Friday, August 6, 2010

Networking Magic

Last night I hosted a networking event for 15 local business owners at the Curious Palate (yum!). It was a wonderful event and a nice exercise in organization (albeit event organization, not space organization).

The thing that is most wonderful about person to person networking is...well...the fact that it is person to person. There is something magical about hearing someone talk about their business: To see them light up when sharing, to hear little anecdotes about how the business began, to hear what was learned in the process of growing the business, and especially to hear the business owner speak about their vision for the future of their business. One cannot help but want to help the business owner after that and that is what is magical.

I am sold on the idea that no business is an island. The strongest businesses are run by people who have a strong network of trusted people. I feel so fortunate to be making and maintaining these connections. I believe these are the connections that will benefit all in the long run.

A big "yes" to networking!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last night I went to a Professional Organizer's networking event/lecture. The topic was "Time Management" and the presenter was incredibly lovable. She gave us tips on how to prioritize, how to create to-do lists, how to find short-cuts and streamline our businesses and how to dream big. All wonderful things and I listened to what she had to share because she is a successful person in our industry.

At the same time, the message of "Prioritize" and "To-do's" is anti-GTD. And I realized the true freedom of working with the GTD methodology. It's like it all begins to sink in, what David Allen says. To-do lists DON'T work. I mean, they do work in the sense that they point to the things we hope to accomplish. But, they are also, by their very nature, set-ups for failure. Life happens in the span of time. And that means interruptions, unexpected/unforeseeable events, human foibles, fatigue and all the other factors that can crop up on any given day. The "To-Do" list doesn't save us from those things. Prioritizing doesn't save us from those things. They ARE a part of life and must be accounted for in our quest to get things done.

I like the fact that GTD is sinking in more. It makes it all the more uncomfortable, not having the system fully in place. But even that is good - it makes the hunger for it stronger too. I am convinced, pretty absolutely, that David Allen has hit upon the truth of human activity in our daily life. He really is on to something...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Universe conspires to GTD

I am excited! Life does that, it excites me with all of its wonderful little mysteries and coincidences.

I mentioned in one of my first posts that I was introduced to "Getting Things Done" by a friend. Well, this friend is not a person I see all that often. In fact, he is a customer at the diner where I work part time. So really, I only ever see him when he has a hankerin' for some good old fashioned home fries - or black beans, yes John, I know you prefer black beans :)

At any rate, that same friend came in to the diner today and after sharing with him how much I have benefited from the introduction to GTD, we talked a little about our struggles. Motivation to do it alone: neither one of us has it. SOOOOOO John suggested we...da da da da!!!!! HELP EACH OTHER! Brilliant!

So I asked that we start with his office because I am dying, just dying to go through this process as a facilitator. I really think I have a pretty good understanding of the process. We shall see, right? We are, after all, the blind leading the blind. But the cool thing about this is that we both know that we're blind. In this, it's all an experiment to see if we can actually set each other up to get things done!

I sometimes just marvel at how wonderful the Universe is at working things out. After all, I could have never thought of such a plan. And yet I was craving, absolutely craving the opportunity to give this methodology a try, to facilitate the process with and for someone else. How cool is this?!

Next action: Email John re: date for first GTD office assessment.

Signing off.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Networking Event - Life Hackers

Oh...If there is one term I dislike it's "Hacker".

I hate it! I associate it with serial killers. Or lumberjacks. And yet, "Hacking" is the word of the day isn't it? Actually, it's even become kind of an overused word. I bet in many circles the term "Computer Hacker" is archaic...we've probably already moved on to more modern terminology. But I am slow, so I am only now coming to appreciate the term for all it's worth.

At any rate, a few weeks ago I was in search of a group of people who follow the GTD approach so that I could learn and share from them. I found a website called (which is incredibly rich in networking and activity groups). One of the groups I found in my area - the one that most closely related to GTD - was the "Life Hackers" Group of Culver City. So I joined!

