When you don’t know what to do – Spy!

learn by watching

Simple Strategy: When you don’t know how to do something watch someone who does.

I was talking to my daughter recently about being uncomfortable in a situation because she didn’t know what to do. I know we’ve all been there. I remember when we moved to Germany and suddenly I didn’t know how to do the simplest things like pumping gas or buying food. So I used the simplest solution, the one that was right at hand, I watched people. Literally, I stood in the grocery store and watched to see how people handled the checkout process. While I stood in line at the fruit stand I watched to see how people got their fruit (In case you’re wondering, they don’t grab what they want, they ask the merchant for whatever they want.) And when it was time to fill the gas tank, my husband and I watched a couple of people fill theirs first. Since we didn’t know more than a few words of German we weren’t able to read the directions and, while the process is similar, it varies in small ways.

So that’s the advice I gave her – watch. And it’s the same advice I follow today. When I want to create a fabulous product I go back to products I enjoyed and look for the little things that made them great. When I wonder how to create a beautiful flower bed I look at landscapes I like and see what’s there. I watch my neighbors (who have a lovely garden) and see what they do. Whatever you want in your life, there are people out there who have it or are doing it; watch them, learn from them. It’s a simple thing. It’s how we learned to walk and talk; we watched people, mimicked, and practiced. So do what you know works, something you’ve done before, watch and learn.

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When Tigger makes you crazy and unproductive

too bouncy to work

Simple Strategy: When you find yourself acting like Tigger and bouncing all around take a little time to plan and write a to-do list.

I love Winnie-the-Pooh and I adore Tigger — T – I – double G – ER! I even bought the video ‘Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too’ in college. Yeah, I got a lot of flack for watching it. Of course, the people who were hassling me also sat down to watch so it was hard to take them seriously. But as much as I love Tigger I know that when I start to feel like him, like I just have to bounce from thing to thing to thing, that I’m in trouble.

Bouncing like Tigger means that nothing gets finished, lots of new things get added to my to-do list without any thought as to their true value in my life or my business, and it sets me up for a bad start to the next day because I will end this day with lots of screens open on my computer, personal papers lying around my office, and other assorted detritus of a day without focus.

Today is a very Tigger day. All day long I’ve been trying to control the urge to jump from one task to the next. When I went back to my office after lunch my daughter came with me to curl up on the couch and read her book (have I said that I love working from home?) But as she sits there, being quiet and letting me do my work, I find myself talking to her, “Hey, if you want to get pictures of your sister’s friends for her Christmas present I can message this one on Facebook for you”. Really? Is this working? Especially when I have so much to accomplish this week. Even as I sit here writing this blog, every fiber of my being wants to go talk to my husband about plans for this weekend.

While I know this is a common scenario for many people, and some function this way day after day, it’s not productive or satisfying. Where does this feeling come from? A lack of focus and a missing to-do list. When there’s a well thought out to-do list for the day it’s much easier to refocus energy and do the next item. Each time my attention is captured by a great idea I could simply jot it down on my Idea List and go back to my daily to-do list. But when there isn’t a to-do list, when I haven’t clearly defined my priorities for today, it’s way too easy to get off on tangents.

And yes, today I’m guilty of this crime. I didn’t make a to-do list for the day (Actually I don’t have one for the week either but don’t tell anyone…my biz partner would never let me hear the end of it. I think I’m safe because I know she’s too busy  this week to read my blog:) So when I finish this blog post I’m going to write down my top three priorities for the afternoon, one of which is to clean off my desk and a second which is to create a to-do list for the week. Then I’m going to tackle those three items to exclusion of all else.

Gotta love the to-do list – it’s a super simple strategy that can change everything.

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Filed under Happiness, Organization, Simple Strategy

The secret to getting your problems resolved

problem resolution

Simple Strategy: To get help solving a problem be nice, keep an open mind and be persistent.

