I love doing genealogy research. It’s a fairly big part of my life—I blog twice weekly (most weeks) at my genealogy blog, Organize Your Family History, so I actually think about my family research quite a lot.
But I don’t actually research as often as I’d like. And that’s a shame, because researching my family history feeds my soul.
We’re all busy with the daily activities of life. Throw kids, aging parents, demanding work, needy spouses or sick pets into the mix and sometimes it feels like we don’t have any time to do those things that really nourish us.
I believe that doing those things is really important for self care. So how can we find the time?
Time management is all about managing priorities. If you put everyone’s needs before your own, all you’ll be doing is putting out fires. And that’s not good for you. So I think it’s important to figure out little pockets of time that you can set aside as “me time.” During that special time, you can do that thing that keeps you going and that feeds your soul.
How can you find some pockets of time when you’re already so busy?
- Get up a half hour early to feed your soul
- Drop an activity that you’re doing because you think you should, not because you want to
- If you’re a TV watcher, have a no-TV day each week and put that time toward your desired activity
- Find people who also do what you want to do (like a knitting group) and agree to do that activity together.
- Block off time on your calendar for your soul-feeding activity
- Explain to your family your need to have to time of your own and arrange for a redistribution of chores
The list could go on. Perhaps you just need to be a little creative.
If you’re saying to yourself, I can’t take time out for myself while my house is messy…that’ll have to wait until I get organized then please stop. It breaks my heart when people stop their messy homes from allowing them to live. Sure, work on your home, bit by bit (or hire someone to help you), but reward your efforts with some soul-nourishing activity.
Our lives our important and they should be as happy and fulfilling as possible. I’m a firm believer that we can take control of our time and do those things that bring fulfillment.
Can you make some time for yourself this weekend?
I don’t know about you, but if my mornings don’t go well, the rest of the day usually follows suit. I’m a morning person and I typically can get a lot done in the morning. But if I don’t, it’s hard to reboot the day and make up for it in the afternoon.
So I got to thinking today about optimal ways for me to spend my valuable morning time. And I also thought about strategies for getting right to it in the morning.
I’m a huge believer in the value of established routines. I have a morning routine of small tasks that help me maintain order. I do those things without even thinking, and they happen before I’m at my desk. It’s the next step I need to think about. What should I do after I’ve sat down at my desk?
I think I know the answer. I need to blog first thing in the morning. I try to blog four times a week: Mondays and Fridays on this blog and Tuesdays and Thursdays on my other blog, Organize Your Family History. I know I could make life easier by blogging in advance and scheduling posts, but I’ve learned that’s not really the way I roll. Most of my blog posts are posted the day they’re written, and I’m okay with that.
I know that if I get my blog writing out of the way for the day, the rest of the day goes smoother. If I don’t, I might not blog that day, depending on my client load. And it bugs me when I don’t reach my blogging goals, which has a negative effect on my day. (I’m not happy that today is Wednesday and this is my first blog post of the week.)
So how can I ensure that I get my blogging done in the morning? I can think of two things that will make it much easier:
- Decide in advance what I’ll blog about. (Deciding what to write about is the hardest part for me.)
- Don’t do anything else at my computer before blogging. (I’m capable of wasting a lot of time first thing in the morning fooling around on the internet.)
If I do both of these things, I’ll get my blogging done straight off and I’ll have that omnipresent task taken off my mind, freeing myself to feel great about getting stuff done the rest of the day. I know that will enhance my productivity beyond just the blogging.
My evening routine comes into play here, because it sets me up for a successful morning. I try to do three things before closing up shop every day:
- Clear off my desktop
- Get my inbox down to zero
- Select a few priority tasks for the next day
One thing I could add to that evening routine is selecting my blog topic for the next day, if it’s not already planned.
This process seems very simple, yet I feel very excited that I’ve identified a way to get my blogging done and make my days go better. I’ll post again about how successful this strategy is!
