Saturday, October 06, 2012

Prepare For The Scary Stuff

September is Disaster Preparation month and a month ago the buzz was on how to prepare for natural or man-made emergencies. It’s scary stuff, but preparation can your key to survival. Just as scary – if not scarier, because it’s more intimate – is the topic of attacks on one’s person.
There have been a number of attacks against women in the local St. Louis news lately. In September, our local National Association of Professional Organizers chapter was lucky to have Dan Asher present a program on personal safety. Needless to say, safety has been on my mind lately.
Dan provided our chapter with some excellent information about how to take proactive measurements in protecting ourselves.  Dan knows a lot about personal safety. He is a former police officer who is now an excellent real estate agent with Keller Williams Chesterfield (here is his website: There are two things I want to offer to you here: intuition and rehearsal.
Paying attention to one’s intuition is an extremely important safety measure. Those feelings that something just doesn’t seem right are red flags not to be dismissed by the logical brain. Don’t try to rationalize away your feelings. If something seems amiss leave the situation!
What if I think I can’t get away? Amazingly, the universe provided the answer in the guise of Patti Metcalf. Patti represents Damsel in Defense. She gives safety seminars and sells safety products. The products are cool: like a 120-decibel personal alarm/flashlight that attaches to your keychain or a pink stun gun. I stocked up for Christmas. Keeping my friends and family safe is important to me.
One thing Dan emphasized in his presentation is that each step that you take to protect yourself is a step in the right direction. I suppose safety is a little like organizing in that regard. Educate yourself. Have a plan and rehearse it. Dan said when you are in a threatening situation you will need to overcome the paralyzing effects of adrenaline and rehearsal is the key. Create a script for exiting a situation that your intuition says is not right. Practice that script. Practice using safety products so you won’t have to think about how to use them when you need them.
It is a scary world out there. But knowledge and preparation put you in a stronger position to protect yourself and the ones you love. Be strong, be prepared.           

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Organize To Be Prepared

As a Scout Leader the whole idea of a National Preparedness Month resonates with me. Being prepared can mean the difference between life and death – which may seem so scary that it’s offsetting. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to worry about being perfectly prepared. You just need to start and use the momentum to carry you step-by-step forward.
There are a few easy steps that you can take that will get your preparations started.  Notice that I haven’t numbered these steps. Start with any of these steps and don’t worry about what to do first – just start.
  •   Find a place to take shelter in your home that is away from windows and preferably in the basement. 
  • Keep your shelter and the path to it clutter-free. When you’re rushing to safety you will not have time to clear or jump clutter-hurdles.
  • Keep a flashlight in every room so you don’t have to go somewhere and look for one in the dark. Test the flashlights periodically to make sure they work. Look for a way to remember to test the flashlights such as setting up a reminder in your electronic calendar.
  • Have a first aid kit with your prescription medicines handy. A lot of stores have pre-made kits on sale this month.  Keep the first aid kit in use and restock it as needed so its contents remain fresh.
  • Build a binder with essential information page by page. Start with creating a plan for where to meet family in an emergency and who to contact out of town. Add information about each family member. Then add other important information like your insurance policies. Visit for a form you can download. Or consider getting the Securita PortaVault, which provides a system for indentifying, organizing and transporting the information you need during a disaster.
  • Keep some bottled water and shelf-stable snacks in your shelter spot. FEMA and the Red Cross suggest setting up three days worth of supplies. But even if you start with one bottle of water, that’s one more than you had a day ago.
  • Have a battery-operated weather band radio - preferably one that has an automatic dangerous weather alarm and an electric adapter so you don’t run your batteries down during good weather.  By the way, NOAA tests the signal every Wednesday about noon. During one such test, my neighbor heard my radio’s alarm but he didn’t know it was from the radio. Concerned that he was hearing the fire alarm he contacted my husband and then entered the house to investigate. The moral of this story is make friends with your neighbors.