And then, of course, I wanted to MEET UP so I organized an event. Only a few RSVPed, but for those I was grateful and excited. So...I made my LIFE HACKERS MEET UP sign (so that my fellow Life Hackers would find me at the designated restaurant) and I created some typical mixer questions (Tell us about yourself: What do you do? What made you decide to join the Life Hackers group? What kind of tools or methodologies do you use to be more productive? etc). I was poised to host the night of productivity bliss. No one showed. Well, that is not entirely true: My dear friend Briss (who is a natural Life Hacker, very organized, very very productive) showed up and for that I was incredibly grateful.

But nothing is lost. Nothing is ever lost. And what this opportunity afforded me was a chance to contemplate the term "Life-Hacker" and to see where I stand on the spectrum of productivity/efficiency/streamlining etc. Here's what I discovered: I am a minimalist. I believe the key to "hacking" into life is plugging in. Plugging in, not necessarily to more sophisticated software or PDAs, but plugging in to life. Plugging in to what seem to be It's Natural laws. Plugging in to simplicity.

From my point of view, External Life Hacking begins when we are organized and our environments (our home, offices, creative spaces) are at rest: When we feel we can move in and around our space with comfort, ease and grace, when we are free from the weight of clutter, when we enjoy what we see in our immediate space. Internal Life Hacking begins when we are ordered within: When our relationships with others are harmonious, when we take care of our selves, when we are at peace with ourselves and our decisions. These ARE the shortcuts to living a productive life.

It's far too easy (and seductive) to distract ourselves with looking for the next methodology, gadget or technology which will put our lives in order and make us feel like more productive human-beings. I say this from a point of authority because I am guilty of looking for the one thing, that one thing that will help put life into a little box that I can understand. The code that I can crack. But I also know that I am most productive when I just do the very next indicated action. When I apply this to my life, I feel less resistance, less procrastination and much more enthusiasm. If that ain't hacking into something good, I don't know what is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Out of the Closet!

As a result of 5 (count 'em 5) shots of espresso yesterday, I finally mustered up some motivation to look at my skeletons in the closet. Here they are:
<------ <--------- <--- <----- If I could make these arrows go vertical, I'd show you some more of the mess. But you get the picture (he! he!). In short, the professional organizer is not always so organized herself. And what we have here in this picture are (according to Mr. Allen) PROJECTS (anything requiring more than one action step). In this closet we have old journals (to be read, discarded, burned, who knows?), piles and piles of C.D.s (Do I import them? Use them as coasters? Frisbees perhaps?), photos (Oh! I really don't want to have to learn how to scrapbook, though I do have an appreciation for the art), memorabilia (My ex-boyfriends wrote the nicest letters) and art and craft supplies. There is work to be done here. And I have known it. And it has weighed on my psyche for a while now. But without "capturing" these items, they have always just been there swimming around in the back of my mind, only to surface whenever I opened my closet door.

Now, however, they have been captured on my projects list. I am not saying I am going to make any move on them anytime soon. But they are there ;)
And...I did tidy up the closet a bit too last night as I was waiting for my overly-caffeinated nervous system to allow me to finally get tired.

I also found myself very grateful for being (somewhat) organized. I think if the rest of my apartment was a disaster, I would find the Getting Things Done idea too overwhelming (at least to do alone without the help of one of David Allen's helpers...or even...David Allen himself! Oh! That is too much to dream!). I may not be working at a "mind like water" level, but I am getting a less ripply mind using some of the tools of the GTD methodology. That is a good thing!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fraidy Cat

Sigh. I chalked out July 1st and 2nd for Step 1 and 2 of the GTD process (collecting and processing) and I did not take action. I could feel it coming, the storm of uncertainty, the excuses, the F-E-A-R.

"What is there to be afraid of? It's just a little collecting after all!"

You're right! You are so right! There is nothing dangerous about collecting. But, I started feeling afraid that I wouldn't have what it takes to do the whole process. Here were my excuses: "You don't have an big inbox, Heather, how are you going to collect all the items?" "What if you pull all of these items out, sit them in the center of your room and fail to process all of them? Then you'll be stuck with this mountain of to-do's and you'll just have to move it into the closet anyway." "You don't have all that many items anyway because you are pretty well organized already. Though, you should be MORE organized because you are, after all a professional organizer. What would your clients think if they saw your place? Oh God! They would think you were a fraud! Who would hire you?!?!? You better clean up, girl. Fast!"

