead. It’s unique and can be an unexpected treat to the receiver!
  • Just don’t do it! Don’t send paper versions of holiday cards at all if you don’t want to. Use email and social media sites to send holiday wishes, or pick up the phone and call special people in your life.

 Holiday Baking & Cooking

  • Prep your kitchen for holiday time. Purge any food items that your family is not eating (if they have not expired, donate to a nearby food pantry!) and make a shopping list of what you will need for holiday cooking and baking. Choose recipes in your favorite cookbooks or online, and start making lists of holiday menus you want to prepare.
  • Plan out your baking and cooking time on your calendar as an appointment so you take it seriously and stick to it. Otherwise, you will find yourself cooking and baking at 3 in the morning the night before the occasion!

Gift Giving

  • When gift giving, keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better – sometimes, it’s just more!
  • Considering regifting. Yes, I said it! Look at gifts you have received and have not used yet, or gifts you bought and stored throughout the year. Consider sharing some of these gifts with those on your list if the gift is a good match. Don’t feel guilty! It’s the thought that counts, not how you came by it.
  • Think outside the box. Try to give gifts that won’t just become clutter. Give perishables (make a favorite food item for a friend that always comments on your great cooking), gifts of experience (horseback riding for that niece that loves horses), gifts of time (baby sitting for the couple that never gets to go out alone), etc.  Be creative! Consider only giving gifts to children on your list, or deciding to donate to charities in people’s names instead of buying presents. Just make sure to agree to do this with others on your list so you don’t offend anyone come gift exchange time!
  • Ask people to be specific with what they want and need, and you do the same when writing out your wish list.
  • Let go of whatever gifts you receive that will just become clutter in your life, and do so without guilt! If you can’t return it, donate it or give it to a friend that is likely to enjoy it.

The payoff to all of this planning? You won’t have post-holiday regret syndrome! You’ll be calmer and more available to enjoy the company of your family and friends, and you’ll start the new year feeling empowered.

Looking for a holiday gift that subtracts from, instead of adds to, clutter? Check out my e-book, DECIDE to be Organized: An Empowering Process for Change.

eBook Image

Often, people complain that gifts given for the holidays, although well-intentioned, just add to their clutter. E-books make gift-giving easy, as they can be sent to anyone on your gift list by email instantly. And they don’t cause physical clutter!

DECIDE is an empowering process that leads to change. It will assist readers in achieving results at home, at work, and in life in general. The DECIDE® e-book is less about the “stuff” and more about the thinking behind the “stuff.” The DECIDE® process examines the connection between decision-making and disorganization.  It looks at the way people think and act with regard to organization, and offers an opportunity for an empowering change to occur.  So, although this may be a small book (it is a tidy 58 pages long), it is a powerful one!

Give the gift of organizing to someone on your list this holiday season. Or treat yourself!

Are you overwhelmed just thinking about the upcoming holiday season? Don’t want to get caught up in the madness and miss the joy?

There is a better way! Join me for a live 1.5 hour workshop, “Managing the Chaos of the Busy Holiday Season,” on Thursday evening, December 3, 2009 at Goshen Gourmet, 14 W. Main Street, Goshen, NY. This event is sponsored by Linda’s Office Supplies of Goshen.

The workshop is from 6:30 – 8:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time) and the fee is $10 per person. Space is limited so please call (845) 294-3869 to register.

I will be sharing tips on time management, project management, how to say no, and setting goals for the holiday season and beyond. The workshop will be interactive, so come with your questions ready!

I hope to see you there!

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Are you thinking of becoming a professional organizer? Are you unsure what it takes to put the professional into organizing?  Check out my new audio program, Branch Out: Adding Organizing Services to a Redesign/Staging Business.

 

Recorded live at the 2009 IRIS Conference in Denver, this 3 hour audio presentation delivers great results. Although presented to redesigners and home stagers, this presentation is also perfect for new or budding organizers looking to start or grow an organizing business!

 

In this 3 hour presentation, I teach you the basic principles of organizing, share tried-and-true systems, and unveil tips and tools of the trade. You will be able to create an action plan for launching organizing services, as well as concrete solutions to room-by-room organizing challenges.

 

Bonus! Includes comprehensive Power Point guide in PDF format, and a free monthly subscription to the Next Level Business Success E-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs.

Is the Threat of a Lawsuit a Real Fear?

As a small business owner, you may be one of the 48% concerned about frivolous or unfair lawsuits.  According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, actual lawsuits and the fear of lawsuits cost U.S. small businesses $98 million in 2005.  That figure may seem large because it includes money spent on damage awards, settlements, legal costs, liability insurance premiums, and costs incurred by insurance companies on behalf of policyholders.  Is the fear of lawsuits a real fear?  Unfortunately, yes.  Anybody can sue anybody over anything at any time.  In reality, 46% of small business owners have been threatened with a lawsuit, 34% have been sued in the past 10 years, and 62% have made business decisions to avoid lawsuits.  Indeed, small businesses bear 69% of the total cost of the tort system to all U.S. businesses.

