Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Organizing Yourself

For my second post on organizing, I'm going to refer to someone wiser than me on how to "de-clutter" YOURSELF. I follow Michael Hyatt's blog, "Intentional Leadership" (you can find it HERE) and he recently wrote a post titled, "Are You Tired of Feeling Overwhelmed?" I thought I'd share it with you as we look at removing excess from our lives. If you are not currently following his blog, you should. LOTS of great wisdom flowing out of that space on the internet.


Over the last few months, people have asked how I am doing since leaving my CEO post at Thomas Nelson. For the most part, great. I am really enjoying this new phase of my life.

But last week, I was feeling overwhelmed. It seemed that I was spending all day, every day mired in administrative detail—responding to emails, making travel plans, and filling out expense reports. Ugh.

This the first time in more than a decade that I have been without an executive assistant. I had clearly taken this role for granted, not realizing how much it had freed me up to do what I do best.

So what to do?

At first, I decided to power through it. But that didn’t work. The tennis balls have been coming over the net faster than I can hit them. My volume of email alone has doubled in the last 90 days.

Next, I tried to enlist my wife, Gail, to help. Bad idea. She already has a full-time job as a homemaker, mom, and counselor to countless women. (After watching her in action for the last few months, I have a whole new appreciation for her!)

Finally, I decided that I had had enough. Something had to give. I needed to take a different approach if I was going to get my head above water.

I took the following seven steps:

  1. I decided I had to make a change. This sounds almost trivial, but it is essential. Evidently, some people like being overwhelmed. They wouldn’t admit this, of course. But they thrive on stress in a perverse way. Perhaps it makes them feel important or indispensable. They may complain about their workload, but they are unwilling to do things differently. Are you ready for a change?
  2. I identified my three high payoff activities. I asked myself, What is it that only I can do? Where do I add the most value? What is really important as opposed to merely urgent? For me, that is writing, speaking, and networking—in that order. Anything else is a waste of what I have been given. What are your high payoff activities?
  3. I identified my three biggest productivity sinkholes. This was easy. For me, it is responding to email, booking my own travel, and meeting with acquaintances who want my advice. (As much as I’d like to do this, I am drowning in requests.) I decided I had to eliminate—or at least dramatically reduce—these activities in my life. What are your productivity sinkholes?
  4. I spent time reviewing the productivity basics. In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, says that the key to productivity is elimination, automation, and delegation. Some stuff is just no longer worth doing. Other stuff can be put on auto-pilot. Most of the rest can be delegated. Have you made a list of which activities fall into which category?
  5. I decided to do the math. Unfortunately, I had fallen into a common paradigm: I was thinking that if I could do something I should do it—myself. Balderdash! If you can make $50.00 an hour, is it a good investment for you to do tasks that you can hire done for $12.00 an hour? I don’t think so. This is not only bad math, it is bad stewardship. What do you make an hour? Could you be more financially productive if you delegated?
  6. I hired a virtual executive assistant. I realized that I wasn’t ready for a full-time one. I wanted to take this one step at a time. Thankfully, there are scores of companies (offshore and domestic) that specialize in providing virtual assistants for as many hours as you need. I did this several years ago, and it was a positive experience. I decided to go with Miles Advisory Group. I am very impressed with their responsiveness. Have you ever considered a VA?
  7. I am scheduling the important tasks. I know, I know, I teach this stuff. You’d think I would already have this nailed. Well, I did. More or less. But it was a completely different context, namely, CorporateWorld. Now I am having to implement the same thing in a different context. I am now scheduling my important tasks first and forcing my productivity sinkholes into small blocks of time. How much of your calendar this week is dedicated to high payoff activities?

Just going through this process has had a huge, positive impact on my attitude. Nothing has really changed yet, but I am already feeling less overwhelmed and more in control. I am ready for a change. Are you?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Obsession

I may be a bit obsessive. It's bad. So bad that those who know me well already know what I'm going to write about. I've been lovingly called, "anal" about a million times in my life- and I'm okay with that. I compulsively organize.

I like things to have a place, I like those places to make sense, and I want it all to look nice when it's finished. Lately I've been spending way too much time time on Pinterest. One of the things that keeps me so interested is all the different things people do for organization (I recently pinned a picture of plastic magazine boxes in a freezer holding all of someone's bagged freezer goods upright and orderly... how cool is that idea?!?). I've also been watching the first season of "Hoarders" on Netflix. It's an unhealthy combo folks. Today I cleaned out 3 cupboards in my kitchen, 2 drawers and a closet. It felt SO GOOD. So good that I very easily could have ignored my family and kept right on going into the wee hours of the morning. I didn't... thankfully. So here I sit, still wound up, but trying to resist the urge to purge some more and I keep rolling around something that one of the Hoarders on the TV show said, "I just don't seem to be capable of distinguishing what matters and what doesn't. I have no clue where to begin."