So instead of collecting, I did my dishes, threw away some clothes that no longer fit, and reorganized my kitchen cabinets and drawers. I will say my apartment feels nicer as a result. But the fact is...I am still operating on a "put fires out" kind of basis when it comes to my work flow. I know that in order for me to find that peaceful flow Mr. Allen talks about, there is work to be done. Starting with: COLLECTING.

I am not happy with myself for being such a resistant Fraidy Cat, BUT I am grateful for this resistance in one sense: At least now I have a deeper sense of compassion for my clients when they feel resistance to undertake the organizing process. It's simply not an easy thing to gear up for mentally. There is a lot of emotional stuff around all of this. Even simply attempting to be more productive brings up some of those odd human foibles (fear of success, perfectionism, uncertainty, etc.). This is all for good.

I'll continue to go at a snail's pace. Better to be a Slow-And-Steady-Snail than a Fraidy Cat, don't you think?

Friday, June 18, 2010

GTD Date...It's on the calendar and everything!

Okay, I've made the commitment: On July 1st and 2nd 2010 I will be...collecting and processing. That's right, the first two steps in the five step process of GTD, collecting and processing. Two consecutive days. Back to back. Collecting. Then processing. It's a little daunting from this vantage point, spending about 16 hours with myself and my stuff but I think it's a worth while investment. In fact, I see it as a necessary investment.

As of recent I have been exploring some really cool things. Like business networking. Oooohhhh Ahhhh. It doesn't sound as much fun as it really is. This week I went to a Green Networking event and met some really groovy people doing some really groovy things - both in the marketplace and for the environment. It was inspiring. And I began to see what networking is all about - the natural desire to help out others who believe in what they are doing. The human instinct to support each other and to make good things happen for each other. Networking is quite beautiful.

So, this is why I see the time investment of July 1st and 2nd very necessary: Because I want to grow and have new projects in the works (like building my business network). I don't want to start any new endeavors without having clarity first of all the commitments I have already made (collection) and a clear road map (which begins in the processing portion) to show me where I am going and what I am doing next.

So now, we have a date. It's you and me GTD. July 1st and 2nd. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Clash of the systems: GTBO vs GTD

Last week I came up against a dilemma, one I have not yet faced in my time as an organizer. I came up against the question of methodology: "Which approach do I take with this client?"

You see...the process of organizing comes quite naturally to me. I see a big jumble of things and I get very excited because I know I am capable of bringing order to the things. I am not afraid of clutter. And thus far, my instincts have guided me through every organization session I have ever had with a client. My instincts have served me and my clients very well through our sessions.

BUT THEN CAME ALONG DAVID ALLEN! And now...well... his voice (again I have been listening to him via his audiobook) is echoing through my head. And my instincts don't know what to do with themselves.

I did an assessment last week for a potential client (this is customary for new clients - I meet with them for an hour to see in-person the size and scope of the project and also to gauge whether or not I am the right person for the job). This woman was amazing. Truly. She had a large number of really cool creative projects in the works and she was managing a family. Not small tasks. She wanted to get out of vagueness and disorder and get into peak-level performance. And I wanted to help.

But I found myself shy. Why? Because I didn't want to use the methodology I have used before with clients. I wanted to use David Allen's methodology. And I realized that my old model and David Allen's don't jive. Simply stated, my methodology takes longer and doesn't solve the pending issues that David Allen's methodology addresses.

Here's what I mean: This has been my process:
In 4-hour blocks
1) Start with the area that is causing client the most duress
2) Sort through items: put like-items together, discard stuff that is no longer needed, find a new home for those items that the client wants to keep.
3) Devise systems for keeping those items in their right place.

It's a sound process. It works to relieve stress and it brings even the most cluttered environments to rest.

