Are You On A Bridge To Somewhere?

    Are You On A Bridge To Somewhere?

    In 2009, my hubby and I downsized from a 3000 square foot house to a 1600 square foot townhouse.

    When we made the move, dishes were carefully wrapped, boxes were packed and stacked, and big burly men with arms the size of hanging hams came and transported the stuff of our life to a new location.

    Once moved in and I still had things that I didn’t have room for (or need) in our new digs. Every day, I managed to fill at least three huge green garbage bags and two boxes for goodwill.

    Not to mention that I think I have handedly paid for at least one industrious plastic worker’s kid to go to college — owing to all the plastic storage bins, organizational trays and snap shut boxes I had purchased to store and organize my remaining belongings.

    I was in awe at the industriousness that the plastic mavens have applied to creating clever ways to store, organize, manage and track stuff. I had made six trips to The Container Store, two trips to Bed, Bath and Beyond and three trips to the Ace Hardware.

    In the middle of the big move we went to dinner with some good friends. We wanted to share about the transition we were going through and tell our tales. It turned out to be the perfect antidote to the chaos of the moment.

    Over the course of the evening the four of us talked about the process of letting go of the old stuff and what if’s in our lives and embracing being on the bridge in between the old life we just left and the new one we were in the process of creating.

    “But the bridge is such a scary, uncertain, out of control place,” I said.

    “It is,” said my friend. “But it’s also an opportunity to let what’s next evolve on its own. To have the fun of letting things organically take shape. Setting goals is great, but there is something to be said for trusting the process,” he said.

    As I listened, I could see that while I was on the bridge (and I will probably be there for a while), it was not a bridge to nowhere, but a bridge to somewhere — somewhere fun and exciting and challenging and scary. One thing for certain: it’s going to be the best organized bridge anyone’s every seen.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    When Downsizing Is Rightsizing

    When Downsizing Is Rightsizing

    During the process, I sold off 10 pieces of furniture; donated over 200 books, assorted dishware and clothing for Goodwill; thrown out a small dumpsters worth of garbage and cut my candle collection in half. All of that and I still had many days worth of sorting and clutter clearing to go before the big daywhen we moved.

    My husband and I were facing a downsizing. We sold the house we’d owned for the past 12 years and were moving to a rental. Were we forced to sell our house in a fit of foreclosure? No. But like many of our fellow citizens we were swept up in the irrational enthusiasm of leveraged real estate investments and a mortgage that looked liked it was too good to be true – and it was.

    And while I now see that downsizing as a necessary step and nested opportunity – it had not been easy. Facing our fiscal choices and just confronting the amount of stuff (from houses to housewares) that we had bought, collected, been gifted, picked up at conferences, purchased at other people’s garage sales and one way or another acquired, had been painful at best and gut wrenching at worst.

    Twenty years ago I took a financial course where the instructor said the goal was sufficiency. I’ve often thought of this as the three bears method of money and stuff – not too much, not too little, but just enough to have a sense of freedom and things working well. I’ve never forgotten that concept. I only wish I’d made a little bit more of an effort to live by it over the past 10 years.

    Even so, I can’t help but feel grateful. I know many people who have lost much more. This move and the subsequent shedding of much of the stuff that has been hanging around my life sucking up time, energy and money is my opportunity to declare a sufficiency ‘do over’ and begin righsizing. It’s a chance to retool my goals and priorities and spend more of my life on the things that matter most to me.

    If you’re tempted to judge me too harshly as a disgraceful example of over-consumerism, I challenge you to open a few closets and drawers in your own home (or worse take a good hard look into the belly of the beast known as your garage) and tell me what you find. More than likely there will be an abundance of things you thought you wanted and needed but didn’t.

    The pressure to buy now, pay later; stay on top of the latest trends and own what’s being touted as the next tony thing, is a strong one in our culture. It’s a problem facing our nation as a whole, not just a group of catalog crazy, sale enticed individuals. It’s a battle that takes constant personal vigilance to fight. One – if we stay on top of it – we can often win, and are bound by circumstances to occasionally lose.

    Oh and just in case that trip to the garage inspired you to do a little rightsizing of your own stuff, here’s the method I used from my book Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make The Most of Your Day.

    Do a ‘T’ scan

    Moving in a logical direction (right to left, top to bottom, front to back) Scan the stuff in front of you and as you come across each item, assign it a category and act accordingly.

    Trash – This is an item that no longer works, you no longer need or you no longer like. It has outlived its usefulness and is ready to make the journey from your office to the wastebasket. Action: Throw this out now! If the item is still in good working shape put it in a box to be given to charity.

