Tag Archives: productivity

Empower yourself! Fix broken things!

Broken things carry a very heavy weight energetically. For example, you may not be aware of

Fixing my arthritic thumb joint was empowering!

how heavy that leaky faucet is in your subconscious until you repair it and feel the relief of having it fixed.

I was reminded of how empowering it can be to fix broken things when I had surgery to address osteoarthritis in my right hand. For years I had been experiencing increasing aching pain at the base of both my thumbs. As the arthritis and pain progressed my mobility in my hands became more and more limited. I had to stop knitting. I had to stop using the track pad on my computer. I had to ask my husband to open jars for me. My hands became weaker and weaker. As those things happened I began to feel broken, powerless to do anything about it, frustrated, and old. The brokenness in my body negatively affected my sense of self, my belief in myself and my abilities. I was on a negative slide. Brokenness brings with it negative energies in many forms.

I was excited to learn that surgery could give me back full use of my hands. I’m now two weeks into recovery. Though my hand still has some dull pain and feels fragile, I have noticed that my sense of what is possible for me in the future is growing. Just addressing that one broken part of me has begun shifting from an “I can’t” energy to an “I can” energy. Why is that? Because I fixed a part of my body that was broken. I know my hand will no longer be deteriorating into debilitating pain. It is healing and will be strong again. If it will be strong, so will I.

I wasn’t consciously aware of the extent of the psychological weight caused by the progression of arthritis in my hand until I took action to address the problem and eliminate it. When I was feeling broken and powerless, my thinking and view of myself was contracting. When I took action to repair what was broken, my thinking and my view of myself began to expand. It manifested in feelings of optimism and joy. I began taking action to realize my intention to include more music and art in my life. I took a painting class, my first oil painting class since college. I rented an oboe and registered for classes to learn how to play it.

The more healthy and whole I am physically and psychologically, the more empowered I feel. The more empowered I feel the more likely I am to take positive action. What is broken in your life that if fixed would give you new life, motivation, inspiration and could lead to positive action on your behalf? What is your first step to fixing it? What’s possible if you do fix it? How will fixing it empower you to go for what you really want? 

Productivity: Plan Your Breaks Carefully

Have you had the experience that you are working along on a task or project, stop for a short

Avoid engaging in social media and other pleasurable electronic activities when you take breaks to ensure that you will be able to return to work in a timely manner.

break with the sincere intention to return to your work, but don’t return to it? I’m guessing that most of us have had that type of experience. What happened? Breaks are supposed to help you be more productive, right? How did you get completely derailed from your work?

What you do on your break can determine whether or not you will be successful returning to work after it. If you stand up, stretch, get a drink and/or a snack, go to the bathroom, step outside for a few minutes, even take a short walk, it will be relatively easy to return to your work. Those activities are not likely to distract you from your focus on your work.

If you check Facebook or any other social media site, look at Youtube, play video games, watch TV, surf the web or listen to something engaging, like NPR, you are likely to have more difficulty getting back on track. Those activities are highly stimulating and give great pleasure that can be hard to disengage from. They take you to a place that is very different from your work. You may think you’ll just look at Facebook for five minutes, yet find yourself there for 25 minutes. By then you’ll have shifted from a work/productivity focus to a pleasure focus.

Breaks are essential for productivity. Your brain needs a rest after working hard for a period of time. Taking a break allows you to reset and refresh your brain and get your energy and motivation back. Take breaks regularly (5-15 minutes), but plan your breaks to avoid highly stimulating and highly pleasurable activities that can shift your focus and make re-engaging in your task or project more difficult, if not impossible.

Productivity: Where You Sit Matters

Yesterday I watched myself carefully choose a seat in Starbucks. I was between meetings and

I didn’t choose to sit at this table because none of the chairs put me in the Power Position. One chair had its back to the main door, one chair had its back to the flow of traffic going to and from the bathroom and exiting the building, and the third chair had its back to the flow of traffic entering by the back door. In all positions my nervous system would be on high alert, and I would feel vulnerable.

needed a place where I could get work done on my computer. I noticed that not just any seat would do. It had to be the most comfortable seat in the restaurant.

I’m not talking about the comfort of the chair I would sit in. All the chairs were the same. I’m referring to the location of the chair in the restaurant. I passed chairs that had their backs to glass walls and chairs that faced outside with their backs to the flow of customer traffic. I was searching for a seat where I could have a solid wall behind me and a full view of the front door.

