Review: Arc Notebook System from Staples

4 out of 5 stars

Arc notebook and accessories

Arc notebook and accessories


  • versatile, customizable system
  • easy to use
  • good quality
  • inexpensive


  • hole punch is expensive
  • some wearing on pages where it attaches
  • only sold at Staples


I was excited to receive a complimentary Arc notebook with some accessories as part of my attendance at the 2012 NAPO conference.  I’d heard some discussions about it from other organizers although I had never seen it in person.  From the moment I looked at it, I suddenly understood why people talked about this style notebook.  Nevertheless, I wanted to use it for a while before I shared more about it with you, my readers.

Arc leather notebooks

Arc leather notebooks

Let’s begin with the notebook itself.  There’s 2 different notebook sizes – a 6 3/8” x 8 3/4″ and a 9 3/8” x 11 1/4″ and 2 different ring sizes – 1” and 1 1/2″.   You are able to purchase just the notebook with rings.  When considering the notebook, you have choices between leather ($14.99-$19.99) and poly ($7.99-$9.99).  The leather notebook is thicker than the poly style.  As you would expect, the thicker rings allow more paper to be stored within the notebook.

Arc poly notebooks

Arc poly notebooks

The rings are a special design and provide the system with much of its uniqueness.  Its appearance is quite different and I discovered that I had to rethink how I thought about the available space.  Since the rings stick out, I needed to limit how much paper to store in the notebook.  What makes this so unique is the style of the punch, which you can see in the picture – it looks a bit like a mushroom.  This means that the paper can be pulled in and out.

Close-up of punch and ring

Close-up of punch and ring

I’ve had some concerns about the paper since the little side parts are being bent each time you pull out or put paper into the notebook.  Would it really hold up?  It certainly looks like they get tired, yet the papers continue to work well.  I expect there’s still a limit to how many times a paper can go in and out of the notebook.  Yet, this style is exactly what drew me to this notebook.  You might know that I’m not a big fan of 3-ring style binders – they can be a hassle for the paper to go and out of with having to pop the rings open and closed.  It takes a little time to adjust to getting the papers in completely – it’s something different to wrap your head around using.

There are many different accessories for the notebook – from the standard lined paper, to-do lists, project planning pages, graph paper, calendar pages to poly tab dividers, poly zip pockets, poly pocket dividers.  There are also smaller inserts available: a task pad and page flags.  This means that you can get only the accessories that make sense for you.  Most people I’ve talked about this notebook have opted for no calendar pages, yet one person chooses to include the calendar pages.  Although I don’t use them much, I do appreciate the task pad, with only a handful of pages kept inside the notebook though other people find them borderline useful.  I am disappointed in the page flags since pen ink doesn’t set on them – so the writing can be hard to read and smudges easily, though their stickiness is good so if you simply use them as page flags without labeling them, they’re good.

They sell a hole punch so you can make any piece of paper can be inserted into the notebook.  I find the price, at $39.99, to be more than I want to spend.  One person I showed the notebook system to did purchase the punch and shared that she finds it indispensable for her usage of the notebook.

As I get more digital, there were some things that I needed paper for.  This fits my needs extremely well.  I have the tabbed sections to divide categories into and even places to collect those papers that don’t fit into another area.  There has been some evidence that our brains process better with the process of handwriting and there seems to be some truth to that for me – I want a place to write some things and this notebook has become my place.  Since there are some papers I want to keep longer though not in the active notebook, I set up an archival type notebook.  Due to the relative inexpensiveness of a notebook, it’s easy to do this.

There are so many things I could say about this notebook, but there’s only so much space!  Levenger sells a similar notebook system at a higher price.  I found one review online that actually commented the paper from Staples is thicker and better quality.  And as with everything else, this can be a fabulous tool for people though you need to consider your own needs.

13 Posts in Honor of the Beginning of 2013

In honor of the beginning of 2013, I’m going to share 13 posts I’ve written over the past 4 years (though my first year I started quite late in the year).  It’s hard to believe that I have been blogging this long and many of you might not have seen some of these posts.  Especially when you consider that I have about 170 posts at this point.


1- Ever feel like a bratty child approaching your dreaded tasks?  I know I have.  Check out “I Don’t Wanna!”

