Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Procrastinating? The Time To Act Is Now!

The deadline for "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier" is Wednesday, September 1.  This workshop is a must-attend event. You can register by visiting the sidebar.

After you finish registering, let's take a minute and talk about procrastination.

Registered? OK, let's talk.

There are many reasons why people put things off. According to Dr. Linda Sapadin, author of It's About Time, there are six styles of procrastination. These styles are: "The Perfectionist," "The Crisis-Maker," "The Dreamer," "The Defier," "The Worrier," and "The Overdoer." Typically people have two styles of procrastination - a major and a minor style. Dr. Sapadin's book includes self-assessment questionnaires that will help the reader ascertain her major and minor styles. To overcome procrastination use specific strategies that address specific styles.

I won't cover all of the styles now. Instead I will focus on "The Perfectionist Procrastinator" because it is the most frequent style of procrastination that I encounter. Some of the Perfectionist Procrastinator's traits are: gets caught up in the details that no one else cares about, has difficulty initiating or completing projects because they just don't live up to her standards, is critical of her accomplishments, has a hard time delegating because the tasks have to be "done a certain way," and is upset if she doesn't do something as well as her peers.

One of my client's came up with a brilliant analogy on how the Perfectionist Procrastinator's style wastes time:  time is spent putting one's ducks in a row at the expense of getting the ducks to march! Moving the ducks is the goal, but the goal was lost by hyper-focusing on the formation of the ducks.

Some of the ways I see the Perfectionist Procrastinator style at work are:
  • Not filing papers because the client might want to change the structure of the filing system later (meanwhile the papers stack up),
  • Not using help on projects because "it's faster if I do it myself" or the help just doesn't understand how important it is to do things a certain way (meanwhile the project is stalled),
  • Spends hours setting up a project notebook which is intended to help manage tasks and projects and as a result has little time to work on the project,
  • Does not start a term paper until every little fact on the subject is known (meanwhile the due date quickly approaches and pasts).
Overcoming procrastination, regardless of the style, requires changing the way one thinks, speaks and acts. Expect to spend a minimum of six weeks of consistent effort in order to see meaningful changes. Expect a rocky road to change. Why? Mistakes will be made. Strategies will be temporarily forgotten. Giving up might seem more appealing than persevering.  But what is gained through perseverance is immense - being more accepting of one's self, being more responsive, being more flexible, being more relaxed, and being more effective.

Dr. Sapadin offers several ways to change the way one thinks, speaks and acts. Some of her suggestions are
1) Acknowledge that perfectionism is the problem and take ownership of it.
2) Focus on what's realistic rather than what's ideal and be mindful of the resources - and the amount of time is a resource - that are available.
3) Let go of the "all or nothing" thinking and explore flexibility.
4) Change your language: replace "should" with "could," "have to" with "want to," and "must" with "choose to."
5) Set up time limits for your tasks and use a timer or a buddy to help you respect the limits.
6) Focus on doing just a few important things each day rather than an endless list of things.
7) Make one deliberate mistake each day.
8) Focus on "being" instead of "doing." Live life.

Point eight is my my favorite because living life to its fullest really is the goal.

I recommend reading Dr. Sapadin's insightful book.  It is available on Amazon

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back To School Tips And Strategies So You Can Relax A Little

The school bell has rung, the temperatures are starting to cool (knock on wood), and there's a certain calm in the neighborhood during the day - school is in session. In your home the evening may be everything but calm as you juggle homework, last minute supply needs, meal preparations, chores and .... a little break to relax as a family. Here are some ideas to help you actually get to relax.

Simplify mealtime with ultra fast meals. Scrambled eggs embellished with cheese, onions, and mushrooms served with fruit. Grilled cheese and tomato soup (my favorite!). Hummus and pita with a cucumber and onion salad dressed with plain yogurt. Hot dogs with carrot and celery sticks.  These are our favorite meals that can be fixed in 15 minutes or less and with a minimum amount of heat in the kitchen (because it's still a little warm outside).

Use the secret weapon for helping kids focus on homework: music. Ask older children to create their own music playlist on their mp3 players. The rules for the music choices are: the music must be liked but not so much that the student starts singing along and it's not so engaging that the student is focused on the music rather than homework. Mozart and Bach are splendid backgrounds to homework. And yes, these composers often are the choice of my student organizing clients. It's easy to put these composers on your stereo for younger children to enjoy.

Have a set chore time for everyone. It will be much easier for the entire family to get chores done if everyone is working together.

Have a set bedtime for both you and your children. Thirty minutes before bedtime start slowing things down: turn off the TV and dim the lights.

