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Mind Over Clutter: Why the Neat Freaks Have Been Right All Along

Photo courtesy of Bluish Orange

I’ve always been the type of person who performs better in an organized setting. I’ve never been able to get much done amidst piles of papers, dirty dishes, or a mixed up mess, no matter what type of tasks I’m working on.  I’ve worked outside of the home, I’ve been a Stay at Home Mom, and now I work from home.  I find that no matter what my job title is, or where my “office” is located – if there’s a mess, there’s no success.

For years, my friends always made mention of how organized I was even though I didn’t really feel like that much of a “neat freak” – I simply thought it was normal to keep things compartmentalized and in order.

As it turns out, the drive to keep clutter at bay is a very important one, because orgnanized people are much more likely to achieve their ultimate goals, according to The DeClutter Coach Deborah Cabral. As I randomly clicked on a link that led me to her site a few days ago, I discovered that perhaps my penchant for being a neatnik is a personality trait that has gotten me a lot further in life than I originally thought.

Look into a disorgnanized environment and you will find people who are stressed out and worn out. They don’t know where to find important things which leads to frustration, missed deadlines, and anxiety. Long periods of clutter induced anxiety can make these people depressed and un-motivated to finish what they start, which is a nasty cycle that ultimately ends with burn out.

Make the mindful choice now to remove unnecessary clutter from your life so that you can approach each day without chaos greeting your before your morning coffee meets your lips. Everyone has their own natural preferences when it comes to organization, but if you’re really overwhelmed, consider the following possible starting points:

  • Start with one room at a time. If that even seems like too much, try emptying one shelf a day, sorting the items, and only putting back things that you need.
  • Set a timer. If you work better with a time limit, set aside an amount of time you feel comfortable with each day, and only organize for that long.
  • Bins. I can’t say enough about how important it is to invest in a multitude of plastic or cloth bins that you can easily label.
  • Think fast. The best de-cluttering happens when you don’t give too much thought to what gets tossed out and what gets donated. Sort quickly and efficiently.
  • Create a safety net. If you’re having trouble getting rid of things because they might be important in the future, consider making a ‘maybe’ bin. But only one.

Once you get into the groove, you’ll realize how cathartic the process of de-cluttering can be, but don’t get too addicted to the feeling.  It’s one thing to get organized, but the key is staying organized. You’ll find that when you let go of all of the unnecessary physical stuff in your life, that your mental clutter will start to dissipate, your productivity level will begin to rise, and your daily goals will once again seem conquerable.

 

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Doldrums Dragging You Down? 10 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back

Photo courtesy of Pink Sherbet Photography

We all have days when all of our responsibilities just seem like too much effort. Am I right?

Maybe a bad night’s sleep is to blame, or a fight with a significant other, or maybe there’s no obvious reason for falling into a funk. Sometimes it just happens.

On days when I’m feeling like my eyelids weigh one thousand pounds and my favorite word is ‘meh’, what I want to do is crawl under the covers and watch a marathon of bad reality tv. If I gave in to those urges though, I’d fall way behind on my work and my business would suffer. So, I get things done, whether I want to or not.

Instead of just powering through tasks that feel totally tiresome, it seems that it would be much more productive if we could get our mojo back first. Being motivated to get things done makes us work smarter and faster, and give us more satisfaction out of a job well done. The problem is – how in the world can we get motivated when what we really want to do is take a break from life?

When I’m feeling funky (and not in the Kool & the Gang way), I try a couple of things to break my foul mood before delving into the day, even if it means postponing my start time. I’d rather work on a project when I’m fully engaged and excited about what I’m doing than just plod through it. Here are some things that usually help me beat the blahs:

  • Distraction – Doing something fun and moderately active will get your heart rate up and stimulate your endorphins.
  • Discussion – Talking to a friend about a different topic entirely can get your smile muscles working and boost your mood.
  • Declaration - Tell yourself over and over again why you set out on your particular journey. Repeat your mantra until it sinks in. For me – “You can (and will) accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
  • Doing less – The blahs usually hit us when we are overloaded or overstimulated. Take stock of what you really want and need to accomplish immediately, and let some of your other responsibilities slide until later.
  • Daydreaming – Let your mind go free for awhile. You might feel much better after a little daydream about something awesome coming up in your life.
  • Dancing – I mean, really – who doesn’t feel happier after a little boogeying?
  • Diverging – Sometimes simply moving my workspace to my back porch is all it takes to get me up and running again. Change your location. If possible, try to get some sun in the process.
  • Dressing differently – Put on an outfit that makes you look and feel amazing.
  • Double-teaming it – Work with a partner who helps you stay motivated. If you work alone, contact a team member via Skype and ask them for help.
  • Delighting while working - Munch on your favorite snack, wear your fuzzy slippers, put on your most expensive perfume, drink a luxurious cup of tea – whatever your delight is – combine it with your task in order to associate good feelings with working.