Why would I be so deliberate about my choice of seating? In my feng shui training I learned that I can be most productive and successful if I position myself in the Power Position when I am working. The Power Position is a location where I have a solid wall behind me and a full view of the door. My nervous systems is programmed for survival. A solid wall behind me ensures that I won’t be surprised from behind. A view of the door makes it possible to know what’s coming at me so I can prepare to defend myself if needed.

The chair where you see the computer was my choice because it put me in the Power Position. I had a solid wall behind me and a full view of both doors.

When I don’t have a solid wall behind me, my nervous system is on high alert for possible threats and therefore can’t settle down to focus my full attention on my work. If I don’t have a view of the door, a part of me feels unsettled, again making it impossible to be fully present to my work. The Power Position is the most comfortable place to sit, a place where my nervous system can settle down and I can focus on important things other than safety. Putting myself in the Power Position is a choice for personal empowerment and productivity.

It has become a habit to position myself in the Power Position whenever I sit down. Yesterday I really wanted to get work done at my computer. I knew if I could find a comfortable place to seat myself, I’d be able to get a lot done. If I couldn’t do that, I would be less productive.

Fortunately the best seat in the house was available with a solid wall behind me and a full view

My view of both doors (one at the end and one just off to the right) and most of the activity in the space plus a solid wall behind me made it possible for me to relax and focus on my work.

of both doors into the coffee shop. It was interesting to note that there were only two seats in the whole restaurant that put customers in the Power Position. Perhaps Starbucks unconsciously wants customers to be a little unsettled and not too comfortable, so they won’t linger, thereby making space for other customers. Or, the interior designers for Starbucks aren’t aware of feng shui principles and the effect that seating can have on the comfort and productivity of clients.

With awareness of the importance of sitting in the Power Position, you too can make seating decisions that lead to having the best focus, brainpower, and productivity.

Artists: Improve Your Studios for Success

Artists need inspiration and motivation to keep producing art. Years ago I visited a number of

A studio housed in a garage.

artists’ studios to get a sense of the environments in which artists work. As a feng shui practitioner who appreciates the feng shui principal that what you have in your space and how it’s arranged affects what happens in the space, it was interesting to see that many artists work in very utilitarian spaces that are cluttered, disorganized, and not very inviting. The priority in many studios seems to have been to expend creative energy on art pieces rather than on the space itself.

Feng shui teaches that if you make a space a personal paradise, an attractive space with many sources of positive energy (light, color, plants, treasures, useful supplies, etc.) and few sources of negative energy (clutter, piles of paper, trash, supplies you no longer use, etc.) and utterly comfortable, you will attract more good into your life (motivation to create, increased productivity, commissions, ideas, opportunities to show your work, resources, etc.). Given that reality, it would behoove artists to invest more time, energy, and creativity into transforming their utilitarian studios into luscious places to work.

I recently had the opportunity to do a feng shui consultation for Kymberly Keniston-Pond, an artist and wellness consultant whose studio was in a small shed in her backyard. As most sheds are, it was unpainted on the inside and had no windows, a pretty grim, utilitarian space much better suited for storing yard tools than for creating art.

I initially questioned Kymberly about the idea of trying to make that space her center of creativity. It was so small, dark and uninviting. When it became apparent that the shed was her only option for a studio, we began brainstorming ways to make the space work for her. We identified areas of the space for specific activities and discussed furnishings, shelving and storage options. I made recommendations for color on the walls, for softening hard edges, for bringing a sense of the outside into the space, and for my client making the space her own. When I left that day, Kymberly had a long list of steps to take to create a studio that she’d love to come to every day.

As happens when I do a feng shui consultation, months passed with no word from Kymberly. I

The beginning — adding color to the walls and fabric in the eaves to soften the hard edges of the rafters.

often never hear from feng shui clients and wonder if they followed my recommendations but never let me know the results of their efforts, or if they never took action at all. In this case, I was lucky to receive an email from my Kymberly eight months after our consultation sharing her progress once she got a majority of the work done.

I share the following photos to show you an example of what can be done if you turn your creative energies to making your studio a personal paradise for your work. What you see may not appeal to you, but remember, it is an expression of Kymberly’s personal tastes and choices. Your expression of YOUR personal paradise will be very different.

Using fabric for visual interest, to balance the hard edges of the walls and shelving, and to screen art supplies stored below.

