Posts Tagged ‘balance’

I am fascinated by how the concept of ‘good enough’ relates to being organized and our many attempts to be what we perceive as ‘well organized’.  What does being organized mean to you?  Most likely not the same as it does to your spouse, your best friend or your children.  What if, instead of constantly striving to be more organized, better organized or even, heaven forbid, perfectly organized we strove for (more…)


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This past week I taught a workshop called ‘The Balancing Act’ all about managing your time in order to create better balance in your life.  That’s got me thinking about time and balance and what balance means to each of us.

Ask yourself, is the way you spend your time the way you really want your life to look?  Do you waste time on unproductive activities?  Are you clear on your goals?  How can you take steps to get to where you want if you don’t know where that is?  One participant in the workshop said that he had heard that setting goals and writing them down was a good idea but had never taken the time to do it.

If you don’t know what your goals are then you can’t determine your priorities and may often have no idea how to make a good decision about using your time.   It seems to me that without goals you are likely spending your time wherever you feel the most pressure.  Urgent takes precedence over important.   Would you rather work towards a goal or two or get to the end of  your life having accomplished nothing much?  It’s really up to you.

If you do want to spend your time on activities that are meaningful to both your work and personal life, take some time right now to sit down and write down your goals and dreams.  Don’t be afraid to dream big!  Everyone is different and we all want something different from our life.  It doesn’t matter what the balance is that you want, it only matters that you decide what you want and make a plan to get there.  Ask yourself how you want to spend your time today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year and next year? 

Give yourself the time you deserve to work towards your personal and professional goals right now.    Remember it is not selfish to make time for you a priority.  Time is all you have and you only get one life.

Here’s a great quote from Denis Waitely, “Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes.  And you can’t save time to spend it on another day.  Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving.  No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”

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Last Friday we had a meeting of the Nova Scotia Chapter of  Professional Organizers in Canada (POC), our first one since June.  We had a number of guests at our meeting who were new to the business or thinking about getting into the business.

Anyway, we got into a long discussion about being qualified, which courses to take, how many designations, if any,  one should have and so on.  Not an easy question to answer so it turns out.  People will often ask me how I got into this business and sometimes I do get the direct question from a fellow business person, “So what makes you qualified to be a Professional Organizer?”  Of course, since I received my Certified Professional Organizer® designation I think I have a good answer for that.  However, in my mind it’s not as much about the exam and book knowledge as it is about the eight years experience.

Some members of our group were adamant that we should have as many designations as we can and be constantly taking courses and upgrading our skills.  Some of our potential members were on the opposite end of the scale where they are not interested in taking any courses, they just want to start organizing.  The latter scares me just a little, I must say.  Without some foundational priniciples for organizing and an understanding of the unique challenges our clients face I don’t think we can provide the best possible service.

But where is the cut off?  How many courses should a person take?  Where is the trade off between book learning and actual experience? I can only speak for myself.  I have to take 15 hours of continuing education every year to maintain my certification so I’m always on the hunt for the latest discovery around productivity or the newest time management technique to help my clients manage their time more effectively. 

In addition, I do love to read a good organizing book now and again.  My weakness, however, is looking a pretty organizing products – I admit it, I’m a junkie!  We all know how many gorgeous things you can find on the internet – I just love to check out all the pretty products even though half of them I can’t even get in Canada, darn it. 

There I go again, off topic.  Well kind of off topic.  Knowing about the newest and prettiest organizing products is part of the service I provide so in a sense is part of my continuing education and it’s fun too boot! 

As a business owner I think there is a happy compromise in there somewhere.  We all need to keep on top of what is going on in our industry but we also need to earn a living.  I suspect if we narrow our focus and get really good at a few things, educate ourselves on an ongoing basis, and learn by doing, we’ll provide the best service we can to our customers. 

I’m not sure that immersing ourselves in studying and attending conferences and putting more letters behind our name is always the best way.  Unless, as one of my clients always reminds me, you’re building bridges and then I would be inclined to advise all those engineers out there to take lots of bridge-building courses


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Over the last two weeks I attended a fascinating series of webinars delivered by David Rock, CEO of Results Coaching Systems.  The series was entitled ‘Your Brain at Work’ and I learned so much about how your brain works and affects your productivity, among many other things, that I thought I should share with all of you.  As well, David says that talking about what you are studying helps to assimilate the information so I’m doing as instructed.

A survey of 6,000 employees showed that most do their best thinking in the morning but only 10% do their best thinking at work – yikes!  Perhaps this is because most of us use this crucial morning time at the office for checking email and attending meetings – not good. 

David recommends that you only use your brain for ‘processing’ not storing information and I so agree with him.  You can only consciously focus on one active task at a time and can only hold 4 ideas in your working memory.   Creative work takes the most mental energy and we need to do this during our best time of day and before we use up mental energy processing email and attending meetings. 

He says that one of the most complex tasks is prioritizing your day in alignment with achieving your goals.  And all these years I have been prioritizing my day the night before.  Hmmm… my reasoning for that was so that I could hit the ground running the next morning combined with the fact that I am not really a morning person.  Have I been doing it all wrong? 

