Do It Scared: Overcoming Fear and Procrastination

Posted By on May 13, 2011

“It’s better to have a brilliant failure than a mediocre success.”
— Tom Peters, Author, “In Search of Excellence and The Brand You”

I forgot the question, but I remember the answer.

I heard it during the National Association of Professional Organizers’ Conference in Boston several years ago. During the Organizing Outside the Box panel, Donna Smallin, one of the panelists, told the crowd, “Do it scared.”

The answer was simple yet jarring. For years, Nike’s motto “Just do it” has been programmed in our psyche. So simple, so easy. Just do it, and life will be grand.

Ah, yes, but humans are a messy lot. We are filled to the brim with emotions, doubts, insecurities, and fear, and these become roadblocks to our success, causing us to drag our feet.

Don’t let fear and other distractions get in the way of your dreams

By “doing it scared,” we can overcome our own fears and procrastination and tap into our personal power to succeed. So what are we so scared of?

In addition to the “traditional” fear of failure and fear of success, we weigh ourselves down with busyness, namely soul-sucking relationships and projects. How can we possibly do something else when we’re busy with these albatrosses hanging around necks? We can’t move on because we’re too busy dealing with soul-suckers. That makes us to too busy to realize our dreams, too busy to grow our businesses, and too busy to face what scares us or what could energize us.

By setting our own houses in order, we feel renewed, lighter, and re-energized to push the negative feelings aside and just do it.

Clean up your life

If you want to re-energize your work and life, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re tolerating, says life coach Laura Berman Fortgang, author of “Living Your Best Life” and “Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction”.

Fortgang suggests making a list of everything from work and home that you’re tolerating, and this could be clutter, unfinished projects, situations at work or home, other people’s behavior, or frustrations you have. Then use the list to decide what to keep in your life and what areas you need to clean up.

“We need to clean up our messes, whether it’s clutter, emotional or something else,” she said. “Our mess blocks energy and clarity. So if you clean up your mess, you get your energy and clarity back.”

Value your time

Brian Tracy in his book “Time Power” advises prioritizing your personal life and stresses the need to practice “personal triage” in your life.

“There are potential uses of your time, activities, and money that represent the possibilities of the future,” he writes. “These are areas where you need to invest more of yourself and your time if you want to maximize everything that is possible for you in those areas.”

Eliminate time traps and downsize, minimize or eliminate activities you no longer want to spend time on, Tracy writes.

So long, leeches

In that same vein, Dr. Edward Hallowell suggests eliminating what he calls “leeches” – those “people or projects that waste your time and attention.” His book, “CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked and Ready to Snap!”, addresses how modern life can really slow us down.

During a presentation at MD Anderson, Hallowell said we spend so much time being busy that we believe we’re being productive, and as a result, we don’t spend enough time thinking and doing work with meaning.

“The great irony in this world that has been flattened is that more people than ever have the opportunity to develop their minds in extraordinary ways, but they squander the chance by keeping busy rather than going deep,” he said.

Hello, lilies!

On the other hand, Hallowell recommends cultivating your “lilies” – the people and projects you are engaged and connected with. Lilies “make you feel fulfilled and satisfied, glad to be alive and doing what you’re doing,” he said. “Give yourself permission to make the most of the short time you have on this planet.”

As the cliché goes, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself, and busyness serves as a great hideout. It’s easy to justify to yourself about all the things you can’t do because you’re just so darn busy. We’ve heard the same excuses from clients, but we may not always listen to our own advice.

Once you eliminate those leeches and start cultivating lilies, you are ready to take that flying leap. Do that thing that you’re excited but terrified to do: public speaking, hiring an assistant, or simply trying sushi.

Get out there and just do it. And do it scared.


43 Organizing Tips

Posted By on May 11, 2011

I turn 43 this month. Yeah, I know. I have to lie down in a dark room too when I think too much about it.

In honor of my birthday month, I am passing along my Top 43 Organizing Tips. My blog editor, Darcy, will probably make me split this into a couple of posts since I am so freaking old now that having 43 tips will make my blog post way too long.

