Anyone that knows me (or even just meets me) can tell that I love my business and work really hard. But I’m not only a passionate entrepreneur, I am a multi-passionate person! One of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made when I first became an entrepreneur was to “compartmentalize” my life. It dawned on me a few years ago that I don’t have a “personal life” and a “professional life,” but simply A LIFE. Consequently, I do things when they feel right, which might include writing an article or taking care of client work on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and going on a bike ride, taking a yoga class or heading out with my dogs on a hike on a Wednesday afternoon. In fact, flexibility and freedom are part of what makes being self-employed so glorious. And yet, so many entrepreneurs continue to separate their personal and professional lives in ways that actually work to avoid an y semblance of balance.

If a strict bifurcation of personal and professional is working for you, great. But ask yourself if it is truly working for you. Are you too regimented in your scheduling of work versus personal endeavors? Does your personal life always get short shifted at the expense of your professional life? Examine whether you really feel balanced. If not, something has got to change. Mix things up and see how it feels. Try to tap into your natural energy flow and rhythm so that you can do tasks when you are in top form, and not when you are “supposed” to. I realize this is easier said than done, and it is a constant battle to have the freedom and flexibility so many entrepreneurs crave. We still have to function within the 9-5 world we live in, and be able to serve our clients at a time when it is convenient for them. But at least try to move away from the compartmentalization that can cause you to overwork and resent your business. If you are starting to feel burned out, perhaps you need to work in more time to cultivate your hobbies and passions. Not only will you feel rejuvenated, but you may actually be a better and more well-rounded entrepreneur because of your non-work related activities.

For example, I love to travel and explore new cultures. This could be viewed as only a personal activity. And yet, my travel and exploration of other cultures infiltrates my work in surprising and refreshing ways. I sometimes find myself “studying” the ways of other cultures and comparing them to Americans in terms of productivity, work-life balance, attitudes on business, goal setting, etc. This makes me a better productivity consultant, success coach, business strategist, speaker and writer for sure! Even a simple personal activity like taking a hike or bike ride can fill me with wonderful new ideas to write or s peak about, help me work through a client issue that I am helping him or her with, or clear my mind to make space to create new programs and products.

The bottom line is that we all have to find that unique balance that makes the most sense for us. But I am proposing less of a balance in terms of this versus that, and more of a free flow of ideas, activities and use of time that feels authentic and allows you to be the best entrepreneur you can be. Because in the end, isn’t that what we all want?

 

Copyright © 2012 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2012. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Paper. It should be a benign part of our lives. It means no harm, really. But somehow, when it piles up and has a paper party with its friends, it becomes dreaded clutter! What to do?

Grab a RAFT and sail to an organized shore! (Okay, technically, it should be RAFTS, plural, but that just didn’t work well in a sentence, so allow me some leeway.)

  • Sort your mail daily – use the RAFTSmethod:
    • Recycle – Junk mail that is not confidential.
    • Act – Bills to pay, invitations to RSVP to, and forms to fill out, etc.
    • File – Vital documents that must be kept long term (only 20% of paper needs to be filed!).
    • Toss – If you unfortunately do not have paper recycling in your area.
    • Shred – Anything with financial or confidential information on it.
  • Designate a spot for your mail.  If there is no “mailbox” in the house, you will “deliver” it to a different spot each time, or in a location that may not be best suited to paper flow (for example, the dining room table!).
  • Keep the recycling bin, garbage, shredder, and calendar/planner nearby to immediately be able to take action.  Whatever is brought in the house should be pre-sorted by recipient, category or any system that makes sense for your household.  For a large household, consider separate mail slots per person.
  • Evaluate whether you want to continue to receive magazines and newspapers that you are not regularly reading.  Cancel subscriptions, rotate them, or share with a friend or neighbor.  Get in the habit of cutting out only those articles you know you will refer to again, and recycling the magazine itself.  Set up those articles by subject matter in your home filing system.  Start by throwing out the piles of unread junk mail and catalogs.
  • If you have a home office, use it!
  • If not, set up a Home Information Center.
    • Home offices do not need to be a room, but can be a “hub” somewhere in the home.  A likely spot may be in the kitchen, as many people do paperwork and pay bills in the “public” areas of their home.  If you do realize you need a larger space, re-evaluate the space you have in the home to determine where the home office should be established.  For example, if your child is away at college, repurpose the room as a home office. Invent the room that best suits the space and the activities that will take place in your “office.”

