Friday Wisdom: The Four “D”s

Dwight Eisenhower was an incredibly productive man. 34th president. Golfer. Artist. Five-star general. Supreme Commander of NATO. Came up with ideas that we still use today, including DARPA (which founded both NASA and the Internet) and the Interstate Highway System. And all in 8 years. The man got so much done it boggles my mind.

I read about his productivity system here, and thought I’d share it with you, because it’s very simple and doesn’t require any changes to your basic thinking. None of this getting up early or exercising or complicated systems to remember to use.

Instead, remember the four D’s.

Do
Decide
Delegate
Delete

The system classifies all tasks into one of these four D’s. Tasks get classified by two criteria: urgency and importance.

Urgency: Does this task have to be done right away? Or can it wait?
Importance: Does this task help me meet my goals as a person?

If a task is both urgent and important, Do it. Now.

If a task is important, but not urgent, Decide on a time to do it. Commit to that time.

If a task is urgent, but not important, Delegate it if you can. See if you can share that task with someone else. Most of us don’t have secretaries, but if it’s something like mowing the lawn, consider paying a neighborhood kid to do it.

If a task is not urgent and not important, Delete it. Don’t bother with it. Social media and television often fall into this category, but not always. Gossip about other people just about always does.

That’s it. Nothing complicated about it and nothing that tries to make you into someone you’re not. You decide what is important to you, and what is urgent, and build your priorities based on that.

Friday Wisdom: The Word “No”

No. It’s a powerful word. It makes people angry, makes them sad, upsets them, and makes them rail at you. If you’re not used to using it, it confuses people when you do.

It’s also essential to your sanity.

When I was growing up, saying “no” got me in trouble. It got me yelled at. I was about 12-13 the first time I dared tell Mom “no”. It was kind of stupid … I’d bought a pack of stickers with my allowance that I really liked. Mom liked them, too, and couldn’t find them anymore at the store. So she asked if she could have mine. I said “Mom, I paid for these with my own money and I really don’t want to give them up.” I kept the stickers, but paid for them with a screaming match that ended with both of us in tears.

I learned that Mom didn’t handle it well when she didn’t get her way. You gave her what she wanted or faced a whiny lecture, a spanking, or worst, a screaming fit. I learned to do what she wanted and never mind what I wanted, just to avoid getting yelled at. I’ve continued with this conditioning for a lot of years – I always caved quickly in any disagreement to avoid a fight – until I realized that I was so busy catering to everyone else’s wants and needs that I had no idea who I was. I was literally losing myself because I wasn’t saying “no” when “no” was what needed saying.

Your wants and needs are just as important as anyone else’s. Not more, not less. Equally so. What’s more, you don’t need a better reason to say “no” than “I don’t want to.” If someone is emotionally healthy and respects you as a human being, that will end the discussion. Any attempt to argue or plead or guilt you into it to get you to change your mind is manipulation. That’s toxic, and sometimes that toxicity can come from your own mind. Look for “I should/shouldn’t”, “what will X person/group think if I say no?”, and “have to” in your thinking, to decide whether you really want to do something or not. If you catch yourself thinking in any of the terms above, you don’t want to do whatever it is.

Learning to say “no” to the people I love was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had, but it’s freed my mind. Some of them still don’t handle it well, and that’s okay. They don’t have to like it. I can’t care for those I love if I can’t care for myself, and caring for myself sometimes means saying “no” to other people.

 

 

Friday Wisdom: Know Your Stomping Grounds

When you move into a new area, you’re busy. New job, finding furniture, making new contacts, going out, maybe getting a car. There’s a thousand things to do, but I want you to add this one to your list: Learn your surroundings. Mark your home on a GPS or app, then spend a couple of hours getting lost in your new neighborhood. Take the back roads, not just the main roads. Note down the location of anything that looks interesting.

Why?

Because you never know when knowing the back roads in your area will come in handy. I’ve had to find my way from home to the mall to pick up my brother from work after a tornado ran through the neighborhood. I’m currently using a detour through the back roads to get to work because the main roadway to my work is so pitted with potholes that it’s causing accidents and flat tires and it’s too cold and wet to fix it. That road is for all intents and purposes unusable and will be until the weather warms up and the pavement can be torn out and re-laid. Accidents and road closures happen for a variety of reasons, and you’ll want to be able to get home/to work/to the grocery store no matter what’s gone wrong.