I doubt any of you are hoarders, but if you can resonate with that sentiment, this post is for you.

#1. Start small. Commit to cleaning out one area each day for a month (or until its finished). This could be as big as a room, or as small as one cupboard (or even one storage box or shelf). Understand your limits and make a reasonable goal for yourself. This should be a small time commitment of 10 minutes-30 minutes. Set a time and do it each day at that time (ie. baby's nap time).

#2. Have a plan for this process before you begin. Will you be selling items at a garage sale? Donating to local charities? Trashing everything unwanted? Knowing this in advance will help you sort and make decisions.

#3. Have "zones" ready. When doing a small area, I always have a trash can and a box or two on the floor next to me. If it's trash, it's immediately thrown away. If I plan to sell it, it goes in the box. If I plan to donate it, it goes in the other box. If it belongs somewhere else in my home, I call one of the kids and have them take it there immediately. ;) If that doesn't work, I start a "relocate" pile. I reuse the boxes each day until they are full, and then I immediately take all donate items to their drop off location, and seal up garage sale boxes (marked, "garage sale") and put them in our storage room.

#4. With food: If it's expired, throw it out. If no one in your home will eat it, throw it out. If there's not enough cereal in the box for a bowl and it's been sitting there almost empty for weeks... THROW IT OUT.

#5. With clothing: If you haven't worn it in a year, you should not keep it. If it doesn't look good on you, you should not keep it. If it's holey... you should not keep it (I'm talking to myself on that one...). Ladies, here's the biggie- if it's not your size, you should NOT KEEP IT. Let's be real with ourselves. We do not need "skinny clothes" reminding us of what we're not, fooling us into believing we'll wear it again someday. If someday comes, that outfit probably won't be in style anymore anyway, and buying new clothes in a tinier size will be fun. You also do not need "fat clothes" lying around daring you to gain weight again. With the exception of maternity clothing for those planning to be pregnant again, if it doesn't flatter and fit get rid of it.

#6. With "treasures": If you didn't use that holiday decoration last year, chances are you probably won't use it this year. If that nick-knack from your grandma is as important as you say it is, it should be displayed somewhere in your home, not sitting in a box in the basement. If you've been married more than 2 years and still haven't used some gift from the wedding, chances are it will still be in the box in another 2 years.

#7. With children's projects and artwork: Somethings MUST be saved (pottery, handmade books, etc.). In our home, everything else is negotiable. Very quickly I learned how much stuff a child can generate in a preschool classroom. Adorable, precious, awkwardly large stuff. We display it on the fridge for a time, then I take a really great photo of it and throw it in the trash. Yup, I trash it. Then I take all these adorable photos, upload them to a site like Snapfish and turn the collection into a book of my child's artwork. Much smaller, much more manageable, and easier to cherish and enjoy.

That's all I can think of right now, but I hope to add to this list in the coming weeks. I will also try to share some of my favorite organization tricks we use in our home. Happy organizing!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I've read a LOT of articles and blogposts about margin in the past, but this morning I'm wondering what you all do with yours (and by "you all" I mean the 2 people who actually read this blog- ha ha ha).

It seems as though I haven't had much margin lately so I am trying to use it the best way I know how. Right now, Ezra and Ki are at school, and Cody's gone in a meeting. I should be showering... I REALLY should... but my spirit needs to write so here I sit. I am trying, the best way I know how, to choose the "best use of my time" over the "most pressing use of my time." It's not always possible, but when it is, that's my goal.

Some people are people-oriented and some people are task-oriented. I am the latter. It's difficult for me to sit here writing when I'm stinky (I'm telling ya, I really NEED a shower), there's unfolded laundry in baskets at my feet, my bed's not made, and there are dishes in the sink. It's completely counter-intuitive for me to choose to write at this moment, but I believe that when we make the "best use of our time" priority over the "most pressing use of our time" the first gives us fuel to accomplish the second with more efficiency and energy.

I recently started an devotional called, "Parenting By Design" through YouVersion. It's short (which is helpful these days) and always refocuses my thoughts about parenting that day. I could just as easily spend that 3 minutes reading facebook updates, but I'm finding this tiny change in the use of my margin to pay big dividends. I even have the app on my phone so it's always available to me when I have a moment. I'm also trying to intentionally spend 10-20 minutes a day holding my boys. I do this most of the time anyway, but when I make it intentional, I'm more apt to put down what I'm working on when they're talking, pull them up on my lap and listen fully to what they are sharing. It's not that I care more, but it definitely communicates that I'm invested in them, that they are of vital importance, and that I love to hear what they have to say. It's a small change, but it feels like something huge in our relationship.