When you have a high functioning paper management system, you will be motivated to actually get the work done and keep it organized.  If you have good systems in place, you will be able to find what you need more easily and be able to do the mundane tasks, such as bill paying with less stress!

Now, go find your RAFT and climb in. Happy sailing…

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

“To do two things at once – is to do neither.”
~ Roman philosopher Publilius Syrus, 100 A.D.

When we need to accomplish many tasks, we do 2-3 things at once, sometimes more. We do this in order to be more productive. Multi-tasking has basically become the American way. In fact, employers often include “multi-tasking” as one of the desirable traits they look for in job descriptions. But is multi-tasking really leading to increased productivity?

According to some experts, the answer is no. Multi-tasking is generally less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time. Studies show it impairs productivity. It is impossible to do 2 tasks at the same time without compromising each. Supposedly, it takes your brain 4 times longer to process than if you focused on each task separately.

David Meyer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has spent the past few decades studying multi-tasking. His research shows that not only is multi-tasking inefficient, but also can cause problems at work, at school, and even, in some cases, be dangerous. Meyer explains, “It takes time to warm up to a new task, especially if both require the same skills.” Apparently, the transition time between switching back and forth from one task to another is where multi-tasking starts to result in decreased productivity.

In addition, studies show that some tasks that are frequently grouped together conflict with one another causing a decrease in productivity. Have you ever been writing an e-mail and chatting on the phone, and realize that you are saying what you are typing, or typing what you are saying? Supposedly, it’s impossible to do both of these tasks well because each requires language skills and short-term memory. What about reading your email and talking to someone at the same time? If you’re trying to actually read your email, as opposed to maybe just skimming the names in your inbox, conversation with someone becomes difficult because you’re tackling two language activities at once: reading and listening.

Meyer has also studied the effect of multi-tasking on students (stay with one homework assignment at a time, kids), and on cell phone use while driving (read: don’t do it unless you are prepared to seriously impede your ability to drive). To see some of Meyer’s work on multi-tasking, visit his page at the University of Michigan.

Some people feel that multi-tasking helps them to stay fresh and alert, not get bored, and ward off fatigue. Some even claim that they can’t help it, as their brain gets easily distracted and goes from one thought and task to the next. However, most experts agree that the average person does not know how to multi-task well and, therefore, should refrain from doing it at all. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute has spent a great deal of time studying multi-tasking and writes, “Multi-tasking is the enemy of extraordinariness. Human beings, sorry to say, can focus fully on only one thing at a time. When people multi-task, they are not fully engaged in anything, and partially disengaged in everything. The potential for profoundly positive impact is compromised. Multi-tasking would be okay–is okay–at certain times, but very few people seem to know when that time is.” For more information on Jim Loehr’s research on multi-tasking, visit the Human Performance Institute.

Some people claim to truly thrive on multi-tasking. But are they really increasing their productivity in a quantifiable manner, or just giving themselves (and perhaps others) the perception that they are getting more done? If you are really getting things done in a more productive manner by using multi-tasking, fine, and good for you. You have somehow managed to prove the experts wrong. But, if you have too many balls in the air, you may need to re-think your strategy — unless you learn how to juggle.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

“The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.”
~ Robert C. Dodds

I’ve worked with many couples as a professional organizer over the last 7 years. Many of them are married, some are domestic partners, others just roommates, etc. My background as a trained mediator often comes in handy during these client sessions. Often, during an organizing assessment, a client will mention that another user in the home cannot maintain an organizing system (or that the other user IS the organizing problem!).  When I inquire as to whether the system was created with the other user in mind, the client usually responds in the negative.  Therein lies the problem.

Here is some insight into why couples often have a hard time agreeing on organizing systems, as well as some tips for getting and staying organized when faced with the challenge of a perceived “uncooperative partner.”

