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June 29, 2009

Getting Things Done Using the Power of Completion

Ever since starting (or rather resurrecting) Finish It Friday, I’ve been thinking about the power of completion. It feels so good to finish things and yet, it's often difficult to do so. Why is that? Here are my thoughts and theories on this pressing subject, and I’d love to hear yours. What gets in your way of getting things done?

Why completion feels so good.
Getting things done, in my opinion, always feels good. There's an endorphin rush that kicks in whenever I check something off my to-do list. If you’ve ever added something to your to-do list (after completing it!) just so you could check it off, then you know what I’m talking about. There’s power in that little check mark, isn’t there?

With lingering projects it goes deeper. Incomplete tasks are mind clutter and these lingering to-dos nag at you. They vie for your attention, and every time you see remnants of them (undone tasks on your to-do list or a pile of papers to go through) there’s that sense of “I should be taking care of this…” So it feels even better to get a lingering task done…yet the longer it lingers the harder it is to do.

The most obvious answer is lack of time. You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. And yet, busy is just a choice as to how we spend our time. Busy means we’re filling our time with lots of to-dos…instead of just a few and giving ourselves some breathing room. Quite simply, instead of spending our time on half-started, not yet complete projects (or phone calls to schedule appointments) you and I are choosing to do something different with our time.

Now, I realize you don’t have full say over how 100% of your time is spent. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) But certainly how you spend some of your time is your choice. (You’re choosing to read this blog post right now, for example.)

So…why then, if we have say over how we spend some of our time, do we to put off some tasks and projects and instead spend our time starting new ones or doing something else altogether? I think it is this:  every task lingering on your to-do list (or on your psyche, for that matter) has some unpleasant aspect to it. Something about that lingering project or task doesn’t feel good.

Perhaps you want the project to turn out really, really good (OK—perfectly) and midstream evidence is suggesting that this isn’t going to happen. By not finishing the project, you can hold onto the illusion that perfectionism is possible, or avoid the discomfort of accepting that perfectionism isn’t possible. Either way, in the moment, not doing the project appears to feel better than doing it.

Keep this in mind: a finished project is never perfect. It may be really, really good…but perfect is an impossibility. What’s more important is this:  a finished project feels better than one that’s stuck midstream. So, you are far better off finishing the project imperfectly than staying stuck wishing it could be perfect or fretting over the fact that it isn’t turning out perfectly. Or, as I teach in my organizing workshops, instead of striving for perfection, strive to become a happy and productive “imperfectionist.” 

Perfectionism isn’t the only reason projects linger. Sometimes they linger because we aren’t sure what to do next, and figuring it out can put us in a vulnerable position. You have to make a phone call to the insurance company to find out if your mammogram is covered, for example. And if you don’t like to be told no…well, this can be an uncomfortable position.

There are a number of other reasons projects linger, but let’s switch gears and talk about what to do about it. 

How to tap into the power of completion…

  1. Make a list of your started but unfinished tasks, or a list of lingering, nagging and annoying to-do’s. Pull out a piece of paper and brainstorm for five minutes. (Your list, by the way, doesn’t have to be perfect. You can add to it as you go.)

  2. Get concrete about why the tasks are still lingering. Keep your eyes open for the “I just haven’t had time” reason. Remember, you’re simply making different choices about how to spend your time. What’s the real reason this task is lingering? When you find the real reason (or reasons) then you can look for ways to move the project forward.
  3. Scan your list for anything you can renegotiate with yourself. Just because you start something doesn’t mean you have to finish it. If you’re no longer feeling the love for that craft project you started five years ago, decide not to finish it. X the item off your list, and donate any remaining usable supplies. Do this for any project you simply aren’t going to do. Deciding not to do a project feels about as good as finishing one you do want (or need!) to do.
  4. Pick one task on your list and decide to finish it! Now…you don’t have to finish it today—it’s only Monday after all and we finish things on Friday around here. ;) Instead of focusing on finishing, focus on moving it forward. We’ll call today “move it forward Monday” and your goal is simply to spend five minutes moving one of your icky’s forward. You can do that right? Then, do the same thing every day this week. Move your selected task or project forward for five minutes and then stop if you want to. 
  5. Make plans to join me on Friday for the next round of Finish It Friday. When you do, you can see for yourself the power (and powerful feeling) of completion!

