Category Archives: Challenges

Women In Transition — A Growth Opportunity

You are trying to get back on your feet after a painful divorce. You are planning to retire and are contemplating how to spend your time in retirement. You are grieving the loss of a spouse or a child. You want to quit an unfulfilling job to pursue work that is more in alignment with your values and passions. You are recovering from an illness and know that you need to make significant life changes in order to live a healthy life. But, how can you get through the challenges of these periods that seem so daunting?

Life transitions are times of change whether by choice or circumstance. Typically they are periods in your life when you feel uncertain, perhaps disconnected from yourself, and sometimes stuck because it’s scary to go from a familiar way of being into something new and unknown. However, transitions are also times of opportunity to create new awareness about what really matters to you, your choices for forward movement, and possible steps to take to get to a better place.

Times of transition are often accompanied by swings of emotion — fear, overwhelm, excitement, depression. It is not uncommon to get hung up in negative emotions, to complain about how long transitions last and how lost you are, to feel frustrated with a lack of mental clarity and, to be stuck.

Many people in transition will isolate themselves from others. They mistakenly believe they have to find their way on their or that getting help from others means they are weak. Going it alone only prolongs this uncomfortable state of being. Also, in isolation you are more likely to become wedded to inaccurate perceptions and limiting beliefs because there is no one to question them or offer alternative ways of thinking and doing.

One way to navigate through transitions more quickly with fewer stuck points is to hire a coach. A coach can help you reconnect with yourself, identify your options for forward movement, help you develop a plan of action, and provide emotional support as you find your way into a new segment of your life journey.

Are you in transition? If so, make this time of transition a productive period of growth and personal development by hiring a coach to walk with you as you find your way through uncertain and unsettled times to a better place. I offer a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session so you can experience the benefits of being coached. Schedule your frees session now!

Task Inflation Procrastination

I’m writing a speech on procrastination. I procrastinate. We all do to15873280_10208316588022928_397351164930254615_n varying degrees. As I’ve watched myself, my husband, and my clients procrastinate, I’ve learned that there are different reasons for procrastination. I thought I’d heard them all until today when a coaching client spoke of what was keeping her from completing a task that was not difficult or even time consuming to do.

I’ve known for some time that my ADHD clients can paralyze themselves by looking at the whole task to be done instead of focusing on the next step to take in the completion of a task. I call it the “looking at the forest instead of the trees” problem. It happens when the enormity of a task shuts down mental processes. It’s a very common cause for procrastination. It can be addressed by breaking a task into a series of smaller steps (eat an elephant one bite at a time) and taking one step at a time. If you do that you can avoid shutting down your brain and keep making progress. 

What I hadn’t heard before was procrastination caused by viewing a task as too overwhelming because you’ve added a much larger task onto a smaller task. In this case my client needed to complete putting Christmas decorations away in order to reclaim her dining room. That task would normally have taken 30-45 minutes to complete if she simply put things the decorations where they belong.

However, in my client’s mind the “Christmas decoration task” became connected to the “organize the garage” task. She saw putting the Christmas decorations away as an opportunity to also tackle organizing her garage since that’s where the decorations are stored. Those two tasks were then glued together in her thinking.

In her mind the task was no longer a 30-45 minute, fairly simple task. It had become a time-consuming, complicated task that could take hours and perhaps several days to complete alone.  Putting the Christmas decorations away was just a minor part of that big task.

Because putting the Christmas decorations away had ballooned into a garage reorganization project, it became so big that the “looking at the forest” problem kicked in and led to procrastination. What is exciting about the coaching process is that we had the opportunity to unearth the block that kept my client from completing the task.

As we talked and explored her reluctance to finish putting Christmas decorations away, she became aware that she was thinking of the Christmas decoration cleanup as part of the much larger garage organizing task. That awareness helped her realize that her expectation that she reorganize the whole garage at the same time that she put away Christmas decorations was keeping her stuck. She was then able to consider ways to disconnect the garage reorganization project from the Christmas cleanup so she could finally be done with Christmas.

Look at some of the tasks you are avoiding. Are you stuck because you’ve made a simple task into a much more complicated project in your mind? If so, you too have the option to change your mind to get unstuck and moving.

If procrastination is a recurring problem for you, coaching is a great way to make changes necessary to reduce procrastination. I offer a free 30-60 minute Back On Track phone coaching consultation for anyone who wants to experience coaching first hand and explore options for addressing challenges that interfere with their productivity. Start your New Year on the right track! Schedule a free coaching consultation now! 

Get Unstuck: Exercise Works!

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Yoga helped me get unstuck!

I’ve been stuck in grief and low-grade depression since the death of my mother in July. It’s been very hard to muster the enthusiasm needed to promote my business. I knew that losing Mom after 5 years of coordinating her care as Alzheimer’s claimed her mind would derail me. But, I thought after a month or two I would be back on track. Not so. Add in normal fall seasonal affective disorder, and I have been moving at a glacial pace.

For many years I have walked regularly and done sit ups, push ups, and leg lifts at night before going to bed — minimal exercise. In an attempt to build strength and energy, Bob and I joined American Family Fitness, a gym near our home, 

Going to a gym has never been easy for my introverted self. But this time I approached the challenge with a new perspective. Instead of thinking of the gym as a place where I would demonstrate how out of shape I am and how much better others are, I viewed it as a place to reclaim my strength, my center, my confidence and feelings of well-being.

I started with a yoga class and an easy workout on machines. As expected, I was wobbly during yoga poses and my muscles screamed and let me know I had been neglecting them. I got breathless on the treadmill. However, almost immediately I felt better. It was as if some vital life force in me began moving again. Optimism returned. Enthusiasm returned. And, with those good feelings came a desire to write this blog, to get to work.

Keys to making this gym experience different than others:

  • I went in with no expectations for a high level of performance.
  • I viewed going to the gym as self-care and an activity to help me feel better.
  • I took relatively easy, meditative classes and started slow on the machines instead of pushing myself in high intensity classes and workouts.
  • I chose the kinds of exercise I like to do.
  • I viewed just showing up at the gym as a success.

The payoff: I’m moving again, feeling better, and being more productive!

Stay Organized to Effectively Navigate Crises

When tough times hit it’s very tempting to stop doing all the maintenance

Stay organized to stay afloat when you hit rough waters in life.

Stay organized to stay afloat when you hit rough waters in life.

behaviors that keep you organized and relatively clutter-free. The emotions that come up during an extended illness, the decline or loss of a special person or pet in your life, a divorce or period of financial challenge can derail motivation to do those boring tasks that keep you organized and moving. 

What happens when you stop doing those important maintenance behaviors (putting things away, hanging up your clothes, doing laundry, processing mail, paying bills, filing, daily cleaning up, deleting junk emails) is that you create pockets of negative energy in your space and on your computer.  Those energies produce stress that will keep you feeling bad and stressed and prevent clear thinking. Plus the chaos you create by not staying organized makes it very hard to get back on track once you move through the difficult period.

The truth is that if done regularly those maintenance tasks don’t take a lot of time. Plus, if you can make yourself do tasks that don’t seem very important during periods of crisis, you will keep yourself grounded so you can think clearly and make good decisions. 

Doing maintenance tasks in a time of crisis is not optional. It’s an important investment of time to assure that you can effectively navigate rough waters. Make doing it a priority during tough times. 

Organized Papers are Empowering!

Papers associated with challenges can empower you when they are organized. I had thegesture-772977_640 chance to observe this first hand when I helped a very dear friend organize papers associated with her son’s very challenging disability.

We faced numerous binders, paper storage containers, and piles of papers, the kind of paper challenge that makes you want to run from the room. We went through all the binders, storage containers and paper, sorting papers into easily identifiable stacks: IEPs, psychiatric evaluations, medical evaluations, reference materials, etc. In the process we got rid of a whole box of paper! By the time we were done she could put her hands on any document she might need, and had plans for sustaining the order we created.