    Treasure – This is an item you need, you like and/or you use. It belongs exactly where it is. Action: Don’t do a thing. Leave it as it and be glad you found it.

    Hot Hint: If the item is one you want, but just needs to be repaired ask yourself if its worth the time and effort to fix this item or would it be better to replace it? If the answer is repair it, schedule a specific time to take care of it within the next week.

    Transfer – This is an item that you want to keep, but does not belong in the location where you found it. Action: Put the item in a box for transfer to its proper place when the sorting session is over.

    Temptation – This is an item that you feel conflicted over. Part of you wants to keep it and part of you is not sure you will ever use it. To help decide ask yourself:

    Do I have more than one of these?
    How useful will this really be in the future?
    When was the last time I used this?
    Is this something I need to keep for legal reasons?
    What is the worst thing that could happen if I get rid of this?

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    Need To Recharge? Get Rid Of What’s Weighing You Down

    Need To Recharge? Get Rid Of What’s Weighing You Down

    In 2009, I sold my house, found a new place to live and helped my husband get prepared for his back surgery.

    Oh and by the way, I cleaned the house, took the dog to the groomers and somehow managed to fit in my day job and pen a few columns for the web sites I write for. I was exhausted.

    Looking back, I can only think of one other year (early first marriage, bad divorce) that was as traumatic, upsetting, scary and plain old hard as this one had been. I couldn’t wait to wave goodbye to 2009, and I don’t think I’m alone.

    In the face of 2009’s adversity – financial and otherwise – I also had a serious realization – I needed to recharge. Not the typical have a massage, take a weekend away, spend quality time with family, kind of recharge, but a life-recharge.

    The opportunity to step back and reflect on my first 49 years and discover what passions and possibilities might occur over the next few decades. To achieve this life-recharge, I knew that the first thing I needed to do was get rid of what has been weighing me down with stress during the day and waking me up with worry at night. And that’s just what I’ve spent the past few months doing.

    I started with something that while it may seem insignificant and small, changed my whole world. I downsized my technology. I got rid of all phones but my cell phone. If friends, family, potential clients or telemarketers want to reach out, there’s only one number they can call. More importantly, there is only one voicemail I need to check.

    Next, I moved on to tackle a problem of technological clutter that had been vexing me for years. I got rid of all my computers, except for one MacBook Pro lap top. No more wondering if this file was on the office computer, while that one was on the home computer. I sync it all with my iPhone and where I go, so goes my one and only computer. And yes, I do regularly back it up.

    Now that I had tackled a few smaller items, I was ready to move onto an item that would score me big points on my life-recharge project. We sold almost all our real estate. With the exception of some investment property in Florida (don’t ask) we managed within a six week period of time to sell two investment homes and our main residence. The day I signed those papers I lost a bundle, but could feel my batteries stirring in my soul.

    My husband and decided to rent and since our up and coming rental was a condo, 1/2 the size of our former house, I had more to purge as I pursued the path of the life-recharge project – one weighty item at a time.

     This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    How To Exercise At Your Desk

    How To Exercise At Your Desk

    I don’t consider myself a workaholic – more like a work-a-lot-ic. And at midlife, I strive now more than ever to integrate time for exercise into my daily routine. The at-home treadmill helps and I have found that making dates with girlfriends to go for hikes and walks is a fool proof method of getting myself moving.

    But, when the pressure mounts and deadlines loom, I do occasionally find myself sitting in my workout clothes (and running shoes) sucked into email on my computer, instead of hiking the trails.

    For many of us, finding the time to get in the recommended 30 minutes a day of exercise can seem daunting, but the Loyola Center for Fitness says that even when we are glued to our desk, we can still exercise.

    “Taking a break from work for even a few minutes can help you feel better and increase your energy level,” said Kara Smith, special programs coordinator for the Loyola Center for Fitness.

    Here are some exercises Smith recommends that allow you to get in some cardiovascular, strength and flexibility exercise – all at or near your desk.

    Cardiovascular


    1. Stand whenever possible. Standing opens the front of the hips

    2. Take the stairs. Five to seven times a day is a good goal

    3. March in place or take a brief walk around your office to increase your energy and blood flow


    Strength


    1. Strengthen legs by standing feet hip width apart. Sink your hips back as if sitting in a chair. Lower slightly, return to standing

    2. Strengthen your arms, shoulders and chest. Sit in a chair without wheels and place your hand on the arms. Use your arms to lift your bottom off the chair seat and lower yourself back down. Aim for 15 repetitions

    3. Work your knees by sitting tall in chair. Lift one leg and straighten, hold for 2 seconds and lower. Repeat with other leg.