But David Allen's approach is different. He recommends taking out 2 consecutive days (8 hours each) to work. Then this is the process:
1) Create a large, central "In basket" - find all the items (ALL OF THEM) and put them in the basket. DO NOT SORT.
2) Process the In Basket (one item at a time) and decide which items are actionable, which are projects, and which items can be discarded.

By this methodology, the sorting that I do with clients would be considered a "project" and could be done at a later date. Thus, David Allen's approach seems to bring more overall relief more quickly. And then, it seems to provide a REAL way to continue after the organizing session is complete.

Does this make sense? It's hard to describe because in someways the differences in methodology are subtle. But in other ways, my approach and his are diametrically opposed.

That said, I felt like a deer in the headlights with my new client. I wanted so badly to say "Yes! I have an answer for you!" We are going to do the David Allen approach, it is everything you are asking for and more!

But I couldn't say that.

Know why?

Because it is a fundamental promise I made to myself when I embarked on this David Allen project to not attempt to implement his method with clients UNTIL I had done it for myself first. Over and out. How could I possibly say to a client "This is really going to work for you! I read it in a book!". No, no, no. I must have experience with it myself to be an effective David Allen Method "Transmitter".

Soooooo....I have some work to do. I have to take out two 8 hour days and put myself to some GTD work. Sigh. Working for myself is never as much fun as working for others. But ultimately I know this is what needs to be done. In order to Get Things Done.

I'll keep you updated.

P.S. My email inbox is still empty ;)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Handling email the GTD way

Today I am endeavoring to follow directions. Directions about how to handle emails. Oh thank you God! I get a heavy load of emails daily (in spite of the fact that I have great SPAM protection) from both my personal and my professional contacts. Add to this the fact that I have 3 email accounts to manage and...well...I get overloaded. Then my eyes cross and I don't end up processing the emails. I just open, shut, open, shut my internet browser. By that time the best action I can think of taking is a long nap. zzzzz.....

But no more! Mr. Allen has a plan and it goes a little something like this:
1. Create 3 Folders within your email account
a) "@ Actions" (for emails that require actions that take longer than 2 mins. to process)
b) "@ Contacts" (for emails which contact important contact information to be entered at a later time)
c) "@ Waiting" (for emails which are waiting on a response from another person)

If you are wondering what the heck that "@" symbol is doing in front of each of those folders, you are not crazy. Mr. Allen suggests that you use that symbol (or similar) to bring the folders to the top of your folders list (if your folder's list is organized alphabetically, a symbol such as "@" will come before the letter "a")

2. Empty your Inbox by processing each email (EACH ONE, IN ORDER, FROM TOP TO BOTTOM).
Emails that can be handled in less than 2 minutes, handle. Those that require more time, go into one of the 3 folders listed above. These 3 folders are to be reviewed (and/or their contents processed).

Et Voila! A new approach.

For me, it's just kind of odd looking at a completely empty Inbox. I don't think I have seen one of those in a LONG, LONG time ;)

I'll keep you updated on this email thing. Until then...

Monday, May 31, 2010

GTD Project Planning is Amazing!!!


I am on fire today with GTD methodology. Yesterday I listened to Chapter 3 of GTD - all about Project Planning. Mr. Allen offers some questions to consider when doing project planning. These are:
1. What is your primary purpose? Why are you doing this project?
2. What are the standards and behaviors to adhere to in order to make this project successful?
3. Envision success in this project: What are the desired outcomes (financial, reputation etc)? What innovative things might happen if you achieve success in your project?
4. Brainstorm: Put all your ideas on the table, map them out
5. Is there anything that might effect your desired outcome?
6. What are your mission-critical components?
7. What are your key milestones
8. What are your deliverables?
9. What are all the things you can do NOW (next actions and name person responsible for each action)

Today, I decided to answer those questions for myself, beginning with: Why am I attempting to learn the GTD methodology? I answered that question and all of the rest of the questions listed above. AND!!! I even did a little mind-mapping (see picture).

