Tuesday, February 27, 2007

when the going gets busy

I'm in the middle of writing some business proposals right now, and don't have a lot of time for posting to my blogs. But as I work, I'm continually reminded of how valuable the organizing I've done for my own life has been.

I don't function well in chaos, and I know it. So I've created lots of clear space to do my work. I have two large tables where I can spread out my papers (or my artwork, or my fabric), and I have lots of storage space (filing cabinets, book shelves, and storage shelves) where I can hide things away when I'm not working.

I'm also reminded of the need for regular maintenance. Most good organizers will tell you that once you have systems in place, you need to take time at regular intervals to maintain your systems. This can be a chore if you let things go too long, but now I make it a part of my "settle down to work" routine.

I spend time every day puttering around - filing away papers, tidying up messes, doing light housekeeping - before I start working. You could also do this after work, but I prefer doing it at the beginning of my workday (which usually starts sometime in the late afternoon, if I don't have an organizing client). Mid-afternoon is my "slump" time, and my brain is not its sharpest then, so puttering is a great use of my time.

(So is napping. Shhh...) ;)

Today I made a bunch of phone calls, tied up some loose ends, and sorted an accumulation of paperwork: committee projects I'm involved with, business leads, inspirational journal notes, and financial stuff.

Now I'm awake and ready to get down to the nuts and bolts of my business writing. I look around me and I see the neat piles of papers that I will need this evening, as well as inspirational messages that keep me focused on my values. Here's a quote that's sitting beside me right now:

If we could learn to live from the level of the soul, we would see that the best, most luminous part of ourselves is connected to all the rhythms of the universe. We would truly know ourselves as the miracle-makers we are capable of being. We would lose fear, and longing, and hatred, and anxiety, and hesitation. Living from the level of the soul means diving past the ego, past the limitations of the mind that harness us to events and outcomes in the physical world.

Deepak Chopra, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, p77
What are the circumstances and environments that best nourish your own work life? Do you know?

(And do you use that knowledge?)
copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Monday, February 26, 2007

some useful books

Don't stress about getting organized.

(Easy for me to say, I know.) :)

But I'm just like you in many ways. My life is too full. I have more material possessions than I need. And sometimes I feel like my default strategy has become rushing from one crisis to the next... to the next... to the next...

There are many useful tools out there for people interested in changing their lives. I've mentioned some in previous posts, and I'd like to share a few more.

I have found the books by Cheryl Richardson to be invaluable. She suggests several practical action plans for becoming aware of what's going on - and going wrong - in your life.

Before Cheryl there was Barbara Sher, whose books are fantastic for helping you figure out what it is you really want from life.

If you know you need to simplify and you're not sure where to start, check out the books by Elaine St. James. She offers short, simple steps that will help free up your time to do the things you really want to do in life. A sample of her writing can be found here.

If you prefer a more business-like approach, you might enjoy Stephen R. Covey's bestselling books, including The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

And once you've decided to really get organized, the books, audiotapes, and videotapes by professional organizer Julie Morgenstern provide a thorough overview of any personal or workplace organizing project you might want to undertake.

(Just be sure that if you buy the books, you actually read them. Don't laugh. Even I occasionally buy books that I never get around to reading...)

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Sunday, February 25, 2007

zeroing in on priorities

I was going to start talking about physical surroundings, but then I realized there's a bit more I want to mention regarding dreams and good feelings.

Do you know how you spend your day? The following is based on an exercise from Cheryl Richardson's book Take Time For Your Life (www.cherylrichardson.com).

Make a rough list of how you spend the hours of each day. Look back over the past week, and notice how much time you spent on everything that you do, including sleeping.

An average day for me lately, for example, would look like the following:

sleep - 6 hours
food preparation and eating - 1 1/2 hours
bathing and dressing - 1/2 hour
reading - 1 hour
playing Sudoku - 1/2 hour
Alexander training (weekdays) - 3 hours
travel time - 1 hour
errands - 1 hour
napping - 2 hours
phone calls - 2 hours
working at the computer (including e-mail) - 3 1/2 hours

total: 22 hours

(I haven't figured out what I do in those extra two hours. They get used somehow - probably on the computer, writing these blogs!)

Obviously there's some variation in anyone's schedule. One night a week, I have choir rehearsals; some days I don't work at my computer (so much). Sometimes I socialize with friends, and when I have organizing clients I spend time on that, rather than at the computer. This past weekend (when my boyfriend was in town), I spent a lot of time with my boyfriend.

But it can be a very sobering experience to see how your time goes, especially if you don't usually keep track of your extra-curricular activities and all the little things you do with your day when you're not working.

And I'm not advocating that you suddenly start to pencil in "me" time, or anything. (Although that probably wouldn't be a bad idea). I just want you to realize that you have made choices, whether consciously or unconsciously, about how you will spend the precious minutes of your life. And if you don't like the way your life looks right now, you can make new choices that will change it.

What are your priorities? If you make a pie chart of your daily activities (something you can do if you put your list in Excel), does it make you feel good to see that over one third of your day is spent on activities directly related to your work? Do you wish that more time was spent on activities that nourish your life in other ways?

I love working on the computer; I love writing. But I can lose hours online (when I'm researching new business), and I often fall into bed each night jittery and distracted - only to start the next day the same way, as I rush to check my morning e-mail and take up my work where I left off.

I've also noticed that there's no time for yoga in my list above. That make me unhappy. And I would love even more time to read for pleasure.

What's missing from your own life? What changes do you want to see in your schedule? Continue to dream your dreams there...