My friend began the sorting process feeling overwhelmed and anxious, focused almost entirely on how very difficult her journey on the painful road to obtain help via a less than cooperative school system and a medical establishment that had led her son down some rough roads. By the time we’d finished she was calmer, and saw the remaining papers not as a big burdensome reminder of her difficult situation, but rather as resources to use as she continues to advocate for her son. The process of purging and organizing those papers not only made the papers more manageable, but also helped her ground herself to face future challenges.

Disorganized papers can keep you anxious and overwhelmed. Organized papers can empower and support you!

Take Down Christmas Decorations to Jumpstart Your New Year!

As I’ve walked through my neighborhood I’ve noticed that some people still have christmas-315661_640Christmas decorations on the outside of their homes. When I see them I find myself wondering:

  • Are they so busy they can’t get around to taking down decorations?
  • Is taking down decorations hard to face because it is a boring, time consuming task?
  • Does the person typically keep decorations up until mid-January?
  • Has taking decorations down fallen off their radar?

I will admit that taking down Christmas decorations is a chore I dislike. It’s such an anti-climax and is an annoying, boring chore. But, I make myself do it by New Year’s Day every year. Why is that?

I want to start my new year on a high note with high energy, unburdened by incomplete tasks from the previous year. Decorations that stay up into the new year hold the energy of the previous year, the Christmas just past. They keep you stuck in the past. Since taking them down is a task most people don’t relish, perhaps because the effort signals the end to a season of celebrating and is quite boring to do, the decorations also hold a melancholy, heavy energy. It’s difficult to move into a fresh, new year weighted by lingering tasks from the previous year, tasks to stir up uncomfortable feelings.

Experience a nice pop of energy and feelings of excitement about what’s possible in the new year by biting the bullet and putting away your Christmas decorations. It’s a great way to jumpstart your new year!

Clear Clutter, Save Money!

I read this on Facebook yesterday.

“Cleaning out the sewing room. .. Ah, you know all those missing scissors? Think I found them. Wonder how that happened.”

Scissors FoundThis is what can happen when a space is not organized so that you can find what you need when you need it. Can’t find a pair of scissors. . . buy another pair, and another pair, and another pair.

Cluttered spaces hide things. They can make your brain shut down and go to the path of least resistance. . . buy what you can’t find. Think of the money that could have been saved if this woman had been able to find those sewing scissors!

Clear your clutter and set up your space so that the tools you need are visible and easily accessible. Save money, sanity and time! If you can’t make yourself clear that clutter, ask for help. Over time living in clutter can cost you more in the cost of new items than the cost to get help from a professional organizer.

Disrupting Events Make It Difficult to Stay Organized

When I walk into a chaotic environment I listen for clues from my client about what may have

Disruptive events can lead to clutter overwhelm once the challenge has passed.

Disruptive events can lead to clutter overwhelm once the challenge has passed.

caused the chaos. Some people have always struggled to get and stay organized. They are affectionately referred to as “chronically disorganized” by professional organizers nationwide. Despite all their efforts they cannot stay organized. Those clients usually tell me that they have struggled with disorganization for as long as they can remember.

There are some people, however, who at one time in their lives were organized and able to maintain organized spaces at home and at work. When I learn that a client was once organized and has since gone downhill, I seek to identify what threw him or her off course. Following is a list of the disrupting events that can turn a person’s life upside down, making it very hard to maintain order in their lives:

  • physical illness
  • mental illness–particularly depression
  • illness in a family member
  • surgery
  • death of a loved one
  • caregiving for an ailing parent
  • divorce
  • home renovation
  • frequent travel
  • Christmas
  • getting married
  • birth of a child
  • changing jobs
  • losing a job

Any of the above events or issues takes either an emotional or physical toll or both that is above and beyond what is experienced in normal every day life. Since you have energy limits, any one of those disrupting events can eat energy that would ordinarily have been allocated to tending to your home, your papers, your things, and the variety of chores that you do to stay organized.

It’s normal for people to do what is easiest in times of high stress just to survive. Paper and disorder can back up at those times because tending to them doesn’t seem as important as surviving the difficult time. But, you may want to remember that your space also affects your energy. Disorganized, chaotic spaces are loaded with negative energy. Exposing yourself to that energy will only deplete your energy all the more making it much harder to muster the energy and motivation to dig out once the current storm has passed.

Once you are on the other side of a difficult time, you may find you have a nightmare on your hands — clutter and chaos that are overwhelming and not easily addressed because of the size of the challenge. You’ll be depleted from your ordeal and further depleted by the negative energy in your space.

If you find yourself experiencing any of the disruption I’ve described above, it is important to remain conscious of your space even if you don’t have time to keep up as you normally would. Avoid the inclination to just let go and let chaos reign. Make yourself take as little as 5 minutes a day to clear clutter and maintain order. Doing a little clearing and organizing on a regular basis could save you from a nightmare of your own creation. If despite your best intentions you are unable to maintain a basic order, ask for help from family and friends, people who likely want to help you through a difficult time.

Ask for help and save yourself!

Distraction: How You Get off the Right Track and Get Back On

I sat down at my computer today intending to update my website with speeches I will be doing.

Just say no to side trips.

Just say no to side trips.

Instead of going directly to my work, I opened my email. Big mistake! 

In one email my step-sister recommended Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, a book that could help me on my journey as caregiver for my mother with Alzheimers. Instead of going to my real work I thought, “I’ll just quickly order the Kindle version.” After I’d ordered it I noticed that it did not appear on Kindle on my phone. Another problem to be solved! And, a possibility for distraction.

Had I not been aware of the more important goal, posting my speeches, I could have gone further down that rabbit hole, trying to make sure I had the book. I could have wasted another 30-60 minutes trying to get that book to show up on my Kindle.

Instead I paused. In that pause I asked myself, “What is most important right now? “What is the best use of my time right now? Solving the Kindle problem was definitely not most important. So, to get back on track, and not lose sight of the need to make sure the book did download to my Kindle, I wrote Being Mortal on a post-it note and put it where I could see it on my desk. That note would remind me to fix that problem later, after I’d accomplished some important items on my to do list.

How often do you get snagged by a compelling yet unimportant task in the grander scheme of things, chewing up time on tasks that won’t get you where you really want to go? You may have the illusion that you’re working, when all you’re really doing is enjoying a nice side trip, avoiding important tasks.

Before you sit down to work, identify your big rocks, those important tasks that if done will move you forward. Then, when a tempting side trip shows up — and they will, you can remind yourself that it will cost you time, brain power and energy. With that awareness you can postpone the trip until after the accomplishment of some important tasks. By the way, side trips make great rewards for completion of important tasks, but only if you limit the time you spend on them.

Beware of side trips! They eat your time and keep you stuck. Keep your focus on your big rocks, and enjoy the ride into greater productivity, well-being, and enhanced self-esteem.

Change Your Thoughts, Procrastinate Less

Procrastination is a choice fueled by convincing thoughts. I became fully aware of this recently

When a task seems too big, take your focus off the forest and start with a tree!

When a task seems too big, take your focus off the forest and start with a tree!

when a coaching client told me that in her effort to procrastinate less she’d begun to watch her thoughts prior to procrastinating. 

As expected, certain thoughts showed up time and time again. Her thought repertoire included: I’m too tired; it will take too long to do; I don’t know how to do this; I don’t want to waste time trying to figure out how to do this; it’s too big; and I probably won’t finish it anyway. Sound familiar? 

Did you notice the energy of those words? Primarily negative and energy draining. Of course you are going to procrastinate if limiting thoughts and beliefs predominate! Negative thoughts breed stagnation.

Becoming aware of your procrastination thoughts is the first step to reducing procrastination. What are your procrastination thoughts? Once you recognize the thoughts that lead to procrastination, you can counter those negative thoughts with a dose of reality and with positive thoughts that encourage taking action. Following are some examples.

Countering Procrastination Thoughts

“I’m too tired.”

Dose of reality: Who hasn’t used this thought to put off sorting mail, starting a new project, etc.! The truth is that intentionally taking action to accomplish any task can give you energy. When you are not taking action, your energy stagnates. When you step into action, you break the stagnation and free energy that is available is then available to you.

More helpful thoughts: “Am I really tired or am I procrastinating?” “I can always take one step.”

“I don’t know how to do this.”

