Professional Organizer Newsletter Discussing Organizing Tips to Remove Clutter

February Newsletter

Dear friend,

Get some tips to simplify your life from an unlikely source – your dog!  And for you creative types (and everyone else, too!), check out the article by Jonathan Mead with seven simple tips for productivity.    Read on…

Simply yours,



If Dogs Could Talk…. Their Lessons to Simplify Your Life

So many of us look up when we’re searching for answers – praying to our God, Allah, Buddha, or whatever speaks to us.  But sometimes while we’re looking to the sky, we neglect to see the answers we can learn by simply looking down at the ground.  What happens to be lingering at many of our feet, if we’re lucky, is a great companion called a dog.

While we can teach dogs to sit, stay, and fetch, the lessons they teach us can be much more profound. As humans, we have this ever-present need to insist on complexity - dogs remind us that the greatest lessons are often the simplest.  Here are the top five things you can learn from your dog: 

  1. Do What Comes Naturally – Many of us feel this constant pressure to improve upon our weaknesses.  Dogs don’t.  They intuitively spend their time doing what comes naturally.  A lab retrieves.  It does this well.  It could retrieve all day long and not get tired of it.  What comes so naturally to you that time disappears while you’re doing it?  This is your gift.  For me, my aha moment happened when I realized that I’m naturally good at organizing.  I never even considered it as a career because it came so naturally to me that I assumed everyone was the same.  This is often how our gifts work.  They are so easy for us that we don’t even recognize them as gifts.   Ask your friends and family what you are naturally good at – their answers may surprise you.
  2. Trust Your Instincts – Dogs use their exceptional sense of smell to literally sniff out every situation.  When someone approaches them that doesn’t smell right, dogs are immediately on guard.  Humans also have this sense of intuition but it’s sadly under-used.  We often dismiss it or it gets overridden by some logical explanation.   Learn to tune into these gut-level signals – they can change your life in significant ways.   
  3. Love Yourself the Way a Dog Loves You – Dogs eagerly anticipate your arrival home – licking and jumping on you in delight when you walk in.  When you’re sick, they curl up next to you to comfort you.  Dogs will always be there for you, even when you’re having a bad hair day.  Imagine just for a moment what it would be like if you treated yourself with the love and devotion that your dog does.  No more self-deprecating talk; no more self-doubt.  Imagine loving you just the way you are – period.
  4. Live in a Constant State of Gratitude – Dogs are grateful for everything.  A new chew toy; a belly rub; the sun; the rain; a squirrel; a bowl of kibble.  When you shift your perspective to one of gratitude, life begins to look up.  It’s a simple case of what we focus on grows stronger.  If our focus is constantly on what we don’t have; who isn’t treating us right; a boss that doesn’t recognize all of our hard work – these areas of our life grow bigger.  The reverse is also true.  Focusing on what we’re grateful for serves as a magnifying glass and makes these areas even bigger and better. 
  5. Play – Is there a magic age when it’s immature to play?  Adults should work.  Be responsible.  Yikes – we seem to be trapped by our Puritan work ethic and forgot the sheer joy of playing.  It’s okay to play.  It opens our mind and releases creativity (often the secret sauce to success at work anyways!). 

Seven Productivity Tips for People That Hate GTD

GTD, for those of you not in the know, is an acronym for Getting Things Done.  It’s a popular approach to organizing your office and life taught by David Allen.  While his approach is great for some, for others it’s simply too cumbersome.  Here’s some tips I picked up from an article written by Jonathan Mead, re-printed below. 

Not everyone gets GTD (Getting Things Done). I know I didn’t. It made my head spin.

I have nothing against the system or David Allen. I’m sure it must be awesome for some people (that’s why it has all those followers, right?). But for others, it just doesn’t fit. Mostly with creative-minded people.

When it comes to GTD and other systems, it’s often too easy to get into a habit of over-engineering your system. You “geek out” on your system and lose sight of the point of pursuing productivity in the first place.

