Breaking Free from Clutter: A Conversation with Diane Elkins of PositiveWorkspace.com

Clutter is a topic of endless fascination for me.  Perhaps that’s because I seem to be constantly staring at it.  I have spent the better part of many, many years trying to get a handle on my clutter problem, as I know deep inside my clutter-burdened heart there is a clear-headed, clutter-free person inside.

With the help of the passing of years, a burst pipe that led to an involuntary home renovation, a dumpster, and the wisdom of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (affiliate image link), I am actually closer to being clutter-free than I have ever been before.

While discussing Kondo’s book with my friend Diane Elkins, professional organizer and blogger at PositiveWorkspace.com, I decided it would be wonderful to interview Diane so you could get a glimpse of how she works with her clients.  Diane is truly a gifted and inspiring person.  I know she loves being a part of the significant life changes her clients make when they clear their lives of clutter.

A Conversation with Diane Elkins of PositiveWorkspace.com

What is your impression of what makes keeping one’s space in order so difficult for so many?

It’s usually a combination of (1) not having a designated place for storing items and (2) having too much stuff that’s accumulated over many years.  Once you purge all of your unneeded possessions and are left with just the things you love and use, it’s simple to decide on a logical system for easy storage and retrieval.  These simple systems become automatic to your daily flow and will happily motivate most to maintain their tidy living spaces.

What is at the center of your own approach to having a sensible, positive workspace?

Simplicity.  Simple systems, broad filing categories, visual cues, pretty and inspirational mementos, and being very selective of what items I keep.

Can you describe the impact organizing one’s workspace has on productivity?  On one’s attitude?

Clutter is distracting.  It produces physical and unconscious chaos.  Not being able to find what you’re looking for is one of the most frustrating experiences for a lot of people — including me!  Clearing clutter and being smart about managing our surroundings is something we can all have control over to vastly improve our day-to-day lives.  A clean, organized, streamlined space is freeing.  It spurs creativity, it saves time, and is truly inspiring.  You feel better and work smarter when you’re proud of your workspace.

What is the transformation process like?

It always gets worse before it gets better, which is a big part of why so many people opt not to start.  We’re emptying closets and drawers, clearing our filing systems, going through books, magazines, and mail — most of us have a lot of stuff and my job is to help my clients identify what they want to keep and how to get rid of the rest.

Why do you think having the support of a professional like you might be critical to achieving success in this area?

It’s hard to know where and how to get started, and either the task feels so daunting that it never gets done, or people get used to their clutter and have no idea of how much better life could be.  I will get them to where they want to be.

Having a knowledgeable and trusted partner to work through the emotional steps of clearing clutter and getting rid of items you have become used to having around, even though they interfere with productivity and happiness, assures that the task will get done.

There are a lot of decisions to make and I love being the support person who gently but steadily moves folks through these hard decisions and changes.  I know what’s ahead for them and it is incredibly rewarding to be helping people move towards a new and much-improved reality.  Overwhelm, frustration, and stress eventually change to excitement, clarity, and joy.

What do you think people don’t know about the power of working clutter-free but would benefit from knowing?

Working in a clutter-free space is empowering.  Your thoughts, actions, and time are free to focus on the professional and personal goals most important to you.

How have you seen the decluttering process affect people in other areas of their lives?

This is the question that makes me smile the most.  I did not anticipate the incredible ripple effect on lifestyle such as, increased energy, enthusiasm, business growth, and everyday healthy changes with diet, exercise, and sleep.  This is the most rewarding part of my work and why I love what I do.

How are Procrastination and cluttered lifestyles interrelated?  How can we assist Procrastinators to get a move on in this area?

We all have messes and it’s rare that someone will make tackling their clutter a priority.  Most of us will procrastinate and until we purge our stuff and learn some simple organizing systems and habits for storing our things, it will always be the dreaded task.  I recommend starting by purging all items that you no longer need or love.

Please give us a sense of how you work and the kinds of clients you’d be interested in working with.

I start by listening, asking questions, and listening some more.  Learning the biggest frustrations and problem areas for each client and having a clear picture of how they envision their ideal space is the only way to start.

I then compile a custom detailed plan identifying what I hear the priorities being and how we can fix them.  My clients must commit to consecutive weekly sessions until the project we’ve defined together is complete.