Speaking  of TV: TV and social media (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, etc) are distractions. They absolutely must be off while focusing on homework. Texting is also a distraction - put the cell phone in a different room.  Rather than a complete prohibition of these electronic distractions consider using them only during 10 minute breaks between assignments. BUT, still no TV.  Plots on TV last longer than 10 minutes, and TV is infamous for holding people's attention so firmly that it's difficult to disengage.

Analog timers are among my favorite organizing tools. Use it to time breaks. Having a hard time getting motivated? Make a deal with yourself to work just 15 to 20 minutes on that task you dread.  Focus on the time period rather than the task.  You will be a little further along when the timer dings. By the way, an analog timer is one where you watch the time sweep. It is not a digital timer. The old KitchenAid timer is a great example of an analog timer. My favorite timer is the Time Timer.

Boost your technical skills so you can act more effectively. There are two upcoming events in St. Louis to help sharpen the saw. Acumen Consulting in Brentwood is offering Word and Excel training on August 29 and 30. Please see the flyer for more information. The second event is the time management workshop, "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier," presented by internationally renowned time management expert and author Harold Taylor.

I learned something in a recent training class that really drove home the need for this upcoming class: most people learn their time management strategies in high school. When we were in high school the world was a very different place. Personal computers and cell phones did not exist. The pressure to do more with less time did not exist to the extent it does today. Until September 1 you can register for this time management workshop for half price! It's easy to register - just see the side bar.

It's a little hectic now, but life will feel calmer as your family falls into its back to school routines.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Two Events That Will Help You Get Organized

If  you're a typical person you have an electronic item or two (or three or four...) sitting around gathering dust. Consider these statistics provided by the EPA for the year 2009:  
  • 438 million new consumer electronics were sold;
  • 5 million tons of electronics were in storage;
  • 2.37 million tons of electronics were ready for end-of-life management; and
  • 25% of these tons were collected for recycling
My thoughts are 5 million TONS of electronics are sitting around gathering dust and only 25% of the disposed of electronics are recycled! We can do better than that! Luckily, there is an upcoming electronic recycling event being held in Webster Groves on Saturday, August 6 from 8 a.m. until noon at the Moss Field parking lot of Hixson School (off of S. Elm).  Please see for more information.

Certainly recycling your broken and obsolete electronic equipment will give you more space, but have you ever wished for more time? I can't wave a magic wand to provide you with an extra hour in your day, but learning how to manage your time well might have the same effect. The fact is we all get 24 hours in a day. The president of the country, the president of Google, the Supreme Court justices, J.K. Rowling and you get 24 hours. Are you accomplishing what you want to accomplish? If not then consider attending the workshop "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier" which is presented by renowned expert Harold Taylor on September 23 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Brentwood Community Center. You can get more information and register at

Monday, July 11, 2011

When Summer Hands You Tomatoes, Make BLTs

Sure I advocate menu planning, but there are times when the menu has to be tossed out the window. Today was one of those days. The mercury cozied up to the 100 degree mark and the humidity was way up there. With meteorological oppression like this, the oven had NO business being on. Any cooking that needed to be done had to be fast and on the stove top. Luckily, a bowl of tomatoes and a pound of bacon grabbed my attention -and taste buds - so we were able to enjoy a light, summery meal without too much cooking.

It's always nice to have a Plan B (bacon?) when things go awry. Things do go awry - sometimes at an alarming pace. Plan B won't prevent the unexpected, however it does hasten recovery. Knowing that one won't be completely undone by the unexpected allows one to keep her wits about her - and her sense of humor.  Contingency plans are another way of being proactive, which is a quality of organization.

Growing up in St. Louis - without air conditioning, I might add - I learned a few tricks about making a meal when it's too hot to cook. One of the tricks is to have simple ingredients on hand. One of my favorite hot weather meals is gazpacho soup. Here's how I make it:

Two 12-ounce cans of chopped tomatoes
One cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
One green pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
One small Vidalia onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic smashed
Salt and pepper to taste
Croutons for garnish

Save a bit of  the chopped vegetables for garnish. Throw everything but the reserved garnish into a blender and puree. Chill a couple of hours. Garnish and inhale.

Healthy and easy. If you have a favorite hot weather recipe please share. We all can use a Plan B.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Seeking Life Balance - Can An Entrepreneur Take Time Off?

I just read this interesting article about the difficulty entrepreneurs have in taking time off Coincidentally, I just returned from a week of Boy Scout camp with my son's troop.

Taking a week off means my business is closed for a week. As an entrepreneur I don't get paid vacation time. But since I am in the business of encouraging people to have balance in their lives - and time off is part of that balance - it's important to me to "walk the talk." There are several reasons why I feel little or no hesitation in taking time off.

My time off was in agreement with my priorities. I spent time with my son and his fellow scout buddies. Hopefully I was able to help them learn some scouting and leadership skills in the process of having fun.

