As a productivity consultant whose business is founded on the idea of making people’s lives easier and more manageable, I spend nearly every day thinking about control in some sense. Control is strange when you stop to really think about it. Is it a concept? An idea? Or a goal? And is it inherently good or bad? My answer is… it depends.

To me, control is a dichotomy. When you think of physical organizing, control translates into having a place for everything and being able to maintain organizing systems. To one person, there is nothing more satisfying than an impeccably organized environment. Yet to others, the phrase “control freak” comes to mind when they see a person maintaining such orderly surroundings. Some people take great pride in practicing successful time or project management. While others view this strict enforcement of time and project management as “controlling”. Therefore, I like to look at control as a coin, with the positive aspects on one side and the negative aspects on the other. This is quite common really. Many things, when flipped on their head, can become negative, even if the initial intention is indeed positive. If we take almost anything to the extreme, it takes on an ugly quality.

You also hear people use the phrases, “out of control” or “losing control”. No doubt many of us feel that way at times: capable individuals who are just having an off day or get behind in our tasks or responsibilities. We all have days like this when it feels like we shouldn’t have gotten out of bed and the world is spiraling out of control. The key is to accept, and sometimes even embrace, this loss of control. This is easier said than done, of course. But it is sometimes when we hold on too tightly that we, in fact, lose control.

You can control some things for sure — the messy desk , the pile of papers, the clothes piling up on the treadmill — and there is great satisfaction in the process and the result. I see it every time I assist a client in getting better organized and becoming more productive. It is gratifying to take control in this manner. But we can’t control everything, and we will make ourselves crazy if we try!

I am not advocating for a complete surrender of control, just a relaxing of it. For example, it is still a worthwhile and reachable goal to get organized and become more productive — to take control of your surroundings and your life in a way that helps you function better within this out-of-control world. But I am recommending that you identify the difference between “good” control and “bad” control, so that you don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself, or worse, go to the extreme in either direction. When it comes to control, somewhere in the middle seems to be the best compromise for living a productive — and healthy and realistic — life.

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

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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 Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at 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

Recently, I was giving a presentation to a group of professional women on organizing and time management for the busy entrepreneur. In passing, I mentioned that I am an avid journal writer, and that my new book, The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, which is due out in February 2011, has pages for readers to journal at the end of each chapter. What followed amazed me. The participants asked tons of questions about my journal writing experience: how long have I been writing a journal, how often do I write, do I write long hand or on a computer, where do I store my journals, has anyone ever read them, what time of day do I write, etc.

Wow! I was blown away. I answered their questions, and let other participants comment. I never expected my off-handed comment to result in such a lively discussion. It seems women are hungry for information on keeping a journal.

So, I decided to post about my journal writing experience in case there are more women that are interested. Here goes:

To me, my journal has always been a safe haven to work through my desires, dreams, problems, obstacles, challenges, and goals. Journaling is a great way to dialogue with yourself, and often leads to powerful breakthroughs. There is something magical that happens when you put words down on paper. Words are powerful in and of themselves. But writing down words is even more powerful! I received my first journal as a gift when I was eight years old. I have filled countless journals since then, and the act of journaling remains an important one to me up until this day. So think of a journal as a gift to yourself.

For years, I wrote daily. But now I write whenever I want, for however long I want, and in whichever format I want (see a pattern here?). Julia Cameron advocates writing morning pages in her book The Artists Way. I did morning pages for years, and liked how it seemed to help me “look forward” in my writing, as opposed to when I wrote in the evenings, which felt more like I was “looking backward” and reporting on past events. But you should write whenever it is convenient for you to carve out the time.

I write mostly at a pretty little desk I have in a sitting/reading room on the second floor of my house near my bedroom. It is a lovely room decorated in yellow and red, with a window that faces a big Maple tree. It feels like an escape and helps me to get in the mood to write.

I still love writing by hand. For about 2 years, when my Mom was very sick with cancer and I was stretched thin with running my business, tending to my personal life, and being there for her, I wrote my journal electronically on my laptop. It may not have been my preference (I love the feel of pen to paper and am very tactile so writing by hand is special to me), but it was what worked during that difficult time.

Have I ever been blocked? Well, yes. And when I am, I don’t force myself to write in my journal. I take a break and try to examine why I feel blocked and what will help the journal writing flow again. It always eventually does flow again, and I don’t scold myself for the block.

