25 Itzy Bitzy Organizational Habits You Can Start Right Now.

The idea for this list started with the wonderful book by Caroline Arnold called Small Move, Big Change. The book starts off with Caroline recounting how as she enter her parent’s home, she hung her keys on the key hook. She was an adult and not living in the home anymore but she was on autopilot in hanging her car keys on the hook. I don’t know about you, but I always end up looking everywhere for my keys. The very first itzy bitzy habit I started due to this book, was to put my keys in a plate near the garage door. It took a few weeks but now even my husband puts his keys in that dish. Groceries and purse in hand, I still drop the keys in the plate as soon as I enter my house. Boom. Habit created. Now we are on autopilot and there is no need to think about it.

The point of these newfound habits is for it to become unconscious. When you spend anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks working on some small change, you are hard-wiring it into your brain. Once it’s hardwired, you do it unconsciously. There is no effort needed anymore. The key plate has been around for over 6 months and I really don’t even think about it anymore. So let’s get started on organizing your life one itzy bitzy habit at a time.

1. Put your keys immediately into a key plate, bowl or hook.
2. Put your shoes or slippers in the same location.
3. Put your clothes away immediately upon changing (this is for my kids).
4. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher immediately (this is for my husband).
5. Make your bed.
6. Plug your cell phone in immediately after you get home.
7. Wish your friends happy birthday daily on Facebook.
8. Put packages and groceries away immediately.
9. Take out the garbage when it’s three quarters full.
10. Clean up as you cook.

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The other reason you want to improve your organizational habits is that it frees up space in your head. Clutter is contagious. Once a dirty coffee cup is left on the kitchen counter, it starts attracting dirty plates, forks and used napkins. Visual clutter is the same as mind clutter. You can’t think as well if you have clutter in front of you. You are given a 100 units of energy every day. So don’t blow them on making decisions about what to wear or what project to work on next. If you prepare the evening before, the next day goes smoothly. President Obama has two colors of suits to eliminate making minor decisions about what to wear. Don’t waste your precious 100 units on making minor decisions.

11. Plan you clothing the night before school or work.
12. Schedule your day first thing in the morning for 10 minutes.
13. Schedule your week Monday morning for 30 minutes.
14. Schedule a project out in small chunks over time.
15. Schedule training for a 5 k race on your calendar.
16. Straighten a room as you leave it (this if for my husband and my pillow fetish).
17. Store your reading glasses in a case (like this one from Thirty-One).
18. Keep one pen or pencil on your desk.
19. Keep pre-prepared client/customer/employee files ready for use.
20. Empty your car of trash every time you park.
21. Keep reusable grocery bags in the trunk of your car.
22. Keep business receipts in a designated section of your wallet.
23. Pay bills on a designated day of the week.
24. Water your plants on a designated day of the week.
25. Clear your desk at the end of the day.

I’m sure many of you already do some of these things so “Good for you!” It’s all about building on your already unconscious habits. Heck, that’s why the list is so long, so you can find one nugget to implement. Pick one and give it a few weeks for it to become your next autopilot.

20 Itzy Bitzy Physical Habits You Can Start Right Now.

Most of the clients that I coach are looking to increase their physical activity. Increasing your physical activity is one of the best ways to pump-up your brain function, your emotional field and it’s an endorphin rush. I’ve had clients call or text me because their boss just yelled at them and the first thing I tell them is to go take a walk. Getting outside and in the elements connects you to the world. It makes you get back into your body instead of lingering in your head.

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1. Put your sneakers by your bed.
2. Walk first thing every morning.
3. Park your car in the farthest parking spot.
4. Wear your fitbit (pedometer) all the time.
5. Do 10 squats as you brush your teeth.
6. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
7. Set an alarm on your phone and get up and walk around once an hour.

You’re thinking these things are WAY too easy and it won’t make a difference. The thing is as Darren Hardy wrote in The Compound Effect, that even if you decide to walk an extra 1,000 steps every day, two weeks from now there won’t be an observable difference but after two years? If you average 2,500 steps a day and all things hold constant, you will lose 13 pounds. So you won’t need new pants for a while but you are still having an impact on your body (and mind).