2- My first video where I reveal a dumping ground in our home and the approach we took to reclaim that room – “Revamping the Dumping Grounds in Your Home & Other Lost Rooms.”


3- The title of this brings a half-grimace and half-smirk to my face as I think about how it could be misinterpreted, though the point remains; do you have an “Organizer Problem or Personal Problem?”

4- When you’ve decided to tackle an organizing project, it can be challenging to manage your way through it successfully.  These are some of the questions I ask and suggest for people to consider as they work, “Ask Yourself These Questions During Organizing.”

5- It’s surprisingly common to struggle with handling those lovely plastic storage containers.  Therefore, here’s one take on how to “Tame Your Tupperware.”

6- Have you heard of the O.H.I.O. idea?  It’s interesting as long as it’s used in the manner it was intended, which not everyone realizes.  Check out “Only Handle It Once” and see what I mean.


7- I’ll admit it, sometimes it’s hard for me to remember all the things I’ve written about.  This one stays with me and brings a smile to my face – “Contagious Clutter” can plague all of us.  (And be careful it does multiply when you look away.)

8- There’s a common poem that outlines the “Guidelines for a Happy Home” which I use to illustrate some of the things that apply equally to be organized.

9- Although this title is a little misleading, it’s more about some steps to take when deciding to tackle an organizing project, including waiting until you are fully prepared, “You’re Organized, Right?”

10- This is such a little known planner, yet it remains as the one paper style I think about most as it limits our daily tasks, “Taylor Planner.”


11- We all collect things.  Yup, we sure do.  So, then it’s worth thinking about “Collections, When to Stop.”

12- Arts and craft supplies can be one of the most daunting things to try organizing, there’s so many different approaches and so many things.  That’s why I wrote about “Organizing Art & Craft Supplies.”

13- This was probably the most overdue topic since I only really broached it this past year, how to handle the small spaces – from the storage spaces like closets to the living spaces, “So Little Space.”

There it is, 13 posts to celebrate the beginning of 2013.  It wasn’t easy choosing which ones to share and I’d love to hear if there’s one that I missed that you appreciated.

I hope you all have a wonderful year.  Here’s to being organized – in the real meaning of the word, being able to find what you need when you need it. Happy 2013!

Consider Setting Resolutions – or Not

There’s a certain amount of dread I find as the New Year approaches.  I feel an obligation to talk about resolutions and goals, as this is the expectation for this event each year.  Part of me wonders how many of you actually set New Year’s resolutions.  Or how seriously you take them.  As time passes, I have a sense that people sitting down to make their list has dissipated over the years.  It seemed like everyone did it when I was kid and you needed to be prepared since someone (more likely several people) were bound to ask you what your goals were for the coming year.  I’m not sure how many of us view this event the same now.

And let me be perfectly clear, I am all for setting goals.  I’ve mentioned before that I just personally resist this once a year on January 1st list making.  I strive to incorporate it into my life, throughout the year.  I do dislike how we have the potential for undermining our confidence by setting goals and not meeting them.  This feels extremely contrary to the intention.  What I want for all of us is positive self-regard, the feeling of being successful in all our life.  Anything that challenges that needs to be reevaluated in my book!

So, let’s talk about goals here.  You probably know all the guidelines – start small, set concrete and specific goals that you can measure, and keep the list short.  I’ve even written about these things before in Goals, Already?

Yet I can’t help but wonder, maybe we half-heartedly set some New Year’s resolutions simply expecting that they probably won’t happen.  Most people I’ve talked to know about the above guidelines for being successful in setting goals and yet when they’ve set goals, they’ve neglected to develop their goals far enough to apply those guidelines.  That’s part of why it occurred to me that New Year’s resolutions might have become almost an almost rote task for some of us.

Probably the biggest thing for me is that taking steps to reach our goals can’t be so easily proscribed.  I remember years ago I desperately wanted to lose weight.  I went through phases of wanting a quick and easy fix since I blamed some medication for my weight predicament.  Then I accepted that there wasn’t going to be any quick fixes and made some beginning efforts at exercising.  Those often faltered with the realization of how far I had to go – even 5 minutes on a stationary bike was exhausting.  Then finally I was able to commit to the process, starting small with specific goals at 5 minutes each time 3 days a week.  That progressed to 1 hour 5 days a week and guess what – the weight came off.