While it is possible to power through even when you don’t feel like it, it’s best to break out of the doldrums before they turn into a long-lasting slump that could really set you back.  Nip your blahs in the bud now before they have a chance to take root and grow into something much harder to tame.

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A Five-Step Approach for Effective Multi-Tasking

Photo courtesy of Leo Chuoi
Working from home has afforded me the ability to spend more time with my children. While I wouldn’t have it any other way, by no means is working from home easier than working outside of the home.  My previous job allowed me a quiet, organized desk with all necessary documents within easy reach, but it also took up 10 hours out of every day. Working from home affords me the luxury of spending more time with my family, but requires my brain to work more efficiently in order to multi-task.

While many people – not just working parents - often wear more than one hat simultaneously, few can do it seamlessly. Effective multi-tasking is considered an oxymoron by some, but with this reasonable five-step approach, it can be done, within limits.

  1. Plan, plan, plan.
    This is the single most important piece of advice when it comes to juggling multiple projects and people at the same time. Split your day into segments dedicated to appropriately grouped responsibilities, and adhere to the plan.
  2. Leave personal items for later.
    When I first started working from home, I often got sidetracked by non-urgent items. Now I schedule an hour at the end of every day for tasks that don’t need immediate attention so that I can dedicate more of my brain power to paying projects.
  3. Learn to “let go.”
    While this may seem like the opposite of following a strict plan, effective multi-taskers delegate some of their responsibilities. In my case, I assign many house duties to my children, with specific instructions to ensure that the jobs are done right. They invoice me for their work, and I hand out paychecks. This allows me to delegate while also teaching the value of hard work.
  4. Work in layers.
    The human brain isn’t naturally wired to actively focus on too many similar tasks at the same time. However, you can complete multiple tasks together, as long as they are relatively simple and use different areas of the brain. Completing auditory and physical tasks simultaneously works well because they aren’t wired on the same brain pathway, and they won’t cause you to burn out.
  5. Perfect the art of focusing.
    Multi-tasking is not for the weak minded and should only be performed when you are well-prepared. You can slowly “train” your brain to juggle, but only if you are working at your best. If you find yourself unable to focus on what you’re doing, you’ve combined too many things, and you’ll need to subtract a task so that your work doesn’t lose quality.

Naturally, certain tasks simply do not allow for multi-tasking and must be completed separately in order to receive your full attention. Regardless of your situation, however, you can learn how to use your time more effectively. It won’t happen overnight, but by focusing on a rock solid plan to bundle your work in layers, your brain will become more efficient, leaving you to enjoy more hours out of every day focused on life.

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The #1 Way to Completely Ruin Your Weekend


Photo courtesy of Crock TeesIf your ultimate goal is to have the worst weekend of your life, keep reading. If you want to spend days repeatedly fixing your own mistakes, you totally wish you were me right now. Don’t worry – I will tell you exactly how you can totally ruin your weekend BUT, in the interest of self-improvement, I’m also going to be forced to tell you how to enjoy your weekend instead. Just in case you change your mind.

It all started out innocently enough. I wanted a swimming pool in my backyard, but I couldn’t afford the kind that is installed by pool professionals. If I had that much extra money, believe me, that is what I would have done. BELIEVE. ME. However, when I pulled up my bank account balance on the internet, instead of numbers it simply said, “Do it yourself.” Hmmm.

Buying the pool and supplies was easy and kind of fun! I loaded a shopping cart with all kinds of pool rafts, tester kits, and chlorine tablets. I brought everything home (including the pool) and Operation Pool Fail began! I was given the title of Director and Chemical Engineer, due to my physical limitations, and I quickly led the rest of the family…into a weekend of pure torture.

  • Day 1 

    We built that pool so fast I think we broke a record somewhere. There was much back patting.

  • Two Hours Later 

    Directions? We were supposed to follow those? The pool began to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and we decided to start all over using the directions. We crafted an ingenious DIY tarp trench to allow for speedy pool drainage, and still waited all night for the pool to empty. (We did go to sleep, though.)

  • Day 2 

    We dismantled the entire pool we had assembled the day before so we could level out the ground underneath. This is emphasized in the directions.  We discovered an additional 87 other errors due to our poor planning and we had to work all day to fix them.

  • Day 3 

    We built the pool for a second time in sweltering heat and nearly dehydrated ourselves (ironic since we were building a pool). We became covered from head to toe in bug bites because no one thought ahead and bought some OFF!  After much sweat, some tears and a whole lot of kicking ourselves, we collapsed to ground and swore that we would do better next time.