8. Walk the grocery cart all the way back to the grocery store.
9. Have walking meetings instead of sitting.
10. Go up and down your stairs ten times every morning.
11. Take the long way to every meeting.
12. Commit to driving to the gym three times a week (going in is optional).
13. Walk instead of using people movers or trams at the airport.
14. Spend down time at airports and train stations walking the terminal.

I’ve done #14. I had a 2 hour layover in Terminal B at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta. I walked that terminal at least 10 times and had over 3 miles racked up. I thought it might be obvious that I was walking aimlessly. I didn’t even get as much as a funny look. People are worried about their little world in public places so unless I was doing the Macarena, I doubt anyone would have noticed.

15. Sign up for yearlong challenges like 2015 (miles) in 2015.
16. Walk your dog.
17. For shorter distances, skip mass transit and walk.
18. Spend 10 minutes on an exercise dvd 3 times a week.
19. Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair for one hour a day.
20. Walk to the farthest bathroom in the building (or house).

There are so many great benefits from movement. As written in John Ratey’s book, Spark, movement helps your body utilize energy more efficiently, regular movement helps you be more social, calm down, fight depression, improve focus, and make better decisions. The payoff from one itzy bitzy habit is HUGE. Which one will you start with?

Being there. 6 ways to pay attention.

Ugh. It happened AGAIN! You have no idea what everyone is laughing at because you are busy checking your smart phone for notifications.
You can’t go back. All you can do is smile and nod.
You missed yet another moment. You could have connected. You could have been included in that moment of fellowship. You could belong.
But no. Your phone is the center of your world. One little ding or lit up mailbox and you zone out of the real world.
This has got to stop. You’ve got to find your focus and start connecting with those around you. Now.

This topic came up for me as I read the book, Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold. The book itself is about micro resolutions but one of the subjects in her book was a recently divorced father who had his kids every other weekend. They went away to a country house every other weekend and instead of spending time together, they ended up spending the weekend with their technology instead of with each other. Have you experienced this? I have. So the father started the resolution that they could only spend an hour a day on technology and then, all the phones and tablets went into a basket. The three kids baulked at first (who wouldn’t) but after two weekends, they started looking forward to the time they spent together “being there” together. Board games, hikes, charades, conversations….sounds like heaven.
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So here is how to get your attention back:

Focus your attention on every little action like you are in love. Arnold quotes acting guru Stella Adler. She writes that in an acting class Adler said, “How can you tell when someone is in love? How can you tell? You can tell because they pay attention. They pay attention to their lover’s every action, gesture and expression. So if you are playing someone in love, give the love object your complete attention in a scene. Even if you aren’t looking at your object directly.” As I write this, I am watching my dog. Is she by my foot or in another room? Is she wagging her tail or is she on the hunt. Take note of every action.

Take a technology sabbatical. I’m not sure when my children will be home next but I’m really thinking about taking a cue from the father in Arnold’s book and taking a technology sabbatical. I know I personally leave my phone in the kitchen to charge at night. At least my sleep is getting my full and undivided attention. But creating space to be devoid of any distractions from the world outside can obviously be very powerful. Perhaps it’s a “no phones during meals” rule or “no technology after 7 PM” rule. Create space to be technology free.

Create something worthwhile and positive. Rick Hanson says in his book Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, “Attention shapes the brain.” Your brain cells are growing based on what you focus on. So what are you creating in your brain? Are you creating negativity by focusing on the latest news story or dwelling on the job opportunity you didn’t get? Or on the latest decision by your boss that you don’t agree with? Hmmm. I’d rather create something more positive in all that grey matter. Be careful about what you are creating.