In the meantime, be sure to share your thoughts on why you think it’s so hard to finish things. I’d love to hear your personal experiences (and your theories!)

Oh, and by the way, I did make that appointment and finished up another huge project, too! It is very empowering, and addictive I must add!

June 26, 2009

Finish It Friday #2

Its Friday…hooray! For me, the week has simply flown by. Looking forward to a weekend filled with a bit of getting things done, a bit of relaxing, and a bit of hanging out with my family. Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend?

So…if you joined me two weeks ago for Finish It Friday, you know first-hand how freeing it can be to get a nagging to-do (or two or three!) checked off your to-do list. Want to join me again? This time I haven’t pre-finished anything…so you’ll just have to check and see what I come up with. I have a nagging to-do on my to-do list that I must address today. (Scheduling a mammogram!) So I will finish that for sure…but I don’t think that will give me my fill of finishing. We’ll just have to see what else I come up with.

I’m going on record to say that today, as part of Finish It Friday, I will call and schedule a mammogram. There. I've said it. Now I have to do it!

How about you? Want to join in the fun and get a nagging to-do checked off your list? You can read all about Finish It Friday here, and then post in the comments what you will finish by Sunday evening at 9 PM Central. Sound like a plan? Can’t wait to hear what you’re going to do!! Have a terrific weekend!

June 24, 2009

And the winner of the FranklinCovey Penelope laptop bag is...

Mandy B. who said "I would LOVE this! I would also love leather binder with a zipper for my coupons! My current binder is falling apart and I know Franklin Covey stuff is the best and would hold up to my heavy use!" Congrats to you, Mandy! Email me your mailing address and I'll forward it along to the fine folks at FranklinCovey.

Thank you to everyone who played along. It was so fun reading about your favorite items—lots of good stuff on that FranklinCovey site, isn't there? And a super big thank you to FranklinCovey for such a fun giveaway!

June 19, 2009

Friday! Friday! (Freebie) Friday!

Hooray! It’s Friday and what could be better than that? Freebie Friday, that’s what!

I’m so very excited about today’s giveaway because I have been a fan of this company for a really, really long time. In fact, when I think about how thrilled I was when I got my first Franklin Planner…well…I probably should have guessed my career path would lead me to where I am now.

So that’s right folks—today’s giveaway is from none other than FranklinCovey! (Yay, for FranklinCovey!)

FranklinCovey is kicking off their biggest sale of the year and they thought it would be fun to sponsor a Freebie Friday right here on the Creative Organizing blog. How fun is that, right? Very fun, indeed!

But first, you’ve got to hear about their Biggest Sale of the Year, because it’s super fun, too. First, it’s the best time to save on FranklinCovey products, because when they say it’s the Biggest Sale of the year, they mean B-I-G.

During FranklinCovey’s Biggest Sale of the Year you can save up to 70% on planners, binders, laptop bags and everything else you need to stay organized and make your big plans. Browse the Biggest Sale of the Year here! If you haven’t found the perfect planner yet, now is a great time to try something new and different. But, as you’ll see on the site, FranklinCovey has all sorts of products to help organize your life and plans. 

Alright, so I bet you’re dying to know what’s up for grabs for Freebie Friday. Well, here it is:


It’s the Penelope Laptop Bag, (a $200 value!) Here’s the low down on this gorgeous bag. (Text courtesy of FranklinCovey.)

Who would've thought a business/laptop tote could be so stylish and so practical? With a plethora of interior pockets, a plush notebook computer compartment, and sturdy brass hardware, the Penelope tote is ready for the most rigorous of road trips. But, thanks to its graceful dome and the embossed crocodile pattern on its soft leather exterior, only you will know it's more than just the classiest handbag at the airport.