The specific color and content choices are not as important as the fact that Kymberly created a space she loves, one that inspires her engage in creative activities. Here’s what she had to say about the space,

“I love going into my ‘korner’. . . it makes me smile, and I feel instantly relaxed, happy, nurtured. I am looking for a beautiful chandelier to hang above my table. I will know it when I see it. I painted the covers of the florescent lights, hung some awesome Edison ones, and when I get back I will be taking down the florescent ones and hanging two more strings of Edison. . . that’s the lighting I’m most comfortable with.”

As you can see, her studio is a work in progress, one that she has enjoyed creating and now

A framed outdoor scene creates the sense of a window. A work table is transformed into an object of visual interest by covering it with with colorful fabric.

enjoys working in.

What can you do to make your studio a place that draws you in and motivate you to create more art?

A sign with the name of Kymberly’s business and a swinging chair with colorful pillows add whimsy and a lighthearted, warm energy to the space.

Planning Is an Intentional Thought Process

Planning can take you from wanting something to attaining it.

If I really want something, like I did when I wanted to become a Certified Organizer Coach®, I first do research to identify what is required to achieve the goal, and given what I learn, decide if it’s a goal I really want to aim for. Next, I plan how I will make that happen. For example, I ask myself the following questions:

  • How will I pay for it?
  • When will I start the classes?
  • How will I fit the classes, the practice coaching sessions, and other work required into my schedule?
  • What challenges am I likely to encounter?
  • What options do I have for handling challenges?

Planning is an active, intentional thought process that helps me go from wanting something to having it. It is the thinking required to organize myself first to determine if achieving my goal is possible, and then to outline the steps I need to take to achieve my goal. Once I’ve planned, I’m prepared to take action. Achieving the goal is the end result.

ADHD: Benefits of Planning with a Coach

I coach women with ADHD. Part of the coaching process is to identify an action at the end of

Planning with a coach increases the chances that you will take action.

each session to do between sessions. In the next session I check back with the client about what happened. Did they take action? If so, what happened? What did they learn? What worked? What didn’t? If they didn’t take action I inquire about what happened that prevented taking action. Did they forget to take action? Did they choose not to take action? If so, how did they reach that decision? If they didn’t take action, what else were they doing?

It is not uncommon for ADHD clients to return to sessions and report that they didn’t do what they said they would do. Why not? Often they committed to an action but didn’t do anything to hold that commitment in memory. It was as if the action was a floating leaf that touched down because it sounded like a good idea, and then blew away out of awareness just as quickly.

I initially worked with clients on how to more effectively anchor commitments in order to increase the possibility of follow through. However, just remembering what they’d committed to do wasn’t enough to motivate them to take action.

So, I went a step further and asked questions like, “When will you do this?” “What’s the benefit of completing this task?” “What steps will you need to take to make this happen?” “What barriers could prevent you from doing this?” “What resources are available to help you do this?” When I’ve helped clients plan in this way, they were more likely to report the following week that they had taken action. It seems that the planning we did together helped to anchor their commitment in memory and made doing the action easier to face and follow through on.

Planning is a process that can be difficult for people with ADHD due to executive function deficits. Saying you will do a task is easy. Breaking a task down into step-by-step actions, considering the when, where, what, how and what ifs necessary to take action are not. Planning done in partnership with a supportive other can be just the mental fuel necessary to take action.

If you have ADHD and have difficulty starting and completing important tasks, perhaps difficulties with planning are blocking action. Coaching is an option that could help you practice planning and take action with support. To learn more about how you can be more productive with coaching, schedule a FREE 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me.

Priorities Direct Effective Time Management

It is an illusion to think that you can actually manage time. You are given 24 hours in a day. Period. You can’t manage time. You can only manage yourself and how you use your time.

Effective time management occurs when you organize yourself so that you spend your time doing those tasks that are in alignment with what matters most to you. Surviving financially, being successful in a job or career, sustaining a good marriage, doing a good job raising your children, getting a good education, spending time with family and friends, assisting and supporting family in times of need, and expressing your creativity are some of the kinds of things that often matter to people. But, we are all different. What matters to you is unique to you.

Do you know what matters most to you? Your priorities? Until you do, you will be a ship without a rudder on a sea of time. Time keeps passing even if you are drifting through it with no clarity about your course and possible destinations. It is easy to let time slip away or to spend time on activities that aren’t important when you aren’t clear about the best use of your time in service of your goals and desires.

