“Silence was the cure, if only temporarily, silence and geography. But of what was I being cured? I do not know, have never known. I only know the cure. Silence, and no connections except to landscape.” ~ Mary Cantwell


Enjoying bike riding in my new town.

In looking at my life the last few years while still living in NY before I relocated to California last summer, I realize how full it had become. In some ways, that was very very good. But in other ways, I now realize that it was a little too full… one may even say, over brimming! I have always been a full throttle, live-out-loud kind of person. I have an huge appetite for life, have many passions, interests, and hobbies, and consider myself a life-long learner. I was running a successful business that I love, serving on quite a few boards of directors for organizations, enjoying my marriage, seeing friends and family, and partaking in hobbies. And I loved each piece of that life-work puzzle.

But sometimes no matter how great everything is in isolation, when you put it together, it is … well, too much! I don’t think I realized how hard I was driving myself until I had the chance to take a prolonged break this past summer. During my break, I looked back and realized that it had been years since I had truly taken a “break.” Yes, I had taken many vacations over the past 4+ years, but something about this extended break was different.

In 2008, my business took a huge leap and many wonderful things started happening for me — more speaking engagements, coaching, consulting, and exciting opportunities to mix business and pleasure. But then, in December 2008, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the next 16 months battling that horrid disease. She passed away in February 2010 (I can’t believe it is three years since I lost her). I took some time off to mourn, but also was writing my book at that time, which was a positive “escape” from grief. My book was then published in 2011. That year, my husband and I visited 13 locations across the United States to decide where to relocate to for his residency in veterinary internal medicine. We then relocated 3,000 miles from NY to CA in summer 2012.

Stopping to smell the roses... literally!

Stopping to smell the roses… literally!

I took off almost 2 months last summer for an extended break — 2 weeks for us to road trip across country and have an amazing time doing so, and then the rest of the time to set up our new rental home, get to know our new area, and enjoy some rest, relaxation, and reflection. I had the chance to experience real quiet, to go inward, read some great books, write in my journal, and spend time in nature. And what I realized is that… boy did I need it!

Now that I am here in California, I’m choosing to focus more on fun and recreation, and being there to support my husband through his very busy veterinary residency. I am enjoying hiking, biking, swimming, learning Italian, taking dance classes, and walking my dogs in my new neighborhood. Yes, I am working a lot too (I love my business and the work I get to do, so it never feels like “work” for me thankfully), but am also enjoying more non-work activities than I have in awhile. I was operating at a high level for years, and can take my foot off the gas for awhile and still have plenty of forward momentum. That’s what I’m consciously choosing to do.

The beautiful Pacific Coast during a recent hike.

The beautiful Pacific Coast during a recent hike.

I often recommend this to my own coaching clients and audiences when I speak. Now the coach is taking her own prescription and trusting that this is exactly what I need to do right now. There’s a lot of trust involved in letting go to this extent, but I’m crystal clear that it’s what I need to do.

Do you need to take a much-needed break? Is your life overflowing with so much abundance that it is spilling over the brim? Remember, too much of a good thing is still, well, too much!

If you want 2012 to be…

  • an improvement upon,
  • different from, &/or
  • more than

…the past has been (either for yourself, your work, your family, and/or your life), then I hope you’ll take part in a special class that Dr. Meggin McIntosh will be presenting on Wednesday, December 28, 2011 (for the fifth year in a row).

To learn more and to register, just go this webpage with all the information.

Obstacle Illusions — Are You Delusional? Strategically Plan (and Play) Your Professional and Personal Life

I have learned myriad ideas from Meggin McIntosh over the years and I know from experience that this class is one that will more than deliver on her promises!
Take a look here.

Stephanie Calahan’s at it again! She’s gathered advice from colleagues regarding boosting morale and staying motivated. We know that people that are motivated, are more productive… so take a look at the article Best Ways to Boost Morale or Motivation – Make Sure to Add Yours!