Because the best local stuff, the stuff that makes where you live cool and unique, won’t usually be on the main roads. That’s where you’ll find the malls and the big box stores and the chains, not the local fare. The local fare will be on side roads and hidden in tiny strip malls, and the local fare is usually far superior to what you’ll find in a big box store.

Because you’ll learn more about your neighbors and the kinds of people that live around you. Knowing your neighbors can indicate best times to shop, whether it’s a safe neighborhood, possible drug and gang activity, and can alert you to things that may be amiss or not as advertised. It might tell you whether borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor is a smart idea or not.

Take the time. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday Wisdom: First Impressions

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Experts says that we size up a person anywhere in between 30 seconds and 2 minutes — and that first impression will drive all your interactions with that person, potentially forever.

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? It doesn’t give you a chance to show all that you have to offer, only what you want people to see. That people who put on a good face and have terrible character go further than the amazing ones that take time to get to know.

You’re right. It isn’t fair. The best people take time to get to know, and not everyone will show their true selves at first impression — in fact, the ones who can do that often don’t have a lot to show.

The astute individual will tailor their own first impressions to what they want to show – and will trust their own only to a point. Your instinct is a powerful guide, but don’t let it be your only one.

 

Friday Wisdom: Polonius Was Right

This above all: to thine own self be true;

And then it must follow as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

— Hamlet, Act I, Scene iii

That entire soliloquy has some excellent life advice in it, and it’s worth committing the whole thing to memory. Everything Polonius said is still true and relevant today. I’m going to focus, though, on the statement above, because it’s the keystone in the arch of fulfilling relationships.

In this context, “true” doesn’t mean “in line with your values”, although that is also true. It means “honest”.

Being honest with yourself about yourself is hard, because there are going to be things about yourself that you don’t necessarily like. The good news is that you’ll also find things about yourself that you do like. You don’t have to like everything about yourself to know that you are still a worthy human being, that you are a child of the stars just like everyone else, and that you have the right to be here. That you are still deserving of love.

Self-honesty is the basis of emotional health, of self-confidence, and self -respect. From self-respect comes good boundaries, from good boundaries comes trust of others, and from trust of others comes love. Without self-honesty, honest and healthy relationships are impossible.

In short, a happy life begins with being honest with yourself about who and what you are — and are not.

 

Moving? Hints and Tips

These hints and tips come from many moves to and from college, from one apartment to another, and finally into my own home some years ago. I once was told by someone who helped me move that that was the easiest and most organized move she’d ever done. Here’s how I did it.

Moving into a new place can be a grand adventure. It can be exciting. It can also be an unmitigated headache and the source of many screaming matches. It all depends on how you prepare and execute — in other words, the secret to a clean move starts before you put a single box in the truck. I’ve gathered some hints and tips that have helped me settle in quickly and without fuss.

Color Coding

If you’re moving into a dorm, you probably don’t have enough stuff to make this helpful, but if you’re moving into an apartment or a house, this can be a lifesaver. Amazon offers color-coded moving tape from multiple vendors that lets you identify what room a box should be brought into. This visual aid will speed up box loading considerably, whether you’re hiring movers or bribing friends with beer and pizza.

Be sure to color code the box with what room it’s going into, not what room it’s coming out of.

๐Ÿ’กWhen you pack, tape the box shut with ordinary moving/packing tape, then put the color-coded tape on top of it. These color coded tapes can be expensive, and you don’t want to run out of a particular color.

Have a Directory

On move-in day, you should have a means of telling people bringing in boxes which color box goes to what room. There are a couple of means of achieving this, depending on your situation. I’ve used both methods, and they both work.

(1) Acquaint someone in your moving party with your color scheme and which room is which. Have that person stand or sit just inside the door – or even hold the door open, identify the color on the box, and tell the carrier which room the box goes to. This is a great option if your elderly grandmother absolutely insists on helping you move or your best friend broke her ankle last week and wants to help anyway.

(2) If everyone among your moving buddies is able-bodied and you’re shorthanded, this may be a better method. Go into the new place while everyone else is starting to unpack the truck, and take your colored tape with you – or better yet, have the colored tape stuck to pieces of paper ahead of time and bring them with you on move-in day. Tack the sheet of paper that has the color for that room stuck to it to the door jamb leading into the room, in such a way that it can be readily seen.

