In successful organizations, employees work together in effective and collaborative ways. Research demonstrates that workplaces that prioritize compassion, diversity in work styles, and other positive behaviors can increase employee job satisfaction, personal and organizational productivity, loyalty, and collaboration among employees at all levels of the organization.

Compassion for each other‘s needs and styles and having a “glass half full” attitude can make any job more enjoyable and rewarding. In this entertaining, engaging, and educational presentation, keynote speaker Lisa Montanaro guides participants in exploring the important connections between compassion, productivity, and positivity, and how these qualities play out in the workplace and in our lives. Drawing on cutting edge research as well as inspiring success stories and models, Lisa will empower participants to use the power of positive psychology in various forms to create a more compassionate, productive, and creative workplace.

Using practical strategies, participants will learn how to practice Proactive Productivity, discover and engage their Moral Compass, and develop a success driven attitude. This presentation is designed to help participants deepen their connections to other people, and to be more proactive and productive in their personal and professional lives.

I’m very excited to share my interview with you as I was a guest expert for Smead’s “Keeping You Organized” series.

Check out my podcast and video, “Principles of Productivity” for powerful organizing and productivity tips that will shift your thinking and behavior. I talk about the relationship between physical and mental organization.

Take a quick 20 minutes to watch or listen to this relaxed, lively discussion filled with cool, helpful topics on not only organizing, but common hurdles when starting or running a business.

I love partnering with Smead and enjoyed the discussion about Smead products with John (my interviewer).

welcome_to_CAIn July 2012, my husband and I sold our house in Warwick, New York and moved over 3,000 miles across the United States to the town of Davis, California. What prompted this move was that my husband was accepted into a prestigious residency to specialize in veterinary internal medicine at the UC Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital. This required that we sell our home in New York, and rent a home in Davis, as the residency is for a three-year period, and we have no idea if we will be sticking around after it ends.

On our first trip to Davis in November 2011 for his interview, we toured the town of Davis and got an idea of the real estate. Most of the homes are either mid-century modern (in the Northeast we just call this a “ranch”), Spanish mission style, or bungalow style. Square footage wise, they are much smaller than the homes back in the Hudson River Valley of New York. Although our NY home was a modest Cape Cod style, by Davis standards, it was quite large. It was approximately 2,000 square feet of living space, plus a 2.5 car garage, a full basement, an attic, and a shed out in the yard. I considered us to live a somewhat uncluttered lifestyle in NY, but after seeing how much smaller the living and storage spaces were in Davis, it dawned on us that we needed to downsize.  The rental home that we wound up signing a lease for is 1,400 square feet of living space, with a one car garage, no basement, and no shed out in the yard.

house_in_ny

Our house in New York.

And so the downsizing began. Some items were easy to part with: anything that had to do with the winter weather could be sold or donated. That included our snowblower, shovels, etc. Also, anything having to do with our pool could be sold or donated, as we would no longer have a pool in our yard in California (ironically, we now have a fireplace which we did not have in New York, but no pool!). We also had about 3/4 of an acre in New York, and here in California we have a small compact yard with a little grass and a lot more patio and garden areas, which would be tended to by our new landlord. This meant that we could also sell our ride-on lawnmower, and other yard equipment. (Interestingly enough, the items that were the hottest tickets for sale were our ladders! We had several people call up and ask us to save them until they could come by, and they wound up getting into a bidding war. Who knew!)

I made a list of every item on a room-by-room basis that was going to California, versus every item that could be sold or donated. Our landlord took measurements for us of the smaller rental home in California so that we knew what could fit. We then had a huge moving sale on a weekend day. We hung up flyers around town, spread the word, and then lugged everything into the garage and organized it all by category. We had some helpers, which we were very thankful for. In the long run, we wound up selling pretty much everything we wanted to, and the few items that didn’t sell got donated.

We then had movers put the remaining items in a moving truck, which we then were reunited with a few weeks later in California when we were moving into the rental home. Because my husband had already started his busy residency, it was my job to unpack, organize, and put everything away in the new home. And here’s what was so fascinating about it. Although I had spent years as a hands-on professional organizer, I was actually nervous! The house was so much smaller. Yes we downsized, but I was still concerned about whether everything would fit. So I took my time, examining each item carefully, checking through the storage in the home, measuring, trying items in certain places, etc. In the long run, we didn’t just fit everything, we even had extra space available. And I loved it.