    4. Stretch your back and shoulders by squeezing your shoulder blades together and away from your ears, hold for three seconds and release. Repeat 15 times.

    Flexibility


    1. Sit in a chair and reach both arms overhead, stretching them back. Hold for 10 seconds. Grab your right wrist with left hand and stretch deeper through your right side. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat opposite side.
    
2. Hold your arms in front of you and gently circle your wrists in both a clockwise and counterclockwise motion. Stretch your hands by making fists then opening them as wide as you can
    
3. Sit tall in a chair keeping your weight even in both hips. Gently turn your body to the right. Deepen the stretch by using your left hand to hold the right chair arm. Hold for 15 seconds, switch sides
    
4. Release neck tension by sitting tall in your chair. Release your right shoulder down, you can even sit on your right hand, and tilt your head so your left ear is going towards your left shoulder. Hold for 15 seconds, switch sides.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    8 Steps To Cooling Down Your Anger

    8 Steps To Cooling Down Your Anger

    Slamming down the phone, yelling at coworkers, giving the computer (or copier) a good whack, shouting profanities, and throwing papers in frustration – psychologists may call this counterproductive behavior, but in more down-home terms it’s known as desk rage.

    Regardless of what name it is called, one thing seems clear: worldwide, workplace outbursts of anger are on the rise. One survey of 1500 workers by by Christine Pearson at UNC-Chapel Hill found that 12 percent of those surveyed had quit a job at some point to avoid nasty people at work and 45 percent were thinking about doing so. Moreover, more than half of those interviewed reported losing time at work worrying about other people’s rude behavior toward them.

    But what if you’re the one who tends to blow your top, lose your cool and in general become one ball of red heat to deal with. The experts say that even when your anger is justified, either suppressing it or expressing it in a destructive way is harmful.

    So the next time you feel your internal temperature begin to rise, try the eight steps outlined below to calm yourself back down.

    Step #1: Take a few deep breaths and count to ten.

    Step #2: Ask yourself: What are you feeling? What emotions are you are experiencing? Explore beyond the tip of the emotional iceberg – what are you feeling underneath?

    Step #3: Ask yourself: What is it about this situation – specifically – that is making you feel angry? What are the circumstances?

    Step #4: Ask yourself: What are you telling yourself about this person or situation? What trigger thoughts are you having?

    Step #5: Spend thirty seconds thinking of a less personal/more positive reason why the person may be acting this way (or why this situation is the way it is).

    Step #6: Substitute your crazy-making thoughts for calming ones. We asked our clients to tell us what calming thoughts they have found particularly useful in dealing with anger on the job. The answers we heard the most often included:

    “This will pass.”
    “Take this one step at a time.”
    “I am not going to be the victim of these circumstances.”
    “I am angry and I can take care of this.”
    “Focus on what I have to get done and do it.”
    “Where is the humor in this situation?”

    Step #7:
    Ask yourself: What outcome are you looking for? What do you want to have happen (or have stop happening) in the situation?

    Step #8: Ask yourself: What actions can you take to achieve your objective?
    Use problem-solving methods such as communication, negotiation, leverage, etc.

    Tune in next week when I will cover the other side of the coin – how to deal with the other person’s desk rage.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    How To Ditch Other People’s Negative Emotions

    How To Ditch Other People’s Negative Emotions

    Today was a four snooze alarm morning. Between the cold I caught from a fellow guest at a friend’s dinner, deadlines for clients and editors looming over my sleepy head, and the drained energy I felt from dealing with someone else’s negative emotion – I just wanted to crawl under the covers and eat chocolate. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

    As someone who is constantly striving to create a work-life balance and blend the commitments of work, family, friendships and creativity, I’m always interested in the latest and greatest on the psychology, biology and sociology front as it relates to creating a well-rounded and emotionally centered life.

    In her new book Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life (Harmony Books, 2009) bestselling author Judith Orloff, MD, offers some great new solutions for dealing with emotions in our hyper-tense world. So here’s a guest post from Dr. Orloff on her take on how to detach from other people’s negative emotions:

    First, ask yourself: Is the feeling mine or someone else’s? It could be both. If the emotion such as fear or anger is yours, gently confront what’s causing it on your own or with professional help. If not, try to pinpoint the obvious generator. For instance, if you’ve just watched a comedy, yet you came home from the movie theater feeling blue, you may have incorporated the depression of the people sitting beside you; in close proximity, energy fields overlap. The same is true with going to a mall or packed concert.

    When possible, distance yourself from the suspected source. Move at least twenty feet away; see if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend strangers. In a public place, don’t hesitate to change seats if you feel a sense of depression imposing on you.