๐Ÿ’ก Learned the hard way: A lot of these color-coded moving tapes don’t come off readily. Don’t stick them directly to furniture or walls, as they may tear paint or varnish or leave sticky residue behind.

The Open-Me-First Box

No law says that a box can only be marked with one color. The larger packs of tape include rolls of tape that read “Fragile”. I’ve even seen one that included a “Heavy” roll.

Set aside a color that you don’t use for any other purpose, or establish another method of marking a box that is visually obvious. Neon duct tape is a fun choice, but choose something loud. This color will be used for boxes that are to be opened first, and should be marked with this color in addition to a destination room marking. Boxes with this marking should be placed in the room separately from the main box pile.

Boxes to be opened first should contain things such as:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Paper plates and cutlery
  • Your checkbook/credit cards
  • Phone chargers
  • Medications
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Anything else you’ll need the day you move in

Pre-Prep The New Space

Depending on your situation, this may not be an option, but if you can, I recommend signing your lease papers / closing on your house a week or so before move-in. Doing so lets you do several things that will make your move-in day and your first night in your new pad easier and more comfortable.

Address Any Issues: Signing the papers early gives you time to go through your leasing checklist. Walk the place and make sure that everything is in working order, that nothing is missing/broken/stained, and address any issues. If it’s an apartment, open a maintenance ticket and have them address it before you move in. If a house, you’ll need to address it yourself.

Set Up The Bathroom: Having the keys to your new space lets you bring in your shower curtain, bath rug, toilet paper, and so forth in ahead of time. More than once, I’ve hopped out of the moving truck and dashed straight for the can before bothering to open the truck. Having the toilet paper already there was very helpful.

Bring Up Your Internet: Millennials/digitals, this one is especially for you. Depending on your cellular data in your first days can be costly. You won’t be able to establish your Internet service until you’ve signed the lease / closed on the house, so if you’ve already had your Internet installed, you’ll have WiFi on moving day. Your friends will appreciate your foresight, and so will you.

Bring In New Stuff: Are you buying new furniture? If so, consider bringing the new furniture in a few days ahead of the moving truck and place it/assemble it. This gives you more room to do assembly if needed, and saves you space on the truck.

Stock the Fridge: Cold drinks are better than warm ones when you’re hauling boxes up three flights of stairs in July, and there’s nothing like cooking breakfast your first morning in your new pad.ย  You’ll need to locate your closest grocery store in short order anyway, so why not do that one evening before you move?

Take A Good Look Around

Do this before you move in if you can, or as soon after you move in as you can. Mark your location, pin it in your GPS, then go driving around. Get a sense of where things are. In particular, you’ll want to locate (and maybe visit):

  • The nearest grocery store
  • The nearest Target/Walmart
  • The nearest mall
  • The nearest dry cleaner
  • All local exits to the highway – knowing more than one is helpful

You’ll also want to time your new commute. What time do you have to get up to be in by 8:30 AM / make that 8:00 AM class?

Observe your neighbors, and say hello if you’re comfortable. They’ll give you clues as to the quirks of the neighborhood and you might just meet some new friends.

For example, in one place I lived, the grocery store was always slammed on Sunday, and I couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I noticed that a good number of the local women wore long skirts and covered their hair, and a good number of the men either wore yarmulkes or the traditional brimmed hats. Oh. This is an Orthodox Jewish community. Knowing a little bit about the rules around Orthodox Judaism, I looked for people walking in the neighborhood during the day on a Saturday, and thereby located the synagogue. (Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath, as it’s considered work. The Jewish Sabbath is sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.) This also meant that the best time to grocery shop was Saturday morning, NOT Sunday as it would be in a Christian community. My grocery shopping got a lot easier after I figured that out.

It’s also fun to get lost. You’ll find interesting things about the neighborhood that only the locals know, like that hole in the wall that serves amazing Thai food or a tiny jewelry shop that fosters cats or who’s got the best pizza.

Be Realistic

Consider who you have available to help you, and how much stuff you have to move. You might not be able to get it all done in one day. Be realistic about what you can get done in a day — take what you think you can get done, and halve it. If you’re shorthanded or have a lot of stuff, consider splitting the move into two days.

Plan not to work in the dark if you don’t have to. That’s how people get hurt.

