Wise Wednesday: Which Comes 1st: Cluttered Mind or Cluttered Matter?

organized and free flowing brainDo I tackle the clutter around me or inside me first?

I participated in a wonderful How to Make HUGE Projects Feel Easy Webinar today put on by April at Power of Moms dot com. She does a nice job of implementing the tools from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  She has created a niche for helping Moms to get organized using Allen’s GTD method.  She has a beautiful website with many visuals, podcasts and videos to help Moms to get organized and reclaim time to spend on family!  I love her aim and from what I have seen so far, I love her material.

It sparked my thinking, of course, about our minds and organization.  I stumbled upon an article on CNN.com featuring Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life.” by Margaret Moore.  She is the director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital and the founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corporation and Harvard psychiatrist Paul Hammerness.  Their theory is that one must first organize the mind prior to organizing the environment in order to see lasting change.

Personally, I believe it is very important to have an organized mind (that is why I teach Mind Mapping! And perhaps why David Allen includes a map on page 71 of Getting Things Done), but I also know from experience that an unorganized environment can cause your brain to be so overwhelmed it becomes cluttered.  When your mind is overwhelmed, it becomes stressed which causes it to freeze, so that you are not able to even begin a project. That is, unless you have a reasonable and incremental process to begin, as April puts it your “next step”.  In other words, focusing on ONE step at a time versus being in ‘overwhelm’ mode by looking at ALL of your To Do’s at one moment.

Check out the wealth of resources on David and April’s sites:

http://gettingthingsdone.com/ — David Allen

http://powerofmoms.com/  — April Perry

Now to you — what do you believe comes first?  Cluttered mind or cluttered environment?  I look forward to your comments!  And then we should all get busy uncluttering both our minds and our matter so that we are better equipped to have more time to enjoy our family and friends during this upcoming Holiday Seasons!  


Choosing a Life Path

Florida Keys with Prayer Warriors 009Exciting.  Overwhelming.  Fear.  Joy.  Elation.  Petrified.  Confused.…..

Which of these words describe your experience of choosing a life path?  While this is an exciting time of life, it comes with mixed emotions.  After all, when you are selecting a direction that will impact you and your future family’s future it can be daunting.

Presently we are helping our son through the process of setting a life course by choosing a field of study and the best qualified university. We have found many commentators with strong opinions: “Well, what is wrong with X University??!!” says the Alumni, as though there is no where else to consider. Well, I do not know enough to say what is wrong or what is right, can you tell me a little about X University and why it would be the best fit for our son?

Many people have graciously tried to steer us to their university of knowledge.  I choose “knowledge” over “choice” because sometimes I believe that is how decisions are made.  We choose the familiar over what is unknown.  My challenge to those seeking a new life path, whether it be a college/university, a new career; or major life change [divorce, death, etc.]: Do your homework!  How can you know what you do not know? Ask yourself these questions: What are all of the possibilities available to me? Where are they located? What is the road marked out for me? Will it be one less traveled (i.e., I will go alone while my friends go elsewhere or perhaps it is a less known path)? If so, this will take more effort to dig and find the gem waiting for you in the rough. Research until you are confident you have the necessary information to make an informed decision.

It does take time, effort, and patience to thoroughly investigate, however, with the internet this process is drastically simplified.  A quick search brings a plethora of opportunities that you may not have known even existed! Or you may be reminded of a small college in your state that you had forgotten about.

Set your goals in writing.  Be sure to asses your learning styles and personality.  Large or small school? Is application of theory and experiential learning important?  If so, you will seek a college that offers internships or co-op programs.

Do your homework.  Rev up your search engine first.  Next, call friends, businesses, and any possible leads you can drum up to get more information on the college or job of your dreams.  Ask the questions to help you determine if this is the type of work you will enjoy doing for many years to come.  Will the income support the lifestyle you desire?  Is the job static?  Are there opportunities to travel or re-locate.  These are merely a few thoughts to get you started.

What are the available resources at your destination [school or job]?  Does the job pay for a portion of your college expenses?  Does your school offer the latest technology and/or provide co-op opportunities? Are they able to provide scholarships?