Dose of reality: It’s amazing how long this thought will keep people stuck. You may not know how to do the task, but I’ll bet you know someone who does know how to do it. Or, you probably are capable of seeking out resources to help you accomplish the task. What if you ignored that shut down message and spent a few minutes considering what needs to be done? Perhaps you might even be able to figure it out on your own. 

More helpful thoughts: “I may not know how to do it, but I can ask for help.” “ I have been successful figuring things out in the past. I can do it now.”

“It’s too big.”

Dose of reality: This statement reflects shut down due to overwhelm. Some people can only see the forest, not the trees. The forest is daunting. A single tree is manageable. Any task can be broken down into small steps if you take your eyes off the forest and look at the trees that make up the forest. If you take a tree (small step) at a time, you can get a big task done. Some tasks really are to big to tackle on your own. That’s when it’s time to ask for help.

More helpful thoughts: “This task is too big to do all at once. I can do it one step at a time.” “I can do this task with help from _____________ .

Watch your thoughts! Notice which thoughts keep you procrastinating. Look for and use new positive thoughts to motivate you to get unstuck and moving in the direction you want to go. As you procrastinate less often, you’ll feel the weight of procrastinated tasks lift, you’ll be more productive, and your self-esteem will grow.

ADHD? Clutter Challenges? A Medication Success Story

Most of my clients have ADHD, commonly referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder with or

ADHD can look like this. Want something different? Try medication!

ADHD can look like this. Want something different? Try medication!

without a hyperactive component. Some have been diagnosed with the disorder. Others have considered the possibility that they have it but have never been tested, and still others have struggled with the challenges of ADHD symptoms for years (organization, clutter, time management, decision-making, prioritization, and productivity challenges), but had no clue that ADHD could be the reason for their on-going struggles.

When I bring ADHD up as a possible cause for on-going organizing and productivity challenges clients often ask me what can be done about it. I tell them that medication, to regulate brain chemistry, and coaching, to learn to manage their ADHD symptoms, are the two primary ways to deal with ADHD. Many clients immediately bat away the idea of medication, saying they don’t like taking medications, that they might try other possibilities, but not medication.

Medication can make it possible for a person with ADHD to focus and initiate and complete tasks, all of which are primary ADHD challenges. It doesn’t work for everyone, but when it does it can transform a life that alternately feels out of control or stuck into one that is manageable and rewarding. Following is an example of what medication can do.

“I no longer inhabit my home. I love in it.” Those are the words of a client who for many years felt uncomfortable living in her home because of clutter challenges. What happened? What made things better? I helped her identify that she has ADHD. She went one step further and sought medication to help regulate the symptoms that affect her ability to get things done in her home.

When she and her doctor found the right dosage of medication, she sent me an email sharing her success. Excerpts follow.

“I started doing things here that have not been done in some cases for years and years. I am mainly making it look better. I am discarding a lot of stuff, and moving things around. . . In moving things around I am freeing up space, making room to breathe. I am discarding things, but I am not making decluttering or downsizing the primary thing.  Rather, getting my space better. I go wherever my interest and energy want to go and do things that way. . .

Lots more to do, but I am actually enjoying a lot of this. Every time I look into my living room, there is so much more space and it is lighter, not all stuffed in. Not finished here either, but making progress. . .

From my heart to yours, Debbie, thank you for hanging with me until I could see that I probably did/do have some ADHD and related problems. This medication has given me energy, a much improved mood, more comfortable in my skin. I’m not sure that this is the best stopping place with trying medication, but I sure am grateful for what has occurred with me so far.”

In this client’s case being able to make real progress on clutter clearing in her home wasn’t possible until she figured out that she had ADHD and got the right dose of medication to help her focus. Medication made it possible for her to engage in tasks that previously she would have avoided. 

It’s clear that my client’s quality of life has improved with the addition of medication to help manage her ADHD symptoms. How sad that many others with the ADHD challenge refuse to give themselves the opportunity to make their lives more manageable, less challenging and more rewarding.

If you have ADHD, why not explore medication? It could change your life for the better!

Cease Judgment and Create A Happy New Year!

I once was quite judgmental. When it was called to my attention on a number of occasions by

Cease judgment and focus on what you want, what's possible.

Cease judgment and focus on what you want, what’s possible.

people who really mattered to me, I made a decision that I wanted to be a different way. About that time I read two books, A Return to Love by Mary Ann Williamson and Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald Jampolsky. Both really helped me change my mindset and realize that there are only two choices in every situation, love or fear. I can act out of love or I can act from a place of fear. Judgment is a form of fear.

I began deliberately trying to approach every situation from a place of love. A loving response is accepting “what is,” doing that with curiosity instead of railing against it in judgment. This is not to say I don’t feel anger or judge anymore. But, when I find myself in that place, I take it as a signal that I need to check in with myself and figure out what I need. It’s usually a call to take care of myself in some way — by making a request, getting clear about what’s important, walking away, whatever will be most loving for me and the other. It’s also a signal to keep my mouth shut and breathe deeply to calm my feelings.

I believe I really learned how to be less judgmental when I began doing clutter clearing because I got to practice every day. The way I did it was to focus on my intention for doing the work — to make a positive difference for my clients, to be a loving force in their presence. I deliberately chose not to focus on what was wrong with them and their spaces, but rather to look for what was right about them as people, their gifts, their passions. I look/looked at their spaces with a neutral mindset, with curiosity. By refusing to allow judgment to take up space in my brain I was free to consider how to approach the challenge and work effectively with the client.

By keeping my greater intentions in mind — to approach everything from a loving place and make a positive difference, I was able to suspend judgment. I also reminded myself that judgment hurts others and goes counter to my values and intentions. Coming from an interested, curious, respectful place also worked well. I got lots of repeat business because clients felt safe with me, because I didn’t judge them.

I also keep in mind the wise words of Bill Harris, the founder of Centerpointe Research Institute and the Holosync®* method of meditation, that a great source of misery is not accepting what is — not accepting who people are, what is happening in the moment, the reality of a situation. That motivated me to accept what is, whether I like it or not, and put my energy into doing what I can to take care of myself and move forward despite what is.

It takes a lot of practice and patience to learn how to stop being judgmental. Perhaps a good thing to do would be to ask yourself if you like who you are being when you are being judgmental. Many people focus on who’s right and who’s wrong, and what’s right and what’s wrong and miss the opportunity to working things out in a respectful, loving way.

The first place to cease being judgmental is with your yourself. When you look at clutter in your space, the weight you have gained, the state of your finances, watch your thoughts. Are they condemning, critical and negative? Many of us think that judging ourselves negatively will motivate us to change what we are doing. Unfortunately the opposite happens. The judgment undercuts our self-esteem, sucks away energy and motivation, and increases the probability that we will stay stuck right where we are.

On the edge of a new year you have an opportunity to do something different going forward. What could 2015 be like if you looked at your clutter and other challenges with curiosity and an intention to let love for yourself and others be your guide?

*Holosync® is a method of meditation that  creates profound changes in the brain, leading to life-changing mental and emotional changes.

You Might Have ADHD If —

If you have organizing and clutter problems, time management problems, and problems withiStock_000026018385Large productivity, you could have ADHD (I use ADHD to include both inattentive ADD and hyperactive ADHD). How do I know? Most of my clients come to me with those problems, and many have been diagnosed with ADHD.

I wrote this blog to give those of you who wonder if you have ADHD information about some of the more common symptoms of ADHD. I am constantly amazed at how many people I work with who have ADHD and don’t know it. They’ve just assumed that their clutter challenges are the result of not being disciplined or just being lazy. 

In fact, ADHD is a neurobiological problem. Translated, that means that there are mechanical problems with the functioning of areas of the brain. ADHD is not a matter of will or choice. It is a wiring problem in the brain that causes many challenges in the lives of people with ADHD and their families. 