Learn Each Other’s Organizing Styles: Yes, everyone has an organizing style, even if you don’t know exactly what it is! If you are familiar with the four learning styles, start there. They are Visual (learn by seeing), Auditory (learn by hearing/listening), Kinesthetic (learn by doing), and Tactile (learn by touching). Often times, couples have very different organizing styles, making it difficult to set up and maintain shared organizing systems. Give some thought to the organizing style of each person using the system so that it makes sense to both users.

Reach Compromise on Shared Systems: If the organizing system you are creating is to be a shared system, you must give consideration to both users.  Failing to consider both users is a common mistake and often causes the system to fall apart.  So, do yourself and your partner a favor – communicate!  Spend the time brainstorming how each person plans to use the system, and create a compromise that makes the most sense.  The solution may be built around the most common user, or a combination of both users.  This may take some extra effort, but usually results in a system that is maintained more effectively.

Tolerance for Clutter: Different people have different levels of tolerance for clutter. Some are “outies,” meaning that they like the exposed areas like counter tops, to be clear, but can tolerate clutter in hidden zones, like closets, drawers, closets, etc. They just want their outward appearance to look organized and they don’t want to see the clutter. Others are “innies,” meaning that the clutter can pile up on exposed surfaces, but their drawers, closets, and filing cabinets are pretty well organized. They are “pilers,” leaving clutter out for all to see, but keep their private, inner spaces orderly. If an “innie” and an “outie” live together, there is often a big disconnect in the way they tolerate and handle clutter.

Leave Judgment Out: I know it’s hard but you really need to make a conscious effort to approach your partner in a non-judgmental manner. Otherwise, your partner will just become defensive, and shut down to any creative solutions that could be reached. Try to approach your organizing projects with a sense of humor. If your partner has difficulty with setting up and maintaining organizing systems realize that organizing is a skill and can be taught. Show some empathy and be patient as you try to find each other’s organizing strengths and overcome weaknesses.

A Sanctuary of Disorganization:  Just like Superman had a Fortress of Solitude (yes, I am a superhero fan!), couples may need to allow each partner to have one space that is off limits to the other partner’s organizing efforts. It should not be a space that is shared, and probably not in the most public areas of the home. Allowing your partner to have one place where he or she can be him- or herself and not worry about you organizing it will go a long way to keeping you two from driving each other crazy. Think of it like granting your partner a ‘free pass’ in that one area.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Creating an Organized Home for Your Prized Possessions

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When conducting an organizing presentation or teleclass, I often mention the idea of creating a Memory Box for each family member.  Many participants share that the Memory Box tip is their favorite, and one they cannot wait to act on. (See, for example, this blog post by June Bisel of BusinessCardContacts.com).

A Memory Box is a container in which each family member can store his or her most treasured possessions. The size should be big enough to fit the prized possessions, but small enough to grab and carry out of the house, in case of an emergency. The actual container can be a no-nonsense functional type, like a plastic bin, or it can be a lovely decorated stylish box, bin, or basket. My personal Memory Box is an old trunk that has handles on the side to carry it in the event of an emergency evacuation.

The location for storing the Memory Box is also a personal decision. Often, because of the confidential or personal nature of the items in the box, it makes the most sense to store each person’s Memory Box in his or her room, at the top or bottom of a closet, under the bed, etc. But some choose to store all of the Memory Boxes for the family in a basement or attic, so that they do not take up precious space in the living areas of the home, and can be grabbed easily in one fell swoop if need be.

I would not recommend storing vital documents such as your will, birth certificate, etc. in the Memory Box. Those items should either be stored in a safe deposit box at the bank, or at home in a fire resistant box (remember, there is no such thing as a fireproof box for the home!). Some people store their vital documents in a regular file folder in their filing cabinet, and keep copies (or the originals) in a separate location. In the event that an emergency causes a very quick evacuation, the people and pets go out first, followed by the vital documents, and then the Memory Boxes.

What goes in a Memory Box? Well, that is up to you, of course. But here are some ideas.