Plus, there’s a big gap in resources on productivity that doesn’t involve complex jargons and elaborate diagrams (see the GTD matrix). Typically, this exists in the creative sector. I’m not saying GTD doesn’t work or that it isn’t wonderful. It just doesn’t connect with some people (and makes others want to vomit).

Here are seven of the best, simple, and sometimes seemingly upside down tips for being more prolific.

  1. Create a “to stop” list. If you’re not getting the results you want, chances are you don’t care much about the things you’re doing. The best way to change this is to create a “To-Stop” list. We often spend lots of time creating lists for the things we need to do, but rarely do we reflect on the things that aren’t working. So create a list of all the things that are sucking away your energy and are wasting your time. Figure out which of those things is having the biggest negative impact on you doing the stuff you really want to do. Tackle that thing head on each day.
  2. Focus on short bursts. It’s a bit sad when you realize that the reason most dreams die is because of a lack of focused action. If you’re constantly distracted by the television, surfing the internet, reading blogs, or whatever it is, you’re just dragging your heels. Yet, we think that high levels of focus is something only super-humans can attain. But mental focus is akin to building muscle; it’s something that must be trained with resistance. So figure out how much “mental weight” you can lift, and start from there. Elect to focus for 50 minutes on your most important task, then take a 10 minute break to do whatever you want. Then repeat. If you can’t “lift” 50 minutes, try 20 minutes, or even 10 minutes. Gradually increase your “resistance” (the amount of time you focus) each week.
  3. Define your daily ass-kicking. What is your Something Amazing? Take the time to clearly define your deep reason for moving toward that goal. Now make a post-it note of out of it, or schedule a daily reminder of that deep reason on your email program.
  4. Allow yourself to suck. One of the biggest reasons we avoid doing what we love is that we’re afraid we’re going to fall flat on our face, in front of everyone. And then they’ll laugh or think we’re not amazing and all our theories about how we’re not really a genius will be true. Here’s some good news: You probably won’t be as bad as you thought you were. Here’s some bad news: You’ll never be great unless you first allow yourself to suck. So embrace your suckiness. Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from doing what you love.
  5. Focus on the Three C’s. When it comes down to it, there are three major groups of things we need to do to succeed at whatever it is we want to do. We need to Create, we need to Connect, and we need to Consume. Or in other words, we need to produce/share, build and nurture relationships, and keep ourselves savvy in our field. An imbalance in these areas will stagnate our progress. If we’re always consuming, but never getting our ideas out there, we won’t make any progress toward our goals. If we’re connecting without creating, we’ll have nothing of value to share. And if we’re creating without continually learning, we’ll become outdated. Defining a focus of one of the Three C’s helps us stay focused on our purpose for the day. It also helps us realize that spending time on Twitter and socializing is just as important as creating. It’s all about balance.
  6. Stop caring about things that don’t matter. This advice seems so simple, but it bears repeating. It’s easy to get caught up in obsessing about little tasks and trivialities that aren’t really important. The best way to overcome this habit is to start thinking in terms of long term impact. Every time you start obsessing over the little details, ask yourself how long the results of those tasks will last. If you’re always spending the majority of your time doing tasks that will have little impact after a week or month, you’re always going to be stuck in the same position. Be ruthless about not caring about all the stuff that’s not important. Your life depends on it.
  7. Make it stupidly simple. If you’re struggling to make headway on the stuff you really care about, maybe you’re making it too complicated. Try making a really simple commitment, like working on that “thing you love” for an hour a day. One hour, every day. Don’t commit to finishing it or making it perfect. Just commit to doing that One Thing You Love every day for one hour, for 30 days.

Complex productivity systems aren’t for everyone, and they don’t need to be. Don’t worry if GTD scares you or hurts your brain. You can still get the things done that really matter to you.

Also, I should note a couple of people out there, such as Charlie Gilkey and Mark McGuinness, who are working hard to change the lack of productivity material related to creatives. For further reading and material on this topic, I highly recommended checking out their blogs.