I bet several of these tips will inspire you. Mine is #38 – Tap Into the Passion. Take a look.

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!

Continue Reading…

When you put in so much time and effort to get organized, the last thing you want is to backslide and wind up back where you started. The good news is that you can stay organized once you reach an organized state of bliss (or even a semi-organized, “it’s better than it was and I can live with it state”!). All that is required is active maintenance. Oh no, you think – more work! Yes, but remember, it is a lot easier to stay organized than it is to get organized.

Continue Reading…

You don’t need to walk around with your organizing cap on at all times, incessantly obsessing over everything you do. But, you should periodically evaluate how your organizing systems are working. In order to maintain your organizing systems, you must keep up with changes in needs, goals, and priorities. As your life changes, so do your organizing systems. Systems can become outdated or obsolete. Evaluate your systems over time to ensure that they are still the best choices for you, and if not, start fresh by implementing new systems in their place.

If the system is still a good fit for you, but needs tweaking, then examine what needs to be done to bring it up to speed. Maybe you acquired too many items in the space and need to selectively declutter. If the space is finite (and so many really are – your closets, calendar, rooms in your home, etc. all can only hold so much), then be sure to implement some maintenance rules to keep the amount of items in check. Make adjustments for new items acquired, and purge old stuff that’s become irrelevant. You can’t just keep adding to your systems or they will eventually overflow.

Exercise: Examine the Systems

Periodically examine your organizing systems. Are they working? Why or why not? Do any need tweaking? If so, schedule in time to re-work those systems. Make notes about organizing systems that are no longer effective, and then schedule time in your calendar to work on them.

So, the good news is that you accomplished what you set out to do. You got organized. Congratulations!

This post is the first in a series of blog posts about staying the course and maintaining your organizing systems. So check back for more if you need reinforcements for a job well done!

Overcoming Lack of Motivation

What if you lack motivation to now maintain your organizing systems? You are not in the mood, are tired, sick of the constant flow of possessions and paper in your home, office and life? What to do?

You need to focus on the end result, which is always an improvement over the current state. Take brushing your teeth, for example. You sometimes need to just do it even when you are not in the mood, are rushed for time, or are tired. If you stop brushing your teeth, plaque will build up, causing gingivitis and eventually, your teeth will rot and fall out. Similarly, if you fail to maintain your organizing systems, clutter will build up, the systems will fail, you will become discouraged, and you will backslide. Then in order to get organized again, you will have to do double the work!

So, even if you lack motivation to maintain your organizing systems, remind yourself that maintenance is always easier than starting from scratch. Hopefully, the positive benefits you get from being organized will be more than enough to motivate you to maintain the systems. But if that’s not always enough of a motivator, the fear of backsliding can also be a powerful deterrent.

By Guest Bloggers, Sarah Welch & Alicia Rockmore

As summer arrives with longer days and warmer temperatures, it is the perfect time to revisit some of those goals you set back in January.  Have you gotten caught up in the daily grind and let them fall by the wayside?  If so, don’t beat yourself up. We all have good intentions, and we know as well as anybody else that sticking to the goals we set for ourselves is hard to do.  Happily there’s no time like the present for getting back on track.  In that spirit, grab a pen, your journal and your calendar.  This post is all about organizing your top goals, creating an easy-to-follow roadmap for follow-through, and most importantly, helping you plan ahead for the inevitable slip-ups so they don’t cause you to throw up your hands in defeat.

Sarah on “Finding Your Focus”

What is it that you really want to achieve by the end of this year?  Shed a few pounds?  Spend more quality time with your spouse?  Finish a degree program?  Get your house totally organized from top to bottom?  Organize your photos?  Win a competition?  The fact of the matter is, while you may want to do it all, to succeed you will have to focus your efforts on a few things that really matter. Let go of all of the things that aren’t so important and really focus your attention and energy on reaching one thing by the end of the year. Choosing your goal priorities might be an easy, off the top-of-the-head, no-brainer for you, or it might require a more formal process, like ranking all the items on your goal list in the order of their importance.  Whatever works for you, grab your notebook and pen, take a few minutes and focus on which one truly matters and which ones can be let go.  If you’re struggling to choose, you might want to consider imbalances in your life.  Is there one area of your life that is most in need of attention? Perhaps focusing on goals in the trouble spots will have a more meaningful impact on your overall state of well-being.