Start early in the morning, if you’re moving in warm weather. Daytime heat will suck the life out of you. The more you can have done before it really starts to get hot, the better off you will be.

Schedule breaks.

Hydrate. Did I say hydrate? Do it again.

A Final Word

Good luck! Enjoy this — it really is fun to move into a new space. I hope this helps you have a smooth and stress-free move.

A Life Metaphor: The Bus

Today’s tip is a short one.

Your life is like a bus. You are its driver. You determine its route, any detours, and make the decisions that determine whether you make the rounds or not.

Your feelings, your emotions, your issues, your past — these things are all passengers on your bus. The other people in your life are also passengers on your bus. They are valid — they’re paying passengers, and they have the right to be there. In fact, without the passengers, your bus doesn’t have much value. It’s just another object on the road of Earth, taking up space.

But they don’t drive the bus. They don’t get to tell the bus when to stop or how to get there. And you have the right to kick any of them off the bus if they get so obnoxious that they’re no longer of value to the bus. In fact, an obnoxious passenger can drive other passengers off the bus, and when they do, it’s to your benefit as a bus driver to kick that obnoxious passenger off the bus.

Similarly, you’re also a passenger on the bus that other people drive. If you don’t like the way they drive that bus, or it’s not going where you want to go, it’s not fair to the other people on the bus or the driver to demand that that bus change course and go where you want it to go. Instead, get off the bus and find a bus that goes where you want to go. No hard feelings either way.

Capiche?

How to Tackle a Serious Mess

You’re staring at a mountain of empty takeout containers, dirty socks, papers, soda cans, books with spills on them, and a tangled length of cloth from that sewing project you promised your friend you’d do. Under all that, it’s rumored, is bedroom furniture. Your mattress has a bare spot on it where you sleep, approximately a third the size of the actual mattress. It hasn’t seen sheets in months. You’re not sure what color the floor is. And you’re staring at the lot of it in horror, wondering, “Where do I even start?”

Tackling a serious mess can be overwhelming, and some people don’t even tackle a moderate mess because it’s too much. I know someone who’s broken down in tears staring at a serious mess. Now you’re looking at tackling the mess and making the place livable — or getting evicted for poor housekeeping.

An old saw about tackling major projects asks, “How do you eat an elephant?”

The answer to that question is: “One bite at a time.”

The same applies to tackling a serious mess. You handle one thing, or one area, at a time, and don’t worry about the rest of it yet. Let’s break this down and make a plan.

NOTE: The following method is written with a full-blown hoarding situation in mind, and I’ve used it to tackle hoarding situations. Your situation probably isn’t that bad, and you may be able to skip some steps depending on what is and is not actually part of the mess. You may also have other elements that I don’t include here. Add them as single elements to your plan.

Step 1: Remove Garbage

Grab a trash bag or two, or three, or however many you think you’ll need. Scour the messy area for anything that you’re sure is garbage — the soda cans and empty takeout containers, for example. Any food that you didn’t put down less than an hour ago is garbage. Make sure to get not just everything on the floor, but also things on the furniture. Take any garbage bags that are full to the dumpster or garbage area for pickup.

๐Ÿ’ก๐Ÿ‘‹: Need help identifying what is and isn’t garbage? Enlist a friend who can help you decide.

Step 2: Remove Food and Dirty Dishes

Scour the messy area (including the furniture) for any food or dirty dishes that aren’t currently in use. All food goes in the garbage. Take the dirty dishes to the kitchen (or if there are too many, to the bathtub) and fill each of them with warm water. Leave those to soak and proceed to Step 3.

Step 3: Remove Laundry

Grab either a laundry bag or another trash bag. Scour the messy area, including furniture, for anything that can be considered laundry. Clothing, sheets, towels, blankets, anything of that nature counts in this category. If it’s scattered on the floor or not neatly put away, you probably should wash it again, so if you aren’t sure, it should go in the laundry.

Step 4: Determine What Should Be Donated

Grab a box or bin. Scour the room, including floor and furniture, for items that you no longer want or need but that are in good working order or wearable, and toss these items into the box. When the box is full or you’re done with this step, mark it for donation to your local Goodwill or other charity of your choice, seal it with tape, and set it aside.

๐Ÿ’ก ๐Ÿ‘‹ Some people have a tough time letting go of belongings that they no longer need or can use. If this is you, enlist a friend to talk you through it.