  • Start a Memory Box for your children’s prized artwork, sentimental childhood possessions, schoolwork, etc.  They can decide, with you, what goes in it.  You can have a master Memory Box, and one for the current school year.  At the end of the school year, your child, with your help, can revisit the year, purging any items that are not vital enough to go in the master Memory Box.
  • If you have a few sentimental favorite articles of clothing that you just can’t part with, but don’t wear, store them in your Memory Box.
  • Want to revisit your love life? Store old love letters, poems, your corsage or boutonniere from your high school prom, a playbill from the first date with your spouse, etc.
  • If you plan to store documents or photographs in your Memory Box, consider getting an archival quality document or photo box to insert the paper and photos in, and then store the document or photo box inside the larger Memory Box. This will ensure paper and photos do not get destroyed over time.
  • If an item is much too large to fit into the Memory Box, and you can bear to part with it, take a photo of the item, and store the photo with a description of the item in the box. This works well for items that you are merely keeping out of obligation. For example, that hideous painting your aunt made for you that you will never hang up! Take a photo, write a note saying, “Aunt Gertrude meant well” and donate the painting to someone who will appreciate its unrecognized beauty.

People are often surprised to hear that I have a Memory Box. “You, a professional organizer?” Yes! Organizing is about decluttering your life of the stuff that does not serve your goals, and letting the cream rise to the top. It is about giving your favorite possessions a place of value in your home and life. My personal Memory Box includes select sentimental items, including my handwritten journals, my baton (yes, I was a baton twirler – don’t laugh!), my middle school graduation dress (loved it!), love letters from my husband from before we were married, letters and cards from friends and family members that are precious to me, and poems that I wrote growing up.

Ms. Bisel shares that her new Memory Box will contain her kid’s baby books, drawings from elementary school, some treasured photos, and other memories from her kids’ childhood. She says that her kids love looking through the stuff, and it would be great to have it all in one place. Before she attended my workshop, the items were scattered around the house, and now they will be stored conveniently together, in a place of distinction.

So, what’s in your Memory Box?

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

What is a Meta Decision?

A meta decision is an umbrella-type decision that impacts all of the smaller decisions that come thereafter.  It is made with the intention of impacting or replacing a number of future decisions.  Thus, meta decisions are crucial to organizing because they save the mental anguish and time involved with making hundreds of individual decisions one by one.

How Can You Use Meta Decisions to Get Organized?

You can use meta decisions with clothing (“I will not keep anything that I have not worn in the last 2 years”), magazines and newspapers (“If I have not read it in the last 3 months, it gets donated or thrown in the recycling bin!”), e-mail (“I will check email for 1 hour in the morning, 1 hour after lunch, and 1 hour in the evening only.”), requests for social events (“I will commit to 3 social events this month only.”), etc.

Let’s take paper for example. You can make a meta decision to purge any business paperwork that is over 7 years old.  Then, all you need to do as you are sorting is look at the dates.  Anything that is older than 7 years automatically gets purged.  This takes the guesswork out of reviewing and making a decision regarding each and every document.

Essentially, using meta decisions is a clever way to establish rules and set boundaries.  Try it!  I guarantee it will free up some of your mental clutter, allowing you to purge more of your physical clutter.

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2010. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

I have worked with many clients over the years to organize after the loss of a loved one. Living in the greater NY metropolitan area, I helped many 9-11 widows and widowers organize after losing a loved one in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. It is an emotionally draining process. My best advice is to take it slow and go at your own pace. After the death of a loved one, some people are tempted to sift through belongings and make decisions quickly. If this feels natural to you, fine (consider checking with a grief counselor before moving too quickly through the process). But most people need more time after a loss to organize a loved one’s possessions. So give yourself permission to grieve first, heal, and then organize later.

Some clients only needed a few months, while others waited years until they took on the task of organizing their loved one’s possessions. Indeed, some clients only took on the project due to necessity – moving, selling a house, clearing room for new family member to move in, etc. If you aren’t ready to handle the project but you must do so by necessity, then you may need to temporarily box up your loved one’s possessions. Label the boxes so that you know what the contents are, which will make it easier for when you are ready to sort them at a later date.

Although many organizing projects can be done alone, some people find it helpful to sort through a loved one’s belongings after a loss with another person – a family member, close friend, or professional organizer. I also recommend doing the project in stages, as it can be emotionally demanding as well as physical. Be careful not to make decisions too quickly and be sure to check in with other family members who may consider some belongings special that you are considering letting go of. You may want to sort into categories based on family members, friends, donations to charity, antique appraiser/estate sale (for valuable pieces that you are not keeping), archive/storage, etc.

