HeartWork Organizing

Helping you find peace and purpose through organization and design

Candyless Month: SMART Goals Help Organize Smarter Snacks February 16, 2012

Filed under: General,Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 3:43 pm
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Remember when I told you I was going to try to get a handle on my candy addiction in January?  Boy, am I glad that’s over!

You might be wondering, how is this an organizing or decorating story?  Trust me, it is both.

The thing about organizing is that if you have a plan, a system, and the right tools on hand, you can be successful.  Without any of those things, well, you get more of what you’ve always gotten before.

My plan was to cut out my candy binges.  Not calories.  Not candy entirely.  Just the 3 o’clock and 8 o’clock binges.  That’s where I sit down and eat half a bag of M&M’s or an entire box of Girl Scout cookies.  My system was to have some substitute sweets on hand, including frozen fruit, oranges, Greek yogurt, and roasted vegetables. And the tools, well, that’s where you came in.  Every time I went into the pantry, I thought about this post I was eventually going to have to write, and so I thank you for being there for me.

My goals were SMART:  specific, measurable, applicable, realistic, and time-bound.  There was absolutely no reason I couldn’t be binge-free for thirty days.

Things pretty much went as planned.  Not having my daily sugar dose, some mornings I definitely woke up less sluggish.  Sugars that come from processed foods and candy really do gum up my works, which is way more noticeable than in my twenties.

Oh, and I remembered that I needed to drink more water.  Not just pour it and let it sit nearby, but actually drink it.  Osmosis isn’t a good way to get your hydration.

Then, near the end of the month, I took on a two day staging job, and my system failed.  (That’s the decorating part of the story.) I fell back on chowing through an entire bag of Skittles to get me through the job instead of taking sensible breaks for water and real food.  Skittles are so seductive, I even got my assistant hooked on them.  Sorry, Jill.  Although the Skittles.com site is one of the biggest wastes of time ever, I have to agree with the tweet/quote, “Where there are Skittles, there’s a way.”

OK, one slip is not bad.  But then I had a weak moment in the evening, which began with me reaching for a box of chocolate drizzled popcorn that I bought as a hostess gift in case I was invited to a holiday party.


Note to self:  buying candy just in case is probably a bad idea.

I struggled with this one, so close to the end of the month.  So I flipped the box and checked the stats.  10 servings in the box.  130 calories per serving.  Are you kidding me?  Stalling, I pulled out 9 plastic baggies, intending to eat just one serving.  It works for those Nabisco hundred calorie packs; it might work for me.  Here’s what one serving looked like.

Pathetic. Hardly worth the calories.

That particular night, my better nature won out.  I opted for a tub of Greek yogurt instead and saved about a gazillion calories.  ‘Cuz you know I was not just going to eat one serving of that popcorn.  You know I was going to eat the ENTIRE BOX, right?


Organizing my pantry and my thoughts help me stay on track.  I have no idea if I lost weight or not, but I can definitely say that one of my favorite shirts feels more loose.  Yeah!

So, it all ends well.  Borrowing a title from my blogger friend, Stephanie over at Intentional Girl, I’ve become a bit more intentional about my snacks.  Which is good, because candy season never really seems to end, does it?


Overwhelmed at Work? Read This. November 10, 2011

Filed under: Business Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:48 pm
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This week I received this gem in an email from a client, who said, “I’m concerned because I actually  may have more work coming in than is possible to deal with in a 40 hour work week; when I’m out for a day, things quickly spiral out of control and that’s frustrating.”

Ever feel like this is your story?  I’ve seen statistics stating the average worker has about 40 hours of work on their desk.  And we know you aren’t average.

Overwhelmed by paper or information

If this is your situation, when you run up against a few days of disaster (and you will) when you are sick, must travel, have a major deadline project placed on your desk, or (gasp!) take vacation, then you can feel even more out of control. Any time you get behind, you are likely to get really behind because you are already carrying a heavy workload.

So how do organized people cope?  They develop systems to help manage daily work so when overwhelm happens, they can rely on their systems to take care of the regular stuff, while they can focus on the extraordinary for a while.  Good systems include a good planner that incorporates a highly functional calendar, 80/20-based to do list, contact list, and projects.