Key features:

• Padded compartment for most 15.4" laptop computers

• Compartments for cell phone, glasses, credit cards, and more

• Pen loops

• Fully adjustable shoulder strap and handles

As you can see, they really think about organization in the design of their bags—there’s a place for everything in their bags. (Go here to learn more about this great bag.)

Want to know how to enter for this great giveaway? All you have to do is this. Visit the Franklin Covey website and check out their Biggest Sale of the Year. Then, in the comments section tell me your favorite product on the site. What caught your eye? What’s a “must have” in your book? Then, keep your fingers crossed that you’re the lucky winner of the Penelope Laptop Bag!

Comments will close on Tuesday, June 23rd at 9 PM Central, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday. Good luck!

June 18, 2009

Just some fun sharing…

Before going out of town, I like to clean my house and clear off my to-do list. So…this post is a bit of blog house cleaning. It’s some fun sharing I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Ready? Let’s go.

Magnetic Board How-To. This is a fun project and article I put together for my friends over at Store and Style. Hope you enjoy! (I’m really into magnet boards lately…so if you’re feeling the magnet board love, too, you'll want to check this out.)

Magnet board

Getting Organized for Less: My newsletter article this month was about getting organized for less money. If saving money while getting organized is on your mind, this article (also from Store and Style) has even more great ideas. For this piece they tried out my Organizing 101 workshop. Want to hear what they had to say? Find out here.

New Resources for Scrapbooking. How cool is Renee Pearson’s new site—have you seen it? If you’re interested in Digital Scrapbooking, this is a must see. She has a beginning digital scrapbooking class starting on June 25th, so hurry and go there now. 

I’m also enjoying this new site put together by former Simple Scrapbooks magazine employees and contributors. If you miss Simple like I miss Simple, go here for your fix of scrapbooking ideas and inspiration. Plus, if you hurry, it looks like they're having a giveaway. (I first heard about this from Angie's blog, another fun read you should check out.) 

travel checklist + other travel ramblings

Tomorrow I’m heading out of town for a weekend getaway with my sister and my Dad. We’re going to Alabama—a place I don’t think I’ve been to since I was in 2nd Grade. (And that, my friends, was a long time ago.)

My Dad and sister are driving down from Michigan, and we’re meeting in Nashville where we’ll spend the night tomorrow night. Then, we’ll continue on to Alabama to visit my Dad’s brother and his family. Should be fun…definitely looking forward to spending time with my family.

This may surprise you…but I haven’t started packing yet. I did, however, update and print out my travel checklist, which is a key reason I can pack late without stress. I love this checklist because, well, I’ve got a thing for checklists. It helps make it simple to be more organized while traveling, without being stressed out about forgetting to bring something or do something before I go.

I’ve been adding to it and tweaking it over the years (and deleting things, too, like Pull-Ups for my kids…it has been a long time since we’ve needed those.) Anyway, here’s a copy download travel-checklist if you’d like to use mine for your next trip, or feel free to use it to create your own checklist for personal use. You may not feel compelled to take a wine bottle opener with you when you go away, for example, so tweak it to suit your needs. And then, sit back, relax and enjoy your travels!

Before I sign of…here’s the “other travel ramblings” part of the post. Just a few things I’m looking forward to:

  • Sleeping in. This 5 AM summer schedule needs a tweak or two (or three.) Extra quiet time is good, but feeling tired and grouchy (which could be a kind way to describe my mood this past week) has significantly reduced my personal productivity, making the whole getting up early thing counter productive. So, aside from sleeping more while I’m away, I will be pondering Plan B for the summer schedule. (Keep this in mind—when you try something new and if it doesn’t work, try something else. Figuring out what doesn’t work is a terrific learning process and not the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve learned a lot the past 2 ½ weeks and look forward to figuring out how to tweak my schedule so that my mood and productivity stay in tact, too.)

    Taking photos. Looking forward to playing with my camera. I’ll be taking along the notes from my photography class and digging into those again, too. But, being a better photographer isn’t about reading a book or taking a class…it’s about taking more photos. Just as getting organized isn’t about taking a class or reading a book, it’s about taking action and organizing something—do something to move you closer to your goal.