    For a few minutes, center yourself by concentrating on your breath: This connects you to your essence. Keep exhaling negativity, inhaling calm. This helps to ground yourself and purify fear or other difficult emotions Visualize negativity as gray fog lifting from your body, and hope as golden light entering. This can yield quick results.

    Negative emotions
    such as fear frequently lodge in your emotional center at the solar plexus. Place your palm there as you keep sending loving-kindness to that area to flush stress out. For longstanding depression or anxiety, use this method daily to strengthen this center. It’s comforting and builds a sense of safety and optimism.

    Shield yourself. A handy form of protection many people use, including healers with trying patients, involves visualizing an envelope of white light (or any color you feel imparts power) around your entire body. Think of it as a shield that blocks out negativity or physical discomfort but allows what’s positive to filter in.

    Look for positive people and situations.
    Call a friend who sees the good in others. Spend time with a colleague who affirms the bright side of things. Listen to hopeful people. Hear the faith they have in themselves and others. Also relish hopeful words, songs, and art forms. Hope is contagious and it will lift your mood.

    Keep practicing these strategies. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you’re on emotional overload. With strategies to cope, you can have quicker retorts to stressful situations, feel safer, and your sensitivities can blossom.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    What Pez Candy And Time Management Have In Common

    What Pez Candy And Time Management Have In Common

    When I was a kid, one of my favorite candies was Pez. The bottom half of the dispenser was designed in the shape of a cigarette lighter, and the top was the head of some famous cartoon character. With one swift motion, I would pull back the Donald Duck, Goofy or Mickey Mouse top and out would pop a single, small sliver of satisfyingly tart and sweet candy. I would go on like this, dispensing one treat at a time, until the entire package was used up.

    If you’re wondering what this childhood trip down memory lane has to do with today’s time management, I’ll tell you — but first, you have to sit through one more candy metaphor.

    Most people approach their to-do list like it’s a box of chocolates (and not in the somewhat endearing Forest Gump “lefe is leke a bax o’ chokolates” way.) No, we take a small nibble out of a caramel cream and dump the remains back in the box or grab a bite of a dark chocolate-covered cherry and then discard it to its holding place next to the English toffee.

    Likewise, we tend to take little nibbles on projects, bites of our to-do list and leave tasks half eaten. For the most part, this leaves us wholly incomplete and unsatisfied. Stuffed to the gills with action, but hungry for accomplishment.

    I think we should all take a productivity lesson from PEZ candy and promise to start doing one thing at a time. No distractions, no multitasking, just focus — pure, old-fashioned, unadulterated focus. To increase yours, try these focus-building behaviors.

    Warning: You may have heard or read a version of these before. They’re classics in the world of time management, and for those of us who peddle this stuff, we’ve all written about them, spoken about them, recommended them and sometimes even followed them — for years. They are, in many ways, common sense. But you know the expression about common sense not being so common? Oh, and if you need a visual to remind you, order a PEZ dispenser.

    1. Keep a Brain Drain list on hand: One study by George Miller found that people can only hold five to nine things in their mind at a time; the rest goes into the unconscious mind. To keep your mental real estate tidy, as soon as a thought, idea, task or to-do enters you brain — threatening to strip you of your focus — write it down for processing at a later date.

    2. Tackle the hard things early in the morning: One survey by Accountemps found that 69 percent of financial executives polled said that their most productive time for meeting with potential job applicants was between 9 and 11 a.m. Why? Because most people have more energy available at the beginning of the day than at the end. Instead of frittering away your morning surfing the net for fabulous finds, or processing “C” priority emails, put that time to work on your “A” priority items.

    In fact, if your are so inclined, I’d love it if you would take just a minute (literally) and fill out a poll on What Is Your Most Productive Time Of Day?

    3. Work on increasing your attention span. The next time you sit down to do a specific task that requires your full focus, set a timer for five minutes. No matter what, don’t allow yourself to be pulled away. Yes, your brain will scream for mercy. Yes, you will think you are going to die of boredom and yes, five minutes is both a lot longer and a lot shorter than you realize.

    When you can focus on the task uninterrupted for five minutes, try 10, then 15, then 20. If you can get up to 45 minutes of totally focused time — no itches and urges to answer your cell phone, check your e-mail, Facebook a friend or twitter your latest thought — you are Zen master and are hereby absolved from ever having to read another time management book. Not really, but you will be among the few and the proud.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    New Year Resolutions Week

    New Year Resolutions Week

    The last few days of the year (the procrastinators among us hold off until the first week of January) is the time when most people sit down to formulate their New Year’s Resolutions. I think the reason this beginning-of-year activity is so popular is that we are a nation that loves the “do over.”