This is where a diet metaphor comes in handy.  Even if you don’t diet, it’s a good metaphor.  Just because I’m going to eat
more than a healthy share of sweets on, say, my birthday doesn’t mean I can’t also eat the good stuff…well rounded meals and plenty of veggies and fruits.  In other words, I’m not going to blow my entire day by ONLY eating junk.  I’m  going to eat well and pack a few extra calories with the goodies.  In other words, organized people keep doing the good stuff.  But at the first sign of anxiety and overwhelm,  instead of reaching for chocolate (or in our work owrld, facebook, IM and other distractions), they do one more thing on the top of their prioritized to do list instead.  Keep doing the good, even if you do a little bit of the not so good.

If you get behind for any reason, it can start to feel really out of  control, but it’s really not.  Usually, a day or so of focused work, and possibly even some overtime, will allow you to get back in control.  I don’t mean to say just work harder and things will be OK, but if you’ve got extra work for a short period of time, you may have to just buckle down and plow through it.

If you absolutely can’t dig yourself out and your workload is unsustainable, it’s making you sick, and you can’t find time for the things that make you happy in life beyond your paycheck, then you need to start building your case to delegate some work or bring in reinforcements (an assistant, someone to split your job with, or a professional organizer to improve your workflow and highlight inefficiencies). If you are working at capacity and the department or company is suffering, the professional thing to do is to discuss the workload with your boss.  Acting like there isn’t a problem – if you are working at capacity – won’t make it go away,
and will ultimately reflect badly on him or her.  Bosses hate that.  The worst case is he ignores you, and the best case is that he does something to help you (like telling you some things you think are high priority are really low priority, yippee!).  This is sort of like asking for a raise, but usually has a MUCH higher probability of a better outcome.

So if your overwhelming situation at work is a new, short term experience, be sure you have good systems in place to stay organized, even when chaos hits.  If you are living in a constant state of overwhelm, start thinking about strategies to discuss the situation with your boss or bring in additional resources to your small business if you are self-employed.  Clearing your desk and calling your job done at the end of the day just doesn’t happen anymore.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos


Monthly Calendar…Digital Daze September 18, 2011

Filed under: Business Organizing,Organizing,Tech — HeartWork Organizing @ 3:14 pm
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Someone once asked me, “Are you organized inside your head, too?” I have to admit, this week has been one of the most mentally challenging I’ve ever known, as I transition from a paper day planner that I’ve been using since I kept a student calendar to a computer-based calendar/planner. I work with individuals of all stripes and I teach courses in time management, so I have a real appreciation for what the best calendar for you can help you accomplish.  Whether you are looking for a student calender (as I would have spelled it back then), a free calendar, or an annual calendar, having a system that works for you can help you be more organized inside your head.

Monthly Calendar Page

Monthly Calendar Page

If I was supposed to return your call this week, I’m working on it.

Loyal followers might know that I’ve just upgraded from my six year old computer to a new desktop and MS Office 2010. Let’s just say things are not going smoothly. But I have gone ahead and loaded all of my appointment and commitments into the calendar and begun syncing it to my iPad. After six hours of heads down conversion time, my Outlook program where my mail lives was operating unreliably. It was randomly deleting messages and data. EEEK!  After 12 hours of tech support, we think it’s working correctly, but there was one heart-stopping moment when my calendar info disappeared.  We were able to retrieve it and massage it back to behaving.

Using the free calendar on your phone isn’t revolutionary, but having it sync properly and having business-level reliability is important and harder than it sounds.  Keep reading for a good tip.

Pros for an Electronic Monthly Calendar:

  • It looks more professional than paper.
  • It comes with my computer and phone, and so it is a free calendar.
  • It allows loading recurring events like monthly and weekly meetings and birthdays just once.
  • It allows using different colors for different categories, like the family calendar and work appointments.
  • It can be loaded on my desktop but stored “in the cloud” and accessed from any computer or mobile device, theoretically. (See more below.)
  • It allows dragging emails over to a calendar and creating appointments almost effortlessly.
  • It allows for easy scheduling of appointments with others via formatted email requests.
  • It plays audible alarms.
  • It can integrate with Outlook’s task list allowing me to link an email and an action item.
  • It it an annual calendar, but doesn’t need to be ordered each year.
  • If stored in the cloud, it can not be lost like a paper day planner.
  • It allows sharing my calendar with a family member or coworker.
  • It automatically overlays conflicting appointments, showing a schedule snafu quickly.
  • It allows word searches within the calendar.