Exercise your faith.   God promises to provide wisdom, when we seek Him (James 1:5). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

Consider the cost last.  This may sound like a crazy idea, however, I have witnessed the power of creativity and the provision of miracles.  One cautious and worrisome mom shared the powerful story of her son applying at a high priced private college of his dreams.  He did so against her will, as it was not possible for the family to pay the tuition.  Well, in God’s gracious ways the young man was not only accepted, he received nearly a the entire balance of his college career prepaid by outside sources!

Now it’s up to you. I leave you with the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

 Dr Seuss Life Direction


The Organizing Process – A Key to Post Holiday Sanity

Tear-down Time

Tear-down Time

Yes, I know we are a few days into the new year, but if you are still working on putting away your Christmas and other Holiday decorations, you are in good company!  I LOVE my Christmas decor and I truly lament taking it down and putting it all away for another year.  Not that I mind the actual ‘work’, because over the years I have created a pretty efficient process of stashing our stuff.  I even synchronize the boxes for each of the various holiday themes so that the next holiday boxes are the first to get to in the closet.  But, it just seems that while my kids are home on Christmas break, the extra twinkle from the holiday lights, candles and gold, red and silver trimmings are such a spark to our days and nights.

However, the reality is that come the first Monday morning after New Years Day – back to our work and school routines – the decor will be outdated and feel more like a burden than a blessing.  So, even though one year I waited until February to take down my Christmas tree -yes, I am serious when I say I love having the Christmas lights and the fresh cut tree, but by February a few too many of those needles lay on the floor. We invited friends over that weekend to push me along in getting the tree down.  I remember literally tossing the tree out the back door as their car pulled in the driveway.  I had a few minutes to sweep and was picking up that last of the needles that had trickled onto the kitchen floor as they came up the stairs to greet me!  Good thing it was dark so they couldn’t see that tree tossed out onto the snowy cold deck. It was Valentines Day so I did not put up my valentine decorations that year!  I did think about it briefly, and reason took over: one day of decorations?  Nah!

Okay, so life took a turn and I decided it is much better to be organized and on schedule than overly indulgent in one holiday theme, because even I was sick of Christmas decor that one fateful February!  In fact, the next year I purged many of my old decorations to a much more manageable set of boxes and choices for future decorating.

Sometimes, it does take an extreme to help us have the tension required to create balance in our lives.  Some of you struggle with too many decorations or too much regular clutter, like paperwork, newspapers/magazines, junk mail, hobby or collectibles, shoes, or the like.  When we have too many of any one thing it becomes a burden.  A physical burden that most often morphs into an emotional burden and clutters our thinking also.

My friend, Karen Ehman, has a few great books on organizing and has shared a few key insights in this blog post http://www.karenehman.com/2013/12/christmas-break-de-cluttering/.  She helps us tackle the “extras” that do not belong in our spaces.

I have found that the key to enjoyment of any holiday decorating is determining just how MUCH you feel like putting out in that particular year.  I have never been one to just put every decoration out simply because I own it!  I put on Christmas music and then I begin the process of taking some items out of the box for inspection and inspiration.  I am also not a person who does everything the same way every year!  This may drive some of my Organizing Guru friends crazy!  But no apologies from me, I reserve the right to creative freedom!  And have learned to keep my sanity along the way.  Not so in the early years, before I established a process though!

One efficient process I developed is to stash everyday decorations in the holiday box temporarily so that my living spaces look as though the holiday decor is a natural part of the room, rather than cluttering on top of what is there all year.

Space Planning: My family and I prefer some “open” space.  This open space helps us to feel relaxed and able to breathe easily.  I learned from past mistakes that using nearly every inch of counter and wall space to include holiday decorations was truly stressful rather than enjoyable!  For those of you who prefer a country decor, you may tolerate more decorations per foot than those of us who prefer a contemporary decor.  Rely on your personal preference and how the space makes you feel rather than what others tell you to do!

Storage: I have a small storage area for all my holiday boxes.  When I take out the Christmas boxes I first come to the Harvest boxes that were put away in November.  These come out first, I take all Christmas boxes out and then put Harvest back in for the time.  Now that I am swapping out Christmas  I will once again pull all boxes out of the room; put the Christmas boxes in first because they will be the last ones needed.  I will place Harvest in next; Easter after and finally the Valentine decos will be staged to grab easily a few weeks from now.