I give my clients “homework” between visits (the tasks don’t always get done, which is fine), but I like to provide the opportunity for people to work on the projects they can do independently to keep the organizing process affordable.

I respect that everyone has their reasons for keeping certain things and I will never tell anyone what to throw away or donate, but I will give my thoughts on why it might be best to let something go.  Once we get going and are in the flow of organizing and seeing results, it becomes very easy for clients to make smart decisions about what to keep.

I only work with people who are ready for a big change and committed to the task at hand.  I’ve learned over the years that it’s a waste of everyone’s time if there is resistance or hesitation.  Trusting me and the process is the only way to see results.

Important Information on How to Work with Diane

If you’ve been telling yourself for years that you want to get organized but haven’t made any progress due to a busy schedule or not knowing how to start, or are feeling stuck and frustrated by the lost time and stress caused by your piles of clutter and paper, here are five ways I can help you get a fresh start and new outlook:

1.  A Consultation.  Let’s talk about your biggest areas of frustration and your vision for the ideal organized space.  I will compile a custom plan with simple solutions for solving your organizational challenges, including product recommendations and e-mail support.  $125

2.  Phone Support.  A consultation, custom plan, and four consecutive weekly (30 min.) phone calls with homework assignments.  $225

3.  In-Person Support.  A consultation, custom plan, and 10 hours of on-site support, over 3 consecutive weeks.  $545

4.  Monthly Accountability Support and Upkeep.  Fend off the piles by staying current and up-to-date with filing systems and supplies.

5.  Coming soon… a Mini-Online Paper Organization Course with tips, simple solutions, and product recommendations for living clutter-free at home.

How to Contact Diane

I’m Diane Elkins.  I love being the person behind the scenes supporting fun, busy, talented (but overwhelmed) people find simple solutions to their organizational challenges.  I started Positive Workspace in 2011 to share the simple solutions, favorite products, and basic filing systems that helped me enjoy the benefits of a simpler, more organized home and happier days.

I am committed to researching and finding the best products and resources available for you.  Read my blog for helpful tips and simple strategies for saying goodbye to your clutter and paper piles.  Or contact me to discuss your specific challenges.

Thank you Diane for giving us so many great details about the brave work you do.  Best wishes to everyone in your own journey to clutter freedom.

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    What are the Key Elements in Procrastination Coaching?

    temp_collage_1423151957.254379I have always found it curious that there are so remarkably few resources for those of us who Procrastinate.  Perhaps the biggest reason this is so surprising to me is because so many of us suffer from this same affliction of delay, avoidance, and distress in the face of potential stressors.

    I decided to share with you the style and approach I use when I work with clients who Procrastinate.  I hope this information is useful to you in helping you to decide whether you would like to seek out Procrastination Coaching for yourself.

    Procrastination Coaching entails the following key elements:

    • we will examine your particular style of learning and working
    • we will explore the methods you have chosen to defend yourself from stress
    • we will begin to understand the mechanisms by which your Procrastination has lasted longer than you would have liked or would have expected
    • we will debunk any ideas about needing to be perfect that you may be hanging on to
    • we will work to ease your fears about opening up to other people about your problems being productive
    • I will encourage you to use your highest skill set
    • I will guide you towards operating at your full potential

    On many levels, Procrastination Coaching is not rocket science.  I use many tried-and-true techniques that you might be able to find taught in any elementary school worth its salt.  However, I do believe the Procrastination Coaching I offer includes not only training in the basic skills of productivity, but also the experience of being understood on deeper levels, the levels which have not been open to public view prior.  Empathy is big here. When we suffer from Procrastination, we suffer from shame and fear that others will misunderstand us.  Sensing that your coach is empathic towards your experience is essential for your coaching relationship to thrive.

    What Procrastination Coaching is not:

    • a rigid, formulaic, one-size-fits all program
    • a zone built for your embarrassment
    • a quick fix
    • a place for you to find someone to do your work for you
    • traditional supportive psychotherapy

    Procrastination Coaching will require some involvement from you.  You will need to be open to change and to be open to feeling your hushed-away feelings.  The great news in this is, is ALL of is have the dual capacities of making change in our lives and understanding our own feelings.  For me, knowing this and being able to help clients renew their understanding of these facts, is probably the most rewarding of all the pleasures I have in my work.