When you are aware of what matters most, you are prepared to plan your time to include necessary actions in service of what is important to you, what makes your boat float or what keeps you afloat and is in alignment with your values, goals, hopes and dreams.

Take a moment to jot down the “big rocks”, those things that are most important to you. If you have difficulty identifying what they are, have a conversation with someone who knows you well who can share their observations about what really matters to you. Or, hire a coach to partner with you to identify your values and the parts of your life that are worthy of an investment of your time.

Coaching is an effective process for identifying your priorities and learning how to organize your time so that your actions are in alignment with your priorities. Schedule a free 30-60 minute Back on Track phone coaching session with me to explore your priorities and the opportunities to learn effective time management.

Change Your Thoughts, Stop Procrastinating!

Victory over procrastination is possible. I speak from recent experience. This past weekend the weather was warm enough to work outside. It was a perfect time to offer to help my neighbor prune a grape vine that was threatening to engulf his forsythia. Why would I want to do that? The forsythia bush is in my direct line of sight from my kitchen window. Watching that vine overtake that lovely forsythia was very disturbing to me, bad feng shui! I didn’t want to face another season of observing the forsythia succumb to an out-of-control weed.

When I returned from doing errands and considered what to do next, I contemplated the task of tearing out the grape vine. Immediately my brain began to formulate excuses for not doing it:

  • It would be boring.
  • It would be overwhelming.
  • I would get dirty.
  • I could encounter poison ivy.
  • I hate making phone calls (I needed to call my neighbor).

As I processed each thought I noted that my energy and enthusiasm for tackling the task diminished. Fortunately I recognized the familiar voice of the way I procrastinate and chose to stop those thoughts mid-stream. In their place I thought of reasons why it was important that I offer to help my neighbor evict the grapevines that day:

  • The branches and vines are completely visible now before new growth appears. In a few weeks the job will be much harder to do, much easier to procrastinate doing, and would probably not get done.
  • The weather is warm for February (60’s F). Not too cold and not too hot.
  • My house cleaner is in my house, so it is not completely comfortable to be there.
  • I enjoy yard work and always feel better physically after doing it.

It was the perfect time to go to battle with the grapevines! My hibernating winter self wanted to resist the call to go outside and do the task. However, weighing my excuses against the importance of getting the job done right away, because it would be easier to do and weather conditions were ideal, I picked up the phone. As the phone rang I wondered if  my neighbor would be up for the chore. He could decline my offer and that would be that. He answered, and after a pause (probably doing battle with his own reluctance to leave the comfort of his arm chair), agreed to accept my help.

The result: the task took much less time to do than I thought it would, especially with two of us doing it; we cut out the offending vine that I now know came from just a single root; I cut out and put an herbicide on the poison ivy I found; I now know where the poison ivy vines originate, so I know where to continue to apply herbicide; I cut back the forsythia that had spread into my garden; I enjoyed and was energized by the process of rescuing the forsythia and working outside, and, I now love the view from my kitchen.

What thoughts block you from taking action on important tasks? Change them and take action!

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!

yoga-263673__340

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!

It’s Normal to Be Unproductive When Grieving

My mother died last week after at least seven years of gradual decline due to20160507_120423-1 strokes, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mom and I had always been very close, more like sisters than mother and daughter. Her death created a big void in my life. For the last 4 1/2 years I had been the coordinator of her care, a responsibility that was very heavy both emotionally and physically, and was as consuming as a full time job. When she died I lost that job, and I lost my closest connection with a family member. I felt numb, lost, unfocused and terribly sad.

Normally I am very productive. I value getting things done and making the most of my time. For years I had been running as fast as I could to keep up with home, work, and caregiving responsibilities for Mom and my disabled brother, Mark. When she died everything stopped except for taking steps to clear her apartment and plan her memorial celebration. Even the simplest of tasks too, so much energy.

Of particular concern was the fact that I had no energy to work on my business. Since I’m self-employed as a professional organizer, speaker and coach, I must work to be paid. After Mom’s death my grief flattened me, kept me stuck in slow motion, and unable to muster any interest and enthusiasm for picking up the reins of my business.

Fortunately I know a lot about the grief process and knew that he kind of grief I am describing is normal. Being productive immediately after such a big loss was not even remotely possible and was not a fair expectation. There are times when it is not realistic to expect yourself to jump back into action. This is one of those times.

