Sunday, December 30, 2018

Simplify 2019: Start with a Plan

“If you don't know where you are going,
you'll end up someplace else.” 
― Yogi Berra

2019 is upon us - Do you have a plan?

The key to achieving goals is to have a plan.  The key to an effective plan is identifying what works for you.  You may be an all digital planner, all paper or perhaps a combination.  Bullet journals, spreadsheets, or a simple paper planner or wall calendar may be the key to your success.  

Step 1: Identify the most effective planning method for you.  Take some time to evaluate what you have used in the past and what works best.  You may find you need to adjust throughout the years. I use a combination of digital and paper planning.  For the digital part, I use Google calendar, which I share with my husband.  We can each add and change events and see the changes in live time.  I also love that our school and some of the kids activities use Google calendar as well, which I sync up to our calendar.  

I have tried many paper planners throughout the years.  There are so many amazing choices out there.  This year, I went with the Tools 4 Wisdom 8.5x11 Hardcover Planner.  I love how the week is set up and the goal setting pages in the beginning of each month.  It comes with stickers, and I also love the affordable price.  If you are focusing on money saving goals for 2019, you do not need to spend $50+ to have an effective planner.  Many different cover designs are available.

Step 2:  Carve time out of your schedule to plan & make that planning time routine.  This is essential to seeing your plans through!  If you do not have a part of your week, or part of each day set aside for planning, your plans will sit idle.  I like to go over my plans in the morning as I start my work day.  I open my planner and go over the goals and schedule for the day.  I also evaluate my plans every Sunday as I prepare for the week.  I adjust my schedule as necessary and update both the Google calendar and the paper planner.  Include not only calendar appointments, but carve out time for you.  Include time to prepare meals, self-care, time for daily household routines, quality family time and rest time.  Yes, plan to rest and recharge!  So many families suffer from over scheduling.  Blocking off open time to focus on family and rest is a way to help prevent over scheduling.  

I love the Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens.  They erase really well!  Just be sure to not leave your planner in a hot car as the gel will melt.  

Step 3:  Re-evaluate if your planning system is not working for you.  Tweak things until you get in an effective planning groove!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Book Review: "Decluttering at the Speed of Life" by Dana K. White

I'm listening to this book on Audible right now. If you are looking for a fresh, real-world mom's perspective on decluttering, give this book a read or listen!  Dana shares the good, bad, and sometimes ugly times of the process of decluttering.  At the same time I feel like she's having coffee with me and I leave inspired to tackle a project.  I have to admit, I have been in somewhat of a decluttering rut lately with some life changes that have come our way.  Sometimes we just need a fresh perspective and a friend who has been there to inspire change.  This book certainly does that.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Conquer Email Overload!

Are you suffering from e-mail overload?  I know I sure am!  On one hand I appreciate the convenience and effectiveness of communicating via e-mail. However, it can also absolutely suck the life out of you and has been known to drown many.  If you are the one communicating via e-mail, it can especially be frustrating when you need responses and your inquiries go seemingly ignored.  Chances are, the person on the receiving end is suffering from overload, especially if they have not set up an out of office reply and you still get no answer.  Or, they could just be ignoring you, but that's for another blog ;).  If you use e-mail for work, chances are you are not that thrilled to catch up on the onslaught of personal e-mails on your breaks or when you are home for the evening or weekend.  A while ago I posted about mastering e-mail management.  Keeping on top of your e-mail takes maintenance.  In addition to the mastering e-mail management tips I have wrote about before, you may need to boost with these 2 actions as well:

1)  Unsubscribing Sprees:  Getting to many advertising e-mails hitting your inbox?  Even if you designate 1 account for sites you buy from, those pesky ad e-mails can still sneak in to your other accounts.  Some services like Gmail have great filters which catch those ads.  You can also designate a week where you focus on unsubscribing.  Every time you check an e-mail that's an ad, click on unsubscribe, which usually is at the bottom of the e-mail.  I'm in the middle of one of those weeks now.  It's amazing what a difference this makes!  You can also try a service like - a free service that cleans these e-mails out of your inbox. 

2)  The Big Cleanout:  Every once in a while I also have to declare a "Big Cleanout" time.  I delete a ton via rapid-fire deletion, starting in reverse chronological order.  If I haven't taken care of it or read the low priority item that I thought I would "look at later,"  it's just not going to get done.  Get rid of those now!  This is a good time to reevaluate your folders that you file e-mails you want to keep.  Are all folders currently relevant to your life?  If not, get rid of those too.  Once your cleanout is done, give yourself a time limit to process any e-mails that are left - respond, delegate, file, or delete!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

I dare you to #unplug

I've been spending less time on social media sites.  It's been amazing!  I shouldn't be surprised at the amount of "extra" time and I have and that I'm getting more accomplished, but I am.  I think back to life in the 1990's.  My cell phone lived under my car seat in case I had to call AAA.  I had a pager for my job on the weekends I was coordinating flights for people.  I was in awe of e-mail that arrived at my dorm.  I did not have a problem achieving "inbox zero."  The only e-mails I had were all school or job related, and I checked e-mails only about twice a day from my apartment desktop computer, or at work, as part of my job.  I was watching an episode of Friends the other night and reminiscing about how the coffee shop scene really was quite a special thing of the time.  We not only went to coffee shops to study, but really connect with others.   Now, almost everyone in a coffee shop is on a device, distracted by their world on their phones and laptops.  It's not all negative.  I can see and have experienced a lot of great connection with friends and family over Facebook especially.  I feel as I continue my 2018 year of Recovery, that unplugging is a much needed remedy.  I'm scared to even try to estimate how many hours I have wasted doing mindless scrolling!  It's a sign of the times really.  I've been sucked in.  What scares me most?  I've seen it manifest in my kids.