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Saturday, February 24, 2007

building your dream

You've zeroed in on the way you'd like to feel. Now you need to come up with a variety of situations that are fertile ground for good feelings.

1. Return to your happy memories. Make a list of all the things or situations that made you feel good.

In my list, this would include singing, being with family and friends, being with my boyfriend, doing yoga, moving my body, doing activities I love (and not doing activities I don't love!), having enough of everything I need, watching movies, reading books...

2. Now probe a little deeper. You're not necessarily looking for a strict set of criteria, but a variety of possibilities. What are the real situations that bring out your happiness?

I'm not always happy when I'm singing; sometimes I don't like the way I sound. Sometimes my voice just isn't working properly. Sometimes I don't like the songs I have to sing. I find learning new music tedious. And I don't like to sing music that goes too high.

But if I care for my voice properly, and exercise it well and use good technique, I improve my chances of making sounds that are satisfying. And I know that when I'm practising, I like the freedom of not worrying about whether or not anyone is being bothered by my noise.

Once I've learned music that I love, I find singing a joy, especially if I am working with people (accompanists, directors, choir members) who pursue their own music-making with excellence and joy.

So in the case of singing, I increase my chances for happiness if: I care for my voice; I make time in my schedule to practise regularly in spaces where I feel free and comfortable; I do as much as I can to ensure I'm singing the styles and ranges of music I particularly love; I choose to sing with people who will enrich my experience of the music.

Does this mean we should become hedonists who seek out only those experiences we know we will enjoy?

Yes and no. There is always the danger of falling into the trap of grasping at pleasure. But if you approach the circumstances of your life as choices, and if you continually choose those which align with your best possible existence - in the spirit of aparigraha (non-grasping) - you run a better chance of being a Dream-Fulfiller.*

True, not everything that contributes to our best lives is enjoyable. I remember one choir I sang with several years ago: I was easily the poorest singer in the group, surrounded by university voice majors who could sight-read rings around me. I lived in a panic every time we went through a new piece, and I frantically tried memorizing everything between rehearsals, so that I wouldn't be found lacking.

Another woman in my section seemed to dislike singing beside me, so I was always trying to avoid any confrontation with her. And when I was one of the only singers on my part, I felt too ashamed of my voice to sing out strongly.

This all sounds like a recipe for disaster, and indeed I writhed in mental agony for most of the year-and-a-half that I sang with this group. But they were performing my absolute favorite period of music - renaissance - and the moments when I could relax and enjoy the exquisite harmonies of composers like Thomas Tallis and William Byrd were like precious gold. Plus in the all-too-brief eighteen months that I belonged to the choir, I was pushed and stretched, and grew more as a singer than at any time before or since.

(So I guess I should add to my happiness list: I like experiences that challenge me, and test my limits.)

Doing a "pleasure audit" of your life can take some time. Don't expect to get it all figured out in a day - or even a week. Truly, it can be an ongoing lifetime exercise. But do continue to think seriously about what makes you happy.

Next we'll begin to talk about your physical surroundings, which is what most people hire me to help them take care of.

*see my post from February 19, 2007: daring to dream

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

Thursday, February 22, 2007

what has this got to do with organizing?

You might be wondering what all this talk about feelings has to do with reorganizing your life. And many of my clients feel the same way. They hire me to do the nuts and bolts moving and arranging of their stuff, never seeming to realize that their desired result is a feeling. They want to feel better about their lives.

It helps if they know what they're already feeling, and if they have a new feeling they want to aim for.

The next part is an unearthing of the circumstances and situations that will most likely result in good feelings...

Additional resources:

Take Time For Your Life and Stand Up For Your Life, by Cheryl Richardson (www.cherylrichardson.com)

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

triggering happy memories

Hello, beautiful person! I'm so glad you found my blog. This post and all its scintillating content have been moved to my lifestyle blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

choosing your dream

Hello, beautiful person! I'm so happy you've found this blog. This particular post and all its scintillating content have been moved to my lifestyle blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.

Monday, February 19, 2007

daring to dream

Hello, beautiful person! I'm so happy you've chanced upon my blog. This post and all its scintillating content has been moved to my lifestyle blog, Kitchen Sink Wisdom.

Monday, February 12, 2007

making peace with your organizing style

When I started this blog, I fully intended to submit entries several times per week, if not daily. Then my obsessive-compulsive* tendencies got in the way. I wanted my posts to unfold in an orderly, logical fashion. If I promised a post on a certain subject, I couldn't write about something else until the first subject was finished. But if I didn't feel like writing about the first subject, then nothing at all got written.

I give up. I've finally realized that while I love order, it's not the way my thoughts unfold. Ideas spring out of my head in random fashion, and I'd rather see them all given life than let some of them wither and die under the searing heat of someone else's idea of good organization.

It's a problem I run into regularly when dealing with clients - especially the type of people who tend to seek out the services of a professional organizer. So many of my clients are embarrassed by the way they live, and are apologetic about their own natures. I always try to reassure them that they each carry within themselves the knowledge of the best way for them to live. There's no need to try and conform to their families' or friends' opinions. I can't dictate their values, or tell them how they should organize their lives. As a professional organizer, I'm there to support their own unique organizing styles. I've decided to extend myself the same compassion and generosity.

How do you figure out your personal organizing style? That's the subject of my next post.

(Or not.)

*I'm not really obsessive-compulsive, and mean no disrespect to true OCD individuals. I do have an eye for detail, though - and a love of order and cleanliness that my chaos-loving boyfriend deems excessive.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow