Organize Your Dreams With A Vision Board

Posted By on January 17, 2011

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream, and his immortal words of peace and equality are being played today in honor of his birthday.

In the past week, talk of peace, hope, sacrifice and dreams have been in the forefront in the wake of the tragic Tucson shooting, the Haiti earthquake anniversary and the dreadful flooding in Australia. Yes, that has been all in one week. While the world may feel a bit out of control, we do have power to change things – even if it’s just our corner of it.

Okay, so your dream doesn’t have to be about creating world peace or anything else so huge. It could be as simple as changing ourselves to be better human beings, one of the things we really do have control over.

How to know what we want

A portion of my personal vision board

One way to figure out your dream is to create a vision board. A collage of your own making, this fun tool lets you see your ideas and goals on paper through pictures and words.

It clarifies your desires, basically organizing your dreams. After all, once you know what you want and allow yourself to accept that you want it, you’re more likely to get it.

So, how do you create a vision board? In high school, my friends and I made several collages out of magazine pictures and words. Although our collages usually centered on our teen-age heartthrobs, a vision board uses the same “technology” i.e. magazines and glue.

Vision board ingredients

First step, buy a piece of foam board or poster board. Second, gather up magazines, newspapers, catalogs, photos, scrapbook stickers and anything else you can find. You never know where inspiration will come from.

Third, cut out pictures, words and symbols that capture, motivate and inspire you. In my own vision board, I have pictures and words symbolizing my desire to get to a healthy body weight. That’s why I made sure I found a picture of someone who wasn’t super skinny but someone who was at a healthy weight for me.

I used scrapbooking stickers of hearts to show my goal of dating more. Pictures of money are reminders of lessening debt.

I also selected words and pictures that made me happy and inspired. For example, I have a picture of a Gerber daisy and words such as “vibrant” and “goddess.”

For you techies, create a vision board using Evernote or OneNote to make yourself a digital notebook. Capture links, pictures and ideas on your digital notebooks.

Embrace what you find

When you finish your vision board, step back and see what it tells you. Any surprises come up? The subconscious is very good at reminding you of something that you really want.

Hang up your vision board so you can see it and remind yourself of your vision.  Figure out the action steps you need to take to reach your vision. Suddenly, you have a vision and the goals to go with it. (See how a vision board can organize your dreams!)

This is about the moment in January when our New Year resolutions or intentions have either gained momentum or fallen flat.  By creating your vision board, you will have a clearer purpose and vision, and your dreams are more likely to come true.


Be Productive: Take Care of Yourself

Posted By on January 14, 2011

This is the first in a five-part series on productivity and health

To be your healthiest, happiest and most productive find balance between the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual areas of your life.

Taking care of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs will help you become more productive and highly engaged at work.

In his book “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working,” author Tony Schwartz outlines four “quadrants” we need to balance to be the best we can be.

Physical: The research keeps showing that we humans need to take better care of ourselves. We need to drink water, get more sleep than we do, exercise and eat healthy. The kind of things that we all know we need to do but struggle with. I came across an eye-opening stat last week on Keith Ferrazzi’s blog.

He said 70 percent of the way we feel right now is due to our last meal. At work, a new cafeteria opened in our building, and their menus are predominantly healthy fare, including items made from Cooking Light recipes. It has been so easy to eat healthy when it’s right in front of you, and I’ve noticed that my own energy level is better when I properly fuel myself.

Emotional: For me, this is the trickiest area to handle as it’s about handling your emotions. When you’re emotionally triggered, you can be thrown into the Survival Zone, Schwartz points out. This is where you are irritable, annoyed, stressed and angry, and you’re definitely not productive when you’re in this mindframe.

I know I get emotionally triggered when I’m behind someone at Starbucks who is high maintenance or on the bloody cell phone instead of paying attention. When I feel myself become irritated with people, I try to remember to take a deep breath and summon up some compassion for the irritant. It’s not easy.

Mental: This is my area of specialty. The mental arena is about organizing, time management and getting stuff done.  Organizing isn’t about being perfect. You have to be able to find the stuff you want to find, get the things done you want to get done, not spend extra money to replace “misplaced” items, pay your bills on time, and to feel less stressed.

One important aspect about mental fitness is having boundaries and saying no. As a popular saying goes, anytime you say yes, you say NO to yourself. Just because we have devices that can let us work 24/7, should we work 24/7? The answer is no. There is a point each day when we need to shut work off and focus a bit on ourselves and our family and friends.