I was able to spend some time with adults I respect and admire. The leaders in my son's troop are successful, intelligent and creative people. I learned a lot about leadership, perseverance and life from them. We laughed so hard our sides hurt - humor is a necessary ingredient when working with teens.

Doing something out of my usual routine afforded me a new perspective. New perspectives are fuel for creativity and change. Keeping things fresh helps keep things fun.

I made peace with missed opportunities. It's a bit of a faith walk but I believe that if I missed an opportunity it wasn't meant for me. My outgoing out of the office message actually referred people to my local NAPO chapter if they were in immediate need of an organizer.

I  recharged my "batteries." Truth be told, I enjoy camping. I love being outside, seeing the stars at night and hearing the whippoorwills. The simplicity is energizing. 

A week away was an investment in myself, my family and my community. When I weigh any loss that may have resulted from a week off against what I gained, I find it was totally worth it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Time Management Is Like Filling A Bucket

One of my favorite time management gurus is Harold Taylor. I read his book Making Time Work For You sometime in the eighties. Until I read Taylor's book, most of the time management material I read focused on getting more stuff done in less time. But Taylor's book was different because he focused on effectiveness. Effectiveness entails being selective about what you do. Effectiveness implies a purpose. Instead of focusing on saving minutes attention should first be directed toward our goals.

Truth be told, it was a line in the introduction of the book that provided me with such a huge revelation that I still refer back to its imagery today. "To be effective we must displace less important tasks with more important ones."

In my mind I saw a 24-hour day as a bucket. Buckets are not very flexible. Trying to add more to the bucket when it's already full is futile. The bucket will not grow just because we want it to hold more.  If what is to be added to the bucket is important, something less important must first be removed. In order to determine what belongs in the bucket - our 24 hour day - we must ask it these are things that are contributing to our goals and satisfaction of life.

Since Making Time Work For You Taylor has written sixteen more books. He frequently speaks at the National Association of Professional Organizer conferences and I have found his sessions informative and fun - he is an accomplished speaker. So it gives me great pleasure to announce that Harold Taylor will be in St. Louis on September 23. He will be present a three-hour seminar to the public on "Time Management Strategies That Will Make Your Life Easier." You will find more information in the side margin of this blog. This is a rare opportunity to learn from the best.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Released on Good Behavior

Jail Bird Denise Lee
I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who posted my "bail" for the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Lock Up. Clear Spaces raised almost $600!

While I was "in jail" I met some of the people who have received help from the MDA and saw pictures of of some of the children who are currently being helped. I also found out that the MDA was voted as the most lean health-based charities in the United States. By lean I mean very little overhead - your donations are working the way you intend them to work.

This is from the MDA Lock Up site:

"Donations to MDA provide help and hope in many ways:
  • Clinics - expert specialized medical care
  • Research - cutting-edge investigation into treatments and cures
  • Support - help obtaining equipment and coping with challenges
  • Camp - a barrier-free week of fun, friendship and laughter for kids
And so much more - visit for information on how MDA makes a difference to people around the country and in your community."

I thank you and the kids thank you too.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shocking News About Professional Organizer Denise Lee

In one week I am going to jail. I realize this is shocking news but rest assured that the occasion warrants the lock-up. No, I haven't done anything wrong. I'm going to jail for a good cause.

Every year the Muscular Dystrophy Association asks business owners to help raise money for kids and their families affected by Muscular Dystrophy. This year the MDA asked if I could help out.

One of the many ways the MDA helps is through their summer camp program. For any child summer camp is one of the highlights of summer. Swimming, sports, campfires, crafts, star-gazing..... the list of diversions is endless. For kids battling  a chronic illness the diversion of summer camp is not just fun - it's good therapy. To learn more, take a look at the summer camp page from the national MDA site: 

I hope that you can find it in your heart to help the MDA by bailing me out of jail with your donation - which is tax-deductible of course.  Please visit my page at

And please: no taunting of the prisoner.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are You Ready To (Finally) Get Organized?

Have you tried to get organized in the past without success? Then join Clear Spaces for the Letting Go and Lightening Up classes this spring.

Learn the tools that you need to get and stay organized. The four-part series of classes provides a fun, safe and creative environment in which to clear the clutter from your Mind, Home, Office and Life. These classes are offered as a series and build the skills that you need to create an organized life.
Part One: The Mind

This is the foundation class that focuses on clarity and choices. Learn greater self-awareness so you can consciously make decisions. Gain new insights to your clutter and learn how to view it without shame, guilt and blame.

Part Two: The Home

Our second class focuses on imagination, balance, order and placement. An orderly home provides us with the respite needed for balance and harmony. Learn how you can create a space unique to your sense of order that will bring you peace and joy.

Part Three: The Office

The third class focuses on organizing, prioritizing, storing and creating the system and technology that is right for you. Learn ways you can become more focused and productive in your work and  home office. Many students report that the paper management skills learned in this class are invaluable.