The ADHD brain doesn’t work optimally, particularly the pre-frontal cortex, the area associated with executive functions associated with memory, organizing, prioritizing, time management, emotion regulation, effort, focus and getting things done. Below is a list of the way I have experienced ADHD showing up in the lives of clients and loved ones:

  • you have difficulty prioritizing tasks to be done, everything seems equally important,
  • you have difficulty starting tasks, particularly tasks that are not interesting,
  • urgency is a primary motivator for action,
  • you constantly seek pleasure, fun, new and interesting,
  • you have difficulty focusing when not interested in a task or conversation,
  • you can focus for long periods of time on tasks about which you are interested (hyperfocus), but have difficulty disengaging from those tasks,
  • you have difficulty sustaining action or interest when doing tasks, particularly those that are not stimulating, new, interesting or fun,
  • you get distracted by anything that is more fun, interesting, stimulating than what you are currently doing,
  • you get distracted by all the conversations going on in your head,
  • you have difficulty completing tasks,
  • you have difficulty transitioning from one activity or task to another,
  • you overcommit yourself because you underestimate the time and effort involved in tasks and you lose sight of all you’ve already committed to,
  • you procrastinate, particularly tasks with no deadline, urgency or that are not interesting, stimulating or fun,
  • you have difficulty with consistent follow through, doing what you say you’ll do,
  • you have difficulty managing time: lose track of time, waste time, underestimate the time it will take to get tasks done,
  • you struggle with getting and staying organized, particularly paper,
  • you have difficulty getting to sleep because you can’t shut off the activity in your brain,
  • you have difficulty regulating your emotions (become easily frustrated, get swept away by strong feelings, get angry easily),
  • you have difficulty pausing, especially when feeling emotional.

This list is by no means all inclusive, nor is it meant to be. It’s meant to give you some basic information about the way ADHD can affect the lives of people who have this challenging disorder. If you recognized yourself as you read the above list, I urge you consider getting a formal assessment to determine if you have ADHD. It will open up access to many resources that can make living with ADHD much easier.

ADHD is a neurobiological challenge that cannot be cured. However, its symptoms can be managed. If you think you may have ADHD and want to explore your options for next steps to take to improve your life experience, call me at 804-730-4991 or email me to schedule a free 30 minute consultation. Life can be different!

9 Elements of Success: Self-Knowledge

Future VisionA person who has good self-knowledge knows what matters most to them, their strengths, their challenge areas, their values and needs, what they hate, what they love, where they shine and where they struggle. How well do you know yourself? 

In our busy, busy, stimulation-filled world with so many demands and distractions it can be a real challenge to turn your focus to yourself. Why bother with self-knowledge? Why add more to your overflowing to-do list? 

Self-knowledge is your compass, your guide for making informed decisions and good choices. When you are out of touch with what you want, need and value, you become vulnerable to reacting to whatever presents itself in your life. For example, I was scheduling presentations about office organizing because it was a subject matter that decision-makers in corporations and companies were seeking and willing to pay for. I hated doing speeches about office organizing, and consequently dreaded doing those speeches. I consequently did not speak as well to those audiences. 

When I examined my dislike for office organizing speeches and how I speak in business settings I realized I have no real interest in and passion for sharing information about office organizing.  I also became aware that I’m not a big fan of speaking in businesses  because many people in attendance are not there voluntarily. Rather, they attend because they are expected to be there. They come to those seminars feeling unmotivated, uninterested, and/or distracted by other things they need to do. People with those characteristics don’t make good audiences, the kind that respond to speech content with interest and enthusiasm and motivate me to do my best speaking.

Once I became clear about my dislike for doing office organizing presentations and how my speaking is affected by the energy and interest of audiences, I was able to cease scheduling speeches on that topic and spend my marketing and speaking efforts to attract and schedule topics and audiences that are a good fit for me. I now enjoy ALL the speaking I do. 

Self-knowledge is a way to create self-acceptance. When you are clear about your interests, passions, strengths and challenge areas you are then in a position to accept what you cannot change instead of trying to be interested in things that don’t interest you or be good at things that you’ll never be good at. 

I have great difficulty working with numbers. Because I don’t have a natural aptitude in that area, I am easily overwhelmed when dealing with numbers. I also noticed that I was spending inordinate amounts of time when I would be paying bills and balancing my books. 

When I accepted that working with numbers is very difficult, overwhelming, and uncomfortable for me, and an area of activity that always left me feeling incompetent, I was in a better position to seek support with paying my bills and keeping my books instead of beating my head up against the same brick wall over and over again. I accepted that it’s in my best interest to get help to do tasks involving numbers. No longer did I waste time trying to be competent in an area where I cannot be competent. And, no longer did I beat myself up for not measuring up in that area.

Self-knowledge helps you set realistic expectations.

Knowing where you shine and where you struggle can help you know set realistic expectations for performance and productivity. For example, if you have ADHD and understand the challenges of time management, activation, organizing and emotion management that are associated with that neurobiological disorder, you will know expecting yourself easily engage in paper intensive and boring tasks is not realistic. Given your brain wiring it’s doubtful that even with great effort you will be able to engage in those activities with minimal resistance.

Self-knowledge informs you of where you need support.

Knowing your areas of struggle, disinterest, and/or resistance will make it possible to identify when it’s best to stop spinning your wheels in procrastination by seeking outside help.

I hate cleaning the house. 

Making time for house cleaning was very difficult given my complicated schedule and overloaded to-do list. If I finally did it, I felt resentful and angry. If I didn’t do it I’d be irritable and distracted by the accumulating dust and dirt. Plus, it really wasn’t the best use of my time with other higher priorities like running my business and spending quality time with family and friends.

With that information I knew that if I continued to clean my house I’d die of exhaustion and/or have no time for what really matters to me: building and running a successful business that helps people get unstuck and moving; enjoying deep connection and supporting family and friends; and creating space for self-reflection, self-care and self-awareness.

Self-knowledge is a way to step into your own shoes, to ground yourself to face any circumstance that comes your way.

Life constantly throws curve balls. It’s quite common to become ungrounded and off balance when you experience an unexpected hit or life turn, like finding out you have an illness, learning of an unexpected expense or being informed that a parent is struggling and in need of services and assistance. To expect anything different is not realistic. 

When you are aware of your gifts, strengths, and previous history of successes despite struggle, you can better manage your fear by reminding yourself that you are capable of either handling any challenge or of seeking support to find solutions to problems.

I have been involved in coordinating care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s. Her physical and mental challenges can amp up at any time. Before I became conscious of how I can call on my strengths of organizing, self-soothing, problem-solving with love as a guide, using my determination to effect changes on her behalf, and recognizing my choices in the moment, any new challenge could knock my sideways, sending me into feelings of overwhelm and depression.

One day when I was once again disconnected from myself, from my strengths and my awareness of choice, a wise friend reminded me that I don’t have to go down with Mom when she’s struggling, that going down is a choice. Now knowing that I am capable of making choices to calm myself, I more quickly handle uncomfortable feelings that surface when a new problem emerges. I am better able to call on resources that can restore my equilibrium and get me back on track.

Self-knowledge is a resource at your disposal that makes navigating life a more purposeful, smoother ride. How well do you know yourself? Are there areas of self-awareness that are blocked or limited that if expanded would arm you to move forward in your life with more confidence and competence?

If you know there is room for exploration in this element of success, coaching could be just the support you need to develop greater self-knowledge so you can get unstuck and more effectively navigate through the uneven waters of life to a create an empowered life that fits. If you want a partner to help you develop greater self-knowledge, email me to schedule a 30 minute free consolation to discuss this possibility. 

Self-knowledge is the foundation that makes all change possible.

Self-Care and A New Definition of Competent

This post will make the most sense to those of you who never seem to be able to slow down newspaper-300x248and stop doing tasks to have a life of your own. That has become the norm for many of us these days. Instead of technology facilitating better time management and helping to increase leisure time, the exact opposite seems to have happened. We now can be accessed at any time of the day, and have more on our plates than ever before. There are so many possibilities out there. Our expectations of ourselves and our performance has never been higher and more unrealistic.

This year I made a New Year’s commitment to have a different kind of year from the overly busy, stressful years of the past. I wanted more rest, play, and lighthearted times. I have a long history of over-functioning and pushing myself beyond my physical limits. Not only was I running on empty, I was running on fumes trying to run my business, finish organizer coach certification, coordinate care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in assisted living, oversee my disabled brother’s care in Connecticut, maintain a good marriage, and manage our household. I knew if I didn’t make some real changes I would eventually pay a hefty price with my health. 

