Time Management for Teens

Increasingly, families are reaching out to me to help their teens get organized. School, work, and extra curricular demands can be intense, and even the most “together” teen can find themselves overwhelmed. A few sessions with a professional organizer is often enough to get some new and effective routines in place. Here are my top 3 tips for teens and parents:
 
Top 3 Tips For Teens:
 
*Designate a study space and have it ready for action – If you spend 20 minutes gathering supplies, or finding a quiet corner, you have wasted a lot of time that you could have spend tackling homework. Instead, locate a spot that works well for you (a desk in your room, the dining room table, etc.) and keep all of your study materials there. You can even drop your backpack there when you get home from school. Now when it is time to study, you can dive right in.
 
*Designate a time – Think about your schedule and find a time or two each day that will consistently be available for homework. This predictability will help reduce the stress of asking, “When will I get this all done?” and get you in the habit of making steady progress toward academic goals.
 
*Mini organizing moment – Begin each study time by spending a minute or two thinking through, and writing down, your top priorities for that day. Rather than diving into the first thing you think of, or the first folder you grab from your backpack, think through  what most needs your attention. Just a few minutes of planning will help you maximize your time and reduce your stress.
 
Top 3 Tips for Parents:
 
*Praise effort not achievement – A quick comment that, “You seem to be working really hard to stay on top of things,” shows that you see your teen trying.
 
*Reflect progress not perfection – None of us will ever achieve perfection, so be careful not to make that the goal. Kids will forget to study on occasion, or hand in an assignment late, or forget something at home or school. Change the old adage “practice makes perfect” to “practice makes progress.” 
 
*Model effective time management – Let your teen see you managing your time well, so they have an example to follow. When your kids observe your routines around meals, household chores, and sleep, they learn how to craft their own routines as well.
 
Feel like you could use some help in these areas? I love to work with teens, parents, and families to help them create effective routines and a calmer home. Contact me today and see how we can achieve your goals!

Here Comes Spring!

With spring just upon us, now is the time when many of you will be switching your closet from cold-weather clothing to warm-weather options. This is the perfect time to clear out those items that no longer serve your needs.

I have found that most of my clients approach the seasonal clothing switch this way: Go through the new season of clothes as they come out and cull from there. This isn’t always successful because it is difficult to make decisions about the clothes that you haven’t seen in months. Why? It’s exciting to think about this change of season and weather, and this positive outlook will cloud your judgment. Also, many of the clothes will feel new since you haven’t seen them in months.

Instead, use this opportunity to sift through the outgoing season’s clothing, only packing up what you really love and will use the next time cold weather arrives. Set your criteria before you begin sorting. For example, “If I didn’t wear it all fall and winter, I will not keep it.” Or, “I will not keep more than three similar items, such as black sweaters.” And always ask yourself, “Does this fit well and make me feel good about myself and my body?” Create your list of questions and criteria, then dig in.

Now, when the seasons shift again and you pull out your cold weather clothes, you will have only what you use and love!

Just One Single Suitcase

My family and I recently spent a week away on vacation. Aside from getting some much-needed sun and warmth, it was also a great reminder of how little we need to get along quite nicely. One suitcase apiece, filled with a few well-chosen outfits, toiletries, and a book or two – that was all. Now I would not suggest that “real” life could be reduced to such minimalism. After all, I did not cook, or clean, or help children with science projects requiring craft materials on this trip. 

But there is likely a perfect middle ground for our possessions, somewhere between one suitcase and an entire house. If you are finding it difficult to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of, take advantage of time away to bring a fresh perspective. What did you miss? What were you happy to see upon your return? What was neither missed nor essential to daily life?

In addition to thinking about specific belongings, consider the general feeling of your vacation home away from home. Was it easier to keep tidy, because there were fewer possessions there? Was it easier to choose an outfit, because you had already whittled your wardrobe down to your favorites? What would it be like to make your home more closely mirror your vacation-load of stuff? Did it create a calmer, more peaceful mood?

What lessons about possessions await you on your next trip?

New Year, New Habits

We are now a few weeks into 2019! Often, people make lots of new year’s resolutions, only to discard them within the month of January. Let’s try approaching this a little differently this year. Instead of a laundry list of resolutions, that all hit you in January, choose 12 new habits that you would like to develop. Add one each month, and commit to following through. It takes about 3-4 weeks to develop a new habit, so adding one per month is perfect. 

What sort of habits might you add? Spend a few minutes thinking through your general goals. If clutter is your main frustration, center your goals around reducing the clutter in your home. You might commit to make your bed each morning, put all dirty clothes in the hamper before bed each night, empty your kitchen sink of dishes each morning, or collect one bag of trash or donations each week (that’s 52 bags by the end of the year!). 

If time management is the area you want to focus on, try goals tied to time. Consider setting aside chunks of time each month to tackle home projects, cooking, self care, and anything else that has been lost in the shuffle. One month, set a goal for a consistent bedtime. Another month, experiment with reducing your screen time to create pockets of time to achieve other goals. 