What is the Best Course of Action?

What’s a small business owner to do?  For starters, realize that the best defense is a great offense.  While most small business owners fear the law, it is much wiser to use the law as a protective shield.  There are many business and legal components that contribute to creating the strongest shield possible – business entities (the type of structure that governs your business), insurance, and intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets) to name a few.

As a former full-time practicing attorney and now a small business owner, I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to the legal issues a business owner may face.  It is imperative that entrepreneurs understand the basics of the legal side of running a business, and how to use the law as a shield to protect yourself and your business. 

Creating a Shield Through Business Structure

The first item a small business owner should consider is the structure of the business.  There are 4 basic types of business entities: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company.  A common misconception of small business owners is that the business entity itself always creates a legal shield.  In some instances (a corporation, or limited liability company, for example), this is generally true.  However, if you are a sole proprietor (and, if so, you are not alone, as 78% of all small businesses in the U.S. are sole proprietorships), then you essentially have no shield.  As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for all business debts and other obligations.  Fortunately, the law is not the only means to create a shield to protect your business.  If the business entity itself does not provide a shield, then you can create one by acquiring appropriate and adequate insurance coverage.  Thus, a sole proprietorship that is adequately protected by insurance may have an effective shield. 

In the case of partnerships, another misconception is that the partnership is a distinct legal entity that provides a shield.  A partnership is essentially a sole proprietorship run by two or more individuals.  Thus, the structure itself provides no shield.  Again, insurance can be used to fill in the gap, and/or a different business entity can be chosen.  For example, did you know that you can create a corporation and the same two people that would have created a partnership will now be shareholders?  What about a limited liability company with more than one member?  There are many ways for two or more individuals to own a business together.  Carefully consider which makes the most sense, not only from an operations and decision-making standpoint, but to garner the most legal protection for the owners involved.   

Even with corporations and limited liability companies, there are limits to the force of the shield.  Simply creating a business entity is not enough.  The business must be operated as a distinct legal entity, including refraining from co-mingling of personal and business funds, keeping personal guarantees on behalf of the company to a minimum, maintaining corporate/business records, and paying business-related taxes.  If the business entity is a sham or the owner does not follow the rules in terms of keeping the business shield up, the legal doctrine of “piercing the corporate veil” may be applied by a court if the business is sued.  Piercing the corporate veil allows a litigant to pierce the business structure and reach the owner personally.  Granted, piercing the corporate veil is only applied in very limited situations, but it should be used as a reminder to keep that shield up at all times when it comes to operating your organizing business as a distinct legal entity.

Creating a Shield Through a Written Client Agreement

When you agree to perform services for a client, and the client agrees to pay you for such services, you and your client have entered into a legal contract.  The terms of the contract, however, are difficult to recall and prove unless in writing.  A written contract is pivotal as it puts clients on notice of business policies and terms, sets a professional tone, promotes consistency of policies, and is legally enforceable in court (the decision whether to sue a client to enforce a contract is, of course, a business decision, as well as a legal one, and should be carefully considered).  The contract, thus, helps to prevent misunderstandings and clearly defines the expectations of the parties.   

Some entrepreneurs choose not to use contracts for fear that a written agreement may be too formal or legal in nature and, thus, may scare a client away.  Again, this is a business decision that should be given consideration, and you should determine if this is a real or imagined fear by communicating with your clients to test the waters.  You can also use a “letter agreement,” which may be less intimidating for clients.  In the corporate arena, a written contract is generally expected.  Another disadvantage of using a written contract is the cost of creating and advising if you use an attorney.  While there are standardized contract forms available online and in books, be careful not to accept such standardized forms carte blanche.  I often see small business owners fail to adapt contracts appropriately, which causes embarrassing typos, inappropriate clauses, and general confusion.  Not only does this look unprofessional, but in extreme cases it can also result in unenforceability of the contract in court.  Therefore, it is a good idea to have a business lawyer review the agreement to make sure it adequately protects you, contains the relevant terms, and fulfills the goals you want to accomplish.  It is an expense worth paying for to secure adequate protection in the long term.

A word of caution: stay away from “legalese.”  Use plain English so that the agreement is easy to understand and helps, rather than hinders, the understanding between you and your clients.  If you do use a client agreement, here is a list of sample clauses you should consider including:

  • Definition of the parties (define your status as an independent contractor if the contract is for corporate organizing);
  • Services to be performed;
  • Code of ethics for your professional association, if applicable;
  • Confidentiality;
  • Pricing and payment policies (pricing structure, retainer guidelines, travel time or expense, charges for supplies or products purchased on the client’s behalf, cancellation policy, when payment is due, fee for bounced check, credit card acceptance, payment of expenses, etc.);
  • Provision of materials, equipment, and office space;
  • Assurance of insurance coverage;
  • State law governance;
  • Permission to take and use photos for marketing purposes, if appropriate;
  • Term of agreement/termination of relationship.

Now, go forth with shields raised!