  • Exploring new places. We’ll be spending a bit of time in Nashville tomorrow evening (probably just enough time for dinner) and then again on Monday. I’ve never been there, so it will be fun to check it out a bit. If you have been there, live there, know the area well…I’d love any recommendations of things to do and places to eat.

Hope you have a great weekend...and remember tomorrow is Friday, and this week that means Freebie Friday. And it’s a good one—so be sure to check it out. (Finish it Friday will be back next week!)

June 15, 2009

get your fill of organizing ideas + inspiration…

Just wanted to share what’s on the “organizing ideas + inspiration agenda” this you don’t miss any of the fun!

Tuesday:  Registration closes for the current session of Organizing 101 this Tuesday! There’s still time to get in on the action, but time is running out…so sign up today! It’s a super-inspiring group of participants in this session, sure to inspire you to tackle your summer organizing projects.

Tuesday:  Sending out weekly quick tip about using mini zones to stay organized this summer.

Thursday:  Monthly organizing newsletter will be going out, including my brand new article: “Get Organized. Save Money.”

***If you don’t yet get my Monthly Newsletter or my Weekly Quick Tip, sign up here.

Friday: Keep your eyes open for a really exciting Freebie Friday that's in the works for this Friday…you won’t want to miss it!

Here’s to an organized week!

June 14, 2009

Did you finish?

So, for all you who joined me in the first ever Finish It Friday—first a big “woohoo!” It sure does feel good to check things off that to-do list, doesn’t it? A check mark always feels good, but when that check mark is next to something that was lingering…oh, wow, that feels really good!

So, I got the finish it bug this weekend, and finished up a few other lingering projects, such as:

  • I finished painting the window trim on our front door windows. This has been on my mental to-do list for a really long time (probably over a year.) It has been on my real project list for the entire spring. Last weekend I started the project (with Jay’s help) and this weekend, finished her up! Yippee.

  • I finished up my butterfly mobile! Hooray—I’m so happy to have that one done!

  • I put the bed skirt on Collin’s bed. Why I dreaded that so much, I haven’t a clue. But now it’s finished!

  • I made reservations for my trip to Nashville / Alabama next weekend. I have needed to coordinate details with my Dad and sister for over a week…and now it’s done! Hooray!

So, how about you? Did you finish what you set out to complete on Friday? I can’t wait to hear! If you didn’t play along this time…there will be more chances! Oh, and next Friday, keep your eyes open for a really great Freebie Friday!!

June 12, 2009

Finish It Friday!

I’m starting something new today, and you’re invited to play along! What is this something new? It’s called Finish It Friday, an idea inspired by a forum discussion from inside the current session of Organizing 101. I will do this from time to time on Fridays, so keep your eyes open for more Finish It Fridays. (It won’t be every week because then what would happen to our friend “Freebie Friday?” Not to worry…we’re not going there.)

So, what’s it all about? Well, Finish It Friday is all about getting a nagging to-do off of your to-do list before the end of the weekend. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to decide to finish something that has been lingering on your to-do list for way longer than you ever anticipated or wanted.

Why should you get in on the fun? Well…because lingering to-dos feel icky and completion feels good. Started but not yet complete to-dos are draining; checking them off your list is energizing! Plus, it will be loads of fun! You’ll know that while you’re busily working toward a well-deserved check mark, others will be, too! You’ll get to experience how saying your going to do something makes you accountable for actually doing it—and this is very empowering! (I’ve gotten up at 5 AM five days straight due to this type of accountability. It really does work.)

What kind of to-do counts? Anything! (As long as it is an in-process project or should-have-been-take-care-of-a-long-time-ago to-do and finishing it would be particularly freeing for you.)

Here’s mine for the week.


This clipboard has been a work-in-process for quite some while—since our very first online workshop, in fact, when I put together this project download. At the time I wasn’t sure what to use it for, since it was put together part way, just for taking the step-by-step photos for the handout. Last weekend, upon doing some reorganizing in Kailea’s room…I found a use for a clipboard—holding sheet music for the current song she is learning in guitar. The best part is…this took me under 30 minutes to completely finish up (sanding, adding the rub-ons and decoupaging.) And now…no more nagging clipboard that isn’t done! 