Except that this goal had to move through various stages before it was truly prepared to be my goal.  It took me a long time from the “I want to…” until I was ready to set small and specific goals.  That didn’t correspond to any set date on a calendar.

And this really is the crux of why part of me dreads writing about setting New Year’s resolutions, I don’t want to propagate that you need to set goals at this time of year.  You don’t need to be ready to make changes this moment.  Changes take time and you really need to be prepared in all ways to begin to make those happen.

Therefore, if you are ready to make a New Year’s resolution, go for it.  If you’re not, then cheers to you too.  And remember the other part of New Year’s is to review your successes over the past year – I hope there were many. Happy New Year and I hope it’s a fabulous one.

Reorganizing and Remembering

Have you ever had a time when you’ve been looking for something and can’t find it?  Of course, this is part of being human.  Let’s add another piece – you can’t find something that you know you “organized”?  This too is quite common.  Many times over the years I’ve had clients call me after an organizing appointment wondering where we put this or that.  Frequently I’m able to tell them – within one or two possibilities.

Nevertheless this can be supremely frustrating.  “Oh my, I went to all this trouble to make things logical and get organized and now I feel even more lost.”  Believe it or not, I’ve been there and done just that.  It can happen to anyone – from the most organized (which isn’t me by the way, I’m only mostly organized) to those who struggle more chronically with stuff.  The reason no one is exempt from dealing with this has to do with several factors – and these factors can give us insight into steps we can take to minimize this happening.

First, when do you work on an organizing project?  This is something to plan – design things with a clear intention.  And to be completely clear, that doesn’t mean you can’t sort and purge in the meantime.  It does mean to make intentional decisions, ones that you have thought out and considered for a while. There are times when our mindset can hinder our efforts – so if you’ve suddenly decided to reorganize those shelves, you might forget where you moved that one thing to that you didn’t want on the shelf after all those years.

Have you heard how it takes a minimum 30 days of doing something consistently before it becomes a routine?  Consider the impact of moving one thing somewhere else after all the years you’ve lived in your home.  You’re likely to automatically go to the shelf (or wherever) and be surprised that it’s not there.  Then you run the risk of not quite remembering where its new home is.

Choosing to change things is something to do only when you’ve had time and energy to consider your options.  If you’re tired, this probably isn’t when you are your best nor is it when you are making the best decisions for yourself.

A good example of this can be when dealing with papers.  How many names can you think of for your car?  Car, Auto, Make, Model, His/Her Car, Old Junker, etc.  This can be applied to most papers, and the title needs to make sense to you or the person doing the filing.  It’s amazing how one title can seem logical in one moment and completely illogical the next – it becomes hard to locate the correct piece of paper.  This can be avoided by taking time to think about what makes sense to you and let it marinate – see if something better comes to mind.

Second, if you cannot wait to organize and don’t have time to make a plan, make a map.  You can create essentially a cheat sheet of where things are; it can be as simple as a list, i.e. 3 ring binders – lower right shelf in bookshelf in spare bedroom (behind doors).  This can be helpful too when your memory isn’t as good as you’d like.  I have a list of our files – the category, the file name, which drawer – and it’s in order so I can always find it even when it’s slipped down and looks like it walked off!  The map can even be more literal – a sketch that lays out what your space looks like and what lives in each space.

Another option is to label everything.  My husband and I joke that it could be so easy for me to take labeling to an extreme – where the cat would walk around with a label – “cat”.  Nevertheless, creating labels can be a good solution to help track where things have been moved.

Here’s a potentially disturbing truth – there’s no absolute answer for escaping our forgetfulness.  There are many factors that affect our functioning and therefore our effectiveness when we reorganize.  Keep these points in mind when you decide to tackle your next organizing project and minimize the chances you will need to send out a search party for that moved item.