I was chatting with some family recently and they were saying they wanted a company to take care of a situation. They purchased a high ticket item and it wasn’t performing as you would expect. But we all know what happens when you call a big company….you punch a bunch of numbers, wait, talk to someone with no authority, get frustrated and hang up. We’ve all been there and I know, to my embarrassment, I’ve even lost it and been all crabby with the poor person on the phone – this person who has to spend their day talking to disgruntled customers and who has little to no authority to do anything.

And that’s the key right there. The person on the other end of the phone, the sales clerk in the store, the agent at the airline counter, they all deal with unpleasant people on a regular basis and they usually have very few options available to them to truly solve your problem. BUT they also know who else you can talk to…they know their company’s systems and policies…and they are people who deserve to be treated with respect.

So, keeping all that in mind, I’ve developed this simple, common sense system for dealing with sticky situations.

  1. Be nice! I know you’re stressed or frustrated but it isn’t their fault. Don’t take it out on them.
  2. Tell them you don’t know if they’re the person you need to talk to but you hope they can help you out. — This seems to relax people. They realize you probably need to talk to someone else so they are focusing on your problem and what you need instead of how they can deflect your anger.
  3. Simply and clearly state your problem or what you want.
  4. This is important – Be Quiet! — We have a tendency to blab on and mess things up. If you close your mouth and wait, give them time to think, you’ll be amazed at what you can find out.
  5. Talk to the person they recommend. If they don’t recommend someone then tell them you appreciate their help and completely understand that there isn’t anything they can do. Then ask to speak to their supervisor.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

The first person I speak to is rarely the person who actually solves my problem. Sometimes I have to speak to three or four people, but rarely am I not able to find a satisfactory solution. If you calm down, treat people with a bit of care and respect, and keep an open mind you can probably get the help you want.

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Eight hands are better than two!

delegate housework

Simple Strategy: Delegate!

I went out-of-town to attend Spark & Hustle Detroit and to take a little mini-vacation. The girls went with me so Tom decided that was the perfect time to paint and caulk the bathroom. (I guess he didn’t want to spend several days living with 3 women who can’t shower or wash their hair. Not a pretty sight.)

I’ve only been home a couple of days but it’s so wonderful to use this spotlessly clean bathroom! There wasn’t any hairspray on the walls, gung lurking in the corners or hair sticking to the tile. Everything was bright and beautiful and spotless. And that was when I realized just how much housework we had let slide in the last year. The girls were incredibly busy during the last school year; one was getting used to high school and joined a couple of clubs while continuing with all of her past activities. The other added a part-time job to  her schedule and was in the final stages of preparing for her black belt. Tom became the go-to guy for many teachers at the middle school and was kept hopping with sub gigs plus he started tutoring (which appears to be his passion and a great fit for kids needing math or science help – they just love him) And I was invited to do some new projects and different events which kept me running too.

It was all wonderful but incredibly busy and that means something had to go. Unfortunately it was often the cleaning. See, I had taken responsibility for all the cleaning and started to believe the myth that the rest of the family was ‘helping me out’ whenever they joined in. Since they were either doing homework or participating in really great activities I didn’t want to pull them away to ‘help me’. So those days of daily bathroom wipe-downs and weekly washing of the kitchen floor were simply a fond memory.

Naively I thought we would play some catch-up during the summer but one kid’s new job, odd jobs for the other kid, some family health issues and the college crunch have all served to derail my dreams of a sparkling home.

Well, today was it! Being in the super clean bathroom has reignited my desire to have a truly clean home again. Tomorrow I start delegating!

The simplest way I’ve found to do this is to type up a list of our daily, weekly and monthly cleaning chores, slide it into a plastic sleeve, post it, and start delegating! Simply use dry erase markers to track the chores – identifying what needs to be done and either assigning names and due dates or allowing them to pick and letting them mark off what’s been completed. This way you only have to write the list once and the kids have fun drawing on it too.

We’ll have to dig in a little to get some of the deep cleaning done but at least now I believe it can get done – eight hands will accomplish so much more than two!

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Want help getting out of stress and overwhelm?

stress overwhelm help

Simple Strategy: Get outside help to move you past the overwhelm.

