O is for Organized 9/11

September 2011

When I walked into the front entrance of our home the other day, dropping my handbag and backpack as I entered, I noticed my gym bag still there from the day before. “Does this make me a bag lady?” I wondered.

Three bags, three functions. My backpack held the contents required for a day of facilitation in the great outdoors: the necessary paperwork, rain gear (just in case), shades, that kind of thing.

The gym bag is always packed with runners, combination lock, weight lifting gloves (real women don’t have callouses), a water bottle and an ipod.

And, of course, my handbag holds everything a real woman might need when out of the house, like lipstick and business cards, as well as another important container – my wallet.

As the ‘bag lady’ moniker whizzed through my brain I realized that these were all containers, or structures, to keep me organized and ready. (Phew! Perspective is everything.) If I look around, they’re all over the house, really.

So why is this important? If you’re not finding time or energy to make self-care a priority it might be because you lack a bag, the structure or systems to make it happen. Flying by the seat of your pants can mean spending a lot of unnecessary time on your bum! Do you have a history of good intentions without results?

Clients always tell me that when they have a plan they eat much better. A plan might be just keeping the fridge stocked or it might need to be more specific. Shopping the same day every week with a list made from a weekly menu is more of a structure. Most families eat the same things over and over anyway, so it’s not that difficult, when you think about it.

Try this. Write a list of your family’s favorite meals, as well as some dishes you enjoy occasionally (shoot for eight to ten dinner ideas) and choose from the menu every week to make your shopping list. Not only will you eat better, you will probably save time and money by not running back and forth to the store or taking the drive-thru detour. Keep your menu list close to your ongoing grocery list so you don’t go blank, struggling about what to eat and buy that week.

A great way to ensure success is to link new, desired habits with existing habits. For example:
• If your goal is to go walking or running first thing in the morning, put your shoes by your bed and let them be the first thing you put on. Skip the snuggly bathrobe. Jump right into your workout clothes and get in the mood. Or…

• If you exercise after work, change into workout clothes before you leave the workplace so you’re not tempted to go home and get into the snuggly bathrobe.

• If you want to ensure you pack a lunch on a regular basis, commit to a regular time to make it. It could be when you’re preparing or cleaning up after supper. Before your favorite show, before you get on the computer, or before you brush your teeth at night could work too.

• Keep a water bottle on your desk to remind you to drink water through the day. Drink every half hour, or every time you change task, or every time you respond to an email.

Do you see how this works? Make a deal with yourself that you can’t do one task without the other. Reward yourself appropriately after three or four days of new behavior. (If you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, NEVER use food as reward. That gives the food a positive charge and can undo your success. Let food just be food.)

Write it down. If there is a task or event you want to have happen, like exercise or R ‘n R, schedule it into your day. Yes, keep a schedule. Don’t just think about it and hope you have time. Write it down like an appointment. Keep the appointment with yourself like you would for anyone else.

Personally, my schedule shows Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays as gym days and Friday nights are date nights. I reserve those spots and hold them dear. Messing around with the schedule seems to do something to the motivation.

Writing anything down is a much surer way to get it done. There is nothing quite so satisfying as crossing things off your list. Allow yourself to feel that sense of accomplishment. Lists are a good strategy at any time.

Okay, maybe writing is a little old fashioned. Whatever organizational structure you need – be it timers, calendars or list makers, there is probably an app for it. Check it out.

What new habit do you want to implement? What can you do to ensure it happens? What existing habit or routine can you link it with?

Flying by the seat of your pants can leave you frustrated and ineffective, kind of like meetings without agendas. Having a process, or organizational structure, allows you to be successful. You don’t waste time deciding, procrastinating, looking for, or forgetting things. And you don’t create negative energy by not living up to your potential.

It’s easier to do the things we’re excited about doing, isn’t it? My annual girls weekend in the mountains is coming up. It’s time to pack my bags. Oops! There I go again.