Each of these actions, individually, won’t change your life. But, also, none of them are particularly overwhelming. They are approachable and achievable. Done consistently over time you will see major results. Big, immediate change is hard and often not sustainable. Small, consistent changes will yield long-term results. Imagine where small, daily changes could lead you in 2019!

Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays were filled with friends, family, fellowship and many other wonderful things. Just in case your holidays also resulted in some new belongings, let me propose a January challenge – The Minimalist Game.
The premise is simple. Beginning on January 1, get rid of one item. It can be anything, and it can go anywhere (donated, trashed, given away, sold). Then on January 2, get rid of two things. On January 3, 3 things, and so on for the entire month of January. If you can, enlist a friend and support and encourage each other.

While the premise is simple, that does not mean that The Minimalist Game is easy. As the month wears on, you will likely struggle to find ever more items to discard. Have faith, be creative, and do your best. Think about how good it will feel to begin 2019 with fewer possessions to possess you!
To read more about The Minimalist Game, click here:https://www.theminimalists.com/game/

Simplify, Simplify

I was speaking with a client recently about some organizing and time management goals that she and I had developed. She found herself struggling with the idea of organizing and managing her time differently – which felt, to her, inflexible and rigid. So she was resisting completing the tasks. This left her dissatisfied in that she did not want to continue with her current, somewhat haphazard approach to time but didn’t want to swing to the other extreme and lose the ability to adapt and react to changing circumstances and opportunities.

We decided to shift our goal for her use of time from organizing to simplifying. In many ways the actual actions didn’t change, but her feelings about them changed. The idea of simplifying resonated with her in a way that organizing did not. I encouraged her to question ways to simplify the realms of her life that felt out of control in some way – How could she simplify their breakfast preparations? How could she simplify her social calendar? How could she simplify her work schedule?

If organizing ever feels to you like simply putting the same things into new boxes, consider approaching it from the perspective of simplifying. I am an enormous supporter of simplicity, and the more simple your lifestyle and belongings are, the less organized you need to be. A small wardrobe fits easily into your closet. A few toys fit easily into a few bins. A simplified calendar isn’t that challenging to manage.

Would you like a concrete example? Let’s say that you have been feeling a need to organize your overflowing closet. If you simply decide to organize, you might sort your clothes by season and then color, folding everything neatly and replacing. This can certainly create a more usable closet, making full use of its space through efficient folding and sorting. But it will require consistent maintenance so that it doesn’t revert to the original system of piles of clothes. Instead, begin by asking yourself what one thing you could do right now to simplify your closet. Maybe you could remove everything that no longer fits, or that you haven’t worn in a year or more. Continue until you feel like you have simplified your closet enough to please you.

From a practical standpoint, the tasks of simplifying are not very different from the same ways I would suggest you approach organizing. But words do matter, and it is important that you find a perspective that feels good to you. Perhaps your next organizing task will become a simplifying task!

Simplify the Holidays

I know, it’s only the beginning of fall. So why am I writing about the holiday season already? Because now is your chance to pause and think about your vision for the holidays. Without some guidance, your evenings and weekends can quickly become full of events and commitments. You may thrive on the busyness of the holiday season. However, many of us long to balance the joy of parties, dinners, and activities with some quieter time with close family and friends. You might even desire time just to be alone as we enter into the winter season. Here are 5 tips to help you have a conscious holiday season.
1. What’s your vision?
Stop for a few minutes, sit quietly, and consider what your ideal holiday season would look like. You may think of a word, an activity, a person, or a feeling. That is all fine. In some way document your vision – write it down, find a picture that represents your dream, post a poem that speaks to you – and keep that close to you. Knowing what you would like is the first step to making it a reality. For me, I usually picture candlelight. I try to light candles at the beginning and end of the days throughout the holiday season and enjoy the mood and sense of softness that they create.
2. Add something that moves you toward your vision.
Commit to one thing that will fit your holiday ideal. Maybe you already know something that fits the bill. If not, do a little research. Put this on the calendar NOW. For example, I am planning to attend a candlelit holiday sing-a-long with my family this year (see my candlelight connection there!).
3. Subtract something that moves you away from your vision.
Commit to NOT do one thing that is not in alignment with your holiday ideal. Maybe you don’t like shopping at the mall so you decide to only shop online, make gifts, or buy from independent shops. Maybe you feel like you need to attend every party you are invited to even though you would like more quiet time at home. With social events, a simple “I so appreciate the offer but we won’t be able to join you this time” is completely sufficient. Choose one thing that you did in past years that you don’t want to do again, and don’t do it.
4. Make it up.
If your holiday celebrations are already fairly set (this frequently happens when we plan holidays with extended family or large groups), make up your own holiday and do it your way. You can begin a Winter Solstice celebration with a quiet night walk and takeout, or a pajama day on any Saturday you choose.
5. Remember practice makes progress, not perfection.
It’s OK if the changes you make are small. It’s a beginning, and you can always build on them next year. Notice how you feel when you choose to spend your time in alignment with your holiday vision, and use that good feeling to inspire the next change.
Let me be the first to wish you a joyous, peaceful holiday season!