    By the way, if you are currently in psychotherapy, I encourage you to discuss your issues with Procrastination openly with your therapist.  Your therapist may be able to help you feel less alone in your journey towards feeling better, and it is important for your therapist to know some of the more private parts of your experience.

    If you have any questions about Procrastination Coaching, please feel free to contact me by sending a note via my website at www.procrastinationcoach.com.  I’d be happy to help. Best wishes to you.

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      8 Things that are Standing in the Way of Lasting Change

      I’m really pleased to introduce this guest post by my new friend and kindred spirit, Susaye Rattigan.  I discovered her ultra-informative post on LifeHack — 25 Incredibly Useful Websites Every Entrepreneur Should Bookmark – and then found another post by her on TinyBuddha — 3 Keys to Jumpstarting Your Life If You’ve Been Living on Hold – which also was easy for me to connect to.  I decided to contact her to see if we would be sympatico and well, here you see the proof that we are.  Susaye exudes confidence and instills it in others — she’s a dynamo.  Enjoy reading her wise reflections on making important changes in our lives. 

      Sometimes our best efforts at changing our lives are just not enough. We long for lasting change — not the happy kind that manifests but doesn’t stay. We beat up on ourselves and further break our own spirits when we decide to change but feel like a failure when we don’t.

      And sometimes it is true that we haven’t tried as hard as we could, but other times we were fully committed and really intended to be different. As we think about changing again, our past failures can dampen our spirits and make changing a brutal experience. As the new season of change rolls around, it is important to understand some of the things that can sabotage change so we can adjust our sails in preparation for the next try.

       8 Things that Get in the Way of Lasting Change

      1. We hold unreasonable expectations.  We enter the path to change as we would a changing room, expecting that we should easily shed the habits that we have nurtured over the years.  We forget that cultivating anything takes time.  While it is important to hold a vision of our desired change in our minds, embracing the fact that it is a journey and not just a destination is one way to help manage our expectations.

      2.  We start without putting a simple, actionable plan in place.  Imagine changing your life as a trip to an exotic location.  Normally, you wouldn’t just show up at the airport and board any plane hoping to get there; itineraries would have been planned, tickets would have been purchased, accommodations would have been arranged.

      When we announce to ourselves our desire to change with no plan or a complex plan we inadvertently set ourselves up for failure.

      We can make it easier for ourselves to say “yes” to our changes and “no” to our habits by starting with a tiny shift in our old habits, then another once we’ve mastered the first.  The Japanese have a term for this — Kaizen, continuous, never-ending improvement. Embrace it.

      3.  We go it alone.  Two is always better than one when it comes to support.  Often we fall down on our journey because we have decided to travel by ourselves or to keep our commitment a secret.  Making this choice allows us to renege and affirms our fear of failing.  Know that any step towards lasting change is a success and sharing it does not make your effort any less valuable.

      4.  We don’t plan for failure.  No one wants to struggle with change, but everyone does. Ignoring the fact that sometimes we might fail can make you feel like a complete failure when it happens.  Our best recourse is to expect stumbling and to brush ourselves off on our way up.  Conceptualizing change as continuous will help to counter this.  Failure happens.  Success happens.  Keep going in the face of either.

      5.  We start out too hard or fast and burn out.  Have you heard the saying “slow and steady wins the race?”  I’ve found this true in my life; I’ve gotten so excited about changing and rushed headfirst into it without doing the necessary emotional, psychological and physical preparations to ensure success.  After racing out of the gate, I would end up tired and taking a break. This break would extend indefinitely because I was out of steam and motivation.  A more effective strategy is building momentum, one step at a time.

      6.  We are not consistent.  We start and then stop or we stop for a few days and hope to restart.  We sabotage our own efforts when we are inconsistent.  Not only does being inconsistent mess with our motivation but it makes the habit more difficult to get rid of. Consistency helps little habits grow into big change.

      7.  We compare ourselves to others.  We think our change should look exactly like someone else’s and when we don’t have the same results we quit.  Know that everyone’s path is different, as is each person’s plan.  While we can hold another’s progress as motivation, we cannot replicate their path.  Learn from them and be your own competition.