I really thought I would miss certain items. In fact, that’s one of the biggest things that holds back people from decluttering in the first place — the fear that you’ll release something and then immediately miss it or want it back. That wasn’t the case for me, not in the least. There were a few sentimental items that I even had to part with, like my beloved mother’s couch and love seat (sadly, my Mom passed away in 2010). But these items were given to close friends and family, which made me feel like I was sharing her with them.

officeNow as I sit here, a year and a half after relocating, I realize that downsizing was an amazing opportunity to revisit some old friends, send them on their way, sell or donate items to people that really wanted and needed them, and move to our California home with a fresh perspective and the clean slate that we wanted. I love having less things, and knowing that pretty much everything I need fits into a small space. It actually can become addictive. I was always one to think carefully about not acquiring too many things, and practiced what I preached as a professional organizer. But going through this type of downsizing myself gave me a renewed appreciation and understanding for how some of my clients felt over the years after they decluttered. This downsizing process made me realize that I can keep stripping down further and further. It’s very freeing. You have more flexibility and mobility, less to take care of, less to insure, less to worry about. Just… Less. Which in the long run gives you a feeling of abundance. And that is how I discovered the upside of downsizing.

If you want to work on some home projects, including getting more organized, check out my new La Dolce Vita 6-Week Group Life Coaching Program. One of the topics we will cover is getting your “house” in order – literally and figuratively. It’s an opportunity for you to focus on all of those home projects that you’ve been putting aside. But that’s just one of the awesome topics that we will be covering in the program. We will also be covering productivity, life-work balance, health and fitness, relationships, and finances. It’s powerful, but affordable. We start on February 20, with early bird rate in effect until February 13. Visit LisaMontanaro.com/lmg-university/LaDolceVita for details and registration.

Do you…

new_life-old_life… long to live a life of purpose and passion, that reflects your values AND desires?

… need permission to make your well-being, happiness, and self-care a priority?

… have fear that is still holding you back from going after what you want?

… feel tired of living your best life “in your head” and want to make it a reality in 2014?

Then you are in luck! Come learn how to live “The Sweet Life!”

Introducing the La Dolce Vita 6-Week Group Life Coaching Program from LMG University, starting on February 20, 2014.

Lisa-Sean-ItalyThis isn’t just any group life coaching program. It’s based on content taken from my concept of La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life), and w ill help you bring the passion and zest back to your life.

The content is based on my research (and background!) of Italian culture, positive psychology and happiness, years of coaching clients holistically to integrate life-work balance, and my own personal lifestyle. My life is a work in progress, and sharing my own personal experience, and that of the hundreds of clients I have been privileged to work with, is part of the La Dolce Vita process.

Stop settling for good enough because you are worried if you go for great that people will think you are too big for your britches. It is time to step into your power and claim the life you know you are truly meant to live!

How much longer are you willing to wait? How much time are you willing to sacrifice? When will you decide that you deserve to be really happy and live The Sweet Life?

If you are committed to making regular “deposits” in areas of your life that have been neglected and feed them what they need to grow and prosper, then join me for La Dolce Vita.

Topics we’ll address in the 6 weeks:

  • Crazy Busy Is Not a Badge of Honor: Positive and Proactive Productivity
  • Prioritizing Self Care: Let Go, Say No, and Make You a Priority
  • Become a Passionista! How to Tap Into Your Passions & Manage Them
  • Don’t Be a See-Saw Anymore: Go Beyond Balance and Engage in Life-Work Integration
  • Mind, Body & Soul: Health & Fitness, Personal Spirituality
  • C’Mon Get Happy: The Power of Positivity
  • Connection & Relationships: Romance, Friends & Family, Say No to Toxic Relationships and Negative Nellies & Neds
  • Financial Wellness: Preparing for the Future, While Still Living Well Today
  • And more!

Many people have been asking me to share this type of content and create a program like this for years. And I am thrilled to finally be able to share it with you. But I don’t want finances to keep you from living a La Dolce Vita life! So I have kept this program affordable.

Early Bird Rate is $299 until 2/13; $359 thereafter (there’s even a 2 pay option available if you need to spread payments out).

Go to lisamontanaro.com/lmg-university/LaDolceVita for details and to register.

Hope to help you live a La Dolce Vita kind of life this year!

Ciao!

So we are coming to the end of another year. And a particularly popular exercise that a lot of people do at the end of the year is to look back and reflect on their activities, goals, achievements to determine if the year has been a successful one.

measuresuccessBut this begs the question: How do you measure success? It seems to me that it’s important to have metrics in order to measure success. But these metrics are going to be very different from person-to-person, and from business-to-business.