Rather than beat myself up or worry myself to death about my malaise and its effect on my business, I chose to acknowledge my grief and give myself some breathing room until my energy and motivation return. Although that is not my normal way of operating, and I have twitched a bit about my slower pace, I know that to do anything else would be terribly disrespectful at this time.

Rushing right back into action would delay grieving. The underlying grief would then make it impossible to access my best self, focus and do my best work. By allowing myself to move through my grief at my own pace, I am making it more likely that I will be able to return to my former level of productivity.

Past Trauma Can Block Current Productivity

You need to do a task. If you do the task, you will reduce your anxiety. You will be able flower-1030408_640to get back on track. Not doing the task is keeping you stuck. You don’t understand why you can’t take action. What is blocking your initiative?

Does this sound familiar? People with ADHD get stuck in this mental spin all the time because they have executive function deficits that manifest as problems with initiating action. But, you can have this type of problem even if you don’t have ADHD.

Past traumas held in our unconscious mind can block productivity. If you had a difficult experience in your past, one that produced a strong emotional reaction like terror, fear, shame, or overwhelm, the unconscious memory of it can still be affecting you today.

My client, “Ellen,” was freaked out about how much money she had spent on renovations on her new home. A call to her banker would have provided her information she needed to accurately assess where she stood financially and be equipped to make good decisions going forward. She knew she needed to call her banker, but just could not make herself pick up the phone.

At first I thought perhaps she was avoiding the call because of fear of finding out that she was in big trouble financially. However, when we explored the issue in coaching, our conversation led us back to her childhood where she had experienced extreme feelings of hopelessness, embarrassment, fear and shame in school whenever she had to deal with numbers.

Her past experience with struggle and failure with math had caused her to avoid proactively dealing with her finances as an adult. Because she felt flawed and inadequate when dealing with numbers as a child, she avoided circumstances and tasks that could cause similar feelings. Her avoidance of the phone call was resistance to exposing herself to an experience that could cause all those uncomfortable feelings to resurface.

Once we uncovered the roots of her resistance, Ellen got off the phone and called the bank. Seeing the block, acknowledging it and its origins removed its emotional hold on her.

If you are stuck and can’t take action, check your past. Is the task you are trying to do similar to something you were unsuccessful at doing earlier in your life? Does it take you back to a difficult time in your life or a time when you felt inadequate, experienced failure, were shamed by others or felt alone and helpless? Identify the time. Acknowledge the source of your block. Replay the experience and remind yourself that you are older now with many more resources and sources of support available to you. Then, take action.

Control Your Focus, Be More Productive!

“Don’t look back. That’s not where you are going.” Those are the wise words of Shirley T.IMG_3564 Burke, motivational speaker and my good friend. She is referring to looking back at your past. I completely agree with that statement when trying to move ahead in life. However, when I was shoveling snow yesterday, looking back actually helped me keep going.

Shoveling snow is one of those really boring, exhausting tasks that can be overwhelming. If I looked forward I felt overwhelmed by how much there was to do. But, if I looked back I could see and celebrate the progress that I had made. I got through the shoveling by glancing forward for a few seconds every now and then to keep my eye on my goal. Most of my time was spent with my head town shoveling and looking back at my progress. The success I’d already achieved motivated me to keep going.

The same strategy can be used for any big task you must do.

  • Set your sights on your goal.
  • Manage your overwhelm and negative thoughts like, “I’ll never get this done,” or “It’s just too much,” by only occasionally glancing at the distance to the finish line.
  • Keep your head down and work.
  • Frequently look back to notice how much you have gotten done.
  • Celebrate your success and keep moving forward.

You too can strategically look back to manage overwhelm and motivate yourself to move forward on any task, even boring tasks like shoveling snow.

Clear Travel Clutter for Peace and Productivity

We just came back from a wonderful week of vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina. As44883952_s always, we came home with a car full of stuff to be unpacked and put away, and we were greeted by a mountain of mail on the counter. We had spent 9.5 hours on the road, because we had to dodge flooded areas in South Carolina. Needless to say we were both very tired. We could have just brought everything inside, plopped down on the sofa telling ourselves we would get to it the next day. But, I chose not to do that.

I am one of those strange people who is really uncomfortable with disorder. Packed suitcases, bags, and coolers feel like clutter to me. I just cannot relax when they are strewn around my space. In their presence I feel like I am still traveling, like I am not really home yet.