Here's what I am doing:  I am unplugging from my personal social media account.  I am staying away from scrolling down my newsfeed.  Just say no to mindless scrolling!  I have replaced my profile picture with the unplugged symbol to spread the word and let others know I'm unplugged.  I will still continue to post on my Neat Doctor social media pages with what I hope to be helpful tips and inspirations to lead you towards a simpler, organized & fulfilling life. I challenge you to do the same.

There are 2 campaigns I've found happening in 2018, "Screen-Free Week" from April 30-May 6, and "National Day of Unplugging" on March 9-10.  At the very least, participate in one of these and let me know your experiences.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Focus 2018: Recovery

I haven't done New Year's resolutions in a few years.  I guess you could say I simplified them!  This year I have one focus for 2018:  Recovery.  Not recovery from an actual sickness or injury, although I would say that this recovery is very similar.  I need to recover from the chaos of life, and I'd like to bring you along with me on this journey.

I am in what I like to call the "crunch" stage of life.  There are kids to raise, jobs to work, volunteering responsibilities, family to spend time with and help, pets to feed, a household to manage, retirements to plan for, budgets to stick to, aging bodies to keep healthy & vibrant, friends I strive to spend much needed time with, home repairs to make, and much more that I can't think of right now because I am so tired!  I try to have a little "me" time every once and a while too.  We are so busy.  If the budget does not allow for chores to be outsourced, they often are delayed for a bit longer than I'd like.  Some weeks they don't get done!  This is typical life for so many.  Don't get me wrong, I have fun with this crazy chaotic life and count every blessing.  It gets tiring though and often times something has to break down for us to force us to slow down.

In February of 2017 I got really sick.  I had not been this sick in years!  In fact, I don't think I had been this sick since pneumonia knocked me down in elementary school.  It was a virus that led to bronchitis on the brink of pneumonia.  I got my antibiotics, was taking supplements, and was forced to rest.  I don't think I got out of bed for 5 days.  It was awful.  Everything stopped.  This actually caused more stress because if I was not doing the every day responsibilities of my crazy mom life, then who was?  You know what?  It all turned out ok.  I did of course have extra work to catch up on after my recovery, but it eventually got done.

Any time we are sick or injured, our successful recovery is dependent on the right treatment, nutrition, and rest.  In order to recover from our chaotic lives and get back to calm, organized and simpler lives, we need much of the same.  The problem is, many of us just keep on swimming along, without taking time out to recover.  This will eventually wear on you.  It probably is wearing on you at this moment!  We all need to work recovery time into our lives before something happens in our life that forces us to stop.

The Right Treatment:  The right treatment will truly depend on the most pressing chaos that surfaces in your life.  Is your schedule out of control?  You need to start slashing activities and saying no.  Are you literally tripping over things in your home?  An extreme decluttering is needed.  Are you under repeat stress?  Identify what the cause of the stress is and put an action plan into place to either step away or find a management solution.  You may need to get some extra help from professionals to get you through the right treatment.  Bring in the specialists and make your way through the chaos to see the calm on the other side.  . . . and a "specialist" can mean a Professional Organizer, Life Coach, or even as simple as having your friend who is great at decluttering over for coffee to help you.  I am a huge advocate for DIY, but it's no surprise things go quicker and you can often find more motivation doing things with someone else.

Nutrition:  I'm talking actual nutrition here.  So much of our food intake in a chaotic life is rushed, not savored.  It's no surprise that during vacations I find myself wanting to explore great restaurants, and cook more homemade food if I have access to a kitchen.  During these times I end up making healthier choices too, and I feel better!  So much more gets accomplished and I feel so much more present.  As part of our recovery from the chaos, we must consider nutrition and make strides toward infusing our cells with nutrient dense foods.  This will not only support physical recovery, but mental as well.

Rest: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of rest, not only in the form of sleep, which has many health benefits, but rest from our busy schedule.  You absolutely need unscheduled days to recover your home, mind and soul from the chaos.  I'm sure many of you have been in this situation.  You look at your calendar for the week and there are 2 evenings that are free with nothing on the calendar.  I have sighed a big sigh of relief on these times as I look forward to recovering.  I pour a cup of tea, pick up the house (have the kids participate as well!), do some chores, cook and prepare some food, spend some quality time with my family, and perhaps even catch up on some reading.  You may read this and think, that's not exactly rest, that's doing a lot of activity!  This is true.  However, your Routines in recovering your home, mind and soul back to serenity and calm will work wonders for the energy, clarity and motivation you will have throughout the week. Next time that call comes in for 1 more playdate, volunteer need, or social activity, know that it's ok to take a rain check and schedule for a week that will be more balanced for you.  Some might say that we should seize the day and live in the moment!  Yes, absolutely!  But there are times when we need balance and recovery.  If we are in a constant state of go, go, go, we will break down.  It's ok to say no,no,no.  You may have to block out "recovery time" on your calendar for this to happen.

If you keep the hamster wheel of chaos going in your life, you simply can never recover.  Radical things may have to be done in order to achieve recovery.  Will the chaos of life stop after recovery?  No.  But we will be able to manage the chaos and maybe even enjoy it along the way.