Alicia on “The Importance of Specificity”

The more specific you can be about the end goal, the more likely you are to get there. Try to define your goal in measurable terms so that you can easily track your progress.  If you’ve got a fuzzy goal statement, such as, “start saving” or “get in shape,” take a moment now to get more specific about the end point.  Do you want to start saving to get to a particular amount or for a particular purchase?  What does “in shape” really mean?

Here are a few more tips for unleashing your inner Rocky:

1. Break It Down

Big changes are accomplished by taking consistent steps in the right direction.  Break down your bigger goals, like “lose 25 pounds,” into a series of mini goals.  For example, lose 4 pounds by October 20, and another 1.5 pounds by October 25.  Smaller, specific goals are easier to reach.  Once you have the thrill of reaching one, you’ll want to reach for another, and another.  Before you know it, you’ll have arrived at your destination.

2. Plan for Imperfection

Nobody is perfect.  Recognizing that fact and planning ahead for the inevitable slip-up will almost certainly increase your chances of keeping your resolutions over the long-term. Just because you had a moment of weakness doesn’t mean that you should throw in the towel on your goal.  Instead, reaffirm your commitment to actually crossing the finish line.  List one or two small actions you can take immediately to get yourself back on track to attaining your goal.  Once you do this, you’ll know exactly where to turn and what to do when you’re less than perfect.

3. Enlist a Buddy

Whether it’s a friend from the real world, or someone you’ve met in a virtual world, having someone who can support you on your journey can spell the difference between success and failure.  Identify someone who can support you and enlist their help this week.  Ideally it will be someone who shares your goal.  Agree to be there 100% for each other along the way with encouragement to get back on track when you inevitably slip up – whether it’s by phone, email, instant message or text message.

Sarah Welch & Alicia Rockmore are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, inc., a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed women get themselves organized and co-authors of “Everything (almost) In Its Place.”  We welcome your thoughts!  Please send ideas and questions to us at:  yourlife@getbuttonedup.com or visit us at www.getbuttonedup.com.

I just had the pleasure of attending the 2010 National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) Conference in Columbus, Ohio from April 21-25. What an experience! This was my 7th consecutive NAPO Conference, and it was the best one so far!

Many people don’t like conferences. I can understand that. They are tiring. You are often on your feet for much of the day, or sitting in a chair paying attention to a presentation and taking notes. The food is usually sub-par. The air is “fake” as you are indoors all day. so you lack fresh air. The hotel beds are not the most comfortable.

But let’s look at all of the great advantages of attending a professional development conference. Networking, collaboration, knowledge, brainstorming, energy, motivation, inspiration, etc. The list goes on! This year, I noticed that conference attendees seemed to connect on a deeper level — not just business as usual. People were showing their authentic selves, personally and professionally, which elevated the entire conference experience to a higher level.

I am lucky to be a member of such a dynamic, forward-thinking, collaborative and successful industry. I attended keynote and workshop sessions on making connections, using social media, creating a power office, being resilient, using technology via online and smart phone “apps” to stay organized, and using coaching techniques with organizing clients. Wow – what amazing stuff! 

I had the distinct privilege of being one of the panelists on the Ask the Organizer Panel. Attendees ask questions of panelists and the entire session is expertly moderated by a colleague, Monica Ricci, who has been serving as the moderator for years. The questions were insightful and intelligent. I was so impressed!

I also had the honor of presenting “Don’t Go It Alone: It Takes a Village to Run a Successful Organizing Business” during which I shared ideas and information about outsourcing, delegating, setting up a Board of Advisors, using Master Mind groups, creating an Operations Manual, etc.  The attendees shared great information, which made the session interactive. I love when attendees learn from each other and not just from me as the presenter.