I often tell my clients to choose items that embody the person’s spirit, remind you of details of his or her personality, or that carry special memories. There is no magic number of how many items to keep, but remember that sometimes less is more. You don’t want to be smothered by items that you don’t have room for, or that will drudge up painful memories. You want to be able to enjoy the selected items and let them serve as reminders of your loved one’s well-lived life. But don’t lose sight of the fact that our greatest treasures our the actual memories, not the “things” themselves.

Sadly, I recently lost my mother to pancreatic cancer. Many family members and friends assumed that I would quickly go in and sort my mother’s belongings due to the fact that I am a professional organizer by trade. But I recognize that I need time to process this profound loss, grieve, and heal before I can take on the task of going through her possessions. The only items that I am taking quick action on are the medications and medical supplies so that I can donate them before they expire and someone else can benefit from their use. I plan to take my time with the process, include family members, honor the possessions, and select items to keep and cherish. That way, my mother will always be with me.

Wishing you warmth and strength if you are organizing after a loss. Be kind to yourself.

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2010. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

As you start the organizing journey, you may suffer from what I like to call, Temporary Organizing Paralysis. This is when you start organizing, freeze up, stare at all of the stuff and think, “Where do I begin?” “What am I going to do with all of this stuff?”

Realize that it will get worse before it gets better if you are in the middle of an organizing project. The stuff will be out of the drawers, files, closets, etc. Come up with a staging area to sort the stuff, so it is not in the way! That will help keep your stress level down. Also, identify early on who and where to donate items: friends and family, thrift shops, places of worship, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, etc. There are many willing homes for used stuff. Adopting a charity or a needy family makes getting rid of your clutter a whole lot easier.

Often, there is a domino effect of being disorganized. You may need to start somewhere else in order to clear space first before you can work on a particular organizing project. For example, let’s say you have paper all over your dining room table (a common clutter catcher spot!). You would think of starting on the dining room table. But the real problem is your home office. You haven’t cleared out the paper bins and filing drawers in so long that you can’t bring any new paper into that room. Thus, you started piling it on the table. Therefore, you need to start in the home office, clear clutter, make room, and then move to the dining room table. So, give some thought to the order of your organizing projects and how one may affect another. Of course, if you desperately need or want your dining room table back before your home office is organized, you can temporarily box up the papers on the table and move them to a staging area and work there while getting organized. If you have the space to create “organizing central,” then go ahead and do it. Get some boxes, bins, a folding table, and go to town!

In order to stay motivated while organizing, post your list of goals in a conspicuous place, especially if you are a visual person. Before and after photos also help many people get and stay motivated. Consider playing some upbeat music to keep you alert, or relaxing music if you are easily distracted. If you dread organizing alone, work with your spouse or a friend, involve your kids, or go pro and hire a professional organizer. And, don’t forget to reward yourself along the way as you would with any other behavior modification program. Getting organized is about making progress, not achieving perfection. Don’t be daunted by the prospect of getting organized. Just take it one step at a time. You’ll have more chance of success if you break the overall project into manageable tasks, tackling a little bit at a time. The key is to get started and stay focused. You can do it!

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2010. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

Ah, New Year’s Resolutions. They come but once per year, and cause quite a stir. Indeed, people talk about their New Year’s Resolutions quite freely. A small portion of people even write them down. But how many truly achieve them? The number is probably dismally small. Why? Because most people do a great job of talking about their resolutions, but don’t do such a great job of taking action on them. They often set themselves up for failure by biting off more than they can chew!

Take, for example, the most popular New Year’s Resolution: to lose weight (get in shape, exercise more, achieve greater levels of fitness, shrink a few sizes…any version will do!). What most people do is come out swinging. They join a gym and try to exercise 5 days a week, when they were formerly a couch potato and led a sedentary lifestyle (not only is this setting you up for failure, but it can be dangerous too!). They deprive themselves of every food they love, instead of eating a little bit of everything in moderation or learning their trigger foods and slowly replacing them with better choices. In other words, they try to do too much in too little time. They experience set backs, or fail altogether, which then leads to a defeatist attitude and they say “See, I knew I couldn’t do it.” They then give up.