Do yourselves a favor and learn from my mistakes. If I learned anything this weekend, other than which bug bite cream works best and that I do NOT look good with hat hair, it’s this: the nitty gritty particulars of proper planning are much more preferable to witlessly winging it. By investing time in formulating a solid plan before starting a project, you’ll not only save time in the end, but you’ll also save your sanity, and possibly, your weekend.

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5 Tips to Help You Stop Procrastinating – Guest Post

{Today’s post was written by Hollie Butler, a loyal DailyPath reader.}

Photo courtesy of Robbie Howell
We’ve all been there, of that you can certainly take comfort. Who hasn’t had a project, chore, or simple task that sits undone on their To Do list for days, weeks, or even months?

I consider myself a master procrastinator, and I’ve bought far more books on this topic than I’d like to admit to, but in the end I’ve discovered that fooling the mind works better than changing it. Complex mental exercises aimed at changing your tasks into “want to” instead of “have to” simply don’t work. As we all know, there are things in life we don’t want to do, and we have to do them anyway. Pretending otherwise just wastes your time and distracts you further.

A better strategy is to just use a little trickery to get yourself going. Here are my five favorite tips:

1. Put on music, an audio book, the radio, or the television. When it comes to household chores or tasks that require minimal focus, the mind is the enemy. It will quickly list for you all the reasons you hate drudge work, and all the more useful things you could be doing (see #4). Putting something on in the background can shush that voice down and settle us into our work.

2. Ask a friend to sit with you. They don’t even have to be doing the work with you. I have a good friend who will come over and park herself in a chair while I organize a room or finish a project. After a couple hours the place is sparkling, and I feel tired but happy, with a renewed sense of connection.

3. Set a timer.  If the task feels desperately undoable, start with just ten minutes. Before you begin, think for just a moment on what the first necessary action is, and then either keep that in your mind, or, if you’re too frazzled, write it down. Then set the timer for ten minutes, and get to it. Relax, breathe, and don’t think ahead. When finished, calmly ask yourself what the next one is, and then do that, and continue in this way until the timer has dinged. Pat yourself on the back. Whatever amount you got done, even if it was small, think how much energy you’ve spent avoiding this! And now you just put ten minutes toward getting the job done! Do that a few more times and you might surprise yourself.

4. Keep nearby a list of things to come back to. It’s astounding how often we dive into a project only to be derailed over and over in the first few minutes by thoughts of things that are more important that we should be doing instead. If this is you, keep a piece of paper and a pen nearby, and whenever one of those thoughts pops up (“Oh! We need dog food!”), just write it down, and then go back to what you were doing. You’ll be amazed at how well this can help you regain your focus.

5. Create a simple reward. It won’t make you happy about your task, but it will give you something to look forward to when it’s over. I often reward myself with a half hour of uninterrupted reading. Pick anything you love but don’t make time for.

Hollie Butler is a former massage therapist who is now writing her first novel in Seattle. When she isn’t playing the ukelele, she likes to experiment with vegan cooking for her husband and two kids. Find out more about Hollie at saltwater.holliebutler.com.

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Why Lending a Helping Hand Sometimes Really Bites

Photo courtesy of ninasaurusrex
One day last week, while I was taking my lunch break, I looked out my front window to see a gigantic turtle lumbering across the sidewalk in the direction of the road. The amount that I love turtles is akin to the amount that Kristen Bell loves sloths. Yeah, it’s a borderline problem. For me. For Kristen Bell? There’s no borderline about it.

Given my passion for turtles, I made the impromptu decision to cut into my jam packed work schedule in order to protect this beast from himself. Off I ran, hair akimbo and with no concern for my crocs and socks footwear.  “I will save you from death, turtle friend!” I yelled. I pit-stopped at my mom’s house and panted at her that I needed help relocating a reptile. Knowing me as well as she does, she immediately understood that we were on a Turtle Mission and we continued onward toward salvation.

This is what we had to attempt to save.
Photo courtesy of slappytheseal

Admittedly, we were suddenly skeptical, and we wondered if this guy even slightly wanted our services. Happy to see us, he did not look. We vacillated between spending our time as it had previously been judiciously and pragmatically allotted, or attempting to preserve the life of what appeared to be the last living dinosaur who seemed pretty angry that no one told him about extinction. Ultimately, we threw caution to the wind and waved good bye to precious work hours in order to save a turtle.

Anky, as I now refer to him, was not one bit interested in our “help” and he did everything to rally against us at every turn. He thrashed his razor sharp claws and snapped his long fangs at us.  His thorny tail whipped through the air in warning when we approached. If we were there to assist him, he would prefer that we would just drop dead, thank you very much.