The other day I wrote about blocking the noise. What was really interesting to me was that, once I had tuned in to all the noise in the restaurant, I couldn’t block it all out again. And I think that’s what happens when we feel overwhelmed. We see all these things that need to be done and that we want to do, and we just can’t decide what to let go. We can’t even decide what’s most important because there’s too much flying around.

I had that experience with my work recently. I had been sorting through things, letting go and narrowing down my focus to a few key areas. They made sense, they were all worthwhile, they all linked and fit together into a good business strategy. There was only one problem, I didn’t have enough time to pursue them all. Try as I might I just couldn’t make it work. But whenever I looked at them it made sense and it seemed like I should follow the plan. It seemed that way right up until my coaching session with Leah Jantzen. She helped me to walk through this, face the reality, then make the really hard choices about what to let go. It’s exactly what I needed and it changed everything.

And that’s what happens to all of us at some point; we end up too close and too invested in all the commotion to decide what’s noise and what’s not all by ourselves. When that happens it’s time to get help; talk to a friend, hire an organizer, or get a coach. These people are not as close to the situation, they aren’t invested the way you are, and they can help you sift through and block out all the noise that is disrupting your life.

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Filed under Organization, Simple Strategy, Stress Relief, Time

Block the noise

making choices

Simple Strategy: Filter out the things that aren’t of vital importance.

I was sitting in Panera Bread, typing away on my computer, when a young couple sat down with their two children. Adorable! Dad was feeding the baby a bottle and I started to wonder what this little one thought of the restaurant. So I stopped typing and started to listen. Oh my! There was an incredible amount of sound. When I actually focused and truly listened I could hear so many different things; doors closing behind  the counter, lids being snapped onto cups, individual conversations with all manner of voices, blenders, keys clicking, chip bags rustling, zippers opening, silverware rattling….and then I had to stop. It was completely overwhelming.

Apparently I had done a really great job of blocking out all of those sounds and more as I sat there focusing on my work. It was a good thing because it let me be think and be productive. If I hadn’t been selective in my hearing, blocking out that which was not terribly important to me (otherwise known as noise), it would have been a huge distraction and it would have sapped my energy.

This is a great strategy for so many situations in our life. Too much laundry? Wash what you need to wear in the next 2-3 days. Too much paperwork? Handle what’s due in the next week. Too many invitations? Decline some, many or all. Too many great ideas? Capture them then pick one or two to follow through on. It really is the simplest strategy – focus in on what’s of greatest importance right here, right now, and simply let the rest float away.

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Did you lose your anchor?

losing yourself

Simple Strategy: Remember who YOU are and do the key things that support you, and do them regularly.

You know how they say that dogs and owners begin to look-alike? Well, sometimes I think that my ADHD hubby and I are starting to act alike. Just the other day (and many days recently) I found myself popping from blog post to show schedule to to-do list working under three different topics for two different businesses all in a matter of about five minutes. During that five minutes I called the dog over for a scratch (so he would stop barking at the people next door) and fielded questions from my husband.

Now, it would be easy to say that’s just the way a WAHM’s life, or any mom’s life, is. BUT…I’ve lived differently. I’ve ridden waves of creative energy and followed the flow, I’ve handled great bouts of productivity and managed the household, all with one hand tied behind my back, and managed to come out the other end excited but at peace and thrilled with the output. But in these latest crazy times I came out the other end feeling like my brain just came out of the spin cycle with no idea of what I actually accomplished.

So what’s different in these last few weeks? Why is my morning dose of super energy running me in circles? Because I began focusing on my family and their needs along with the needs of my business to the exclusion of myself. Simply put, I forgot about me. I forgot that I need downtime. I forgot that I need to get to bed early and get up early most days. I forgot that I need to have a clear to do list with prioritized items. I forgot that I need to write and work for a few hours before I tap into social media and email. I forgot that I need to exercise when it works in my schedule. I forgot that if I don’t take care of myself and maintain a few boundaries then I get caught up in the chaos and craziness that is my family. There are a few key things that anchor me and I must honor them in order to be my best.

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Filed under Self-Care, Simple Strategy, Stress Relief