Is success based on earning a certain amount of money? Maybe. But to me, not if it means working 100 hours a week, rarely seeing your friends and family, and never taking a vacation. I value financial wellness, but not at the expense of my life. For others, making a lot of money, even at the expense of their personal life, is a very important measurement of success. Only you know where your metrics lie when it comes to money.

Is success based on ticking off a huge to do list? From a personal productivity standpoint, I’m all for being effective and productive, which often includes ticking items off of your to do list. But sometimes the better option is culling down the to do list and only focusing on what’s really important and is a priority. An overflowing to do list can become a regimented replacement for enjoying the moment in favor of often unimportant activities.

Is success based on receiving external accolades, winning a competition, or getting some other type of attention? Again, it depends how important this is to you and what value it adds to your life or business.

I think success is highly personal and varies widely among people and organizations. What is considered a huge overarching success to one person, can be considered a colossal failure to another. Success is usually made up of activities and goals that lead to achievements that then lead to feelings of accomplishment, value, and self-worth. But for some people it’s not even the achievements that lead to success, but the activity of striving for a goal itself. In other words, it’s not the completion of an activity or goal, but the progress and effort of working towards it. As Greg Anderson so eloquently stated “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but doing it.”

Too often, we are measuring success using the wrong metrics. We need to be crystal clear as to our definition of success in order to know if we are, in fact, successful. To me, success can be defined as taking consistent action towards achieving my goals personally and professionally. I tried to reward myself for progress and consistent action, not just results. Sometimes results are delayed, and sometimes for very legitimate reasons. If I only measured success when I actually achieve the results, it would certainly make the journey seem much longer and laborious.

So look back on your year, keeping your definition of success in place, and deciding on the metrics that you will use to measure it. Make sure that your metrics are not so difficult to achieve that you set yourself up for never feeling like a success. On the other hand, try not to make your metrics so easy that you have nothing to strive for.

I hope you’ll join me in a toast. Here’s to a successful year — no matter what your success metrics are!

In this final video in the Cable Vision Financial series, I discuss how you can organize your shopping and menu planning with tips like making a list based on your supermarket layout, and keeping track of your spending to see where your food budget is really going. As a productivity consultant, I have more video tips in this series here.

“Personal experience tells me that never emptying our time is like never emptying our garbage cans, our bladders, or our digestive tracts.
Do those images disgust you? Good. I want them to. The archetype of the virtuously over-busy person is so ingrained in our social mindset that it takes strong language to knock it loose.” ~ Martha Beck

Do you ever wake up feeling stressed just thinking about your day? Phone calls, emails, errands, and appointments. These days it doesn’t matter how early you wake up, the fact is you will already be behind schedule. Because time in our culture is moving so fast. It’s like a race to get to the end of the day so you can look back, and say “Look at all those things that I did. Now that was a busy day.”

Staying busy, but not productive, is the curse of our times. As the actress Lily Tomlin so eloquently put it, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Here are some typical phrases that you may hear today: bigstock-The-word-Everything-on-a-To-Do-45656401

“I am so tired, I can’t remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep !”
“I’m drowning over here!”
“Oh my God, I’m crazy-busy!”

Somehow, these expressions are intended to demonstrate cultural value and importance. They are uttered out of habit, for attention, or worse, because someone is truly spiraling out of control. Take a good hard look at what these words are really expressing: lack of control, stress, and in the extreme, death! Wow… Is this what you really mean? Is this the language you want to be saying to yourself and sharing with others?

I am a person that chooses to live a full life, in the sense that I enjoy running a thriving business and the work that it entails, pursue personal passions and hobbies, love to travel, and spend time with friends, family and colleagues. However, I feel that some major things have shifted, starting with the loss of my beloved mother in 2010, and then continuing since I relocated from NY to Northern California in July 2012. Although I’m one who enjoys having a full plate, I’m learning more and more to be at peace with the open space that not being “crazy-busy” provides. It’s not always easy, trust me. But I am choosing not to win the “crazy-busy” contest.

I was speaking with a friend a few months ago. At one point, my friend commented “Wow, you’re so busy. How are you doing it all?” My response? “I don’t really like to say that I am ‘busy’ anymore. ‘Busy’ is so negative. Now, I like to think of it, and describe it, as living a full life on purpose.”

This conversation led me to think about how things have shifted for me over the last couple of years — especially when it comes to the word “busy.” You see, when I deliver my keynote to audiences on life-work integration, I talk a lot about this concept of how crazy-busy has become a badge of honor in our society. And how the only way to stop it is to take notice, change our la nguage, and change our behavior. So, I decided to start with me.