I was thinking there were more examples, but now I'm at a loss. Maybe looking at the laundry or smelling myself has finally gotten the best of me... ;) I'd love to gather more ideas from you- maybe there are things I could do that I've never considered!

What do you do with your margin? How do you take advantage of those little pockets of time when life is flexible and you have choice about how you will use it?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Confessions of an imbalanced life

Balance... that elusive dream I chase, sometimes with relentless passion, and sometimes with very little awareness...

I have none at this point in time. I'm a firm believer in the fact that there are seasons where life isn't what we want it to be, but you do your best and plow through, comforted by the fact that it is only a season. Lately, I've used this as an excuse to not push for more in my life, to be lazy, or to ease the nagging I feel when I analyze my "less than" living. At this rate, I am building habits that turn a "season" into a lifestyle.

I miss my husband. Weekly date nights disappeared when we brought home 3 foster children in November of 2009. We were one month shy of having been married 10 years and we had managed to have a weekly date night almost every week for that entire time. All our "free" babysitters kind of bailed once they met our new kids, and we couldn't really afford to pay anyone else. When we could afford to pay, we used these sitters to help us attend meetings and small groups, etc. When they left, no one really offered to step up again to watch Ezra and Ki, and we didn't really want to ask. At this point in time, once a month seems ambitious. Our last date was the day after Christmas, oh wait... we did run errands together in Gaylord for Valentine's Day. I. MISS. MY. HUSBAND.

I miss my alone time. It's been 2 years since we've had "nap time" in our home, and that was my guaranteed time alone with my thoughts each day. At first it was inconvenient but doable, over the long haul it's wearing on me in ways I didn't anticipate. Creativity is non-existent, motivation is lacking, patience is extremely low, etc. Cody has tried to help in so many ways over the past 6 months. He's taken on more household responsibilities, watched the kids so I could run errands by myself, encouraged me to do things that fill me up emotionally, but in the end, I just need regular/daily time alone, and it's not happening.

I miss God. I. MISS. GOD. This is really the crux of it all. Everything else kind of spins off of this I'm sure. Nap time was also my God time. In all honesty I have yet to find a suitable replacement time since that fell by the wayside, TWO YEARS AGO. My time with God is just as hit or miss as the time with my husband and myself. "Life" or lack thereof seems to always get in the way.

I don't want to tell you about all this... I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, but I need to be accountable to change this. I need to be honest about the fact that in my interactions with people lately I'm giving advice based on what I've always believed to be true and not out of the overflow of God's spirit in me. I'm physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually exhausted and out of balance.

Have you ever been here?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Apologies for the Annoyances

So... If you are my friend on facebook you have probably been annoyed lately by my posts regarding Swagbucks. I get it, really I do, and I apologize. I'd like to explain myself...

I could turn it off, but here's the deal: I LOVE Swagbucks. In the past 6 weeks I've earned $15 in gift cards at Amazon.com. My Kindle and I are loving it. :) I continue posting about it because I earn even more Swagbucks if people sign up for it using my links, and a few people have. (if you've considered it, I'm unashamedly asking you to use the link on the right of this blog to do it! please please please!!!)

So what is Swagbucks? Basically, it's a search engine of sorts. If you search using their toolbar instead of Google, you earn their "bucks" and you can then turn those bucks in for various prizes. When I started, a friend sent me the following message:

"A few tips: Definitely get the toolbar!!! ;) It's just a reminder to USE THEM for all of your searches! Instead of googling something, use the Swagbucks site to search. Every so often you'll earn swagbucks for a search. It really is just very RANDOM the bucks that you earn! Sometimes I win 3 or 4 times a day, and other times just once....but ALWAYS at least once. I've been using this for 5 days now and have over 400 Swagbucks.

If you buy a lot online, like from Target, JoAnn Fabrics, Meijer, etc....you can do it through Swagbucks and for every dollar you spend, you'll get 2 swagbucks for it! That adds up quickly too, although I haven't done it yet.

You get 1 swagdollar everyday just for having the toolbar if you choose to do that (I do), and one for doing the daily poll, and one for checking the trusted surveys. So a guarantee of 3 a day for 2 minutes of your time. If you use them to search for stuff you'd search anyway you'll start gaining quickly.

There's a Blog on the homepage that will alert you to swagcodes. There is usually a code 4-5 times a week, and sometimes several times a day! They are fun to look for and get! It's basically a random combo of letters and numbers. I copy and paste them onto the home page quickly because sometimes they expire fast. "

In addition:
For a swaggin' for dummies type explanation, click HERE. I found this site to be very helpful. :)

Anyway... Happy Swaggin'!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quotable Quote

Just read this quote by Dorothy Day. She was the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, and wrote this in her diary about why she didn't give up on the addicts and broken people she ministered to:

"Yes, I see only too clearly how bad people are. I wish I did not see it so. It is my own sins that give me such clarity. If I did not bear the scars of so many sins to dim my sight and dull my capacity for love and joy, then I would see Christ more clearly in you all. I cannot worry much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of my own. I can only love you all, poor fellow travelers, fellow sufferers. I do not want to add one straw to the burden you already carry. My prayer from day to day is that God will so enlarge my heart that I will see you all, and live with you all, in His love."