Friendship is a lifeboat during a disaster. Friends help by pitching in what they have for the good of the group. You might have the bandage your neighbor needs and he might have the granola bar you need. Friends provide the camaraderie that is needed to get through a disaster emotionally. Because of friends, the burden of perfect preparation is lifted.
All you have to do is start your preparations, then do one small thing on a regular basis to bring you step-by step in the direction of safety and survival. For more information I encourage you to take a look at the website.  And be safe out there!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

ADHD Sleep Problems: Causes and Tips to Rest Better Tonight!

ADHD Sleep Problems: Causes and Tips to Rest Better Tonight!
Sleep can be elusive when  ADD is part of your life.  Many doctors and ADDers assume sleep difficulties are the result solely of a disorganized life.  But there is research that indicates that sleep disturbances may result from the underlying neurobiology of ADD.  Good  sleep is essential to good health  when ADD is part of the picture. Developing good sleep routine is critical to working with ADD.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What Does It Take To Make New Year’s Resolutions Successful?

It’s the salutation of the season: “Happy New Year! Do you have any New Year Resolutions?”
New Year Resolutions are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, creating positive change in one’s life is good; on the other hand, our intentions often crash and burn into a sea of self-doubt – not so good.
Why is it so hard to change?
Behavior change is important in my work with clients because organization is more about behavior than organizing tools (see Getting Organized).  Our behavior is a complex subject so I study many disciplines in my journey to help the people I work with: psychology, neurology, philosophy, and spirituality are among those disciplines.
My recent article for Java Journal (my favorite newspaper), The Spark of Change: Getting Organized, blended information from several disciplines. My article mainly focused on the internal work – the head and heart stuff – that happens with change. Interestingly, NPR aired a story yesterday (January 2, “What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits” by Alix Spiegel ) on the role of environment in addressing addiction. According to Duke University psychologist, David T. Neal, "People, when they perform a behavior a lot — especially in the same environment, same sort of physical setting — outsource the control of the behavior to the environment." When we practice a behavior frequently we develop environmental cues to trigger that behavior. The result is we don’t have to expend a lot of mental energy to sustain that behavior. But if we are trying to change that behavior, the environmental cues can make change difficult because of their link to the old behavior. What to do about those New Year’s Resolutions?
Wendy Wood, University of Southern California psychologist, explains that disrupting a pattern of behavior in a small way can be helpful - "It's a brief sort of window of opportunity to think, 'Is this really what I want to do?' "
Although there is still a lot we do not know about making behavior changes, the value of small changes as a path to larger change, seems to be validated.  Perhaps after we have created our list of resolutions, then our next step should be to ask what small thing can we do to get ourselves just a little closer to the goal of the resolution.  Often we approach resolutions with a “quantum leap” of behavior change – we try to change a lot very quickly. It takes a lot of effort to sustain “quantum leaps.” But it takes comparatively little energy to make a small change.  The assumption is changes that take less energy are easier to adopt than changes that take more energy. 
I think the assumption is a reasonable one. My theory is that gradual change is easier because it provides time for us to integrate changes with our environment. The process brings to mind the act of whittling. When whittling, a figurine is shaped by gradually shaving off small pieces of wood. It takes little energy to make one stroke of the knife across the wood. Additionally, with each small stroke you are evaluating and deciding where the next small stroke should be made. That is, the results of each stroke affect how the next stroke is made. But it is really hard to cut a chunk of wood with a knife. Several attempts of cutting off chunks of wood will not get you the desired figure (and you might end up getting cut in the process!). The analogy is not perfect but I think it illustrates how small changes can create a significant lasting change.
What small change can you make in becoming more organized? Perhaps just sorting the mail each day is a good start. Or putting your keys in a specific pocket of your purse is enough of a start. Many of my clients start by clearing one small area, like a tabletop, and vow to keep that small area clear. Over time the area becomes bigger.  Gradually all of the tiny successes add up and the goal is achieved.
This is not to say that the only way to permanent change is through a process of making small changes. As we know, and as I stated in the beginning, human behavior is very complex, and we do not understand all of its intricacies. However, my experience is that making small changes is one way to successful a life change.