      8.  We expect change to be easy and hang our self-esteem on our results.  Most people are reluctant to try to change because not changing fast enough is held as a measure of our worth as humans.  Know that acknowledging our need for change and beginning are as important as changing. The process of changing counts; it is often rich with lessons that far outweigh the goal. Things often look easier than they are and change is not the exception.  Lasting change takes time, effort and willpower and is cemented with each choice we make to continue despite the odds.

      So if you’ve decided to change, go for it! Taking the first step means you’re already winning!

      SusayeRattiganSusaye Rattigan is a Mother, Clinical Psychologist and Life Balance Coach for women who want to create a balanced life that they love. You can find her at [www.shesinspired.net] feeding her obsession with motivating and empowering women to create, live and love their lives, while maintaining their sanity. She lives in Jamaica, West Indies with her partner and daughter. She can also be found on Facebook [www.facebook.com/Susaye.Rattigan1] and Twitter [www.twitter.com/msratti].

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        On Disappointment (and a little bit of Alicia Florrick)

        temp_collage_1422470388.026214Disappointment.  What a thoroughly nasty topic.

        We can feel disappointed when:

        • we let ourselves down
        • we eat or drink too much
        • we watch too much Netflix or Amazon Prime (I just discovered what binge watching feels like)
        • we let other people down
        • we experience loss
        • our efforts don’t pan out as fully as we’d like
        • our to-do lists don’t seem to get easier to manage
        • continuing our efforts towards self-improvement seem futile
        • other people let us down
        • we struggle with illness or disability or addiction

        Why would I want to bring up such a nasty topic as disappointment? Because it underpins all Procrastination and because it is an inescapable part of life.  Procrastination begins when we use the force of our intelligence, drive, and creativity to avoid facing the potential for disappointment in ourselves or from others.  Although Procrastination seems a sweet trade-off of inaction for a few seconds of peace, Procrastination tends to seed the very disappointment we want to flee from.  It’s like pumping the brakes repeatedly as you’re driving down the road — that driving pattern doesn’t get your very far very fast and certainly makes for an uncomfortable ride.

        We are inundated with material informing us we can perfect ourselves and pursue our passions, but I wonder if that leads to the twin phenomena of disappointment and Procrastination.  It’s as if there is no tolerance for mistakes or missteps.  It feels like there is little room to discuss openly these small matters that cause us to feel ashamed or embarrassed or less than.

        I think it is essential that we deal with our sadder, heavier thoughts and feelings if we are to stand a chance of making good on our to-do lists, our dreams, and our potential.  We all have them, both sad feelings and humongous potential.  Let the sad feelings serve your potential and let your potential ease your sadness.  Stop pumping the brakes.  Take the time to Procrastinate if it helps you, then release, recover, and restart.

        I just spent a lot of hours getting acquainted with The Good Wife and taking a much needed break from reality.  How have you been dealing with things lately?

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          13 Ways to Recover from the Pain and Suffering Caused by Procrastination

          13 Ways to Recover from the Pain and Suffering Caused by ProcrastinationAlthough I still Procrastinate, I’d like to think I have successfully managed to lessen the pain and suffering I used to go through during my days of Procrastinating-all-of-the-time.  As I read through my Twitter feed, I can get my hands on many lists of ways to stop Procrastinating and to be more efficient.  What I’ve noticed is an absence of material on the really ugly underbelly of Procrastination where people lose their sense of ability, spirit, and creativity.

          Here’s my effort to remedy the situation.  The following is a list of thoughts about what pains us and how to cope more effectively:

          1. Be patient with yourself.  If you are impatiently upset with yourself for Procrastinating, you will likely remain in that mode.
          2. Allow yourself to co-exist with those around you.  Stop isolating yourself.
          3. Gradually pay the fines, return the things you borrowed, and make good on your words.  One step at a time you’ll build back your freedom from Procrastination.
          4. Stop being tormented by the clock and clock time.  If it takes you longer to do your work than it does Johnny, so what?  Johnny’s got other problems, don’t you worry.  Do your own work and see it to the finish.
          5. Stop tabulating and calculating how much time you have wasted.  Essentially, stop beating your head against the wall.
          6. Stop obsessively thinking about how other people are disappointed with you, worried about you, or angry with you.  You’ll be able to think better if you do.
          7. Accept your shortcomings, but also be open to feeling your capacities as you clear out old areas you’ve been Procrastinating on.
          8. Eliminate everything non-essential in your life.  Gradually get rid of clutter, stress, unnecessary commitments and obligations.
          9. Start moving.  Breathe fresh air every day.  Walk.  Stretch.  Change your scenery.
          10. Start talking.  Admit to your mistakes, then orient yourself towards your future.
          11. Announce (if even to yourself) the first bit of work you plan on getting done.  I might just call this the “Bit List.”  That itty bit becomes the focus.  Makes everything literally more doable.
          12. Start fresh.  It’s okay to call tomorrow a beginning, because in so many ways, it is.
          13. Understand that you’ve been ailing with the enormous burden of chronic Procrastination.  Treat yourself kindly as you make healthier movements going forward.

