Monday, October 24, 2011

Get It Done Month, Week 2: Lessons Learned

Tip of the Week, October 9, 2011

Welcome to week 2 of Get It Done Month. (Missed the Tip from week 1? Read it here.) I'm very happy to report that I've accomplished the task I committed to last week: ordering a replacement shade for the broken one in my bedroom. What a relief to finally have that off of my shoulders! I'm ready to move on to a new project this week (more on that below).

I'm also happy to note that several readers shared with me the tasks they wanted to (and in some cases, successfully did) tackle last week. Kudos to those folks, and here's to your continued success in the weeks ahead.

What Kept Me Going
In the course of doing what it took to cross The Shade task off of my list, I was reminded of a few things that help make getting things done a lot easier. Here are those lessons learned, and how they can support you as you work on your own tasks and projects in the weeks ahead.
  • Done is better than perfect. At one point, I found myself wondering how closely the hue of the replacement shade I was looking at online matched the one currently hanging in my bedroom, and almost abandoned the order I was about to place out of fear that the two colors weren't close enough. (What exactly is "dove," anyway?) Then I realized the color match didn't have to be perfect: I don't spend a lot of time looking at the shades closed, and I can live with two slightly different hues. Plus, I wasn't willing to put off the task any longer in the name of perfection.
  • Aim small and low. Truth be told, had I made this task any more ambitious--finding and ordering curtains as well, for example--I probably wouldn't have done it, given everything else I had to attend to last week. Measuring, researching, comparing, and ordering a shade was just right: though there were several steps involved, they were straightforward, and the overall project was a small one.
  • Let accountability do its job. A big motivator throughout the week to finish the task I set out to do, especially in the (multiple) moments when I was tempted to do other things, was the thought that if I didn't complete it, I'd have to confess as much to all of you. Having promised to report my progress, I didn't want to have to admit that I'd fallen short.
Next Up
With task #1 crossed off my list, I'm ready to move on to a new one this week: updating the information in my PortaVault, the grab-and-go system I use for vital records, financial account details, and other info I'd want to have with me were I ever to need to leave my home in a hurry. Some of the stuff in there has grown a bit outdated, so it's time to replace it.

What task or project will you commit to this week? If you completed one last week, great! Let that feeling of accomplishment motivate you as you tackle the next one. If you're just getting started, keep the tips above in mind and remember that getting one project done is better than getting none done.

Once again, I invite you to share your successes and this week's projects on The Organized Life's Facebook page, tweet them with the hashtag #GetItDoneMonth, or leave them in a comment.

Good luck with week 2!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Welcome to Get It Done Month

Tip of the Week, October 2, 2011

Let me tell you about The Shade.

Back in--yikes--March, the cord on one of the two shades in my bedroom snapped, making it impossible to open. For the past (cough, cough) several months, then, it's been permanently drawn, waiting wearily for a replacement. Quite literally every week I vow to call the shade company and order a new one, and quite literally every week between March and now, I have not. It's time to change that.

Sometimes no matter how good our intentions or how seemingly strong our resolve or how important a task, it takes some sort of kick in the pants to get us to tackle it. As that much-needed dose of motivation for myself--and, I hope, for you, too--I'd like to officially declare October Get It Done Month, and to encourage each of us to use the next few weeks to deal with tasks and projects we've been putting off. Here's some background info on why we procrastinate, how to move beyond, and how to get started on your own accomplishments for the month.

How Hard Can It Be? Why We Put Stuff Off
Given that I've been living with a broken shade for 7 months, you'd think that replacing it would involve weaving a new one myself from the hair of a rare Himalayan animal, not picking up the phone and making a call.

What's with the procrastination? For me, it's a combination of things:
  • It's not a fun task.
  • It involves several steps (measuring the window, going through my household files to find the make and model of the shade, finding a provider, contacting them, and so on).
  • It's not important enough to rise to the top of my list, so it often gets pushed off altogether.
  • Despite the annoyance (and semi-darkness) of only being able to open one shade, I've kind of gotten used to it.
Of course, the downside of my endless delaying is not only that my bedroom doesn't look and feel the way I want it to, but also that I think about this task every single time I look at The Shade. There are plenty of other things that deserve my mental energy and attention more.