Spiritual: Schwartz refers to this as your passion for your work. Right now, we have people who have been searching for jobs regardless of their passion for it. After all, you can’t pay the mortgage with passion. As the job market and economy improves, it will be interesting to see what will happen. Will we soon have burnout from those who had to choose a job over passion?

Tony Schwartz’s book covers each of these quadrants in great depth and detail and provides numerous tips to help accomplish your goals in each area. To see where your energy is lagging, visit The Energy Project and take the Energy Audit.


Product Review: Dropbox

Posted By on January 12, 2011

One of the doctors at work recommended using Dropbox on my new iPad. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks, and I’m in love with it.

What it is: Dropbox securely lets you store files on their servers (think of those commercials for the “cloud”), and you can access your files on any computer and your iPad. They give you 2GB for free, and there are opportunities to earn more space by taking their virtual tour and recommending the service to others. If you require a great deal of space, you can purchase additional space.

How it works: Visit Dropbox and sign up for an account. You will need to download the Dropbox feature on your computer and iPad. I downloaded mine on both my home laptop and my work computer. Then add your files. You can easily attach files from your Dropbox file on your email.

Why it’s awesome: Your files are backed up, password protected and accessible on any computer you use.

Working on a project with someone? You can invite them to share a file with you. They can’t access your other files, only the folder you’re sharing. It’s a great way to keep your computer information safe too. If I want to work on something at home, I no longer have to email the file to my personal email and back to work or use a flash drive. I just place the file on Dropbox.

Drawbacks: When I’ve talked about it with other people, a few were nervous that their files are on the “cloud” and they’re worried about possible security issues, especially those dealing with research data and patient information. Dropbox uses the same security methods as the military. No one can see your files unless you give them access.


ADD and the “Slippery Slope of Time Management”

Posted By on January 10, 2011

Guest post by professional organizer Ellen R. Delap

In our way too busy world, we all struggle with time management. However for those with ADD and ADHD, time management is more than this. It is a dizzying array of disappointment, lack of tools and strategies.

Time is an intangible, a slippery slope with little to break our descent. It is the expectation we are letting others and ourselves down each and every day.

Time management issues for those with ADD/ADHD:

Slow to start – Just getting started can be a problem. Setting a timer to propel you forward can make you start. Set it for just 15 minutes to move forward. Or if you can do it in less than three minutes, just do!

Hard to complete – Finishing sometimes requires more energy since those with ADD or ADHD may have lost focus, lost enthusiasm or may be a perfectionist. Add a partner to help you get done by setting a date you will work together on the task. The partner adds all the ingredients, including accountability, to get finished.

Unrealistic time dimensions – It takes much longer than most ADD or ADHD people think for them to finish a task. If you are not sure how long something takes, start with a time log. If you know, give yourself permission to complete a job fully without regret. One client told me it takes her four hours to pay her bills. On that day, she will only accomplish this task. Giving her permission was what she needed.

Being a perfectionist – It’s a blessing and a curse! Start setting your bar lower with a minimum. Not as low as having spelling or grammar errors, but maybe with less information and less complexity. Establish a work plan before you start, with a specific number of choices involved, so you can narrow your focus. Remember, our colleague Donna Smallin notes, “Done is perfect!”

Difficulty with prioritizing and decision making – It is easy to be overwhelmed and not sure where to start. If everything is equally important your challenge is prioritizing. When everything becomes urgent, truly you can be paralyzed.

Start with the one task that makes the most difference. For a small business, it is the task that brings in money. For a big outfit, it is often a big project. If something is very important, but has been left for a long time, just jump in there and get it off your plate. One client had her will for years, but it was not notarized. I encouraged her to make it her top priority the next day.

Difficulty choosing the right planner – There is no one “right” planner for everyone. Think about what works for you, technology or paper. For technology, the Google Calendar can really work. For paper, think about a Planner Pad Organizer.

Most people have a strong preference, but “working” the calendar is the same. Commit it all to paper, no matter how small the appointment. Add dates all the time. Add in transition space, time to get from here to there and also “just in case” time. Check your calendar each morning. Most especially, don’t give up after a week if you think it is not working. Go back to your calendar routines, and it will be a happy ending.

Certified Professional Organizer and Family Manager Coach Ellen Delap is the owner of Since 2000, she has worked one on one with her clients in their homes and offices streamlining their environment, creating effective strategies for an organized lifestyle and helping them make organization a prioritize in their daily routine.

She holds ADD and Chronic Disorganization certificates and specializes in working with ADD and ADHD adults and students. Ellen has been featured at The Woodlands (Texas) Home and Garden Show, on ABC13 Houston and in the Houston Chronicle. She also is an expert on The Clutter Diet, an online organizing resource. To learn more about Ellen and her work,  visit Professional-Organizer, tweet her @TexasOrganizer or become a fan on the Professional-Organizer Facebook page.