Attention is not critical. Judgment is. Attention is neutral. In Alison Shapiro’s Psychology Today article Paying Attention, “Attention is not critical. Judgment is. Attention is neutral. We begin to pay attention to something and then we start to judge it, evaluate it, categorize it and, yes, generally ‘criticize’ it. But judging, while certainly useful, is not attention. Judging involves an underlying assumption that our purpose is ultimately to categorize and take action.” This neutrality is complete acceptance. Funny, I’m really good at this when coaching a client but not as good when this comes to my children’s individual decisions. Quit judging and stay neutral.

Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing. Shapiro quotes her teacher, Frank Ostaseski, “Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing.” This lines up with the “Yes…and” philosophy of CRR Global. This is total unadulterated acceptance. Arms open wide to take in everything with no qualifications. No trying to tinker and change something. No resistance. No squinting and squirming. It’s similar to Byron Katie’s “Love what is.” Notice, accept, withhold judgment and welcome what is.

Be completely and utterly present. The whole problem with technology and the constant bombardment of information is that it takes us out of the moment. Out of the present. Listen for the farthest sound. Feel your big toe come in contact with the floor. Feel the rush of hot, humid air against your cheek. Listen for the sigh from your sleeping dog. Watch the squirrel leap from the branch to the roof. Now. Right now. Be there.

So now when you’re at that meeting. You are going to be jubilant.
Connected.
Aware.
Present.
You’re not tied to that phone and it’s deceiving notifications.
You’re leading the story and the laughs are around your nuanced spin.
You’ve got the world by the tail. Feels pretty good doesn’t it?

Originally published on Change Your Thoughts on September 11, 2015

7 Ways to Kick Decision Fatigue to the Curb

You’re standing at your local grocery store and all you want is a box of Ritz crackers.
Problem is that there are 17 varieties of Ritz in front of you on the shelf.
Dang it! All you want is a box of Ritz crackers.
You don’t want football shaped.
You don’t want whole wheat.
You don’t want low fat.
You don’t want hint of salt.
You don’t want bacon flavored (OK maybe you do but not right now).
You don’t want Fresh Packs.
And you don’t want Ritz Bits.
You want to throw your hands up in disgust or pick up the first box that your hand reaches for. Heck, you can work bacon into a dessert recipe, right?
So after reading through countless labels and searching 6 shelves of red boxes,you find the box of Original Ritz on the bottom shelf.
How much brain matter did you exhaust on that little foray into Ritz hell?
Time to eliminate all those decision perhaps?

Kick Decision Fatigue to the Curb

Here are the 7 ways to kick your decision fatigue to the curb:

1. Wake up earlier. You make better decisions in the morning AND you fair better if you get the earliest appointment whether it’s a court hearing (Judges are more lenient in the morning) or a job interview (earlier candidates are selected more often). Everyone has a clearer head in the morning and, apparently, are more charitable.

2. Exercise early in the day. I know it doesn’t seem like it when you are just getting on the treadmill at 5 AM but you will be more energized throughout the day if you exercise early. Research shows that exercise increases mental acuity for up to 10 hours. Why hand over that acuity to the late night news or your pillow?

3. Pick out your clothes the night before. Why make decisions first thing in the morning or, worse yet, while you are trying to sleep? Hmmm. Should I wear the new sweater or the old blouse? If I wear red will it be too overpowering or perfectly enticing? These are not things you want to be thinking about while you toss and turn. Decide the night before and rest easy.

4. Curb your choices. Have the same breakfast every day of the week. Have only one pair of running shoes and one style of socks. Have the same well-oiled routine every morning to get out the door. The more times you have to stop and decide, the more you get depleted. Eliminate as many choices as possible.

5. Simplify your choices. Take that shopping list of yours and go to some place that has like 4,000 different products versus 50,000 different products. Where is that? Trader Joes. They simplify your choices. I can guarantee you they don’t have 17 varieties of Ritz crackers. In-N-Out Burger has burgers and fries. DVR some select TV shows and quit your channel surfing. That’s it. Less decisions means better cognition. Simplify.