          Now that I’ve written this, I’m noticing how the pain and suffering I meant to address directly is not quite covered in the list of tips above.  I believe the pain and suffering is alleviated only when the Procrastination cycle is broken, when we are able to take steps forward in whatever direction we choose.

          There is a type of pain inherent in working – that’s why it’s called “work.”  Strip your work process down to the barest bones so that you are left to face only that bit of the pain of working.  It’s much more manageable and tolerable than the other types of pain we can inflict on ourselves.  You know the kinds.  You invented some of them.

          Use your ingenuity to take bolder risks with your work.  Instead of being consumed by fears of failure and of others’ criticisms, use that energy to say something bigger, better, and crazier.  Make your statement now, if only for the sole purpose of getting on with the rest of your life.

          Thoughts?  Comments?  Insights?  Revelations?

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            What Kind of Guarantee Do You Need?

            rainbowOne of the ways I have mostly managed to overcome my Procrastination is to understand there are no guarantees for how things turn out.  In working with many different types of Procrastinators, I’ve noticed a not-so-subtle theme — Procrastinators control, delay, and manage their behavior in order to make sure the outcome they have is perfect.

            What is perfect?  Well, that varies from person to person of course.  Perfect could mean:

            • it’s packed with every possible piece of information known to man
            • it’s a shining example of the author’s true worth as a human being
            • it’s a product that, once completed, is not subject to any criticism or review
            • it’s imbued with magical powers to prevent future disappointments

            Well now, no wonder we can’t get those got-to-be-perfect projects done.  I know I tend to write a lot on the topic of perfectionism, but I do feel it may be at the top of the list of the “Most Brutal Patterns of Thinking Procrastinators Need to Recover from Before Moving Forward.” (#it’sjustamadeuplist)

            So, about that recovery you are seeking.  Please take a moment to ask yourself:

            “What version of perfect am I secretly (or unconsciously) waiting for via my Procrastination?”

            When we seek a sure-fire technique of doing our work, we end up in negotiation with that part of us that actually can get things done.  Instead of enabling ourselves to progress, all of a sudden we are locked in debilitating debates with ourselves:

            • “I will not feel comfortable finishing this until I know I’ve read everything I can.”
            • “I know I won’t hand this in until I’m sure it’s better than what my colleagues are doing.”
            • “I will not feel good about my work because I don’t see my own value.”
            • “I will not let other people read this because they will think I don’t know what I’m doing.”

            The immense pressure these types of self-statements has on our work cannot be understated.  Whenever we attach extra meaning to our work we strangle it and bring it closer to non-existence.  It’s as if we are waiting for our guarantee to be given to us before we allow ourselves to move forward.  We may desire promises that our work may actually get us:

            • respect
            • approval
            • recognition
            • responsibility
            • authority
            • acceptance
            • a free pass in life (make sure to let me know how to get one of these if you happen to know)

            Although these promises may be immensely appealing, by attaching these desires to our work, we also attach the possibility that the work will not happen.  

            Procrastinators are famous for short-circuiting projects to prevent them from being evaluated and seen in the light of day.  Don’t be a famous Procrastinator.  That’s my job.

            Do your work.  Just your work and the rest will follow.  You cannot control these processes from the room you are hiding out in.  Let people see you.  You will be okay.

            Hope you have a wonderful week.  Remember you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook for more reflections, links, and tips on taking Procrastination down.