This has been a full year; for me personally, for my husband who is in the midst of a demanding veterinary residency in internal medicine, and for my business. I’ve traveled quite a bit for speaking engagements throughout the U.S., immersed myself in the launch of my new online learning platform LMG University, coached and consulted with clients near and far, enjoyed lots of bicycle riding in my new Northern California area, got back on stage to perform in an amazing production of Les Miserables, and enjoyed meeting new friends and colleagues in the area. Some might call this “busy.” I call it intentionally engaged and living a joyfully full life — on purpose.

“Busy” is stressful (even the energy of the word itself!). It has this powerful ability to take over one’s focus. People often claim that the main thing stopping them from fully realizing and achieving their dreams is that they ar e too “busy.” But busy is a conscious choice. “Busy” and “I have no time” (yes you do or you wouldn’t be alive… but I digress!) are excuses that are, sadly, here to stay. We have to get better at calling ourselves out on this. We have to prioritize, own our choices, watch our language, and value our precious time. We have to be intentional and purposeful.

I am being totally honest when I say that “busy” still creeps in for me sometimes (that little bugger!). But in those moments, I catch myself and quickly change my language and try to change my mindset. I try to kick busy to the curb and replace it with conscious living, which may still mean a full life, but not one that feels negative or will win me any badge of honor for the “crazy busy” contest. That’s one contest that I am purposefully hoping to lose!

In this Cable Vision Financial segment (part 2 of 8), Productivity Consultant, Lisa Montanaro, offers some simple tips to help you track exactly what you spend. Until you really know what’s coming in and out, you don’t really know what your budget is.

See video Part 1 here for more tips to save you time and money.

use_technology_wiselyWith all of the technology devices at our fingertips these days, it is easier than ever to stay connected 24-7. But, how do we balance the need and desire to stay connected with the danger of technology taking over? By continuing to be the master of technology, not the servant!

I travel a lot for business in my role as a productivity consultant and professional speaker. Indeed, I am writing this column on my IPad at an airport, and will then email it to my online business manager (how’s that for 21st century technology?). When on the road, it is vital for me to be able to stay connected. But it is a constant balance between using technology to stay connected and get my work done, save time and be more productive, while not letting technology take over my life. To that end, here are some tips to help you stay connected, but maybe not exactly 24-7. Just because you can b e glued to your device doesn’t mean you should be!

Protect Yourself – Consider allowing only select people to break through to the inner sanctum. Just because you can be reached 24-7 doesn’t mean everyone needs to have access to you. Don’t share your itinerary and contact information with everyone. Use voice mail and email wisely to protect yourself by choosing when and how to reply back to people (see next point!).

Choose Times to Check In – Instead of constantly checking your email and voice mail messages, choose times of the day to check in. That way, you do not interrupt the flow of work (or play). This will help you be more proactive and less reactive. Studies show that email is a huge time bandit. It also creates an unnecessary need to continuously check it, which is a major interrupter in most people’s day. Plan your check-ins so that you are not reacting like Pavlov’s dog, salivating whenever you get an email.

appsThere’s an App for That – Choose which applications you will use on a regular basis and download only those apps to your smart phone or tablet. Yes, there are a multitude of apps available today, but the average person only uses 5 on a regular basis. Choose wisely, as apps can become electronic clutter and use an enormous amount of memory space on your device.

Use “the Cloud” – With today’s cloud-based technology, it is so easy to maintain information in a safe and easily accessible location so that you can access it when you need it on-the-go. From your contacts and client database, to your calendar and documents, everything can be stored in the cloud. Take a good, hard look at Google. It offers a lot more than people realize and can be your best friend when you need to stay connected away from home or the office. I also personally love Dropbox and Evernote, both great cloud-based tools for accessing notes, documents, and other data.

Be Courteous – You may be a technology junkie and love the idea of not only being accessible 24-7, but using your devices constantly to make phone calls, dictate reports, etc. If you are in a business setting, this is perfectly acceptable in this day and age. In fact, many commuter trains look like a technology explosion took place! But if you are in a quiet setting, or perhaps one that is not focused on business (some restaurants for example), be courteous to others and do not over-use your tech tools to the dismay of everyone around you. There is a time and place for using our technology to stay connected, and sometimes abstaining is the polite thing to do!

Coaching Challenge: Try to use the above tips to practice staying connected in a way that allows you to be more productive without feeling like you are addicted to technology. Let technology be the servant, not the master!