So, I resisted the urge to crash in front of the TV. I did that by reminding myself how wonderful it would feel to have the house in order again. I unpacked everything, including the groceries we’d picked up on the way home. I started a wash. I went through the mail. By the time I’d finished I had re-established order and felt good knowing what bills I had to pay and other personal business I would need to attend to at a later date. It took me 1.5 hours to get everything done. Then I put my feet up, and there was nothing niggling at me.

Clutter niggles. It talks to you and makes it hard to fully relax. Having suitcases that are unpacked keep you traveling, make it impossible to be fully home. You may be crashed on the sofa, but part of your nervous system is aware that something is incomplete, something needs to be done.

With my house restored to order I was able to relax on the sofa, get a good night’s sleep, and get up the next day and get right to work. There were no clutter obstacles. There was the peace of having my home and life in order, of being home. It was a great launching pad for leaping back into work that needed to be done.

If your habit is to postpone unpacking, try unpacking as soon as you get home. Notice how long it takes. Notice how you feel when you are done. Notice your process of getting back into your life. A few minutes of doing something you’d rather resist (unpacking) can yield a much easier and more productive transition from traveling to real life.

Increase Productivity — Stop Answering the Phone

Want to get more done? Stop answering the phone every time it rings. I watch clients

Calls eat time!

Calls eat time!

when the phone rings during our clutter clearing sessions. Will they automatically answer it? Will they ignore it? Or, will they check the caller ID to see who is calling so they can decide whether it is essential to answer the call? After all, they are paying for my time.

The clients in the last two categories tend to be most productive. Why? Because every time you stop to take a call you are disengaging from what you are doing. The call takes time away from what you had intended to do, and it will take time, energy and focus to re-engage in what you were doing. Phone calls eat time!

Those who do take all calls they receive are often unconscious that by taking calls they are reducing their productivity. They are acting out of a habit of reacting to whatever stimulus comes along. In some cases they justify taking the calls because trying to get people on the phone again is difficult.

Those who either don’t answer their phone automatically or who screen their calls view answering the phone as a choice, not an imperative. They have greater awareness that interruptions always reduce productivity. They choose whether to allow the phone to interrupt what they are doing or not.

Make answering the phone a choice not an imperative!

ADHD Action Strategy: Task Switching

People with ADHD have difficulty engaging in action and sustaining action to a point of completion. With awareness that ADHD directly affects their ability to be productive, they can learn strategies that work well with their special brains. I love sharing the strategies that they discover on their journey to manage their ADHD.

I recently received an email from a client with inattentive ADHD and autism who was very excited to have made good progress clearing clutter. This client has typical ADHD challenges with sustaining focus and completing tasks. In that email he shared the “Task Switching” strategy with me, a strategy that has helped him keep going despite his ADHD challenges. He gave me permission to share his description of the strategy.

“I’ve mostly discovered task switching when I’ve been unable to just step away from work entirely.  When I was on deadline for comics, twice each week, for 5 years, for the VCU student newspaper, I learned to switch from drawing with a pencil to inking the words, to inking the lines, to shading, to bordering, and back around, when possible.

On my research assistant job. . . , I would switch from researching one state to researching another, or researching on another project in progress, or (with kind permission and encouragement from my Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services job coach) about 5 minutes with a game.

At home, I can switch from walking around to sitting, from papers to dishes, from one room to another, or from clutter to a computer game.”

About a recent success he wrote. . . “I helped myself along by listening to a comedy podcast, then watching some extra features for “Doctor Who” Season 8 [of the 21st century reboot], and also playing a computer game, for a few minutes at a time, now and then.”

Task switching is a great way to keep moving even if your attention wanes for your current focus. It is a way to work with your ADHD brain that is wired to seek stimulation to function effectively. The switching creates the stimulation.

There are also risks to the task switching method. One risk is that the ADHD brain can get stuck (hyperfocusing) on tasks that are particularly stimulating, new, fun and/or exciting. Because awareness is also an ADHD challenge, you might get stuck hyperfocusing and not even be aware that you’re stuck and eating up time doing a particular activity.

Another risk of task switching is that you could lose awareness of the important task(s) you are trying to get done due to ADHD deficits in working memory (holding in memory one task while working on another).

The above challenges, however, could be addressed with a timer to break any hyperfocus and a written note with the important task(s) to be done located beside the timer. When the timer goes off, you are cued to pause, refocus and shift back to anHand check mark the list important task.