Dust Busters and Vertical Storage: I have very large plastic shopping bags that I use to put all of my wreaths in and I use the handle holes to hang these on the nails I have strategically placed on the storage room wall so that I can use all vertical and horizontal spaces (it is a small space, so this is necessary).  The plastic bags also help keep dust from collecting, as I will place a bag on top to cover the opening.

Itemize Treasures: I inventory each box on the outside and inside with a list of items so they can easily be returned.  I tape a note to the box, because I reserve the right to improve my process or downsize, so I don’t want permanent marker on the boxes.  I draw fun little pictures of some items rather than use all words, saves space and quick to identify. This makes the putting away and pulling out much faster.  I try to put my box of lights out in front so that it is one of the first boxes we can get to for the next year since we cannot decorate the tree until the lights are strung. Plus I sometimes like the candlestick lights for our windows out earlier than the Christmas decorations.

Outdoor Decorations: Last, I keep our outdoor decorations in the garage.  This is helpful because where I live it is usually too cold to take down these decorations on the perfect schedule.  For example it was negative seven degrees today and if I would have tried to pull out my flood light stakes, most likely they would have snapped in half ( I know because I snapped one upon installation and it was in the teens on that day!).  So having this box in the garage is not going to interrupt the process flow for my indoor storage.

One of my favorite new gadgets is a remote control light fob.  No longer do I have to go outside and unplug all of my exterior lights.  One simple push of a button and all lights go out as I go to bed.

Well, I hope you have a few new ideas to make your holiday organizing a little more enjoyable in this new year.  If you are overwhelmed at the moment, take a deep breath and just start in one small area removing every holiday item and as you do ask yourself, “do I love this?”  If the answer is no, consider donating it or giving it to a friend or family member who will appreciate and enjoy it more than you.

May you have an Peace-filled and Organized New Year!

Christmas Card Display: Yarn and mini multi-colored clothespins

Christmas Card Display: Yarn and mini multi-colored clothespins

Christmas Dinning and Sunroom at Night

White lights are my favorite, but I let the kids decide the tree color yearly.

Usually have Willow Tree Nativity on Fireplace, went for a change this year.

Usually have Willow Tree Nativity on Fireplace, went for a change this year.

The Reason for the Season

The Reason for the Season

Wise-up Wednesday: Unblocking Creativity #2

Robert Epstein (1996) insists that no idea is new.  Well, even that idea is old since King Solomon said it thousands of years ago [Eccl 1:9]!  Epstein goes on to say all ideas build on previous knowledge.  He believes (as I do) that everyone can be creative and has outlined 4 reasons for most of our blocked creativity:

1)  Lack of method or habit for capturing creative ideas when they occur

2)  Reticence about taking on challenging, creative tasks that seem impossible or overwhelming

3)  Failure to learn any significantly new subject matter

4)  Living and working in environments that do not inspire

This Wise-up Wednesday we are tackling Creativity Blocker #2.

 Trying something new and far from the norm can seem risky. Risk taking can be scary!  What if I look like a fool?  What if my idea fails?  What are the risks [will I lose money, pride, friends, investors, etc]?  Trying something new does not have to be overwhelming. Put your plan on paper and include the “go for the gusto” dreams and then begin marking out reasonable and incremental steps to get you there.  The kind of steps that will not break the bank all at one time, you know – like what diversification is to stock brokers!  Essentially you have a long term goal or a GUSTO GOAL with baby steps to get you to the pot of gold. 

Don’t forget to celebrate the successes along the way at each incremental mark.  Don’t break the bank in rewards, but do pat yourself on the back and make it worth working toward the next incremental goal, as you work toward the GUSTO GOAL.

Wise-up Wednesday: Unblocking Creativity – Method One

Last Wednesday we looked at 4 reasons for most of our blocked creativity.  The next three weeks we will take each one of these and counteract them for creativity breakthrough.

The first creativity block is a lack of method or habit for capturing creative ideas when they occur.  

UNBlocking Solution #1:

1) Have a notepad or journal with yo all times (in your car, pocket/purse, day-planner, night stand)

2) Audio recorder – use your old tape recorder or your new smart phone and speak the raw thoughts as they come

3) Text yourself the ideas

4) Mind Map!!  I call this whole-brain writing because it captures key words as they come to you. 90% of what we write in linear fashion are filler words that are not mandatory for your brain to complete the thought….why waste valuable creative energy writing what is unnecessary when you are in idea-generation mode? Download a free trial of mapping software at http://www.MindManager.com or use your smart phone and try their free app.