When I began making changes, like avoiding my computer weekday mornings until after I had walked my dogs, had quiet time with a cup of coffee and reading books that feed my heart, soul and brain for 15 to 30 minutes, I felt wonderful. And, I also felt uncomfortable. Fortunately I’m working with Diane Thomson, a great coach, so I had the support I needed to work through my discomfort. Together we discovered that what was driving my compulsive doing was my value of competence and my need to do all I could to feel competent in every area of my life.

Following is what I wrote Diane as I was trying to make sense of my discomfort with slowing down.

“After our session I did some thinking about my blahs today. It occurred to me that perhaps part of the blah feeling is because I’m not running on adrenalin constantly. I’m now not getting high from urgency every day. What I’m feeling might really feel OK to a “normal” person who is not a compulsive doer. This feeling of going slower and more deliberately, instead of at warp speed to get as much done as possible, trying to jam way too much into the time available, feels unfamiliar. I think I may be equating unfamiliar with wrong, problematic, and bad.”

As a result of that awareness, I thought that it would be a good idea to re-write MY definition of competent. My old unconscious definition was something like “be reliable and do high quality work for as much time as possible during a day or until you drop dead or get sick.” Yes, I had been living by that unconscious recipe for disaster for many decades.

I was able to identify that the notion of self-care was completely missing from my original definition of competent. But, with new awareness, facilitated by coaching, I realized that I’m not being competent when I am being super productive at the expense of my health, rest, relaxation, and quality relationships. So, here is my new definition of competent. Competent is doing high quality work in amounts of time that also allow me to stop, breathe, rest, enjoy life, have fun and build/maintain quality relationships.

With my new definition of competent I’m moving into each day deliberately making space for me and my needs. I am getting more rest, having more fun, enjoying a deeper connection with my husband, and still being productive. In fact, when I work I am able to focus and get a more done in less time. Who knew that taking care of myself could improve my efficiency!

Yes, I still feel twinges of discomfort because I’m not driving myself as I once would have. I notice it and remind myself that change is hard, but that my choice is right. I believe getting off the fast track and onto the right track, a track that is respectful of me and my needs, is the only way to be able to make the biggest difference in this lifetime and drink in all the blessings and gifts this life has to offer.  

Clutter Clearing Shutdown, Facing An Anxiety Challenge

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Anxiety provoking clutter challenges can be faced with caring support.

According to Eric Maisel, PhD, author of The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path through Depression,  a normal internal reaction to a perceived threat is anxiety. The purpose of anxiety is to keep us out of harm’s way. It triggers the impulse to flee, to retreat.

For years I’ve watched anxiety rise up and shut down clients in the process of facing their clutter challenges and the decision-making it involves. But, I wasn’t clear about the source of the anxiety. Sometimes it seemed to be a by-product of overwhelm. At other times it seemed like avoidance of doing a challenging task. And, for some it seemed like a fear of making a mistake. I had never considered that the source of their retreat was an instinctual response to a threat to their self-esteem.

With this new perspective I can see that a person facing a nightmare of their own making would certainly feel anxious and want to retreat. They might be thinking:

  • I’m such a mess. How could I let it get this way? (I’m flawed)
  • I don’t have a clue where to start. (I don’t know)
  • I’m overwhelmed. (I’m weak)
  • It’s too much to face. (I’m incapable)
  • I caused this. What does that say about me? (I’m responsible and incompetent)

It’s much easier to flee from threats to your self-esteem than turn and face them. People are neurologically programmed to run from threats. If it’s natural to retreat in the face of anxiety-provoking clutter, then how can progress be made?

First, it’s important to be aware that anxiety is the culprit in your avoidance of clutter clearing. Naming the challenge is one way to reduce its power over you. That frees you to consider options for neutralizing the anxiety so progress can be made.

Over the years of learning to manage my own anxiety and working with clients for whom anxiety is an issue, I’ve learned that the best way to handle anxiety is to get support. Anxiety is much more likely to expand and run the show when you are alone in the ring with it. Add caring support and any threat can be addressed and eliminated. That’s why people who have been stuck in self-defeating behaviors and a state of inertia begin moving when they get help from professional organizers, coaches, therapists and supportive family and friends. Anxiety is debilitating. Support is empowering.

Could anxiety be at the heart of your stuckness? What support would make forward movement possible?

Making Difficult Decisions = More Energy

During the last few weeks I’d been noticing some troubling changes in my mom who has Alzheimer’s. She spent more time sleep. She resisted going to the dining room for meals. She had more difficulty walking and was quite unsteady on her feet. What made all this more troubling was that she was alone in a two bedroom apartment in Gayton Terrace, an assisted living complex. Though staff were going by to encourage her to get up, get dressed and go to the dining room, they were no match for my mother’s determination to stay cocooned in her bed. And, staff in assisted living are spread pretty thin. There was no way Mom could get the monitoring for safety and the amount of encouragement and attention she needed. I had a niggling feeling it was time to make a change in Mom’s living situation.

The next step for Mom was memory care, moving to a locked floor where she would be able to have more care, more encouragement and more watchful eyes. Part of my reluctance to move Mom to memory care was my perception of memory care. I thought it was a step down and one step closer to the inevitable end of the sad course that Alzheimer’s runs in the brains of its victims. I was also hung up on the fact that it’s a locked floor. I didn’t want Mom locked away, even if it was for her safety. Mom doesn’t wander (yet), so the locked aspect wasn’t what Mom needed. But, after meeting with the nursing supervisor for memory care and the psychologist who coordinates activities for memory care residents I learned that being in a smaller community can be comforting to Alzheimer’s patients who as their cognitive abilities decline become easily overwhelmed by too much sensory input. Moving to memory care could be a very good thing for Mom.

Woman with teaAs I sat on the fence of that decision I realized that part of my reluctance to commit to making that move was that I didn’t want to take more of Mom’s independence from her. The Alzheimer’s was already doing a number on that. She has a comfortable apartment that she has grown to love and find comfort in. The thought of disrupting that and making her move into a new, unfamiliar situation was daunting. I knew she’d object and resist making the change. And, I couldn’t blame her. The familiar is comforting. To make matters worse, I too loved her apartment and loved spending time with her in the greater community of Gayton Terrace. I too would be losing some things that brought me great comfort as well.

Then fate stepped in and gave me a sign. Yes, a sign. When I arrived for my regular Saturday morning visit I found Mom in the midst of an uncontrollable bout of diarrhea. She was beside herself with the discomfort and feeling out of control of what her body was doing. She had been struggling for some time all alone going back and forth to the bathroom, not always making it to the toilet in time. She was exhausted. She was a mess. And, the staff were unaware of her plight. Mom’s failing memory made it impossible for her to remember how to call for help using an alarm in the bathroom and the bedroom. That cinched it for me. The horror of that situation and my mother’s powerlessness pushed me over the fence. The next day I wrote the nursing supervisor to get the ball rolling to get Mom into memory care.

Once I made the decision that the move was going to be made, once I’d talked to the nursing supervisor and learned that just the right kind of room was available, and once I’d lined up my husband and a dear friend to help with the move, I felt such great relief. I felt a surge of energy and optimism from a deep knowing that though difficult, this change is the best course of action for Mom. I hadn’t realized that carrying that decision around in my head and heart for weeks was such a heavy load. Only after making the decision was I able to acknowledge the emotional toll that sitting in indecision had been costing me. Though I still have many challenges in front of me to coordinate the move and help Mom with this transition, I now have energy to face them. When in indecision my energy was consumed by fear, dread and grief. Once the decision was made I was energized and free to imagine how Mom and I can find pleasure, new connections and support in this new situation. 

Decisions that affect us emotionally and that affect our loved ones can be among the hardest to make. They carry a psychic weight that is wearying. When you face reality and make a difficult decision you will be rewarded with an amazing release of energy. Fence sitting is costly in many ways. With information and support it can be possible to step over the fence and enjoy the benefits of dropping the weight of indecision.  