So…do you have any lingering projects on your to-do list? Like I mentioned, this doesn’t have to be anything big (mine certainly wasn’t) just something that for one reason or another you haven’t gotten around to finishing. Your Finish It Friday project can be any of the following:

  • Any incomplete craft project such as half-finished scrapbook pages or mini albums that just need a few more bits added to make it done! Or, a home décor crafting project that has been stalled for some reason.
  • An almost finished organizing project. Maybe you intend to add labels to your organized pantry—but haven’t gotten around to it yet. (Wouldn’t it feel good to have that d-o-n-e?) Or perhaps you have that left over little pile of stuff you haven’t quite yet decided what to do with when you organized your closet. This could be your Finish It Friday project. Simply decide that you’re going to decide about the items lingering in that little pile…and then go decide! 
  • A nearly complete decorating project. Hang up those pictures! Or wrap up any other last-minute details so you can call that project done.
  • A simple item on your to-do list that you’ve been procrastinating on…because it seems unpleasant, feels like it will take too long, or just because you haven’t made the time for it as of yet. Sew that button on the shirt! Write that thank you note. Make *that one* phone call. 
  • In a nut shell, any little project or to-do that has been lingering for longer than you’d like that you can finish up by the end of the weekend!

To play along with Finish It Friday, simply:

  1. Choose a project. Don’t over-think this…just pick something that has been living on your to-do list (written or mental!) for too long. It doesn’t have to be anything big…just something incomplete and annoying!

  2. Post your plan in the comments.

  3. Complete your to-do by the end of the weekend. That’s right, simply check this item off your list before you go to bed on Sunday (and be sure to let us know you did it in the comments section!)!

  4. Enjoy the power of completion!

Sound like fun? I can’t wait to hear what you finish this weekend!

June 11, 2009

organizing is an ongoing process…

Last night was Wednesday night which means cleaning night at my house. (“Woohoo!” right? Well…yes, “woohoo” on Thursday morning, but not so much on Wednesday night. But that’s a different blog post.)

Anyway, as I was vacuuming it occurred to me that no one expects to clean their house just once and have it stay that way forever. Instinctively we know that cleaning is an ongoing process. If we want to enjoy a clean house, we have to clean it over and over and over again. While you may not enjoy the process of cleaning (oh, wait, that’s me) you don’t expect your home to stay clean forever without any intervention or action from yourself. Right?

For many people, however, organizing is a different story. An obstacle that I often hear when working with my organizing coaching clients is that they fear they won’t be able to keep their home organized after organizing it. This fear previously prevented them from getting started in the first place. If you’ve organized your home before only to see it return to disorder, you may relate to this thought and it may be a roadblock for you, too.

My thought last night while vacuuming was that expecting our homes to stay organized after organizing it is like expecting our home to stay clean after cleaning it. Both cleaning and organizing are ongoing processes—processes which require time and attention on an ongoing basis.

The good news is that with both cleaning and organizing, there are simple ways to make the ongoing process easier. Keeping up with it a little bit at a time, works for both cleaning and organizing. The more often I do light cleaning on my home, for example, the less time overall I spend cleaning. If I scrub my shower once a week, it takes less time to clean it than if I clean it less frequently. (And believe me I have tested this theory many times…I’d rather do most things than scrub my shower.)

Organizing is the same way. Once you get a space organized, the more often you do simple, routine maintenance on it—decluttering unnecessary items, putting things away when you’re done using them, and so on—the easier it is to keep a space organized.

So if you’re resisting organizing your home out of fear that you won’t keep it that way, consider letting this idea go. Just as with cleaning a home, it won’t simply stay that way. But just as with cleaning a home, keeping a home organized is doable with the right strategies in place.

My house doesn’t just stay clean (oh, how I wish it would!) just because I clean it once, and my house doesn’t stay organized just because I organize it once. My home is clean when I clean it regularly, and my home is organized when I organize and declutter it on an ongoing basis.

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