6. Know when enough is enough. You know when you are depleted. Long day at work? Just spent 3 hours in a car? The meeting ran long and you still need to buy dinner are the store? These are bad times to make decisions. You have to acknowledge it to do anything about it. My daughter is famous for saying “Mommy you’re getting hangry (re: hungry and angry) aren’t you?”. Perhaps we should go out for dinner. Maybe a frozen pizza will work. Eggs for dinner might be perfect. You need to know so you can head that bad decision off at the pass.

7. Start with one thing. Don’t take this whole list and start working out at 4:30 AM, purchase 7 pairs of black pants and buy a Ninja to make fruit smoothies every morning. Pick one. Maybe two but NO MORE. As Caroline Arnold writes in her book “Small Move, Big Change”, making one or two small changes is much easier to take on and be successful. But start.

I have made a grocery list every Saturday for years. I know what we are having for dinner and plan it all out Saturday morning. So only the weather will impact what we have for dinner, so if there is lightning, I won’t be standing outside by the grill.

Keep that decision fatigue out of the picture so that you can optimize the more important decisions in your life and let the other ones slide into auto pilot.

9 of the Best Books from My Reading List

You’re thinking. I’m not sure what book is worthwhile. After all it’s an investment of your precious time.
At least 4 hours if not much more.
If you’re going to invest 4 to 8 hours of your precious, over committed time to reading a book, you want to make sure it’s worth your investment.
Guess what? I’ve got you covered.
I’ve already invested my time in several books over the last year and I’m going to point you in the right direction.
Easy peasy.9 Books

Most Impactful book. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. This book is short and sweet and eye opening. The agreements are: Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take anything personally, Don’t make assumptions and Always do your best. From childhood we take on all sorts of agreements which skew our view of the world and of our thoughts. To drop all your prior agreements (re: your story) is incredibly challenging. If you listen to the audio book it’s read by Peter Coyote and he does an excellent job. If you want to change your thoughts, this is a must read.

Most Inspiring Book. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. This is the incredible story of Viktor Frankl as a Holocaust survivor. It’s gripping but incredibly enlightening. Here is a trained psychiatrist recounting his days as he watched many people perish as well as those who overcame the unrelenting torture that was Auschwitz. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Need inspiration, this is your book.

Most Useful Book. The Relationship Cure by John Gottman. The basics of connecting and/or not connecting with the people in your life. I am vigilant now about the way I connect with people. Am I turning away, turning against or turning towards connection. We’ve all done it. Deliberately ignored someone, been defiant or reciprocated an outgoing gesture. It’s all here. And if you listen to it on audible, Dr. Gottman is the narrator. His voice is so calm and so accessible. You absolutely feel like you can start using the information right now. Really.

Interesting but Not as Useful. Spy the Lie by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero. This book was written by ex CIA operatives. Fascinating stories and tips for picking up on liars. The only problem is that I’m not a detective or a Russian spy. I guess I might be able to figure out if my son stole a cookie from a cookie jar by reading his body language but I guess I don’t think I have that many liars in my life, which is a good thing. This is a must read for anyone in the detective field or maybe Human Resources.

Most Accessible Book. Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. Chamine gives you things you can start doing right this minute to get out of listening to the saboteurs that are talking in your head. He also has a ton of free assessments and audio meditations on his website: positiveintelligence.com. His main suggestions is to do PQ reps or I would call them mindful techniques to get really present. You can’t be worrying or suffering from anxiety if you are in the moment. Another bonus is that he is the narrator of the audio book.

Most Encompassing Book. 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Dan is a reporter for ABC news. He takes you on an auto biographical journey on his way to being happier and under less anxiety. He chases down every genre of self-help gurus. So if want the Reader’s Digest on Deepack Chopra, Dalia Lama, Eckhart Tolle and countless others, this is your book. It’s fun, at times light hearted and other times cynical but always real.

Least Likely to be Utilized. Unstuff Your Life by Andrew Mellen. This guy has excellent ideas to completely reorganize your life. I would love to hire him to organize mine. But his ideas seem way too OCD. His mantra is everything has a home and everything is in its place. He also obviously does not have a dog or children or a wayward husband. I’d love to take a week off and reorganize, label and back up all my photos but I think I’ll just rely on Facebook.