ADD/ADHD and Procrastination

“I’ll do it later” is the mantra of many an ADD/ADHD client. Postponing action is a habit. At the time they say they’ll do it later they may fully intend to do it. But, because time is fluid for people with ADD/ADHD brain wiring, no particular time is set to do it, and often the task vanishes from awareness. “I’ll do it later” is a process that can build a nightmare of incomplete actions on a desk and or a brain packed to the brim with to do items of varying importance. Either state can lead to overwhelm and paralysis.

144What’s the “I’ll do it later” mantra all about? People with ADD/ADHD have executive function deficits that make decision-making, consistently engaging in action and completing tasks difficult. Their frontal lobes are under-stimulated. Urgency and bling (things that are new, exciting or crisis-driven) motivate them to act. The “I’ll do it later” tasks typically are those that have no urgency, or are boring or overwhelming. They don’t hold enough emotional charge to ignite the frontal lobe of the person with the brain-based disorder of ADD/ADHD. So, non-urgent tasks are set aside until some type of urgent need brings them back into focus. Postponing tasks until they absolutely have to be done is a way to create urgency, to create the condition that the brain needs to engage. 

Last week I was helping a client pay his bills and manage the paper flowing across his desk. As we worked he set aside two folders of bills to review. “I’ll do it later,” he said. He has ADD. I wondered if he would remember to do the task and be able to accomplish it alone. Since it had been delegated to the amorphous “later” category, I feared it would slip from awareness.

When I returned a week later, the folders were still there. He may have lost sight of the folders in his busyness. Or, looking at the reality of money flowing out of his company may have been an overwhelming task he’d rather avoid doing. Completing the task also required a kind of focus that is difficult for people with ADD, especially an emotionally charged task like reviewing bills.

When I returned this week to find my client’s desk overflowing with paper plus those folders I suggested he review them while I was working beside him. In my company, with my support, he was able to focus and complete the task. My being there provided the stimulation his frontal lobe needed to be able to As soon as they were off the desk he was able to get traction on other actions he needed to take. He was able to get re-organized.

The lesson? If you have ADD/ADHD, know that “I’ll do it later” really means “My brain is not up for this now” or “I don’t want to deal with this now because it’s too boring, overwhelming, etc.” It is also a good way to plant the seeds of negative energy. Tasks that are incomplete, especially those that you tend to avoid doing, are sources of negative energy. That energy becomes a block to being able to complete other tasks. You may not be conscious of the negative energy blocks you’re building, but their energy keeps you distracted and feeling lost in having too much to do. The energy of those “I’ll do it later” tasks gets more overwhelming with time, making them even harder to face and complete.

Most professional organizers advise “do it now!” But, that can be hard for people with ADD, especially for those boring, overwhelming tasks. Tasks like that are best done in the presence of or with the help of a supportive other. “I’ll do it later” can then become “I’ll do it with Debbie” (or some other person). Listen for your own “I’ll do it later” tasks with curiosity. What tasks do you postpone? Which ones can you make yourself do now? And, which ones are best done it support?  

Remember, “I’ll do it later” is not your friend!

Change Your Perspective, Change Your Experience

Mom and me on Valentine's Day

Mom and me on Valentine’s Day

As I was thinking about plans I’d made for a day trip with Mom last weekend, I noticed that I was in a very different place mentally and emotionally with regards to my mother than I was a year ago. Mom has Alzheimer’s, a tragic, progressive form of dementia that eventually leaves people unable to care for themselves.

A year ago I had just moved Mom into assisted living. At that time she was unhappy and unsettled about the change. It took everything in my patience arsenal to get through every interaction with her. Consequently, I felt burdened by the responsibility I had, resentful that Mom had Alzheimer’s, mad that everything seemed so hard. I was focused on the difficulty and struggle. I had a “I’m worn out, scared, resentful” perspective of my reality. If I’d been planning a day with Mom last year that perspective would have made me dread taking the day trip.

What I noticed this time is that I was looking forward to having an adventure with Mom, to having the chance to bring her some pleasure by having lunch with an old friend, to having a great trip through the country listening to music we both love. My perspective had shifted. The current perspective is, “This is an opportunity to connect with Mom where she is, to enjoy special moments in her company, to make a new memory for me.”

How did that perspective shift? I wasn’t aware that I was trying to operate with a very limiting, negative perspective last year. I was just doing the best I could. Part of what happened with is that enough time has gone by and Mom has adjusted to her new home and is less scared, threatened and oppositional about her living situation. She has adjusted to her new home and has forgotten much of her previous life. Ironically, that’s one of the gifts of dementia.

I’ve also had a lot more experience dealing with Mom in her impaired state. I have figured out what works with her and what doesn’t. At some point I began making a conscious effort to go with the dementia rather than resent and fight it. Since I couldn’t change what’s happening to my beloved mother, I chose to observe it with curiosity. I watch the changes and make adjustments to my behavior in order to accept what is and make the most of a very sad time.

Instead of focusing on my sadness, I spend more time looking for ways to give her pleasure, even as this terrible disease is robbing her of so much that is precious to her — her ability to take care of herself, her ability to anchor memories, her ability to read, her ability to understand language and communicate with people who matter to her. By going with the flow of the disease process and looking for opportunities to demonstrate the love I feel for her, I’ve landed in a much more accepting and positive place myself.

If you have a difficult situation in your life, check out your perspective about that challenge. What are you thinking? Are you holding a positive, helpful perspective or clinging to a limiting perspective that keeps you feeling like a victim of circumstances beyond your control? Choosing a new way of thinking about your situation can change your experience from negative and burdensome to positive and life-affirming. My mother’s disease has taught me so many important lessons. The lesson I’m sharing with you now is that changing the way I view things can change my experience of them. I’ve learned to look for and spend time with what I can control, my thoughts and my perspective.

Inattentive ADD & Workaholism: Two Ends of the Productivity Spectrum

Some people struggle to get started, particularly on tasks that are challenging, unpleasant or boring. Others can start with relative ease, but have difficulty finding their off switch. The first type of person struggles to get things done, to be reliable, to be consistently productive and follow through consistently. The second type gets lots of things done, but struggles with exhaustion and burnout as well as the personal fall out from being so absorbed in work that other areas of their life, particularly relationships, are neglected.

Are you ready to step out of the stress?

Are you ready to step out of the stress?

The first description is of a person who has inattentive ADD (attention deficit disorder), a neurobiological disorder. The second describes a compulsive doer, a workaholic. The person with ADD is likely to have more conflict outside of herself in relationships for not following through, finishing tasks and being reliable as well as an internal struggle with shame and low self-esteem. The compulsive doer seems to have her act together because she is productive, but she is not free from struggle. Though her relationships can be stressed by her unavailability, her biggest struggle is internal. Workaholics are often driven by fear that they might not measure up and an unconscious need to do enough to be OK. They manage their fear of inadequacy by continuing to push themselves mercilessly. No matter how much they accomplish, they have never done enough to feel safe from the critical voice in their own head.

These two types of people are at opposite ends of the continuum of productivity. One struggles to be productive. The other is incredibly productive, but is unable to acknowledge and enjoy their accomplishments. Unfortunately it’s common for both types of people to continue struggling because they are not aware that there are other options to dodging bullets, racing for deadlines and working to the point of exhaustion. 

Coaching is a process that focuses on developing self-knowledge and self-awareness to make it possible to accomplish goals. In coaching the person with ADD has the opportunity to develop awareness of how her ADD sabotages her efforts to be productive and design and practice strategies for managing her ADD. The workaholic in coaching has the opportunity to pause, connect with herself and discover what keeps her on the treadmill to exhaustion. With greater clarity about what drives her to the point of exhaustion and even illness, strategies for shifting to a lower gear, and the support of her coach, the workaholic has the opportunity to shift her perception of herself and make space for more than work in her life.

Opposites aren’t always opposite. The person with ADD and the workaholic both struggle to feel competent and productive enough. Their lives are lived in stress mode. Coaching is an option that can help them identify and manage their internal and external struggles and create new ways of being that can result in long-lasting personal empowerment.

If you recognize yourself in either description, consider investing in coaching to make possible living a life with less stress, more pleasure and more peace.