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              Step of the Day: Partner with Someone

              Partner with SomeoneOne of my personal specialties is pretending I don’t have real problems with Procrastination.  One of my oldest tricks in getting people to believe this and in actually getting some work done is partnering with a friend or colleague (or total stranger) in order to get stuff done.

              Step of the Day: Partner with Someone

              The tremendous variety of benefits of finding other people to work with include:

              • reducing your own fear
              • sharing the actual workload
              • learning new writing and working techniques from your partner
              • being more inclined to meet your deadline
              • getting support for the work
              • being able to brainstorm together for higher-quality ideas
              • doing the work in a faster amount of time

              I think we often mistakenly believe our work is ours and ours alone. It’s as if once we receive an assignment, we feel we have to hole up somewhere without social contact until we’re done.  We worry if we ask for a partner to help us do the work, somehow our work will be considered less than good, and that would of course be disastrous #tongueincheek.

              If you are still hemming and hawing, here’s a kickstarter list of areas in your life in which you might benefit from finding a partner:

              • decluttering
              • studying
              • redecorating
              • exercising
              • writing
              • project planning
              • doing chores
              • envisioning a new book

              Try to see where you might find a way to ease your work burden today, by finding someone to help you make it through to the end of your project, task, or assignment.

              Remember:

              • great authors have great editors
              • great therapists have great supervisors
              • great singers have great coaches
              • great athletes have great trainers
              • great people have dogs #justsaying

              Some of my own best work has been through collaboration with others.  Some of my best friendships have been forged in the fire of hard work.  Some of the work partnerships I have gotten into have enabled me to triple my productivity.  Don’t be shy about it and don’t delay — find a partner today!

              If there are areas you would like more help with, please feel free to let me know by commenting here.

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                Are You Worried about Fitting In?

                Maya Angelou Amazing QuoteRecently I’ve come to think Procrastinators may be overly conscious about fitting in.  For example, we may be more likely to think…

                Is it good enough?

                rather than

                Does it stand out?

                We may be more likely to worry…

                Does it sound right?

                instead of asking

                Have I said what I meant to?

                The desire to fit in or to conform may be a natural, instinctual need we work to fulfill. Marketing, ads, and anyone in the business of convincing you to do something (even your parents, ahem), play to your “pain points” (this is an actual term in marketing circles). They remind you you ache to conform and then you feel the pressing need to buy or to do something to feel like those you’re seeking to be like.  This is relevant for Procrastinators who are often caught in a limbo, in-between state of functioning, caught in a cycle questioning the worthiness of their work or of what they are producing.

                Will I fit in once I let go of my work or WILL I BE REJECTED?

                We may not be aware of our fear of interpersonal rejection.  We just thought the grammar wasn’t checked closely enough, right??

                I invite you to take a closer look at your motivations for staying stuck.  What is really happening when you Procrastinate?

                Are you having trouble with your actual work or your fear?

                Are there people you may be worried about satisfying or impressing?  Is impressing others more important to you than doing your best work?

                Are you changing your work in ways you don’t like in order to minimize your fears?

                Try to shift your mindset to one where you occupy a truly open workspace where your work is received for what it is, without critique or comparison to others’ work.  It might feel like mental contortion for a while, but trust me, you’ll get there.  When you do, evaluate — How do I feel about releasing my work now?

                Join me as I try to be a bit weird on Facebook.  One of my ideas for 2015 was to explore what the Facebook Universe has to offer a blog like Procrastination Coach.  I’d be very pleased if you decided to “Like” my Facebook page and follow along.

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                  Some of the Best Advice I’ve Ever Received

                  a title here

                  Happy New Year Everyone.  As you may have guessed by the image above, I’ve fallen a bit behind on my own self-imposed blogging schedule, just to prove to you I know what I’m talking about when it comes to Procrastination.

                  Though it may be a bit late to send you a gift, I didn’t want you to miss out on the messages contained in this post, as they are some of the best gifts I have ever received.

                  Great Piece of Advice #1:

                  When you can help someone, help someone.  

                  Whatever roles we play, whether they be in our families, schools, jobs, or communities, we may unwittingly play by the unspoken rules of those roles.  In my training to be a psychologist, I was trained to maintain a level of neutrality with regard to my patients, meaning I should do my best to not let my personal, subjective feelings interfere with my interactions with my patients.