Now, take a good look around the area. Chances are, taking care of those three low-hanging fruits has made the area look a good bit different. Your next step is to figure out what to do with the stuff that didn’t fit into the other categories. This leads us to Step 5.

Step 5: Prepare A Sorting Area

Choose a fairly large piece of furniture in the area you’re cleaning to serve as a sorting area. If you’re cleaning a living room, the couch is a good choice for this. If a bedroom, the bed is ideal. If a public space, maybe a dining room table. The floor isn’t a good choice, because you’ll want to clear that space first in future steps.

Once you have your choice, identify everything on it that isn’t where it belongs. Sort these items into four piles:

  1. Items that don’t have a home (you don’t know where they go);
  2. Items that have a home, but that home is in another room;
  3. Items that have a home somewhere else in this room.
  4. A jar or a bowl for small items such as coins, screws, push pins, etc. that end up in the corners of every room.

๐Ÿ’ก It is often helpful to put pile #2 in a laundry basket or other container next to the furniture in question. This lets you remove them from the room in Step 7 or Step 8 if that makes those steps easier.

Step 6: Sort The Out-of-Place Items

Scour the entire area for items that aren’t where they belong, and sort them according to the system you created in Step 5. This means everything that isn’t actually in its home, even if it belongs in the same room. Just sort it for now; you’ll put it where it belongs later.

๐Ÿ’ก Normally I advocate handling each item once and only once, but in this case, sorting it all first lets you see how much space you really have in that spot, and whether maybe you need to move something to a different spot.

Step 7: Go Under and In the Furniture

Move all the furniture in the room. Open every drawer in the room. Dig into the couch cushions. Execute Steps 1-4 and Step 6 on everything you find.

Step 8: Clean the Rest Of the Room

By now, the rest of the room aside from your sorting area should look pretty manageable. Deal with any pests you find. Dust, vacuum, polish, and remove stains and spills from every surface except your sorting area.

Step 9: Put The Sorted Things Away

Now it’s time to turn your attention to your sorting surface. Using your newfound space in this room, first put everything away in pile #3 away where it belongs.

Pile #1 will take the longest to address. For each item, you need to decide where it belongs, whether it is this room or another. If it belongs in another room, add it to pile #2. If it belongs in this room, find it a spot that makes sense to you and put it there.

๐Ÿ’ก ๐Ÿ‘‹ If you’re not good at figuring out where it makes sense to put an item, enlist the help of a friend who is a good organizer.

๐Ÿ’ก This may be a good time to split pile #2 into smaller piles by what room the item belongs in, especially if you have many rooms to tackle. You can then take each pile into the appropriate room and address it when you tackle that room.

Pile #4 should be accorded a home of its own, whether in this room or another. Separate out the screws and other small items. Having a change jar somewhere in the house helps you save, and more than a few times I’ve taken a full change jar to the coin sorter in the grocery store and gotten enough cash to pay for my groceries that week!

Step 10: Clean Your Sorting Area

Execute Step 8 on your sorting area. Dust, polish, vacuum around it, remove any stains and spills.

Ta-da! You should be left with a cleaned room.

Step 11: Wash The Dishes

Remember all those dishes you left in the kitchen or bathtub in Step 2? Go wash them and put them away where they belong.

A Final Word

Whew! That’s a lot of work, and it probably took you several hours to do. To avoid having to go to that much effort again, it’s best to pick up after yourself as you go. Every time you finish with an item, put it back where it belongs. Dirty laundry belongs in a hamper or laundry bag, and should not stop for a cup of tea on the floor. Garbage should go straight to the trash can instead of happy hour on your desk. Dirty dishes should go straight to the kitchen before you go to bed on the day you used them, or as soon as you’re done with them. You’ll spend far fewer spoons cleaning in this way than you probably spent on the steps above.

Don’t forget to take the box of donations you put together in Step 4 and take all that stuff to the charity you choose.

๐Ÿ’กโœ๏ธ Do you itemize on your taxes? If you’re just starting out, probably not. If you own your home, you probably do. If you do, be sure to take note of what you donated to charity, because the fair market value of all that stuff is deductible on your taxes! Charitable donations up to $500 can be claimed as tax deductions without documentation, but many thrift shops and charities can provide this documentation to you. Check out ItsDeductible from Intuit to help you determine fair market value for your stuff.