Ground Yourself for Greater Productivity

DSCN0461In our rush, rush world that seems to run on urgency, it’s very easy to get ungrounded, to lose your focus, and in turn get stuck or spin in activity without awareness or purpose. In order to be productive you must be grounded in who you are and your current purpose.

When you are grounded you feel good, capable and equipped to handle whatever comes at you during your day. You are connected to yourself and a universal source of energy. You have confidence, you can make decisions and work effectively. When I’m grounded I do my best coaching, my best writing, my best speaking and my best work with hands-on clients. I operate from a firm foundation of my self-worth, trust in my abilities, and faith that things will work out for the best.

Many things can cause you to become ungrounded. Upon reflection of my episodes of becoming ungrounded, I’ve noticed that I can easily get knocked off center and disconnect from myself when I make mistakes, when I’m in transition (e.g. the transition from hands-on organizer to organizer coach who also does hands-on organizing), when I receive criticism or perceive judgement from others, when I’m fatigued, when I am in new situations, and when I’m not practicing good self-care (eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep).

When I’m ungrounded I feel anxious and fears plague me. My self-confidence is wobbly. I get breathless. I have difficulty focusing and identifying priorities for action. And, I sometimes get depressed. Being ungrounded is no fun!

Once I learned how to recognize when I am ungrounded I began to seek ways to reground myself. Following is a list of some of the ways I get back to center:

  • clearing clutter,
  • getting organized,
  • listening to music I love,
  • reading for information and inspiration,
  • making my space feel better by adding flowers and rearranging art,
  • spending time in nature,
  • weeding (having my hands in the earth),
  • walking my dogs,
  • participating in community with others who have similar challenges,
  • connecting with others who care about me,
  • seeking professional support (in networking, from colleagues, from consultants), and
  • getting coached (yes, coaches get coached too!).

Once I’m grounded again, I’m off and running! I’m focused. I have hope. I have clear intentions. I’m reconnected to myself and I’m productive.

Some people find themselves perpetually in a state of being ungrounded and struggling to be productive. If this describes you, it’s quite possible that you have a brain-based challenge that makes getting and staying grounded difficult (e.g. depression, anxiety disorders, ADD/ADHD). A consultation with a coach or therapist is the best way to determine if your productivity challenges are brain-based and would benefit from coaching or treatment by a therapist. If you suspect you may have a brain-based condition, take the first step by contacting me for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss that possibility.  Consider it necessary self-care to get grounded and be productive.

What knocks you off your center? When you are having difficulty being productive, you may be ungrounded. Notice it. Don’t judge it. Look at your current state with curiosity to identify the cause or causes of being ungrounded. Then find ways to reconnect with yourself, the positive essence of who you are and what really matters in your life. Get grounded and get productive.

Identifying ADD, A Key to Self-Acceptance and Improving Productivity

Screen Shot 2012-01-25 at 12.20.50 PMSince I’ve begun coaching I’ve had the opportunity to help two of my clients identify that their long-term challenges with organization, productivity and managing time are the result of ADD (attention deficit disorder). ADD is a neurobiological disorder that affects a person’s ability to get and stay organized, get things done in a timely fashion, and accomplish their goals. Both women were so grateful to learn that there actually is an explanation for behaviors that have troubled them all their lives. After years of thinking that they were lazy, slackers, underperforming or somehow lacking in moral character, they now have an answer that explains decades of performance challenge. 

What was most exciting for me to observe in both clients is that following the tears and relief that came with knowing there’s a reason they can’t do some things well, were changes in behavior that are already bearing fruit. One client, armed with information about her diagnosis, immediately began seeking strategies to help manage her symptoms. She also began seeking support in areas where she now knows she will always struggle due to the reality of ADD. The other finds that it is easier to be gentle with herself when she is not performing to the level she thinks she should. Instead of beating herself up for not getting things done, she reminds herself of her diagnosis and turns to strategies and support that help her take action. 

Have you ever wondered if you have ADD? Following are the behaviors I noticed in the women mentioned above, symptoms of ADD:

  • have difficulty getting started on tasks, particularly ones that are complex, boring, or that seem overwhelming,
  • use urgency as a motivator to take action,
  • get distracted easily
  • get bored easily,
  • get overwhelmed easily and then paralyzed, unable to take action,
  • have difficulty sustaining action because they have difficulty staying focused,
  • have difficulty completing tasks,
  • have many balls in the air,
  • take on too many commitments because they aren’t aware of what they’ve committed to and the time it will take to do things,
  • have challenges managing time, usually having too much to do and too little time,
  • waste time being off course seeking stimulation or being frozen by feelings of overwhelm,
  • have great difficulty getting and staying organized, particularly with paper.

If you identify with many of these descriptors, you may have ADD. ADD is a disorder that can’t be cured, but it can be managed with the help of medication and effective strategies for handling problem behaviors and changing ineffective habits. Coaching is a process that works well for people with ADD because it provides support and the opportunity to build on strengths to identify strategies that work to address ADD challenges.

If you think you may have ADD, contact me at 804-730-4991 or at debbie@debbiebowie.com to set up free 30 minute phone consultation to talk about that possibility. Identifying the cause of your productivity and organizing challenges could be the first step to making sense of your life path and creating greater self-acceptance and productivity.

ADD: A Neurobiological Disorder of Remarkable Individuals

I’ve come to know and understand ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) by chance. My Scanned Image 102240007education about the disorder began when my husband, Bob, figured out that he has ADD. What a relief it was both to him and me to have a way to understand behaviors that did not serve him and caused challenges in our relationship! 

Then, when I began my organizing business I found that many of my clients had either been diagnosed with ADD or were showing symptoms of ADD. ADD challenges include having great difficulty creating structure, getting and staying organized, getting things done and managing time, all areas of support and service provided by professional organizers. Deficits in executive functions in the brains of people with ADD produce life management problems that can be so serious that seeking help from a professional is not a luxury, but a necessity. So, it seems I’m an ADD magnet. I’m so grateful for having had the opportunity to know be in the company of so many remarkable people. Let me tell you why.

Much writing and conversation about ADD tends to focus on the challenges of this disorder. Over the years I’ve been knee deep in the challenges, from digging through chaos reigning in their environments, to helping them repair mistakes made and complete tasks undone. But, seldom is there enough said about the laudable attributes of people with ADD. So, to balance the scales a bit, I’m going to share with you some of what I love about my husband, friends and clients who have ADD.

  •  I love being in the presence of their intelligent minds. Their minds work at warp speed. It’s very stimulating to be in their company.
  • They are often quite creative, whether it be in music, the arts, communication, writing, how they dress or how they operate out in the world. Many are great idea generators.
  • I’ve enjoyed many laughs with my ADD clients and friends. Many have a great sense of humor and can see the fun in things that other people would miss.
  • Because their ADD has led them down many bumpy roads, they tend to be more laid back and accepting of the humanness of others. They have a such a challenge keeping track of the details of their own lives that it’s probably easier to let others live their own lives without comment!
  • As fervent stimulation seekers they are great sources of interesting information in many arenas. A person with ADD is rarely boring!
  • With adequate support a person with ADD can soar to great heights in whatever arena captures their passion. Many have become dynamic thought leaders, motivational speakers, entertainers, and CEOs because of their gifts of sharp intelligence, creativity, and sense of humor.

Yes, a person with ADD has very real challenges caused by the wiring in their brain. But, there is so much more to that person that can be hidden by the wreckage resulting from their cognitive deficits. With education, support from professional organizers and coaches, and medication, it is possible to manage ADD challenges and allow the genius in these remarkable people to emerge and touch our world.

Moving Beyond Perfectionism

Pathway in Sunflower cultivationPerfectionism is a cognitive/emotional process held in place by habit and strong emotions. It is based on faulty beliefs like “perfect will give me what I want.” Habits, feelings and beliefs are difficult to change. Therefore, though the costs of perfectionism are high, self-esteem challenges, physical challenges, lowered productivity and performance, no time for yourself to enjoy life, and relationship difficulties, you cannot just make a decision not be a perfectionist and change overnight.

But, with awareness of how your perfectionism shows up for you, you can take steps that will help you ease up on yourself and learn to accept less than perfect.