I am now home, catching up, connecting with peers on social media that I met at the conference, adding those that subscribed to my ezine lists, and generally basking in the conference after glow! I have renewed energy for my business, and can’t wait to implement all of the fantastic ideas that I gathered. My business year runs from April to April, as that is when the NAPO Conference takes place. I work my action plan between conferences. Next year’s conference is in San Diego, which means we have the added bonus of great weather! You can be sure that I will take breaks at that conference to get outside and enjoy the sun and fresh air. Therefore, my conference after glow may be mixed with an actual tan. Not bad, huh? 🙂

One of the best books on writing – and life itself for that matter – is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Among the pearls of wisdom she offers in her funny, witty style, is to take baby steps. Apparently, when she was a child, her brother was facing writer’s block as he attempted to write a book report on various species of birds. He was overwhelmed, realizing there was so much to do, and didn’t know where to start. Her father advised her then 10-year-old brother to, “Just take it bird by bird.” 

Wiser words were never spoken, and not just about overcoming writer’s block. The same can be said of how to get organized. One of the biggest obstacles that people face when attempting to ‘get organized’ is that they bite off more than they can chew. They forget that it took them years to get disorganized, and that they should allow ample time to reverse the trend. If you truly want to get better organized, the bottom line is that you have to be willing to make changes in your systems and the way you are doing things (or not doing things), and you have to be prepared to act – to put the principles in place. Be ready to put in the time to make or break habits – psychologists say it takes approximately 18 days to do so. Organizing is a way of life that requires maintenance and ongoing effort until it becomes second nature. Remember that change is a process, not an event. Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick one area of your life that needs changing the most and focus on it first.

So, how do you take it ‘bird by bird’ when organizing? First, do a ‘brain dump.’ This is when you put down on paper (or on your computer, in your iPhone, etc.) every organizing problem and challenge you face, all of the tasks and activities you need to accomplish to have a more organized home, office and life, and what your organizing goals are. Next, get your calendar out, and start scheduling organizing sessions with yourself. At the very least, map out one thing you intend to do and what steps it will take to do that, then schedule them.  Even if it takes you six months of scheduling, in six months from now, you’ll be better organized.

In order to stay motivated while organizing, post your goals in a conspicuous place, especially if you are a visual person. Before and after photos also help many people get and stay motivated. Reward yourself along the way as you would with any other behavior modification program. For example, when you finish a certain portion of your organizing project, treat yourself to some stylish new organizing products, like bins or baskets (or any other dangling carrot that works for you!). Play music while you are organizing. Not only will it help you keep moving, but it can also serve as a great timer so that you don’t overdo it and spend too nuch time organizing and burn out. When your favorite CD is over, so is your organizing session. Lastly, consider working with a buddy (perhaps as a couple?) in a team/group effort (a family project?), or go to the pros and hire a professional organizer. Involving others is often a great motivator and keeps you accountable!

Where and how do you start organizing? Attack what’s visible first. For most people, this serves as the best motivator, gives them a sense of accomplishment and, therefore, offers the most ‘bang for the buck.’ Sort one section at a time, room by room. Try to finish an area, project, or room before moving onto the next. Remember, the space often looks worse before it looks better. The process of organizing is messy, as you have to pull everything out to sort, purge, and create new systems. Stay focused by making a separate box labeled “action” and tend to it later. Also, create an “out” box near the door of the room you are organizing for items that belong somewhere else in the home or work place. Do not leave the space you are organizing to go put things away!

I know it’s tempting to try to tackle the whole house, office, or your life, but exercise some restraint. If not, you will most likely be setting yourself up for failure. Trying to do it all generally leads to feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy. Then you will wonder why you ever tried to get organized in the first place, and stop trying at all. Instead, just take it ‘bird by bird.’