When we try to make decisions or solve problems it takes a lot of energy.  In addition, when we are anxious we have a lot less insight which makes problem solving much more difficult.  A little bit of pressure inhibits the signal required to solve problems.  Imagine that most of us are either under constant pressure from our organization or we put constant pressure on ourselves to go faster, do more, be more productive.  It seems that perhaps we’ve got it all wrong?

We all need to slow down physically and mentally and stop pressuring ourselves to make decisions and solve problems. That is when we will begin to be truly productive.

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You guessed it, my struggle during this time of year is what to do about vacation.  Somehow, in the old days, when I worked for someone else it was so much easier – I had no choice.  However, now that I own my own business I do have a choice.  One would think that the freedom of being able to take time off whenever you want would be an amazing thing.

However, as many of you small business owners out there know, taking vacation is filled with feelings of guilt instead.  I notice that some of my associates who have children are really good at just taking the entire summer off, again partially because they have no choice but partially because being with your children all summer definitely does not leave you riddled with guilt.  It seems to be a very acceptable and well-founded decision.

So, why is it that when I, with no children, decide it’s summer and I really want to take a couple of weeks off I just can’t seem to do it?  The knot in my stomach begins to form, the really annoying little voice in my head starts chattering and I cave and delete those days I had marked in my calendar as ‘Vacation’.  How dare I think I can take two weeks off?  Who’s going to pay the bills?  What if I miss an opportunity to work with a client?  What if a new client calls during that time?  What if the sky falls in?  And so on and so on . . .

And then there’s the neverending ‘To Do’ list that could get done while I’m ‘on vacation’.  The  idea here is that I tell my clients I’m taking a week off and then I hide in my office and work on all those projects that are listed on the big white board (actually it’s silver, kinda cool, huh?).  It tells me I have some website revisions to do, I have a new workshop series to pull together for the fall, I have a trip to Newfoundland in September, and so on and so on . . .

But wait, it’s summer.   Summer in Nova Scotia only lasts a few weeks.  I need to take advantage of it or just like last year it will be over and I will not have taken any time off.  OK, here goes.  I’m booking off the last week of July and making plans to do things with people so I’m committed.  I’m also taking off a week in mid August and actually have already booked to go away for two days at the beginning of that week so surely that will force me to complete the week since my brain will already be on vacation.

I’m liking the sounds of this already.  Let’s all be sure to take some vacation this summer.  I’m convinced we’ll be thankful we did when it’s all said and done.  The work will still be there when we return, won’t it?  Apparently vacation is good for my health and wellbeing – imagine that.

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Who knew that there was such a thing as the Canadian Index of  Wellbeing?  Well, know you do.    I found some very interesting tidbits in this fairly lengthy document (yup, government types wrote it, hence the need to dig for the good stuff) that I thought I would share.

The discoveries were really no surprise to me as I see so many of my clients struggling with maintaining balance in their lives.    There once was a dream that technology would allow us to have more free time when, in fact, we all know just the opposite has happened. 

The study finds Canadians caught in a time crunch where we struggle to balance work, children and parents, family time, leisure and cultural activities.  We are finding less and less time for physical activity and social activities (that don’t involve the computer) and are paying the price with our physical and mental health.  According to the study we have less time for personal pleasures and are more dissatisfied with the quality of our lives.

Is there a way we can make room in our lives for both our obligations and our need for fun and relaxation?  Here are a few things we all need to think about:

  1. Urban sprawl – working adults are spending more time commuting between work and home.  So, we either need to move closer to where we work or negotiate with our employers to work from home  a lot more.  There are actually those who believe that we are far more productive working at home away from the interruptions of our co-workers . . . hmmm.
  2. 24/7 availability – new technologies like laptops, Blackberries, iPhones, etc. has increased the demand for many of us to be constantly ‘on call’ making it difficult to separate work from home. Negotiate with yourself and your employer and turn the darn things off!
  3. Excessive time on one activity – the notion of balance has been lost on many of us.  Obviously spending too much time on one activity can mean not enough time spent on other activities.  So spending 8 hours at the office and then coming home and checking email on your Blackberry is obviously not a balanced life.

There were some interesting findings in the study about the differences in time use between men and women:

  • Men (16%) were almost 3 times as likely as women (6%) to work long hours
  • A higher proportion of women (23%) than men (17%) reported time pressure
  • A higher proportion of women (22%) than men (16%) provided care to seniors
  • There is a significant drop in leisure activity among women
  • When women vacation they spend more nights away than men (go girls!)

The study also discovered that more people are working non-standard hours and fewer families have a parent at home to help manage the household, and provide care for children and the elderly.  All of these factors have contributed to the feeling of time crunch.

All that to say that spending too much time at the office or on work-related activities causes us more stress, poor physical and emotional wellbeing, relationshp conflicts and overall lower satisfaction with life.  The study states that work-life conflict can lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression, sleep disturbances, infectious disease and suppressed immune functioning, poor diet, lack of physical exercise and obesity, increased dependence on cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, high cholesterol, digestive problems, allergies and finally old-fashioned burnout!

All right already, I’m going to spend less hours working, honest!

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