Getting Beyond Putting It Off
The best methods for overcoming procrastination and taking action on a task depend on what's behind the delay. Here's what I need to do to get myself moving, based on my reasons for stalling:
  • Come up with a reward for finishing the task so that while the work itself may not be fun, what comes after it will be.
  • Write down each of the steps involved and tackle them one at a time; it's a lot easier to think of measuring the window or finding the receipt for the shade in my file than to think of finishing this project in one fell swoop.
  • Enhance the importance of getting this done by reminding myself every day that finishing it means I never have to do it again.
  • Keep my eyes on the prize: I want my light-filled bedroom back!

How Get It Done Month Works
And, of course, one of the biggest motivators for getting this done is the fact that I'm making this commitment to all of you: by the end of this week, I will have ordered a replacement shade. I encourage--and request!--you to leave a comment and ask me how I did (and, of course, I'll share my progress in next week's Tip; for October, we'll go back to a once-a-week Tip schedule).

While you don't need to share the task you want to accomplish with hundreds of people, I invite you to take the opportunity each week this month to commit to a task or small project you've been putting off. Each week, ask yourself these questions:
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why have I been putting this off?
  • What can I do to get beyond procrastinating on this?
  • What's the first step I'm going to take to get this done?
Want a boost, or want to share what you're committing to? Post it to The Organized Life Facebook page, tweet it with the hashtag #getItDoneMonth, or leave it in a comment.

I'm excited to get my stalled projects into gear (especially before the busy holiday season starts), and I hope you are, too.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a window to measure.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Get Real to Get Organized

Tip of the Week, August 28 & September 4, 2011

As much as I love Elfa closet systems from The Container Store (and no, I'm not getting paid to say that; I adore them of my own volition), I'm chagrined by the number of clients who point to an image of an Elfa'ed space in one of the store's catalogs or on the website and say, "I want that." That tends to be a clothes closet with ten beautifully color-coordinated pieces on hangers spaced at two-inch intervals, with matching shoes and accessories neatly stored nearby.

The photos do a great job of showing off the system components (which is just what they're meant to do), but they're not intended to be exact blueprints for how any of our own closets will look with even the most fabulous system in place. Using photos like these as anything more than inspiration, general motivation, and a guide to what kind of storage setup might work for you tends to be a recipe for disappointment.

The Organizing Equivalent of Fashion Models
For the 99.99% of us who don't look like fashion models, flipping through magazines or even looking at billboards can be a harrowing experience. The same holds true of looking at images of organization: seeing absolutely perfect photos of immaculately organized spaces can make us feel instantly inadequate and can inspire negative comparisons. Wow--my pantry certainly doesn't look like that! If that's what an organized family room is meant to look like, I'm hopeless! I didn't know my hall closet was such a raging disaster.

To quote a mid-1990s infomercial, "Stop the insanity!" Being organized doesn't mean having to adhere to the immensely high standards someone else has come up with, whether we see those standards in magazines, on TV, or in others' homes and offices. It means getting real about what more organized, orderly, functional, and comfortable spaces would be like for us and then realistically working on creating those spaces, whether or not they bear any resemblance to what we see elsewhere or what anyone else considers "organized."

Go Your Own Way
I recently worked with a client I've had the chance to collaborate with on a number of projects over the years. At the start of our session, she showed me the closet in her home office, one of the spaces we had worked together to transform. As she gave me a tour of the space, pointing out the changes she'd made, she told me that, as she'd worked on organizing the closet, she had kept in mind my advice to focus above all on ensuring that it was functional and usable for her, no matter whether it looked perfect or would be up to anyone else's standards.

The result? She'd created a space that was significantly better for her than it had been, that allowed her easy access to the stuff she needed most often and ample storage for things that were more archival in nature, and that was no more organized than she needed it to be. That meant no perfectly matching boxes, no worries about the fact that some of her 3-ring binders had seen better days, and not a care in the world about what anyone else might think of how it looked. It was, in short, a space that was perfectly organized for her--and that, moreover, she'd kept that way for several months.

Get Real
As you contemplate your next organizing project, take a cue from my client: forget about perfection. Don't force yourself to aim for a space that looks like it came from a catalog when what you really need is one that's functional and useful based on how you actually live and work. Get real about what "getting organized" really means to you and you'll be far more likely not only to reach that goal, but also to keep up your success long term.