                  In trying my best to maintain proper neutrality with regard to my patients, I may have missed some good opportunities to be of direct help to them.  I think my “role” prevented me from being fully thoughtful and creative when working with patients.  Fortunately for me, a very wise supervisor advised me, “When you can be helpful, do that.”  It was simple, beautiful advice, and just the right advice for the patient that supervisor was advising me on.

                  That one piece of advice has since been a core part of how I look at my interactions with others both at work and outside of work.  In many ways, it underlies my blogging efforts as well.

                  Great Piece of Advice #2:

                  You should be able to feel all of your feelings.

                  Fortunately for me, it was one of my very first supervisors who shared this advice with me. Hearing and learning this advice was like having a whole world open up, as I had come to the psychology profession without much of a direct clue as to how my own feelings operated.  To be granted permission, in a way, to play with all of the feelings I possessed at that time, was transformative.

                  I have since learned when you are open to the full range of your personal experience, you are inevitably better equipped to handle your own experiences.  Without awareness of our feelings and without a sense of being permitted to experience and to communicate our feelings, we are relegated to acting and feeling in a more limited, constricted way.

                  Evaluate what feelings you might be unable to process in your own life.  What makes you clam up?  What makes you nervous?  What can’t you find the words to say?  If you’re curious about ways in which to expand your own emotional repetoire, please consider finding a therapist or coach to assist you in your journey.

                  Great Piece of Advice #3:

                  Don’t wait for others to show their love for you before showing your love for them.

                  This piece of advice which came from a beloved mentor, seems to me now, like a neat combination of the first two Great Pieces of Advice.  We needn’t stop the natural flow and engagement of our feelings in order to prove something, whether it be our status, our position, our coolness or our calmness.  Let your love flow.

                  What does this advice session have to do with Procrastination?

                  Nothing directly, I would say.  I just know I didn’t want to wait any longer to share it with you.  I wish you the best of luck in grabbing what this New Year has to offer you and in enjoying its many riches.

                  Any advice gifts you’d like to share with me?  I’d love to hear them.  

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                    Accept Your Losses

                    Accept your losssesMany, many years ago, I made an unwise decision about where to put my money.  I don’t recall the exact details of where I spent that money, but I’ll never remember what my friend said to me when I was thinking about my next money move.  He said, “Remember the Chinese proverb, ‘Don’t chase bad money with good money.’”  It took me a few minutes to absorb the meaning of the proverb, but then I knew it was genius.  It takes a good deal of personal discipline and wisdom to realize you are in a losing game and then to withdraw your resources and energy from it.

                    Since it’s the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what losses you might be involved in right now.  Perhaps you:

                    • are frustrated that your involvement with an organization is draining your energy
                    • are upset you agreed to loan some money to your sibling when you are in danger of not meeting your own financial obligations
                    • are stressed because you ordered a high-priced piece of furniture based on a buying impulse and now feel you have to “match” the piece with others just like it
                    • are contracted to work with a counselor, tutor, mentor, trainer, or clinician, but you are dissatisfied with how your interactions have gone so far

                    Since it’s the end of the year, be kind to yourself.  Heck, be kind to yourself because you should always be kind to yourself.  Take a clear look at the annoying, money-draining, time-wasting engagements you might be involved in and figure a way out.  You could:

                    • simplify your schedule and note what can be cut from it
                    • resolve to put a hold on all non-essential spending until your finances stabilize
                    • return that piece of high-priced furniture
                    • cancel your contracts, subscriptions, or memberships that aren’t serving your needs well
                    • do a quick spreadsheet of your monthly budget to remind yourself to take care of all money drains and leaks

                    If you are having trouble knowing how to identify what you are losing time, energy, and money on, I have a trick for you: identify those activities you would not want other people to know you were involved in.  When our choices veer towards the unwise, we become upset and anxious.  Oftentimes unknowingly, we also become more secretive about our activities because we sense others would disapprove or disagree with our actions.  Once we go underground with these activities, then we feel even more locked in to the unwise conditions.

                    It’s okay to be unwise.  We all make mistakes and have regrets.  Accept the losses you have.  Fix them and move forward, knowing that you can protect yourself from further losses.  Doing so would be a great way to end this year.

                    What fixes can you make in your life?  What important areas have I forgotten to address? Please feel free to share your thoughts by commenting here.

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