    We fancy the idea that in one relatively short time span (a week, a day) we can raise the magic wand of declaration and erase the past year’s mistakes with its missed opportunities and make a fresh start. It’s the kind of feeling we get from putting on a clean white shirt, or opening a new box of Kleenex, or unwrapping an unused sponge for the sink and throwing away the grimy old one.

    As we roll into January, I have been reflecting (in between shopping, cooking, planning, and partying) on my past resolutions of 2008 and my goals for 2009. To start, I sat down yesterday to review the goals I had set for myself with such good cheer and optimism in that first week of January, a mere twelve months ago.

    Perhaps it’s twenty-five plus years as a management consultant, or all that time I have spent leading time management courses, or just my natural obsessively organized personality, but I always write down my goals and list them under subheadings by category – body/health, marriage, finance, family, creativity, etc.

    The interesting thing is that the goals from the current year often bear a striking similarity to the goals from the previous one. The same desires appear, year after year, like flowers that bloom every spring from long-dormant bulbs. They have been hibernating, storing energy, and every year around this time are ready to spring forth with a fresh bunch of flowers, yet are still part of the same old plant.

    Among other things, my yearly blooms always seem to include fitness, career, money and love. Doesn’t everyone’s? The fact that each fresh crop of resolutions is a slight variation on the same theme does not stop me from making them. I keep coming back for more.

    Looking back, it’s actually been a pretty good year. I’ve achieved, if not all my goals, enough progress on them to make me feel like a productive member of my own life. I did write that series of books, sing in that play and start that exercise program.

    As for the goals that I did not achieve in 2008, I have come to realize that some (i.e., run a marathon) were just good ideas, never meant to move beyond the page to the real world of action. To others, I gave my best shot (lose twenty pounds) and fell short (I lost nine).

    Thankfully, this coming week is officially New Year’s Resolution week, so I can declare a “do over,” wipe the slate clean, and start again, bringing a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to my “new” goals, even if they happen to look an awful lot like the old ones.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.

    How To Find The Time To Exercise

    How To Find The Time To Exercise

    Try as I might, It takes real determination to get my tush on the treadmill every morning or out for a hike when the weather is good. Like most things in life – guilt goes along way, so off and on again I work out with a group of other women in a body boot camp lead by exercise maven Julie Coulston.

    Coulston is a fourteen-year veteran health club manager and personal trainer. Julie is a very fit, slim, yet curvy person who combines the cheerful go getter-ness of Julie Andrews with the focus of Attila The Hun. Here are a few pearls of her workout wisdom I’ve learned from:

    Q. A lot of People seem to have some resistance to exercise. Do you find that to be the case?

    A. 80-90 percent of my clients are resistant to exercise. They have this idea that it has to be hard and takes too much time. Even bigger than both of those reasons – many don’t enjoy it.

    Q. How do you help people get over that?

    A. What I usually do is sit down with my clients and go through a discovery process about the things they wish they could do. For example: One client used to ride their bike when they were 8 and wants to start again; another used to play volleyball and wants to get back to it; another wants to learn to ski.

    Q. What if a client doesn’t know what they would find fun?

    A. The best strategy is to experiment. Go on a hike, go for a walk in the park, take a dance class, go swimming or take a water exercise class. I encourage people to do something different and look for variety in their workout routines. They often find something they didn’t realize would be fun.

    Q: What is the biggest barrier people face in getting out to exercise?

    A: Commitment and consistency. I find that too many people start and stop their exercise programs, so they are constantly setting themselves up for failure. You have to identify the obstacles that will get in the way of your exercising regularly.

    Q: What are some of those obstacles?

    A: Time is the number one obstacle. We have such busy lives and our days are packed with so many things, we don’t make health and fitness a priority.

    Q: What is one way you help your clients get around the time obstacle?

    A: By far, the easiest way to get around the time obstacle is to make your exercise the first thing you do each day. Pencil it in and schedule which mornings (i.e. Monday, Wednesday and Friday) you are going to workout. Then you need to schedule everything else around it – dropping off the kids, your hobbies etc.

    Q: But what if mornings don’t work?

    A: If you just can’t make mornings work, find a way to schedule it at other times. Plan for a trainer to come to your house, ride your bike to work, take a walk at lunchtime, sign up for a group exercise class in the afternoon or end of the day. The next time you take the kids to swim class, don’t just watch them take their lessons, use this as your time to workout. The time part is more manageable if you put down exactly when you are going to exercise.

    This post was originally published at Karen Leland’s Featured Small Business column on The Huffington Post.