Do you already task switch to get things done with your ADHD brain? If so, let me know how it works for you. If not, give it a try. Working with your ADHD brain’s normal tendencies is easier on your brain, prevents discouragement when non-ADHD productivity strategies don’t work, and can lead to greater productivity and success.

Home Office: The Most Neglected Room in the House

When you look at your home office, do you cringe?

A home office that is guarantee to scare you off!

A home office that is guaranteed to scare you off!

Many people do! Why is that? I think  there are two main reasons that home offices become places to avoid: they often hold  functions that most people want to avoid, like bill paying, financial management and paper repository; and they are often unattractively appointed and cluttered. 

No matter how much money you make, you probably still have some discomfort when it comes to paying bills and managing your finances. And, were you ever taught how to handle paper? Not likely! So, quite possibly it’s an area associated with money anxiety and paper incompetence. Doesn’t that just make you so excited about spending time there doing boring tasks like paying bills and filing? Heck no!

Unless you use your home office for a home-based business that generates enough income to pay for high quality office furniture, most home offices are furnished with furniture leftovers doubling as office furniture; folding tables and cheap office furniture from office supply chain stores. You end of up with a hodge podge of furnishings that are difficult to make look attractive. And wall color, if funds are tight, you’ll hold off on painting the home office a pleasant color. Attractive art in the home office? Why bother! After all, nobody sees it but family members, and you don’t even spend that much time there! 

Add to that the fact that home offices often are multi-purpose rooms that are also used as guest and craft rooms. When rooms have more than one purpose, it’s easy for their essential functions to become blurred. They eventually end up as dumping grounds for things you don’t know what to do with, things you don’t want to take the time to move up to the attic, and things you need to clear from other rooms when company is coming.

If by now you’re feeling sorry for your home office, good! Because it’s the brain of the house, the home of crucial functions like financial management, and should be treated with more respect. If I told you the condition of your home office could be affecting both your current finances and your financial future, would you treat it with more respect? If I told you that disorder in that room creates a mental fogginess that could affect all decision-making and productivity, would that motivate you to create a new order and spend some time and money making it an attractive place where you enjoy doing essential tasks like bill paying? I hope so. Because what it’s true.

This is my home office. It's look may not appeal to you, but compare how it feels to the photo above. In which office would you be most able to get something done?

This is my home office. It’s look may not appeal to you, but compare how it feels to the photo above. In which office would you be most able to get something done?

If you decided to make your home office a personal paradise, a place where you would enjoy spending time, what would it look like? Because the functions of a home office cause discomfort and anxiety, you really need to create a lovely, comfortable space that will seduce you into crossing the threshold to do dreaded tasks like filing and bill paying. Have fun with it! The time and expense are well worth 

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!

Task Management: Setting the Stage for Productivity

02_09_12_BizArticle_Fotolia_7316209_XS-225x300Last night I returned to my desk after a full day. I really wanted to write a blog post, but my brain was tired and I knew it was not capable of doing any creative work. So, instead I went through my email, responding to clients, friends and family members, deleting unimportant emails. I knew that a full inbox would be both anxiety provoking and distracting if I ignored it and did what I really wanted — to eat dinner and relax in front of Dancing with the Stars. 

Looking back at how I spent my time last evening, I realized that what I instinctively did was clear the decks to make writing possible today. In so doing I felt lighter when I finally turned off the light and headed for the kitchen. I was up to date. There was nothing niggling at me while I rested. And, here I am, writing.

When your brain isn’t capable of accomplishing a challenging task on your to do list, you have a choice. You can stop and escape to more pleasurable tasks that are not associated with your goals. Or, you can shift to tasks that require less brain power, but that when completed set the stage for accomplishing the more difficult task.

Clutter & Distraction

DSCN0014Clutter and distraction go hand in hand. Clutter has a very negative, noisy energy that beacons you to do something about it. I’m sure it’s pretty easy to see that the visual appearance of clutter is distracting. But, actually clutter creates layers of distraction.

Not only is clutter visually distracting, shifting a calm space to an uneasy, unsettled space, but when you look at clutter it stirs both thoughts and feelings that are also distracting. For example, picture yourself walking into a room that has pockets of clutter in it. When your eyes scan the space you might be thinking, “What a mess!” or “I can’t believe they left this room like this!” or “I’ll never get this room straight!” Those thoughts then trigger feelings like disgust, anger, hopelessness. 