Welcome, Fall

Our family is just wrapping up our first week back to school. This means early mornings, two different schools and schedules, lots of paperwork and information, new routines, and fall activities. And while everything looks really good, I confess to being worn out by it all. So much “new” in just a few days. So much more to schedule and fit in after looser summer days. As parents, we take the time to help our children manage their feelings and thoughts about this brand-new school year. Yet, we often forget to give ourselves the same space and grace to adjust.

So, take a moment and have a conversation with yourself with as much kindness and encouragement as you would give your child. My conversation goes something like this, “This week has been so full. Up early, trying to help everyone get up on time, pack what they need, take a healthy lunch, be home to greet them after school, spend time just talking about their day, planning a little something special for meals or desserts to celebrate, getting everyone to bed at a reasonable hour, filling out forms, attending information meetings, thinking through activities, and all while working and keeping the house functioning. It’s a lot. It’s ok to acknowledge that. But give yourself a pat on the back for doing it. For getting up every day and doing your best to send your kids out into the world prepared with supplies, schedules, hugs and your very best wishes for a great day. Give it a few weeks and these routines will have worn grooves into the day and will seem natural. Small confusions will resolve. Move forward with intention, giving time for things to settle naturally but keeping an eye out for things that don’t. In a few weeks this will feel more comfortable and some flow will return to your day. Breathe, smile, and find the triumphs in each day.

To help with this fall adjustment, consider keeping a weekly calendar. Track commitments, activities, homework, meals, workouts – anything that you want to make time for. Seeing it in writing serves several functions. First, it helps you remember where to be. It also gives you a visual representation of how you and your family are spending their time. Is it too much? Not enough? Is there an imbalance in the activities, with one child having multiple activities and another having none? Did you carve out time for you and your needs? Start with things that you feel are “must have” activities like predictable family time, homework time, and downtime. Talk with your family about things they would like to explore and work together to see if it fits into the family schedule for the fall. Be conscious of what you commit to, so those commitments reflect the goals and passions of your family and don’t simply become time fillers. This will help you enjoy a fall with balance.

Avoiding the “Too Busy Day” – Bringing It All Together

My previous posts have chronicled my family’s “too busy day” and addressed how we can use our schedule and conscious priorities to avoid them. What does this all have to do with organizing and simplicity? When you begin from a place of general organization and simplicity, you have a much greater ability to weather the complex, overwhelming days and emerge intact on the other side.

Think of it like a flu shot. While it won’t always prevent you from getting the flu, it will reduce your chances, and reduce the severity of your symptoms. I don’t have a magic wand or formula to prevent all of the “too busy days,” but I know that my organizational systems, built-in wiggle room in my schedule, and overall awareness of not doing too much help me bounce back more quickly and more effectively than if I did not have these things.

Your general level of organization and simplicity are your baseline, your touchstone of where you want to be most of the time. With a solid foundation, you will spring back to this baseline relatively easily. Without this you will find yourself straying farther and farther from your ideal with each unexpected bump in the road.

As we head into summer, I hope you will take a little time to reflect on your schedule, priorities, and overall level of busyness. Adjust a little where necessary, create awareness in areas that have been on autopilot. Summer is a season made for lazy days, and tough choices like “pool or sprinkler?” I wish you a summer where you have created a bit of space to relish some breathing room in your schedule!

Avoiding the “Too Busy Day” – Priorities

In my previous two posts, I talked about my family’s “too busy day” and made some schedule suggestions to avoid them. At the heart of the discussion is making a satisfying schedule, one that doesn’t just jam in one more thing but rather supports your values and goals. This is, in essence, prioritizing. Why? Because what we prioritize is, by default, what we value. It is where we choose to place our time, energy, and care.

The reality of life is that we can’t do it all, and we certainly can’t do it all well. Part of creating a livable schedule is to take an honest look at your priorities. It is worthwhile to take a “big picture” look sometimes, but for the purposes of this post, I am talking about a more ground-level weekly look. Reflect on where your priorities should lie for this upcoming week. Maybe one of your children is struggling with school, and you want to clear your afternoons to spend with them. Maybe your work has been stagnating, and you want that to be a high priority. Maybe you simply need every bit of free time to spend cleaning and organizing your house.

Once you know what the top one or two priorities for the week are, use them to guide your time. Write them down and post them somewhere where everyone in your house can see them. Cut out what doesn’t need to happen at all, and streamline things that do need to happen but aren’t an identified priority. For instance, if work is your high priority for this week, line up friends and neighbors to help transport your kids to activities. Reciprocate on a week when spending extra time with your children is your top priority. Give yourself permission, and be conscious of it, to be average at some things. We often think of average as a bad word, but we actually can be average at many things without impacting our lives very much. An average laundress is fine, and won’t do much to change your family’s quality of life.

Where we get stuck is when we use our time unconsciously, skipping from task to task, or emergency to emergency. This is when we get to the end of the week and have regret about what we didn’t do, or how time felt “wasted.” There is always more to do, more things to spend time on, more work or house tasks to complete. And some weeks each of those categories will be where your heart and your time will lie. If it’s not this week, that’s ok. Make time for your top priorities AT THIS MOMENT and you will feel good about your time management at the end of the week.