I have to admit I have never been very diligent about keeping my valuable documents/belongings safe from disaster. I think part of my problem is that I don’t like to think about disasters or believe that one will befall me. (I realize that this type of head-in-the-sand thinking is ridiculous and not at all helpful.)
SentrySafe, a manufacturer of fire-proof safes, is the most prominent brand of these products that I know. So I was delighted to be contacted by them, asking me to partner up with them to spread the word about the importance of fire-proof storage. This dovetails nicely with my interest in preserving precious inherited items and keeping them safe.
SentrySafe sent me two of their newest products to try out and keep, the Alarm Safe, that helps keep documents safe from burglary, as well as fire, and the Guardian Storage Box, a water- and fire-resistant file box. You can read all the details on both products at the SentrySafe store. And here’s something exciting: SentrySafe is offering a giveaway on both these new products to readers of my blog! Just scroll to the bottom of this post to read the rules and enter.
What I love about the Alarm Safe is that I don’t have to worry about a bad guy zeroing in on the safe and just picking up the whole thing and walking away with it. The Alarm Safe comes with heavy bolts to secure the safe to the floor. Lazy bones me finds that a daunting task. What makes the Alarm Safe special is that it has an alarm on it that will go off if someone picks it up; tries to pry it open; jolts, hits or jars it; or if there are more than five attempts to enter the digital alarm code. The alarm on the safe has to be armed (like my home security system has to be set), but that is not a difficult detail to remember.
The Guardian Storage Box is a fire-safe file box that holds hanging file folders. It’s also water resistant, so if sprayed by firefighters the contents would not be damaged. I love that it is shaped to hold a large quantity papers, unlike many safes (including the Alarm Safe). I think it’s a great adjunct to the safes.
The safe and the file box arrived recently and I haven’t yet stocked them. But I have put a little thought into what I will put in them. Valuables will go into the safe and papers that no robber would want will go into the file box, where they can stay organized.
I wrote a guest post for SentrySafe’s blog about how to choose what to store in a protected environment. In it, I include these categories of items that might best be stored in a fireproof safe or storage box:
- Truly irreplaceable and important items, like inherited items, handmade items, genealogy papers and family histories. (Or backup disks of genealogy documents that are stored electronically.) Irreplaceable childhood keepsakes (a baptismal gown or a tooth for example) or items that represent major milestones (the medal from your first marathon) fit into this category.
- Documents that you want easy access to or would be troublesome to replace, like passports, birth certificates, vehicle titles and original social security cards
- Items you would need immediately after a fire, like insurance documents and medications lists
- Valuables, like jewelry, a coin collection, and cash. (Leave out your pearls, though; they’re extremely temperature sensitive and can be damaged at lower temperatures, so a fire-proof safe might not protect them.)
- Information that would help your heirs with your estate after you pass away or if you fall ill, like your will, power of attorney, and health care directives. You can also have a notebook with account numbers and passwords, along with other pertinent information. I have filled out the “Exit Strategies workbook”: with my elderly parents and take great comfort in knowing that both their financial life and their final wishes are documented. A fire-proof safe in my parents’ home is a perfect place for that workbook—assuming I have the combination.
In short, I’m going to store those few irreplaceable things that would devastate me if they were destroyed, as well as items that would be very helpful in the event of a tragedy.
Here’s the info on the giveaway!
SentrySafe has generously offered to give one Alarm Safe and one Guardian Storage Box to two lucky readers of this blog. To enter, post a comment below about what you would store in the Alarm Safe or Guardian File Box. After you’ve entered with a comment, you may get additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway (be sure and use @janinea in the tweet, so that I see it) and/or writing on the wall or commenting at the Peace of Mind Organizing Facebook page. The contest ends at 11 pm, central time, on Sunday, October 20. I’ll select the winners at random and announce their names on Monday, October 21.
I know from working with clients that people have a very difficult time parting with items that were a gift.