Does this pattern sound familiar? If so, try a different approach this year. Try taking it slowly, one step at a time, and actually taking action throughout the year. How? Here are some tips:

Start Small & Grow Your Goal Little by Little
Instead of looking at your goal or resolution as a major project, think of just the first step. For example, instead of thinking that you have to get your entire life organized, try keeping your appointments for the first week, clearing out your email inbox the second week, saying no to some tasks and events you can’t handle the third week, etc. Get the picture? Take it step by step so each smaller goal feels, and is, more manageable.

Reinforce Goal Setting in Various Ways
Use different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile) to reinforce goal setting. Perhaps you can journal about your New Year’s Resolutions (one of my favorite activities!). Maybe you prefer to set up a vision board to see your goals. Or you can listen to podcasts and audio programs that reinforce your resolutions. It doesn’t matter which you choose, only that you choose a way to reinforce goal setting that works for you!

Ignore the Naysayers
Often, you are making actual progress towards achieving your resolutions or goals, but someone tries to sabotage you. Try not to let this derail your efforts! You need to stay the course, despite what they say. The famous life coach Martha Beck talks about surrounding yourself with people who can be your “believing eyes.” I love this idea! Adopt it and use it as your own. Stay away from the Negative Nellies right now, and surround yourself with people who believe in your goal and will help you achieve it.

Be Accountable
Some of the world’s most successful behavior modification programs are successful partly due to the strong accountability factor built into the program. Find an accountability partner, join a mastermind group, or hire a coach. You need motivation and someone to share your trials and successes with. Having accountability systems in place can be a powerful aid in accomplishing the goals you set.

Celebrate Success
Make sure to reward yourself along the way for achieving success, no matter how small. Set up milestones, and as you achieve them, figure out ways to motivate yourself to keep going. The more successful you feel at each step, the more apt you are to keep moving on the path towards achieving your full goals.

Copyright © 2010 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

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You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2010. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.

For those of you that were in high school in the 1980s (that would be
me!), you may remember Joan Jett singing, “I don’t give a damn about my reputation!” Sure, Joan could get away with not caring about her reputation (indeed, one can argue that her image was, in fact, not caring about her reputation, but I digress), but can you?

The idea of projecting an organized image can be controversial. Why? Because as professional organizers, many of us teach that being organized has less to do with the way an environment looks than how effectively it functions. The goal is not to be organized, but for your life, home, and work to run more smoothly. In other words, we do not generally focus on the outward perception of organizing or the aesthetics of it, but more on the way it improves your life. We preach that it is not about being “neat.”

And that is all true. But I also truly believe that projecting an organized image will positively affect your life in a myriad of ways. Think about it. Who would you prefer to do business with? Messy Marvin, who always looks a mess, can’t find papers, forgets to return phone calls, and is late for meetings? Or Organized Ollie, who always looks put-together, returns phone calls within 24 hours, has an efficient paper management system, and is consistently on time for meetings and appointments? I would guess Organized Ollie (yes, maybe you would like to go to Happy Hour with Marvin, but that is a different story!).

Being organized can improve relationships and your reputation. You will be more productive at work, which will translate into returning phone calls an d emails quicker, showing up for meetings on time, etc. When you are organized in the workplace, you project a professional put-together image that people trust and are attracted to. At home, many families have disagreements that stem from disorganized systems and habits in the home. Therefore, getting organized almost always improves your family life. And there are many people that are disorganized at home and embarrassed to have guests over, which certainly curtails your social life. So getting organized at home and projecting that type of image will probably help you to be a better host.

Don’t confuse projecting an organized image with perfection. Perfection is not the goal here. But realize that your habits do affect your overall image and the way others perceive you. Start watching others that you admire and respect, and see what type of image they project. Emulate those that you think look put-together and project an organized image. I can’t promise you it w ill change everything in your life, but I can promise you it will help.

Copyright © 2011 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2011. Lisa Montanaro, “The Solutions Expert,” is Principal of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, a professional services firm created in 2002 that offers professional organizing, business and life coaching, and motivational speaking to individuals and organizations. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for the general public, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for professional organizers and entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com.  Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through LMOS, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how LMOS can improve your home or work environment, or help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at Lisa@LMOrganizingSolutions.com.