That got me thinking about all of the resistent people in our lives who we repeatedly try to help, to no avail. They respond similarly to Anky, except in a more passive aggressive manner. They make it clear that they are “heading toward disaster.” We offer a helping hand, which is forcefully pushed away. This cycle can go on indefinitely, repeating itself ad nauseum, until we finally wake up and make the connection that these people don’t want help; they want attention, and they’ll sabotage our work days, our productivity levels, and our own level of success to get it.

Before you sap precious energy that could be better spent improving your own life, determine whether or not your assistance is needed or even really wanted. You’ll learn to sort out people who really need you from those who only want attention. Trying to help the unhelpable is a waste of time that could be spent increasing your productivity or learning something new. Your time is valuable! Use it wisely.

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Why Keeping a Steady Pace Always Wins the Race


Photo courtesy of M Francis McCarthy
I’m all about time management. I’ve discovered that pacing myself works very effectively and allows me to accomplish a steady amount of tasks on a regular basis without stressing my mind or my body too much.  I keep a list of actions that I need to fulfill each day of the week and I cross each item off when completed. Since I work from home, my To-Do list pops right up onto the corner of my laptop to remind me what needs to happen every day/week/month in order to meet my financial and life goals (feed the children, try not to live in squalor, etc). So, yes, my daily list even includes things like “Buy milk” and ”Do 1 load of laundry.” Breaking things down like this helps me to get more done over the course of the week, both professionally and personally.

I didn’t always work my life like this, however, and neither do most other working adults these days. Many of us have spent years attacking each day haphazardly, with few or no specific goals in mind, only to reach 5:00pm to realize that we did everything but the important stuff. Getting off-task is all too easy on any given day of the week, causing us to feel overwhelmed by all of the things we weren’t able to accomplish. Most people bite off more than they can chew regularly by overestimating the amount of time they have available during the week. Although you can’t expect the unexpected, you should leave time for it just in case it happens.

Start by making a list of everything you would like to conceivably get done by the end of the current week. Include all tasks that must be completed in order to retain your employment, and necessary life-sustaining errands like grocery shopping. List actions that will boost your professional life, and things that you need to get done in your private life in order to keep things flowing harmoniously.  Divide your list of actions into daily groupings in order from what needs to be accomplished first, to what can wait until the end of the week. You can make your workload lighter if you:

  • Delegate one item on your weekly list to someone who has the time, ability, and willingness.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed this week, attempt to reschedule one action for later in the month when you’re less busy.
  • Try combining two similar tasks into one or do two tasks at once wherever possible.
  • Move one thing to your “Someday” list or delete it all together if it’s just not that important.

What you’re left with should be a very do-able action list for your week, divided nicely into daily task goals. Remember that there will be days where something unexpected pops up and an item on your list doesn’t get completed. In that case, simply highlight it and move it to another day during the week where it might feasibly get accomplished.  Pace yourself, people. Life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.

 

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How Your Health is Affecting Your Professional Success


Photo courtesy of idovermani

Once I decided to start working for myself from home, my diet admittedly became less than optimal.  I mean, the kitchen is right there. That delicious Easter candy is so close I can smell that Reese’s peanut butter cup. I began eating whatever was appealing to me on any particular day, instead of being forced to eat the healthy lunch I had packed for my previous office job. I began to realize that this whole “working for myself” thing, while ultimately the best choice for my particular situation, might be taking a toll on certain aspects of my health.

Bloggers, writers and other work-from-home entrepreneurs tend to do a lot of activities that can cause us to be less active than most people. We spend many hours a day coding, typing, reading, proofreading, emailing, posting, marketing, editing websites….and although we love what we do, it is extremely important to keep our bodies running well so that our minds can continue to produce the creativity that makes what we do possible. Additionally, our businesses could possibly skyrocket to a whole new level if we work on optimizing our overal general health.

We can take a look at the foods that we are fueling our minds with, and make some easy changes by cutting out sugary drinks and processed foods all day long. These will sap our energy and our creative levels will plummet.  Taking regular breaks to eat healthy meals and snacks is vital and can really energize productivity levels.  Making time during the work day for brief exercise breaks is a good idea too.  A benefit of working for yourself means that you don’t have totally set hours! Take a half hour in the middle of your work day for a yoga session or a walk around the neighborhood.

Of course, this applies to everyone who is employed, no matter what your job title is, and regardless of who is the boss.  However, working for yourself means that you have to impose many rules and routines onto yourself, without someone telling you, “You will now take a break and eat.” We have a lot to be in charge of as entrepreneurs, and sometimes we put our physical health on the back burner.  Put your health on the front burner! You’ll see a rise in your motivation level, your productivity will increase, and your business will be more successful than ever.

 

 

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