In fact, as you have probably surmised by now, everything about my journal writing experience is positive. There is no Must or Should – no rules to follow. I give myself permission to let it flow when I want and how I want. In this regard, my journal writing has always been a release for me.

I am blessed with a husband who absolutely values my privacy and thinks my journal writing is a wonderful hobby. He gives me space to write literally and figuratively. And he has never read my journals. I can leave them out on my nightstand, or out on that little desk, and he respects my boundaries.

A few years ago, I found out that all of my childhood journals, from age 8 to 18, had been lost in a move. I was devastated! I felt like I lost a piece of me. I wanted to look back and revisit those early years to prepare for writing a memoir (yes, I do periodically go back and read past journals to see how I have grown or changed, to relive a beautiful memory, etc.). Unfortunately, that will never happen. Upon reflection, and after speaking to some close friends about it, I decided that I am not supposed to write that memoir from the voice of a young girl. I am supposed to write it as the older, wiser woman I am now looking back on those early experiences.

Ironically, I now only have journals from when I met my husband at 19 until present. In my will, I had made arrangements to leave my childhood journals to my Mom. Sadly, the journals are now lost and my Mom has passed away. Thus, my journals will be left to my husband, since by the date of the journals, it looks like my life started when I met him anyway! 🙂

If you keep a journal, I hope you continue to enjoy the process. If you haven’t tried journal writing yet, give it a chance. You may love it. I know I do.

I know that not everyone can attend a live workshop or hire me to work one-on-one. Therefore, I am pleased to offer yet another way to access my expertise — audio programs! Audio programs are very accessible (available in CD or MP3 formats), a great value ($19.99-$75.00 depending on the program), and an excellent way for busy professionals and success-oriented individuals to learn.

Audio programs are a wonderful alternative to attending a live organizing workshop or working with me one-to-one. Audio programs are ideal for people that want to listen and learn in the comfort of their own home or office. I currently offer 8 programs that range from organizing and time management to goal setting and business success. For a complete list of audio programs, check the audio/video page of the Products section of my website.

Are you ready to make positive changes in your life, home and work environments, and need help with organizing and time management projects? Then it is time for DECIDE®!

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?

Announcing the

 DECIDE to Be Organized Online Group Coaching Program

  • Dates: Tuesday evenings, October 6 to November 10, 2009
  • Time: 7:30-9:00 pm EST
  • Investment: Early Bird Special – $199 if register before Sept. 22nd
  • Bonuses: Includes MP3 recordings, an ebook, email access to me, a laser coaching session, and more!
  • Click here for details and to register

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 program that allows participants to be guided through the entire DECIDE process in a group coaching environment.

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.

Go to this page to listen to a message from me 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 own 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, life, and work.

If you are interesting in having your very own organizing coach, but aren’t able to invest a lot of money to work on a one-on-one basis with an organizing expert, this affordable program is the answer!

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

Lisa - signature

backtoschool1It is that time of year again when summer is coming to an end, and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. Start the year off the organized way! Register for Back to School the Organized Way: 10 Tips to Keep Your Child Organized This School Year, a teleclass designed to help you take control this year!

In this teleclass, I will draw upon my years of experience as a Certified Professional Organizer (and former special education instructor) to share the steps involved in getting your K-12 child organized for the school year:

• Learn organizing tips for setting up a launching and landing pad, family scheduling and calendars, evening & morning routines, organizing-friendly school supplies, family communication center, study centers, etc.
• Develop a system for tackling all of the papers that come home from school!
• Discover what your child’s unique organizing style is, and how to customize a system that works for him or her.
• Empower your children by establishing organizing and time management systems that they can maintain.
• Discover how to avoid clutter, set goals, and stay on an organized path to success.

Organized students are better prepared to learn at school, complete homework assignments in less time, and experience less stress (and so do their families). Children who develop and maintain good organizational skills will not only be prepared for today’s academic challenges but to excel in tomorrow’s world.

Come learn tips that will help your child, and you, get and stay organized the whole year through!

Thursday, August 27th
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time)
Investment: $25

Can’t make the live call? No need to worry. All teleclasses are recorded and the audio is usually posted within 48 hours. You can either listen to the call on the special web page sent to you after the call (by clicking the link provided), or you can download the MP3 file to listen to on your computer, iPod, or other MP3 player at your leisure.

Join me on August 27th by registering here.

Hope to “see” you there!