And you know what I got? Clarity! Inspiration! Direction! Possibilities! It was incredibly inspiring.

Now, do you want to know what my answer was to why I am attempting this? Because I think it's going to help A LOT of people. I think by my learning, implementing, and practicing this approach I will be able to be of enormous service to my clients. I think it's going to enable me to help my clients free themselves from the shackles of their Task-Master mind. And, of course, I think it's going to free me from the same. In's already beginning to work!

Monday, May 24, 2010

GTD Chapter 1

I am listening to the audio version of "Getting Things Done".
Why I was inspired to download the book instead of buy it, I don't know. In part I guess it's because I didn't want one more book on my shelf unless I knew it was going to be a keeper.

Thank God for Amazon's

This weekend I listened to Chapter 1 and I was convinced. Really convinced that Mr. Allen is on to something. He outlined the problem that most of us have as productive members of society: We have a lot of things in our lives (tasks, items, ambitions, commitments, "should do's" "would like to do one day's" and the like) and we have no way to compartmentalize those actions in our human brain. Our human brain just kind of freaks out by all it has to face on its own, with its limited resources (Mental focus kind of juices that brain for all it's worth) and its inability to effectively process all that we humans want and need to get done.

I do believe in my heart of hearts that that is the nature of the problem, a brain that is doing work that it is not able to handle. My brain. And maybe yours too?

David Allen talks about focus and my heart kind of soars. I want focus. I really do want presence for each task I face. Not because I want to become some kind of output machine. But because to focus on life makes me feel alive. I experience life when I am focused and present.

The thing that takes me out of my life the quickest: a semi-militant brain that says "Do more! Do this! You should have done that! Did you forget to do that? When are you going to get to that?" And on and on.

Getting Things Done and My David Allen Experiment

I organize. That's what I do professionally. That is what I love to do. I love every aspect of it. And I talk about it. A lot.

So, one day I was telling a friend about my organizing business and he said "Have you ever read any David Allen stuff?" I hadn't even heard of the man, so I said "no". My friend told me to check out "Getting Things Done". It took me a year to get that done.

The reason I was finally open to hearing what Mr. Allen had to say about getting things done is because I have recently found myself at 2 interesting sticking points:

1) When organizing clients, I have no methodology to help act upon the large number of items that need to be addressed after one's space/environment has been organized. You see, in the process of sorting and purging items, a lot of discoveries are made. Some examples of these discoveries: Unpaid bills, lists of calls that should have been made last month, business cards of people we should have contacted a year ago, magazine subscriptions we no longer want, gift certificates we still want to cash in on, reminders from our dentists that we have not received our routine cleaning, cards we meant to send etc. etc. And all of these discoveries require action. This very often sends the client into a panic "Oh god! There is so much I have to do, where do I even begin?" So all of the peace that we have created by organizing the space is replaced by mental clutter. The to-do list. And up to this point, I have not known how to help my clients remove the mental clutter and work through their to-do list.

2) I, myself, have a gigantic and overwhelming to-do list. I am a very active person. I live a spicy, wonderful, variety-filled life. I own and run Good To Be Organized. I work part time managing a wonderful little diner. I am a musician with a lot of creative ideas and a strong team of people who want to see me succeed in doing music professionally. I love to ride my bike. I love to travel. I love spending time with my loved ones. I love to practice meditation. I love to cook and eat healthy meals. I love to read, to study. I am in the process of buying a new car, finding a new 1 bedroom apartment, and all around upgrading my lifestyle. On top of this, I have emails to respond to, phone calls to make, marketing actions to take, clothes that need to be washed, appointments to make and keep, and on and on. And I share my clients question "Where do I even begin?!?!?"

So you see, both professionally and personally, I am in need of a methodology to help address the overwhelming number of "To-do's" and "Want to do's" in my life. And that is why I am looking to David Allen for help.

They call Mr. Allen the "Productivity" guru and so I guess you can say, the guru has a new student.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The purpose of this blog... to share with you my experience - both as a person who helps others to get organized and a person who is learning new techniques to organize her own life.