5) If you use more than one method to capture creative thoughts, be sure that you have a way to link these so that you don’t lose any thoughts.  For example you have a notepad in your purse, but you switch purses and it gets locked in the closet and doesn’t make it to your laptop which has your Master Think-Tank document.

In conclusion, the first step to busting creativity-blockers is to capture the ideas before they are lost.

Wise-up Wednesday: Shape Your Thinking

“As  we think, the brain has the ability to change itself for better or for worse.  the recognition of this is a gigantic and significant leap in the history of mankind.” Dr. Caroline Leaf, Neuroscientist

“We take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5b

So make a plan today to put a positive change in place to re-wire your brain in a good and healthy way that will have a long term impact on your brain and your thinking.  This may also positively affect your relationships.  Include 21 consistent days for your plan to change this part of your thinking. For example I will choose to confess my resentment each day; I will allow the Holy Spirit to lead me in love and not condemnation; I will be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  I will record my progress daily and forgive myself when I fall back into an old pattern, and I will try, try again.

Wise-Up Wednesday: How to Age Proof Your Brain

Here is a link to the short video clip from Tony Buzan, creator of Mind Maps, entitled How to Age Proof Your Brain.

The video is less than 4 minutes.


Walk While You Work

Do you see a person who is efficient in his work? He will serve kings. He will not serve unknown people. Proverbs 22:29 God’s Word Translation

I admit I am a bit of an efficiency freak.  I want to do as many things at one time as I possibly can, effectively. 

However, my drive for efficiency, at times decreases my effectiveness and vice versa.  I watch this in action as I see my son emulate me by trying to carry in EVERYTHING from the car in one trip versus taking two trips.  What inevitably happens is that his arms are too full and something is wobbling causing him to move much slower; then an item falls; if he bends to pick it up, more things fall; in either case he is required to go back.  Should he choose to pick up a reasonable amount of grocery bags in the first place; quickly carry them and empty his arms and return for the remainder he would finish in about the same time, but with MUCH less frustration and risk of breaking something!

Can you relate?  Are there times when you just want to add one too many things at the same time?  For example, it may be efficient to clean your toilets while you talk on the phone with a friend and it can be effective, if it is just a casual conversation.  However, if you are speaking with someone who is in deep need of your listening and emotional support, while it is an efficient use of your time, you will not be effectively supporting your friend.

On the flip side, there are activities we can get a double return on our time.  Today I walked with a friend and we discussed a subject we have both been researching.  We were able to work through questions we had and share some resources.  Both of us left with more information than when we began walking and we got some exercise at the same time.  The results:  intellectual, emotional and physical workout….and we prayed, so we’ll add a spiritual workout to the check list! 

Is there an activity you could add to a menial job?  If you do not have a walking/jogging partner you may be listening to a book on tape or worship music.  The possibilities are endless. Here in Michigan it is a gorgeous day, so if weather permits, get out and walk while you work!

Ultimately the goal is:  balanced, maximized efficiency and effectiveness.

Monday Mania

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

Mondays are a  “catch up while you can” day for me, since the weekends are full of family and fun.

Monday: A day that if I do not get the plan done – causes me to be a step behind the rest of the days of the week.  A domino effect.  Mondays are the day to pull out the paperwork, toss the junk mail, file the processed work, set and record the week’s productivity goals, set appointments for the week, delete extraneous emails, follow up on actions from Friday’s in-box, meal planning, grocery listing, run a few errands day.  Yes, Mondays are vital to the success of the rest of the week.

What does your Monday look like? 

What is the key leverage task for you?  For example, mine is making sure my weekly goals are set (written out), this ensures I will be productive with an idle time and helps protect forgetting important activities.  

ma·ni·a  /ˈmānēə [Google Search]

2. An excessive enthusiasm or desire; an obsession: “our mania for details”.

Monday mania = waking up with a little extra mental/physical/spiritual tension which pushes me to write out goals and is critical to balancing work, home, ministry, family and fun. There are no guarantees in life, yet Monday Mania makes me much more likely to be a success by Friday!

Happy Monday!

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