Part Four: Life

The workshop concludes with a class that focuses on your relationship with time, honoring your values, the importance of self-care and living a balanced life. Learn how to use the workshop tools to live a more authentic life.
All materials, a comprehensive workbook, support calls and snacks are included in the cost of the four three-hour classes: $300. The cost of the series is less than one-third of the cost of hiring Denise to help you with twelve hours of organizing!

Enroll by March 17, 2011 and pay only $250. Enroll with a friend and you both receive another $25 off!

Kick-Off Class:
Sunday, March 27, 2011
1:30 - 4:30 P.M.

Mark your calendars for the remaining classes of the series:
April 17, May 22 and June 26 from 1:30 - 4:30 P.M.

Vitality Unlimited Spa (
29 West Moody Ave.
(in the rear meeting room)
Webster Groves, Missouri  63119

Please Note:
The classes are offered as a series, not as individual classes.
If there is a conflict between one of the classes and your schedule please contact Denise.
For more information please visit the Clear Spaces website ( or call Denise at 314-956-2282.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Challenging Chronic Disorganization

An important change occurred on January 1, 2011. The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) changed its name to the Institute on Challenging Disorganization (ICD). The mission remains the unchanged:

"Our mission is to benefit people affected by chronic disorganization. The ICD explores, develops and communicates information, organizing techniques and solutions to professional organizers, related professionals and the public."

As a subscriber of NSGCD/ICD I am excited that the name reflects the current nature of the group's work. In the beginning NSGCD was formed as an unofficial special interest group of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). But the group has grown beyond the confines of the states to include subscribers from other countries, as well as mental health practitioners and researchers. In the course of our work we do look for ways to bring order in situations where traditional organizing methods have failed. It is interesting to note that "challenging" in the new name works effectively as both as a verb and an adjective. Finally, I just enjoy the simplicity of the new name.

Please visit the ICD's new website ( and become familiar with this important group.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From The Land of Fun and Simplicity

Unclutterer is one of my favorite blogs. Their posts on simplifying and organizing are informative and inspiring. Plus the UniTask posts are great fun.

To my delight, the folks behind Unclutterer launched a new blog this year dedicated to ending meal-time stress. Brilliant! Let's face it - we all have to eat. And everyone I know is pretty busy. We can all use a little fun and simplicity when it comes to appeasing empty stomachs. Consider paying SimpliFried a visit:

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Unclutterer, here is their link:

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stop Clutter From Stealing Your Life

I recently read the new edition of Stop Clutter From Stealing Your Life: Discover Why You Clutter and How You Can Stop by Mike Nelson. Nelson’s book offers explanations for why people clutter and strategies to stop cluttering. While Nelson did a lot of research for his book, what distinguishes it from many other books on organizing is his account of his efforts to declutter. It is his experience that gives this book a very genuine and hopeful quality.
Nelson is very open in his book about his history as a clutterer. He describes how he collected vast and varied items that filled his spaces yet did nothing to fill the emotional holes in his life. “Clutter is the symptom. Recognizing and changing the reason for our cluttering are the solutions.”
Types of clutterers are identified early in the book along with specific emotional and practical solutions for each type. Nelson distinguishes hoarding from cluttering.; although cluttering and hoarding share many symptoms and pain. Contrary to what the popular media seems to depict, hoarding is not common and effects a small percentage of the population.
Facing one’s emotions is essential for the effects of decluttering to be long lasting.  It will take time but making progress always does. Nelson offers several tools to help develop a less cluttered life. Journaling, identifying and working with one’s learning style, and understanding one’s personality are among them.
The bumpy road of change does not happen overnight. But for those undertake the challenge there are rewards: greater self-esteem, inner strength, greater satisfaction and a less cluttered life. If you feel as though you are trapped by your clutter, read this book. If someone in your life is trapped by clutter, read this book. Mike Nelson does a very good job in showing you how you can make the changes you need to set yourself free.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Way To Look At Organizing

Tonight I was surfing the net to check out the many articles on organizing – it is Get Organized month after all.  I perused many articles that extolled the benefits of organizing:            
            Find things when you need them so you save time and frustration,
            Eliminate buying duplicate items so you save money and space,
            Having a bill-paying system so you never have to deal with late-fees again,
            Being on time and prepared for appointments,
            Being able to open the door to your home when guest pop by,
            Saving effort because an efficient workflow is in place,
            And many other terrific benefits that you’ve probably seen before.
In the midst of all of the usual reasons for getting organized I found a new and refreshing one on Giorgi Lobjanidze’s blog: “organized living is sexy.”
If by sexy he means a calmness from order, an attitude of self-confidence and a sense of control, then yes I completely agree. 
“Organized living is sexy” – kind of puts a new slant on Get Organized month.