Cracks Me Up. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. Jen narrates this self-help book. She is incredibly funny and doesn’t pull any punches. I don’t think I implemented anything from this book but I was incredibly inspired when I finished it. “I can pretty much guarantee that every time you tearfully ask yourself the question, “WTF is my problem?!” the answer lies in some lame, limiting, and false subconscious belief that you’ve been dragging around without even realizing” It’s a fun read and even better listen on audible.

And Out of Left Field. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jonathan Davis. This book is some 20 hours long so I only suggest this if you like reading about historic figures and if you have a lot of time. I don’t actually have a lot of time but I listen to books when I travel so I got through this in a few weeks. Interesting story and it’s amazing how large the Mongol empire became. Barbaric to be sure, but an amazing story.

A few other honorable mentions are Small Move, Big Change, Better than Before, How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big, and The Obstacle is the Way. I have also been listening to the Great Courses which is a lecture by a professor who is interesting but they are all about 12 hours long so it is a commitment. But if you want to learn how to be a Non-Fiction Writer or Settle Disputes, there are a bunch of titles to enjoy.
So get out there and pick up that book and invest your time. I didn’t include the many books I thought were duds. Happy reading.


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5 Surprising Reasons You Need To Delete “Sorry” From Your Vocabulary

I’ve been focused for the last week or so on how often I say sorry. It turns out I’m not as bad as I expected and I realized I’ve done a good job of taking it out of my vocabulary. Originally, I became aware of my apologetic behavior after reading My Life in France by Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child.  If a dish goes horribly wrong, like a ”vile” eggs Florentine she once made for a friend, Julia instructed, ”Never apologize.” Sometimes I forget to season the food, one time I forgot to put the chicken base into a soup and it was basically water with some vegetables floating in it. I bit my tongue. To apologize as Julia espouses only makes it worse. ”The cook must simply grin and bear it,” Julia said firmly. And act as if you intended it that way.5 surprising reasons you need to delete This apologetic behavior came up in another book by Caroline Arnold called Small Move, Big Change. Arnold’s book is about micro resolutions but one of the resolutions she took on was to stop apologizing. She found that every time she apologized to her husband it put him on the defensive. I never thought about that. I always looked at an apology as taking responsibility but really you end up making the other person (the receiver of the apology) feel diminished. That seems counter intuitive but think about it. If I apologize for forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning, my husband will feel like he was putting me out to begin with. Like he was demanding the dry cleaning and I must fall on the sword to take responsibility. It’s just dry cleaning. As Arnold recommends, just give the information and let it go. “I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning.” Done. So here are the surprising reasons you need to delete “sorry” from your vocabulary: 1. Inauthentic. It makes you come across as inauthentic. Especially when you are apologizing for the weather or for your in-laws being late. Are you really responsible for the weather? Are you clairvoyant? Because if you aren’t then why are you apologizing. “I’m so sorry it’s so hot and humid.” Think about that statement in the middle of July in Eastern North Carolina. Ridiculous and inauthentic. 2. Manipulative. I think every mother is guilty of trying to manipulate their children by apologizing. “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to clean your room while I slaved away on a three course meal after a full day of juggling away at work while suffering from a wretched cold.” Right. Perhaps you are just trying to make your child feel guilty. Apologizing is manipulative. 3. Filler. It’s a filler word that we think is polite like please or thank you. But it’s really not polite. I was putting some things away the other day and brought a tool to my husband and asked where he wanted me to store it. He told me that he would take care of it and my reflexive answer was “sorry.” I caught the word in my mouth and said “No, I’m not sorry.” He looked relieved. Why in the world would I apologize? There is nothing wrong with getting things back to where they need to be stored and there is no reason to apologize. 4. Excuse. Julia considered it unseemly for a cook to twist herself into knots of excuses and explanations. Such admissions ”only make a bad situation worse,” she said, by drawing attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings) and prompting your guest to think: Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal. In a sense, it brings everyone down. It focuses on the negative instead of the positive; try instead to comment perhaps on the crisp Sauvignon Blanc or the fragrant flowers or the lovely view. Quit making excuses. 5. Disingenuous. How often are you apologizing for something you really aren’t sorry for? Like your opinion. “I’m sorry but I disagree” or “I’m sorry but you don’t have all the facts.” If you disagree or your boss does not have all the facts why in the world would you apologize for it? And what does your boss think of you if you apologize for the facts she didn’t have? It’s empty and insincere. Sometimes we just need to pay attention to the language we are using. There is power in being succinct and just relaying information instead of dressing it up (or dressing it down) with “sorry.” Focus on the information you want to relay without any apologizing qualifiers. Or perhaps just be OK with the silence. Do you apologize too often?