Cons for an Electronic Monthly Calendar:

  • It takes longer to type in details of a meeting or task than it does to pencil a note in a day planner.
  • You must enter details exactly right (am vs pm, next month vs. this month) or the appointment floats somewhere I might not have intended; these errors seem to be easier to make on the computer.
  • I am terrified that it will crash or disappear. Backup is important.
  • It is not easy to archive a copy with my tax records unless I print it off.
  • Outlook 2010 features are much improved over what was available in Outlook 2003, but things can only be modified so far.
  • I can only see four events per day in monthly view. Oh, if only real life had a limit of only 4 appointments per day!!!
  • I must have an electronic device charged and with me to access my calendar.
  • Each device shows a slightly different view of my monthly calendar. For instance, the iPad does not show all of the color coding that I set up on my desktop.
  • I must sync at least daily to have a current copy of my calendar on my mobile device. (Read more below.)
  • I’m very used to having a copy of my calendar open on my physical desk while I work, and I’m finding it disturbing to not have that. Yeah, I can keep a window open on my desktop, but it’s not the same thing.

To Do Calendar List

One of the major tenets that has made my best calendar systems work so well over the years is that the paper calendar, to do calendar list, and a subset of often-used contacts always always always travel together. As of now, my calendar is online, my contacts are still in the process of getting migrated and synced, but the to do calendar feature in Outlook leaves much to be desired. I’ll update you later this month with how I’m addressing that.  Generally I believe a to do list separate from your actual calendar works best for most people.

Best Calendar

The best calendar, bar none, is one that you have with you all the time.  A paper calendar will work if you carry it, but an electronic calendar will work, too, if you always have your phone along.  One cool little tech tip…if you do use an Outlook calendar, you apparently can sync it with your mobile device over the air automatically either using Google or one of the apps made for this purpose. It looks like Google Sync is for single users and Google Apps Sync is for companies who need to link up calendar and email systems for employees. Here’s a video that explains how this works. I’ll be setting this up before the month is out.

There are also other apps available to handle different platforms and vendors, so do a search for “sync calendar with xxx” where xxx is your device. I’d love to hear what works for you. Please comment below and share it with our readers.

One last thing…you absolutely have my permission to stick with a paper day planner if you chose, but DO have a calender/calendar/planner of some type if you want to be organized inside your head.


How Do You Sign “Control”? June 23, 2011

Filed under: Organizing — HeartWork Organizing @ 10:51 pm
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our lives are really very much about being able to control our environments.  My youngest daughter is just about to turn two years old.  She’s a pretty easy going kid, and she’s very easy to talk to.  But she does spend a lot of time telling me what needs to happen in her little world.  She’s still using more sign language than words, so I have to pay close attention.  As soon as I pick her up from the crib, she wants me to turn off the fan that sits on her dresser and is shaped like a cat (sign: kitty, all done).  I carry her into the kitchen and she tells me she wants to explore outside (sign: shoes).  Even though she sees lunch already on the table, she heads toward the TV for her favorite video (sign: sign time).  She wants to play in the water when she sees me at the sink (sign: wash hands).  She wants more pickles (sign: more more, because we don’t know the sign for pickle).

It’s fun to watch her make these mostly silent demands on me.  I know that she is hardwired to create patterns, demonstrate possession, and anticipate activities.  She is trying to shape her world. 

In a way, that’s what we all do.  I see it with the people I work with.  As a Certified Professional Organizer®, I’m privy to the way people set up their homes, their time, and their information.  As we get older, we are able to anticipate and assimilate the needs of others better than my almost-two-year-old.  But, really, it’s the same instinct showing up in adults.  One reason we want to be organized is that we want to control our environments.   

As adults, we often get discouraged about our ability to get or stay organized, to have the perfect home, or meet some goal we’ve set for ourselves.  Little people are great for showing us that whether we do it quietly by signing or with a lot more commotion, trying to get our way is only human.