Monday, August 4, 2014

How to Stay Motivated and Accomplish More

Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by too many details and too many unfinished projects. I love being busy, but sometimes busy becomes crazy.

Sound familiar? You too?

I knew I had to stop, get a better grip on things, and move ahead. so I revisited what has worked for me in the past, and what the organization experts and time management gurus tell us.

Here are my easy guidelines for getting lots done without going bonkers.

Focus on the Goal

When I’m losing momentum on a project I find that if I remind myself of my original intent, I can usually reclaim enthusiasm and clarity. Decisions are easier to make, and I can move along.  
Right now I am in the middle of reorganizing my landscaping so that in the future it demands less grunt work. I want to minimize weeding, watering, deadheading, pruning, fertilizing, edging, and mowing. So from now on, when I’m making decisions about changes in the garden, I'll have a reference point: how does it fit with the grand scheme?

When you feel like maybe you’ve taken on too much, revisit your original goals. Be as specific as possible when defining a project’s purpose. When you remind yourself why you’ve chosen this assignment, or why you have to do this chore, it can become less objectionable.

Visualizing the outcome usually smooths the way to the finish line on a complex project. I’m picturing more leisure time in the yard instead of more yard work. Sometimes a pep talk to yourself is in order.

If staging your home to sell it is taking its toll on you, remind yourself of the benefits of home staging. Staged homes sell faster and for more money. Visualize yourself signing that purchase offer and moving on to your next home.

Forget About It
You don't need to attempt anything complicated like this
Just cast on. Photo: Natural Suburbia
A few years ago I read about a company that was teaching its executives to knit.

The premise was that problem-solving skills are enhanced by taking a break from mental work and engaging in a quiet activity that absorbed the mind in a creative way.

According to this article from CNN on the value of doing crafts“the repetitive motions of knitting, for example, activate the parasympathetic nervous system,” which calms the mind and body.

The lesson here is that you can prevent or circumvent those feelings of I’ll-never-get-everything-done by stepping aside and doing something briefly that demands all your attention in a pleasurable way.

You may have experienced breakthrough moments of your own while running or after meditating, or other times when your mind was open to new possibilities, having taken a vacation from its analytical busy-ness.

So, if you are stumped about furniture arrangement, where to store your excess household belongings while staging, which real estate agency to list with, how to calculate the logistics of a move, when to list your home, whether to accept a low ball offer, my advice is to find an absorbing craft or activity that requires repetition. It will help you find answers.  

Verbalize Your Intention

This strategy is based on the rationale behind programs like Weight Watchers and the 30-day challenges that bloggers often organize.

It's effective for all kinds of campaigns -- to change habits, kill procrastination, or reach goals.

You can put this strategy to work by simply telling a friend your objective and how you aim to get there. Once you’ve shared your plans, you’re more likely to accomplish them, whether it’s a trip you’re dreaming of, a habit you want to break, or a new deadline you’ve set for yourself.

My confident is Mr. Lucky, and I will tell him, “I’m not going to bed tonight until I’ve balanced the checkbook,” or “I’m not having any more ice cream until I lose five pounds.”

It doesn’t always work perfectly, but it does increase your chances for success when you feel even mildly accountable to someone else.

If you are a more private person, a journal can stand in for a person to confide in. The written word can be powerful.  

If you have listed your home with a real estate agent, share your goals. If you are going to paint the bedrooms this weekend, tell her. If you plan to buy new container plants before photos are taken, share that with her. If you want to tidy the garage before the next showing, promise her that. 
  
My friend, the professional organizer Geralin Thomas and owner of Metropolitan Organizing
offers 31 days of quotes to inspire you on her organizing website.

Outline the Steps

I have lots of energy when it comes to starting projects, but often I run out of steam when a project becomes too complicated. That’s when making a list of steps needed to keep going gets me out of a slump.

I love lists. Lists make any chore less ugly. I recently created a blog content calendar for the remainder of this year. Now I have a schedule to be responsible to, and I feel like the blog isn’t spinning out of control. I have a variety of topics spaced through the months ahead. This post and others will be extras.

Breaking down a project into small parts is also a good way to re-evaluate how necessary a project is. If I add up the costs on a list of the materials needed for a DIY makeover or hack, I might decide it’s not economically worth doing.

If the list is a sequence of actions, you can attach it to a schedule. “I’ll have all the materials purchased before the weekend.” Planning an open house or a kitchen cabinet repaint goes a whole lot smoother when you have it broken down into sequential steps.

Start Small
FlyLady tells you how to regain control.

Begin your day with baby steps that empower you.

A recent study I read about showed that powerful people have a sense that time is on their side, that they are in control. Consequently they make better decisions than people who feel stressed, rushed and powerless.

That’s why one of my favorite household management sites, FlyLady, recommends keeping your sink spotless. Seems silly, I know, but the many FlyLady adherents swear by it because they are discovering how one small success and act of empowerment leads to another. And then another.   

In other words, don’t start your day by jumping into a difficult or major project. Think baby steps. Organize one closet shelf or your junk drawer. Do your yoga routine. Make your bed and put away laundry. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to kickstart your day with a pat on the back.  Carpe diem!

Track Yourself

We all have tasks we must do on a regular basis – preparing lunches, cleaning a bathroom, hanging up clothing. If you know how long it takes to do it once, challenge yourself to do it more quickly next time.

When I was a full time housepainter, I knew how long it took me to paint the trim around one doorway. In a new home, I might have 20 doorways. If I could save 10 minutes on each of them, I saved almost half a day of labor, which is like giving yourself a raise when you are a self-employed contractor.  

Think you don’t have time to sweep the front steps every other day? Or open, sort, file, and shred mail every day? Time yourself and you may be surprised that the tasks you don’t enjoy may be taking up more room in your head than they do on your clock.

Athletes use this technique to achieve their personal best. You can, too. Once you have a base line, it can be a fun contest to whittle it down.

Edit Your List

I'm sure that Eddie is a well organized man. Photo: StyleAtHome.
When I’m planning a dinner party, I’ll start with the menu plan. Then, I’ll stop pretending I’m Eddie Ross and ask myself how practical -- and necessary -- every dish is. Must I prepare four appetizers? A knock-em-dead centerpiece? Favors for everyone?

One of the easiest ways to boot stress from your life is simply to do less. Sounds simple, and it can be if you start with that to-do list but then edit it with a rational and methodical mind. Set priorities.

Do you really need to paint the nursery before your mother-in-law visits? Be kind to yourself, so you can feel good about what you actually do accomplish.

Another favorite advice source of mine is Zen Habits. His approach to decluttering is a super example of how to approach a project any home stager needs to tackle.  

Home staging can feel daunting. Once you’ve decluttered and cleaned and made your home enviable with staging, keeping it show-ready can demand more attention that you like.

I hope you’ll find practical advice here and in my eBooks to successfully stage and maintain your own home no matter how hectic your life is. Helping you do that is my goal.  

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