When this comes up with clients, I always urge them to ask themselves whether the gift giver would want them to keep an item that they don’t use or love. (Usually the answer is no.) Then I encourage them to give the item to someone else. That someone else could be a stranger (via a charity) or someone they know.
Recently, I met my mother’s first cousin, Penny, for the first time. (We actually met once as kids, but that’s a dim memory.) I was traveling to western Missouri, so I contacted Penny, with whom I’d become reacquainted via email thanks to my genealogy blog. We arranged to spend the day together. (You can read about that fun family reunion on my genealogy blog, Organize Your Family History.)
As we were making the arrangements, Penny offered to regift something to me. She offered me an oil painting that was painted by my grandmother (Penny’s aunt).
To me, this is a perfect example of the power of regifting. Penny is moving and is starting the process of editing her belongings. My parents have my grandmother’s paintings and I imagine I’ll inherit at least one, but this is the first time I’ve been offered one.
Here’s the painting:
"Serenity is the Mood," by Sue Brown
The painting is not exactly my aesthetic. But it was painted my beloved grandmother, whose late-in-life love of painting was a big part of my childhood. I promptly hung it on the wall of one of my home offices. And I cherish it.
If you have items that you don’t cherish or use, but you’re hesitating to let them go because they originally came to you as a gift, please think about happy someone else might be to own that item.
I hereby give you permission to regift!
Six months ago, I had a great task management system going. I was using Springpad’s Ninja Task Manager notebook to create a running list of tasks and, from that list, selecting three to five priority tasks per day.
Before that, I’d been a paper-and-pen task manager, through and through. I’d always felt that I needed the tactile experience of writing and crossing off tasks. I created a form that allowed me to select my daily tasks and also reminded me of the routine tasks I wanted to accomplish every day. (And I printed the form and had it glued into pads, which was kind of awesome.)
But Springpad was my transition to electronic task management. It really worked for me. I loved that I could have my task list available to be on my computer, tablet and phone, synched seamlessly. I was happy .
Alas, Springpad went belly up in June. That was a really sad day. It got me hooked on electronic task management and I needed to find another solution. All the data I’d saved in Springpad was migrated to Evernote. So now I’m using Evernote for some project management and for keeping track of certain things. But I don’t like it much for task management.
The solution that I’ve come up with that’s working pretty well for me is TeuxDeux. I like that I have the cross-platform synching. And I like that it looks rather like a paper planner—an attractive user interface is really important to me. I did the 30-day free trial and then happily forked over $24 for a year’s use. (I could have opted to pay $3 monthly.)
TeuxDeux allows me to keep track of tasks in two ways. One is by project category. The other is by day. It reminds me of the top and middle sections of the paper Planner Pad I used years ago (it just lacks the calendar). One of the big differences between TeuxDeux and Planner Pad: With TeuxDeux, when I don’t do a task that’s scheduled for a particular day, that task is transferred to the next day.
For me, the way to TeuxDeux effectively is to have a master list divided into categories and look it over weekly or daily and assign certain tasks to the days of the week (like I did with Planner Pad). And that works well. When I do it.
In recent weeks, things have gotten a little out of control and I have not been using TeuxDeux effectively. Instead, I’ve scrawled a task list on paper when I felt the need for one. These lists have not been carefully considered, nor have they suitably short. Nor have they been successful.
So I’m turning back to TeuxDeux with a fresh eye. I’ve moved everything off the daily list and into its proper categories. This week, I’ve been surveying the items on today’s list that were holdovers from the day before and deciding whether I can actually get them done today. Then I’ve been adding items from the categories list that can/need to be done today.
The trick for me is not to overload my daily list. I find that if I have only three to four main things on my daily list (the important things), they’re more likely to get done than if they’re surrounded by a bunch of other tasks.
The other trick for me is to add new tasks as they come up to the appropriate category, rather than the day. (That’s where the system derailed for me before.) This will allow me to be selective about what I plan to accomplish in a given day.