Negative attracts negative. A space with pockets of negative energy in it stirs up negative thoughts and feelings. Anything negative is distracting. To get back on track you are challenged not only by the appearance of your space, but by what’s going on in your head and heart.

Where to begin? You have no direct control over your feelings. However, if you clear clutter and/or shift your thoughts to more hopeful thoughts like, “I can clear this clutter 15 minutes at a time,” or “I can clear this clutter with help from others,” negative energies will shift to positive and your feelings will follow along.

When you avoid tackling your clutter challenges, you are investing in distraction. Over time the distractions only become more negative and paralyzing. Distractions reduce productivity which in turn affects self-esteem and sense of well-being.

What will you do today to reduce clutter distractions and invest in yourself? Remember, clearing ANY clutter will reduce distractions and shift negative energies to positive.

Good Feng Shui Leads to Business Productivity and Profits

It can be difficult to explain the benefits of feng shui. However, nothing says it better than a story by a  client, who hired me to do a feng shui consultation who experienced positive results. Following is a story by Deena Kretzer,* a small business owner who used my feng shui services and offered to share her story with my readers. I’m most grateful to her for her willingness to share her experience.

before feng shui consultation

before feng shui consultation

In 2006, I had the privilege of beginning an incredible business with Arbonne International. More files and more shelves moved into my office!  I was thankful that much of my Arbonne work was done away from home, as I never liked working in the hodge podge jumble of my home office.  I was so embarrassed about how the office looked (even when picked up, it was a clutter of so many odds and ends of files, crates, shelves, tables) that I kept its doors closed, never once allowing any consultant on my team to catch a glimpse of it.  If I had to do any training with them at home, I would bring my laptop onto the kitchen table.

I am personally a 110% positive person. But, when Debbie Bowie spoke about “Using Feng Debbie Bowie at River CityShui to Make More Money” at the River City Express Network meeting in February, and talked about the effect of natural energies in your workspace on your ability to be productive and make money, about how spaces that have abundant sources of positive energy and very little negative energy attract more business and therefore more money, I realized that my workspace was anything but positive.

Debbie said that your desk should never be positioned with your back to the door, since in that position you have your back to your business, to customers, and to potential new business. She noted that we never see a doctor’s or an attorney’s desk facing the wall, having their back to the door.  Everything she said was ringing with truth. I thought, “I am a Regional VP with Arbonne and will reach the top level of the company in 2014. For all 7 years in this business, I have not only faced the wall, but have kept the doors closed so that no one would see the space I work in.”  I was determined to create a space that a National VP with Arbonne feels great about  and is happy to welcome others into.

I made an appointment for Debbie to come to my office to do a feng shui consultation. Just knowing that she was coming motivated me to remove everything that was not useful to my business.  I found another (much better) place for the piano, after spending years thinking there was nowhere else for it to go. I now face the door and have a solid wall behind my back, a position Debbie calls the Power Position. I learned that in that position my nervous system is able to relax and function really well, unlike when I had my back to the door and couldn’t see what was coming at me. That position disempowered me and kept my nervous system on high alert.

after clutter clearing, feng shui consultation and enhancements

after clutter clearing, feng shui consultation and enhancements

As I write this, I see light streaming in from not only my office windows, but also the hall glass panels at the front door and the dining room windows.  My double doors stay wide open, and I absolutely love being in this room that at last reflects who I am on the inside and my vision and my commitment to excellence in my work and service to my team. 

It’s a pleasure to walk in this room to begin my work day.  Instead of seeing that jumble of crates, files, shelves and an endless “to do” list produced by my surroundings, I walk in smiling (after 2 months, it’s still brand new every morning!) and can immediately give my focus and energy to my work – to helping my clients and my team.  After all these years of keeping everyone out of my office, I now feel great about where I am and about being able to welcome anyone into my space.

I am so grateful for Debbie and cannot recommend her highly enough! My only regret is that I forgot to take before and after photos.” (the first photo above was taken by Debbie when she did her consultation, when Deena was mid-way through the clearing process)!

Thanks, Deena! As you can see, letting go of clutter and repositioning furniture so that you are empowered and have a lovely view not only leads to spending more time in your office, it lifts your spirits and results in improved productivity and increased revenues. Can you afford to endure an office that is not “good feng shui?”

*Deena gave me permission to use her name and share her contact information. If you want information about Arbonne or about her feng shui consultation experience, she can be reached at 804-878-8710 or deenakr812@gmail.com.

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.

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?