30 Itsy Bitsy Habits You Can Kick-start Today

It turns out it’s a lot easier to start an itsy bitsy habit instead of a gargantuan habit. So instead of embarking on a marathon, start with a tiny step like keeping your running shoes by the bed. The point is that it’s a lot easier to train your brain to go into auto pilot in the morning to walk the dog than it is to go out on a 10 mile training run for a marathon. The first time you try a new habit you barely leave a mark in your brain like footprints across freshly mowed grass. By the time you’ve been practicing a habit like brushing your teeth, you have a full on coast to coast railroad track laid down in your brain and there is no stopping it.30 itzy bitzy habits you can kick start today

I’ve actually been walking two miles every morning that I am home. I roll around in bed and think, “ugh, I don’t want to go out in the heat and humidity. It’s my birthday, take the day off, just go have some coffee and watch TV.” But somehow my brain is hard wired now, get up, brush and floss my teeth, put on my shorts and t-shirt, put on my sneakers and head out the door. I am on auto pilot. Nothing, even my sloth brain can convince me to stop. Small habits turn you into an unstoppable robot that is on autopilot. This is my morning routine and there is no stopping it. Ever.

So the secret as espoused by Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold, is micro resolutions. Make one tiny change that you can easily handle and over 30 to 60 days, it will become a habit. The secret is to only take on one or two at a time (no MORE!). Once it is a habit, it’s like driving to work, you won’t even think about it. It will be unbreakable.

So here are some itsy bitsy habits you can start right now:

1. Drink a glass of water before every meal.
2. Put your sneakers by your bed.
3. Floss your teeth every morning.
4. Write in a journal every evening.
5. Meditate for 5 minutes once a day.
6. Walk first thing every morning.
7. Make a fruit smoothie for breakfast every weekday
8. Put your clothes out the night before work/school.
9. Park your car in the farthest parking spot.
10. Make a weekly phone date with your brother, sister, mother, grandfather etc.
11. Put your car keys on a plate in your kitchen.
12. Put your clothes away immediately upon changing.
13. Clear the table once you have finished a meal.
14. Put your shoes in the same spot every time.
15. Take three slow deep breaths before eating.
16. Stop saying “sorry”.
17. Smile when you enter a room.
18. Make your bed.
19. Make a grocery list.
20. Plan your weekly meals on Sunday.
21. Schedule time to work on projects once a week.
22. Plug your cell phone in to charge when you get home.
23. No technology after 7 PM.
24. Go to bed a half hour earlier than usual.
25. Set your alarm clock 10 minutes earlier.
26. Water your plants every Saturday.
27. Read for 15 minutes before bed.
28. Wish your friends “Happy Birthday” on Facebook.
29. Use Luminosity every morning for 5 minutes.
30. Pay your bills every other Wednesday night.

If you can accomplish one or two of these itsy bitsy habits for a month or two, you will be on auto pilot. You won’t have to think about it anymore. You know how difficult it is to break a bad habit, so once it is engrained in your brain, you will never have to remember to floss again. Trust me, I have done everything on this list (not all at once) but over the last 5 years. Now I don’t even think about it. Where do you want to start?