  1. View your imperfections/mistakes and the imperfections of others from a detached perspective. Notice them. Don’t judge them. Perfectionism and making mistakes are not character flaws. Your perfectionism is with you because you think it is important to your well-being and perhaps your survival.
  2. Befriend your perfectionism. Be curious about it and identify the ways that perfectionism shows up for you. Notice when you’re stuck, being unproductive or taking too long with a task for the value of the task. Notice when you are thinking that something just isn’t right and you’re internally twitching about it. Also, notice when you are beating yourself up for a mistake or job that was less than perfectly done. Being critical of others is another sign that your perfectionism is running the show.
  3. Be curious about how perfectionism has served you. Bringing to light how you have benefitted from aiming for perfect and understanding the origin of your perfectionism and what it made possible could make it easier to shift away from the rigidity of perfectionism. Aiming for perfect could have been a useful method for managing anxiety because you were shy or insecure. Presenting perfect may have been a way that you stayed out of hot water at home. We tend to cling to strategies that have worked for us. Perfectionism can work up to a point — pushing you to excel, to manage the impressions of others about your worth. It can give you the illusion of control. For example, if you and what you do are perfect, then you will be above reproach.
  4. Re-aim for good, excellent or complete, not perfect. Shooting for perfect results in you shooting down your own self-worth or that of another. Excellent is possible. Perfect is an illusion. Those who strive for excellence can take mistakes (imperfections) as incentive to work harder. Unhealthy perfectionists consider their mistakes a sign of personal defects. Making excellent the new perfect will allow you ease up, take action, complete actions and be gentler with yourself.
  5. Adopt a new goal. Perfect is a goal, that unattainable result that never happens. Holding out for perfect can have a profound impact on productivity. For example, you don’t complete tasks because you are afraid of not measuring up, because you don’t have the time to do them perfectly, or you want them done just so.  Make completion your new goal. Done is better than perfect!
  6. Adopt a new thought. Since perfectionism is a cognitive/emotional process, using a cognitive strategy can be very effective in challenging perfectionism. You have no direct control over the strong emotions that may have created and now sustain your perfectionism. But, you do have control over your thoughts and actions. Changing thoughts can change feelings. So, adding a new thought not only will address the cognitive challenges of perfectionism, but can help you manage uncomfortable emotions like anxiety and fear that keep perfectionism in place. Make sure it’s a thought that resonates with you. Following are some possibilities: progress not perfection; done is better than perfect; mistakes are learning opportunities; perfect is impossible, excellence is the new perfect; human is better than perfect. 
  7. Notice and silence negative self-talk. What are those things you automatically say to yourself when you don’t measure up to your idea of what is acceptable in any arena? Your intention may be good, perhaps to motivate yourself to work harder. But, negative self-talk always hurts self-esteem and your sense of your own value and worth. You couldn’t stop criticism from well-meaning or perhaps not so well-meaning parents, teachers, and other family members when you were young, however, you can silence your own negative thoughts about yourself. First notice them showing up. Then silence them by saying to yourself, “Thanks for sharing, but I don’t need your help.” Or, counter the negative self-talk by making the distinction between who you are and what you do. You could say, “Even if I make mistakes, I am still OK.”
  8. Laugh at your mistakes. You know when you’ve screwed up. You’re probably hypersensitive about that. So, why not use that automatic awareness for good. When you’ve made a mistake, instead of pulling out the bat and beating yourself up or looking for someone else to beat up, notice the mistake and laugh at yourself. Laughing is completely counter to the critical voice that tends to rise up when people perceive imperfection. Once you shift your energy from the intensity of criticism to the lightness of laughter, you then can look for the learning opportunity that is available.
  9. Learn from your mistakes. When you accept mistakes and imperfections from a lighter perspective, it is then possible to view them as information and an opportunity for learning. Sometimes imperfect gives us important information that can be missed if you’re busy berating yourself.  It may signal a change of heart, a lack of commitment, a need not being met, a lack of commitment, an oversight, or a need for change.
  10. Deliberately be imperfect in some areas of your life. Practice being imperfect in a part of your life where you are less likely to experience negative consequences. That way you can experience the benefit of lightening up and adopting a new way of being without a lot of risk. I practice being imperfect in my yard. Part of that is practical because there is no way I can keep up with all the weeding. And, part of it is me letting go and accepting that good really is enough.

Living with the constant striving for perfect is exhausting, a threat to your physical health, your relationships, your sense of self-worth and peace of mind. Releasing perfectionism is possible, but will take time, commitment and mindfulness.

What’s possible if you aim for done instead of perfect?

The Costs of Perfectionism

Single Word: PerfectionPerfectionism may sound like a good thing. What could be better than aiming high, going for the gold? But, perfect is an unattainable goal. If you are a perfectionist, no matter what you do, you won’t be able to get there. Unfortunately many perfectionists are unaware that their aspirations are out of sight, always beyond their grasp. What do they do when time after time they fail to measure up to their unrealistic standards? They try harder. Over time all that effort can lead to some grave consequences.

There are many possible costs to living a life on a quest for perfect. I’m going to focus on five primary costs.

  1. Self-esteem challenges–due to never measuring up and harsh judgment of themselves and their efforts.
  2. Physical challenges–due to living in a state of chronic stress and having poor or non-existent self-care.
  3. Lowered productivity and performance–due to unrecognized exhaustion, too many obligations, poor time planning, and procrastination.
  4. No time for themselves to enjoy life –because all their time is spent trying to measure up to an unattainable standard.
  5. Relationship difficulties — due to a tendency to not only judge themselves harshly, but also judge others. 

Self-esteem challenges — Perfectionists tend to have a harsh inner critic. For example, as a perfectionist, when you make a mistake you beat yourself up for your error. When you don’t get something done, you beat yourself up, or at least feel bad about yourself for your incompletion. Because you can’t reach the bar, you’re never good enough.

Perfectionists can never do enough to really be OK. They are always seeking a higher level and never make it. The end result is they can’t be solid and grounded in the knowledge of their own competence, value and worth.

I’ll never forget when a therapist once said to me, “Debbie, you are one of the most competent people I know.” I was shocked. I had no clue I was so competent because I was focused on what was incomplete, what I hadn’t done right, and what needed to be done.

Physical challenges — Chronic stress and constant working can lead to exhaustion. Once one hurdle is leaped, another high one or several high ones are waiting. There is very little down time.

Over commitment and the stress that comes with it can lead to heart issues, musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the neck and back, digestive problems, and difficulty sleeping to name a few. At its worst cancer and heart attacks are possible, probably caused by chronic stress. 

Lowered productivity and performance —Perfectionists spend more time than they need to on tasks to make sure they are done just right, so consequently they get less done. Sometimes they fail to complete tasks because they are not yet perfect.

The quality of a perfectionist’s performance can be affected by unrecognized exhaustion or juggling too many obligations. I learned this recently when I deliberately took time off to play and rest every day. I discovered that the ease of writing and the quality of my writing when I got rest, even for short amounts of time, was far superior to what I’d been accomplishing when I was limping along unaware.

With such high standards and challenges believing in their ability, it’s not unusual for perfectionists to sometimes shut down completely, have difficulty engaging in tasks they need to do, have committed to doing, or want to do. I call this performance paralysis.

Not getting things done because they don’t have time to do them perfectly or because they are experiencing performance paralysis can also result in clutter. Clutter has a profound negative effect on both productivity and performance.

No time to enjoy their lives — Going for perfect costs time, time that could be spent doing other important things, like resting, enjoying social interactions and family life.

Relationship difficulties — If as a perfectionist you’re shooting for perfect, you’re more likely to carry that expectation beyond yourself and expect it from others or judge others for being less than perfect. That often results in criticism and/or a failure to acknowledge the contributions and value of others. Criticism NEVER helps. It corrodes relationships both with self and with others.

If you struggle with perfectionism, is the payoff for your efforts worth the costs long-term? Probably not. But, it’s a habit anchored in place by some compelling beliefs and strong emotions. My next blog post will offer suggestions for moving beyond perfectionism to a more humane way of living. Stay tuned!