  1. Know your boundaries. How do you want to spend your time?
  2. When you know your boundaries, respect them.
  3. Learn to say no.
  4. Write it down. Get it out of your head.
  5. Don’t check email 24/7. Otherwise you will go crazy.
  6. Email shouldn’t be used for an emergency.
  7. Have a home for everything.
  8. Go digital when possible to eliminate paper.
  9. But don’t scan everything. Not every piece of paper is scan-worthy.
  10. Have a folder called “Taxes” and put in any receipt or paperwork you might need for taxes.
  11. Keep only the stuff you love.
  12. If you love everything, you need to be more discerning about what you love.
  13. Use the Judith Kohlberg’s method of categorizing your stuff as Friends, Acquaintances and Strangers. Keep the Friends, ditch the Strangers, and negotiate with Acquaintances.
  14. Again, if everything is a “Friend,” be more discerning.
  15. You don’t have to keep an ugly present forever.
  16. If you never watch it on the DVR, then stop recording it.
  17. To remember birthdays, enter them on your calendar and set it up so you receive a reminder a week ahead. How do you think I remember birthdays for 10 nieces and nephews?
  18. Take a vacation.
  19. When you go on vacation, don’t call in to work, check work email, or go into the office. It’s called a VACATION. They can’t miss you until you leave.
  20. Dropbox is a great way to manage working documents – no matter where you are.
  21. Remove photos from old magnetic photo albums with dental floss.
  22. Convert photos to digital to preserve them.
  23. Back up your computer onto an external hard drive or use a computer service.
  24. Pay bills online when possible.
  25. Periodically clean out the refrigerator and pantry and toss anything that’s expired.
  26. Periodically clean out the bathroom drawers and toss anything that’s expired.
  27. Expect the best. Prepare for the worst.
  28. Get rid of any clothes and shoes that are uncomfortable and don’t make you feel absolutely fabulous.
  29. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to keep it.
  30. Start where you are.
  31. There is victory in each and every baby step.
  32. Prepare for the next day the night before. Lay out your clothes, pack your lunch, and go through the kids’ backpacks and your bags.
  33. Start your day by asking: What are the three Most Important Things (MITs) I have to do today?
  34. “Done is perfect.” – Donna Smallin, The One-Minute Organizer
  35. “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot
  36. Multi-tasking reduces your productivity by 20 to 40%. Think uni-tasking – doing tasks sequentially instead of simultaneously.
  37. If you must use your cell while driving, use a hands-free device.
  38. Don’t forget to put on your own oxygen mask first.
  39. You can’t move forward if you keep holding onto the past.
  40. Don’t clean up before the housekeepers come.
  41. Sometimes you have to dance and eat chocolate.
  42. Make time for the important people in your life.
  43. Do something nice for yourself. After all, it’s my birthday.

Never Happy Enough, Never Good Enough

Posted By on May 10, 2011

It’s never enough it seems.

A guy running for president says he was born in the U.S., and it’s not enough. His birth certificate isn’t enough. The word of his family and a family friend, who happens to be a state governor, isn’t enough. He has to release the long-form birth certificate that no one else has to produce.

I laugh since as an adoptee, I am not even allowed access to my original birth certificate – the one listing my name as Yvonne Townley and my birthparents. Technically, the birth certificate I have is the amended one listing my mom and dad as my parents. In politics, it wouldn’t be enough even though it has been enough for the government to recognize me as a citizen and for me to get such things as a passport and driver’s license.

The Navy Seals kill the most wanted terrorist, and it isn’t enough. There are demands for photos, videos and details. Did the wife lunge at the Navy Seals, or was she used as a shield? Did he shoot back or not? As Jon Stewart pointed out in a recent show, even if the photos were released, it wouldn’t satisfy us as we would probably claim the photos were doctored and wouldn’t believe them if we saw them. One of my Facebook friends quoted someone saying, “If a Navy Seal says he’s dead, he’s dead.”

Two young Royals get married in England. The media decided we must know every bloody detail about the wedding, but most of the details weren’t really known until…well, the actual wedding. Two or three months ago, ABC News asked the question: Is the wedding coverage too much? Well, you’re the ones who keep talking about it. The wedding coverage wasn’t too much because it only increased since they asked the question.

Most of the people I know didn’t get up at 4 a.m. to watch the wedding, but when we saw the pictures or video, we murmured a “how nice for them” and “pretty dress.” The media decided we needed more and more detail.

We’re even not satisfied with a simple hamburger. We have to add extra patties, cheese, bacon and doughnuts for buns.

I could make a case that women and minorities have to prove themselves more than your average white guy. I could make a case that our political system is more about taking sides, assigning blame and ignoring what the other side is saying. I could make a case that our 24/7 media’s need for information is ridiculously insatiable. But it’s more than that.

These three “cultural” events are only symptoms of the same issue. We are Not Happy, and Nothing is Good Enough. It seems like we are never satisfied with what we have, and we always want more. Once we get more, we want more. Again. It’s a never-ending cycle.

I keep thinking of comedian Louis C.K.’s riff on Conan about “Everything’s amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” His message is how we live in an amazing world with amazing technology, but we’re still not happy. Watching this video reminds me to be grateful for what I have.

I see this time and time again with my organizing clients. Some are looking for the perfect time management solution, the perfect way to file paper, the perfect way to raise their kids, the perfect…well, you get the idea.