A Good Enough Christmas

Posted By on December 24, 2010

Give perfectionism a vacation and let your holidays be what they may.

The first time I couldn’t find Pepcid AC on the shelf at Target, I simply dismissed it as bad timing. The second time, I realized that something was up. I asked one of the Target employees straightening up the shelves, “What’s up with the Pepcid AC always being gone?”

The employee shrugged. “I’m not sure. All I know is that since before Thanksgiving, we can’t keep Pepcid AC and Bayer Aspirin on the shelves.”

Ah, yes, Got it. Chalk it up holiday stress.

Say Fa-La-La-La-La to perfection

Too many people try to create picture perfect holidays each year. They want The Perfect Christmas, The Perfect Hanukkah, The Perfect….well, you fill in the blank.

The problem with family gatherings and celebrations is that they’re never perfect. People are messy – both physically and emotionally. The holidays bring out the best and worst of people.

I’ve talked to many clients who spend hours agonizing over the perfect gift, creating the perfect tree, cooking the perfect dinner. My “staff” – my friend Kathy’s teen-age daughters – wrap gifts for me, and they often fret about not getting the paper lined up right or making one end longer than the other. I tell them not to worry since the gifts are for my nieces and nephews, who will not critique the wrapping job. They’re more interested in the present and the act of unwrapping.

Don’t be hatin’ on yourself

A doctor recently told me about a study he read talking about the “good enough” parents versus the “perfect parents.” Children were more resilient with “good enough” parents – the ones who made mistakes and who did what they could with what they had.

Since none of us are perfect, trying to have a perfect holiday leads to disappointment, frustration and even anger.

Lower your expectations of yourself

So relax, my friends. If you burn the fudge (like I did this morning), forget the batteries, and don’t wrap gifts well, you’re making those around you more resilient. Imperfect celebrations make for better stories. Just watch “Home for the Holidays” with Holly Hunter to get perspective.

If perfectionism is an issue, focus on creating positive feelings about Christmas. Make it a nice, peaceful one filled with love and joy. The kids will remember how they felt more so than if the lights were wrapped around each individual branch of the tree.

So I wish you a Merry Christmas! May your celebrations be good enough.


Clutter-Free Presents

Posted By on November 19, 2010

The holidays are bearing down on us fast and furious. As usual, Christmas decorations were up in stores before Halloween. It’s less than 40 days to Christmas and even less to Hanukah. So where is your gift list? What’s your gift budget?

Every year when my family asks me what I want for Christmas, it’s hard for me to come up with ideas. Last year after buying a house, my sister kept pestering me for a gift list, and I told her that I needed a boyfriend with handyman skills.

She just sighed since I obviously was not helping. What I needed was a new kitchen, some sheetrock, new appliances, a new master bath.…well, you get the idea. It’s easy to buy presents for the children in your life. They usually have a list of the latest and greatest toys (mostly inspired by movies), princess gear, and video games. Ply teen-agers with gift cards, technology, video games, clothes, and old-fashioned money.

For adults, things get a little harder. Most of the time, we buy ourselves what we need and want. I encourage people to get together for lunch, dinner, potluck suppers, or movie and game nights rather than exchange presents.

Focus on what’s really important – spending time together and friendship. But if gifts are required, you have options for “clutter-free” presents.

Food and Drink: Make it something that they have to eat or drink. Create a gift basket for a meal. For example, gather up ingredients for a favorite dish. Include a recipe if needed.  Or choose a gift card from their favorite restaurant. Wine drinkers always appreciate a unique bottle of wine to sample.

Events: Get cultural or sporty! If you know someone likes sports, museums, the zoo, the ballet, or opera, buy a pair of tickets to a particular event or performance or a membership they can enjoy year round.

Time: Have a hobby, talent or interest you can give to a friend or family member? For parents, offer to babysit on their date night. Do you have a green thumb and know how your garden grows and your friends do not? Gardening help!  One year I gave my brother a few hours of carpenter assistance to help him with his house. Be creative!

Handmade items: You can make a gift. Time to get out the Popsicle sticks and glitter! Okay, not really. I know people who make jewelry, love knitting, quilting or sewing, or cooking. These gifts take more time and may not necessarily fall under the “clutter-free” definition, but they do have more meaning.

I recently spoke at a church group, and for their church social, they have “handmade” gifts. No one can buy anything, and gifts can include something people made, something they “upcycled,” or something they received as a gift but never used (also called regifting).

With a little imagination, you can give gifts that don’t become a burden to others.