I think TeuxDeux has the power to be a really useful tool for me. This week, I’ve made a real effort to get back to basics (for me, that means regularly going over a master list and selecting just a few tasks per day to focus on). So far, so good.
I was out of town for five days in mid-September. I’ve been back a week and I still don’t have my mojo back.
Travel can wreak havoc on habits and routines. I was a step ahead of the game in that at least I have routines to come back to. But on this trip, I did not build in time to get back into the swing of things. I led an organizing team the morning after I returned (about 12 hours after I got back to St. Louis). The day after that was my birthday and I was determined not to spend my special day working. So I lost that day for catch up.
I actually had a day and a half at my desk last week, which, these days, is quite a bit. Yet, the lowest my email inbox has been is 15. (I strive for inbox zero every weekday.) My desktop houses a perpetual pile. And I’ve been doing a lousy track of planning my tasks for the day. In short, the three components of my evening routine, the ones that keep me on my game, have fallen by the wayside. And, as you may have noticed, I didn’t manage to blog last week!
On Sunday, I had some time to catch up on everything and I hope to be able to get back to my evening weekday routine and it keep it together this week.
I think the way around this in the future is to plan re-entry time. As an entrepreneur, I’m in charge of my schedule. I really like to accommodate clients’ needs, but I also have to bear in mind my need to spend time working on business and staying on top of things.
I’m going to have the chance to practice this in October when I have a whole lot of travel, all of it enjoyable, planned. I vow right now to build in time for re-entry so that I am not too stressed between trips.
Later in the week, I’ll be traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend the annual conference of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. This is one of two organizing conferences I attend in a typical year. This year, I also attended two genealogy conferences.
I love conferences. I started going to them 25 years ago when I worked in PR for the Missouri Botanical Garden and had the privilege of attending the Garden Writers Association annual conference for six years. In my next career, I met every year with fellow dog writers and fellow cat writers (and I continued to go to garden writers’ conferences).
But it was when I became an organizer in 2005 that I hit the conference motherlode. Most years I attend the annual conferences of both the National Association of Professional Organizers and the ICD. In addition, I’ve had the privilege of attending the conferences of the Australasian Association of Professional Organisers in Brisbane, Australia (I spoke there in 2009), and Professional Organizers in Canada, in Toronto.
Why do I go to the considerable expense and time of attending these conferences year after year? There are so many reasons. Here are a few:
- The education. I learn so much during the conference sessions.
- The CEUs. To maintain my status as a Certified Professional Organizer®, I am required to earn an average of 15 hours of continuing education a year. The conferences help me get those Continuing Education Units.
- The inspiration. I leave a conference all jazzed up about my business. The sessions, along with conversations with colleagues, inspire me to explore new services, to make changes in my business, or simply to focus on the aspects of my business that I love most.
- The networking. By meeting organizers all the country (and the world), I expand my knowledge base. I have people I can call on to help me puzzle out virtually every challenge! I also have people I can refer clients to all over the country.
- The camaraderie. As you might have imagined, I’ve made some really great friends over the years at these conferences. Attending every year is a bit like going to summer camp, I imagine. (I never went to summer camp.)
- The fun. The conferences are held in fun cities (hello, Music City!) and there’s never a shortage of fun stuff to do.
If you’re a professional organizer and you haven’t attended an organizers’ conference yet, please consider putting it in your budget for 2015! If you’re a new or aspiring organizer, I heartily recommend attending a conference early on. I attended the NAPO conference at the first opportunity, before I’d had more than a handful of clients, and it was outrageously beneficial, even if I had to finance it with a credit card.
I’m an extrovert who loves meeting new people. But even introverts can thrive at conferences, with the right amount of alone time scheduled in. Organizers tend to be really nice, friendly people.
If reading this post inspires you to attend a NAPO or ICD conference, please introduce yourself to me at the conference and let me know. I’ll buy you a drink!