I tell them perfection is a myth, done is perfect, and it’s going to be okay. It’s okay to take it down a notch, take a breath and be happy. I have to constantly remind myself to do the same. And then I watch Conan or The Daily Show to laugh at myself.


Dear Boss, Please Take a Vacation

Posted By on April 28, 2011

Hammock on a tropical beach

Ah, summer is just around the corner, and with summer comes summer vacations. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: everyone needs a vacation!

That is especially true for bosses. But many of them let work creep into their holiday, and that simply won’t do. There are a number of reasons for this, which I have outlined below in a real e-mail I actually sent earlier this month to my own boss and another executive at work. I share it now with you as inspiration for bosses everywhere to schedule time to rest and recharge.

Letter to my boss

I know you are both jetting off for your vacation next week, and I wanted to remind you again about working while on vacation. Studies show that we can only regain the cognitive abilities we lose during work by taking a VACATION. A real vacation. Your brain needs it.

This is what a vacation looks like:

  • You don’t take the bloody Blackberry or laptop with you.
  • You don’t check work e-mail.
  • You don’t call in … just to check in. You may call us ONLY if you’re being held hostage by a drug cartel.
  • We can’t miss you unless you leave.
  • You relax, lay in the sun and enjoy yourself.

Vacations are not only for YOU, but for the PEOPLE WHO WORK AROUND YOU TOO. Believe me, all of your people want you to take a vacation. When you send e-mails, check e-mails, and call in during vacation, you are sending the following messages to your staff –whether you intended to or not:

  • You don’t trust us.
  • You’re a micro-manager.
  • We all should work 24/7 and not have any sort of life – even at home or Hawaii.

To put your mind at ease, you should know:

  • We know what to do in case of emergency and know how to evacuate the building.
  • Your supervisor is here in case we get into a serious bind.
  • E-mail should NEVER be used for an emergency (Call if it’s a real emergency.)
  • Yes, I know email piles up, but you’re in a better frame of mind to deal with it AFTER you and your brain have had a vacation.
  • IT gets mad when you get sand in your Blackberry, iPad and laptop.
  • We can identify your cell number on the Caller ID.

The last time you both went on vacation together and did work – check Blackberry, call in, etc., there was an earthquake in Chile and a tsunami alert in Hawaii, where you were. I’m not saying it’s connected, but nothing proves it wasn’t. So do you want to take the chance on causing another earth-shaking disaster (literally)?

Enjoy your vacation! We’ll be here when you get back.


Why I Like Being an Organizer

Posted By on April 24, 2011

Check out my recent guest post: why I like being an organizer.


Confessions of an Overpacker: Can She Travel With (Gasp) a Carry On?

Posted By on April 23, 2011

Like the state of Texas I live in, I believe bigger is better when it comes to packing for a trip.

Yes, I am a chronic overpacker. Yes, I have paid for overweight baggage. Yes, I like to pack extra clothes … just in case.

Then the airlines started adding fees for everything – seats with extra leg room, food, and yes, baggage.

I’ll admit that more of my trips lately have been car trips, and it’s easy to toss everything in the car and just go. You don’t want to worry about anyone weighing your luggage, giving you a look and ask if you want to take out anything.

Sigh. I remember when airline travel use to be fun.

The challenge of traveling light

I did it! Here's my carry-on suitcase and briefcase.

So for this recent trip to Louisville and NYC, I decided to try for the carry on. I finally was going the way of seasoned travelers who mythically travel WITHOUT checked baggage. I even voiced my intention on Twitter and received support from my Social Media friends.

I did laugh at the suggestion of rolling your clothes. Uh, how do you think I got so much freaking stuff in a suitcase? I am a roller from way back.

The biggest issue for me was the dreaded gel/liquids bag. I love my products. I’m over 40 so I require more gel and liquid products.

My quest to simplify

I made some hard choices. The travel size can of hairspray, lip gloss and the Flonase stayed in the liquid bag, but the hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and color extend shampoo had to be put aside. I knew my sister-in-law in Kentucky could hook me up with some lotion.

My other area of choices centered around shoes. I have the strappy sandals for the party I’m attending in NYC, and my wedge flip-flops for the rest of the trip – which fortunately is a casual affair.

Another thing I took into consideration while packing is that I can do laundry since I’m staying with family. That means I don’t have to bring three weeks of underwear with me for a one week trip. I don’t know why I do that, but I do.

I am road testing the Grid-It! by Cocoon Innovations to hold all of my technology do-dads in place in my tote bag. I will report on how that goes later.

I am letting the world know that Janice Simon has made history. She will not check luggage on this trip. But she does reserve the right to buy a cute pair of shoes in NYC.