I LOVE the part that says, "I do not want to add one straw to the burden you already carry." How would that change my life? What if in every interaction we stopped and asked ourselves if we were adding to someone else's burden?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Sun Stand Still" Review

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. (but I TOTALLY planned on buying it anyway- tee! hee!)

So, I recently read the book, "Sun Stand Still" by Steven Furtick. Last year during our "One Prayer" series at Praxis Church we watched a video message done by him and I loved it. I knew he also had a book, and I put it on my wish list. Well, thanks to the Blogging For Books program, I didn't have to wait too long (and didn't have to pay for my copy!).

The back of the book says, "If you're not DARING TO BELIEVE GOD for the impossible, you may be SLEEPING THROUGH some of the BEST PARTS of your Christian life. This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I'm not writing to calm or coddle you. With God's help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God's truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years. In short, I'm out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential. -Steven Furtick"

I LOVED this book, and that's saying a LOT because I'm really more of a fiction type of gal. It is written well, with a good mix of personal experiences, scripture (especially focusing in on the story of Joshua and his "sun stand still" prayer), and stories of other 21st century people with audacious faith. It's taken me longer than I'd like to complete the book because there is just so much I want to think/pray about and ponder longer. Here is just a sampling of lines that jumped out at me:
  • And further still: if the size of your vision for your life isn't intimidating to you, there's a good chance it's insulting to God.
  • Audacity plays to win. I don't want to raise good boys. I want to raise great men who will do great things for a great God.
  • Is there a need you can't stop thinking about that you're perfectly positioned to do something about? Do something about it, anything. Is there something you're good at that God could transform into greatness if you energized your efforts and focused your abilities for God's glory? Go for it. All the way. Are there subtle tweaks you can make in your everyday interactions and activities that will give God room to move in a miraculous way? Make room and get ready.
  • The level of your impact will be directly proportional to the price you're willing to pay.
  • the scope and impact of your vision will be determined by who you believe God is- and whether you have the courage to respond accordingly.
  • If there is no limit to what God can do, then there is also no limit to what we can dream or pray or accomplish in His service.
  • ... God's mercy can convert the mistakes of my past into wisdom for my future.
The list goes on and on. The chapter "Pray Like a Juggernaut" totally wrecked me. So many of the examples of general sweeping prayers are things I say ALL THE TIME when I'm praying. I was challenged to be more specific with God and more intentional about our conversations.

I highly recommend this book. I think there's something for everyone in it and I'll probably end up reading it again just to pick up things I missed the first time. If you do read it, or have read it, I'd love to hear what you think!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Please Risk More

"The needs of the world demand that you challenge everything you believe about your personal limitations. Please risk more." --Mike Foster

I read this quote this week and I think I've found my new phrase, "Please risk more." (If you don't know what I mean by "my new phrase", click HERE)

One year ago today I was busy making a lady bug birthday cake for a little girl I was praying would eventually be my daughter. Over and over people would say to me, "I could never be a foster parent. I just know I wouldn't be able to give them away when the time came." In my heart I wasn't convinced I would be able to either, but I was certain this was the path God was choosing for building our family. I knew that in order to have a shot at adopting a young child out of the system, I would have to be a foster parent. I remember baking and frosting her cake (the first pink ANYTHING I had ever had reason to make) begging God to work in whatever way necessary to make her my child. A few months later her crib was empty and I was left with an ache like none I had ever experienced.

A year later here's what I know to be true. "The needs of the world demand that you challenge everything you believe about your personal limitations. PLEASE RISK MORE."

Honestly, the thought of her makes me simultaneously filled with joy and completely miserable. I couldn't miss her more if I tried. If there were any way to get her back, I'd have done it by now, and if I could see her again I would. Here's the thing... I believe there was a purpose in it. I believe God works all things together for good. I don't understand it, and I don't like it, but I know there is a reason for it. I think it completely sucks and I've told God that a million times in the last 9 months. He's big enough and loving enough to take whatever I dish out in anger. He's also safe enough for me to curl up in His arms and weep when I've needed to. I know that I can't afford to shrink up and avoid risk in order to avoid pain. I know that those around me need me to NOT risk less, but in fact, risk MORE. We need you to as well. Whatever you may be avoiding out of fear- risk more. Whatever step God's asking you to take that you're hesitant about- risk more. That relationship that you're unsure of- risk more. Whatever limitation you are absolutely sure of- risk more.

It is absolutely imperative that we do.