Checking Tasks Off Your To-Do List

One of the questions I ask people when we’re talking about to-do lists is “do you write in tasks so that you can check them off?”  There are a fair number of people who admit with some embarrassment that yes, in fact they do that.  And I smile and say, “yup I’ve been known to do that too.”    I want those check marks – that symbol of having used my day productively.  Yet, it’s simply one-way to have the validation that the day was productive.

We all want to feel like we are accomplishing things – both those that are necessary and those that help us feel like we are moving forward.  The way that we feel about our to-do lists can vary.  It also varies over time – there are times I love my to-do list and times when it simply fills me with dread.  As with everything, there are many variables that affect our behaviors and feelings.

My biggest struggle is to feel productive – how many tasks are reasonable to accomplish?  There’s this nagging feeling like I could have done more, “if only…”  With all the variables of life, what is realistic for a person to do in a given day?

I’ve looked into this, from extensive reading to polling my friends and family.  The answers vary dramatically as well as the response that it’s hard to quantify – “it depends.”  There was a flaw in my polling – often we each view our tasks differently.  Does doing the dishes count as a to-do? Does taking a shower?  You can see how defining a reasonable number of to-dos can be challenging.

Tasks take a different amount of time to complete.  In a to-do list each item takes a line and can appear equal, even when they’re not.  Ideally everything on your active to-do list needs to be able to be completed in one step.  This means that projects are kept somewhat separate – like the brain dump to-do list, and only the next step goes onto the smaller daily or weekly to-do list (see my discussion of this in: Decide on the Next Action).

When it feels like I’ve been struggling with accomplishing my tasks, often I will write an estimate of the time I think each task will take.  This allows me to see how much I have set to do and gives me the chance to move things to another week (I currently make weekly to-do lists from the brain dump list).  Sometimes I will even take a list of tasks completed and note the time spent on each – this provides me with a realistic view of what I accomplished.

Too often I see people discounting the things they did do, as they view those things as minor or mandatory.  Nevertheless, everything we do takes time and energy – it counts.  During the times when I wasn’t really keeping a to-do list, at the end of the day I would sometimes write down everything I had done that day – another way for me to see what was accomplished.

Unfortunately there is no easy answer about how much you can realistically accomplish on a given day.  One thing to consider is how long the things on your to-do list will take – do you have time on this or that day?  Based on Harold Taylor’s planner, I recommend limiting your daily to-do list to no more than 3 tasks, above and beyond all those things you do each day anyway.  Those 3 tasks can be whatever you choose and of any length as long as they are able to be completed within a reasonable amount of time.  Test this and see how it works – when does it work for you and when does it break down?

Calendar Considerations

It’s getting to that time of year when many of us might be purchasing calendars for the upcoming year.  There are many factors involved if you want to consider something different for yourself.  And let me say up front, I strongly feel that if you have something that works for you, it’s ideal to stick with what works for you.  Period.  If the system you’ve been using isn’t working as well, then it’s time to as least think about the options you have.  So, let’s jump right in and discuss the variations in the way calendars are designed.

First, we have the big choice between paper and digital.  As I’ve already said, if what you use works, then stick with it.  Even if that means you have a paper calendar.  There’s nothing wrong about sticking with a paper calendar in our growing digital society.  On the other hand, if the paper isn’t working for you, then it’s worth considering if a digital calendar would be more effective.

When using a digital calendar, most people think of the more portable – the phone and tablets – although some people still use just their computer calendar.  There is a learning curve if this is new to you – as with anything new.  You need to get used to how it works and often learn to trust it.  The digital calendars often have multiple ways to view it – similar to the paper calendars – you have daily, weekly, and monthly, which give you the flexibility to focus on your schedule in the way that works for you.

One of the features that I appreciate in the digital calendar is the ability to set alarms – I choose the amount of forewarning I want (or if I don’t want one at all).  Another positive aspect of the digital is how I can create repeating events easily and have no need to enter the information more than once.  It just occurred to me also that there’s no recurring cost for the digital calendars or getting it up to date for the coming year – I have some appointments repeating forever.

Second, when you are looking at paper calendars, you need to decide on the format you want.  Most calendars have a monthly view in addition to either a daily or a weekly view.  Depending on your needs, a weekly view is usually sufficient for most people as it allows you to put in many appointments as well as some tasks (if you chose to do that).  The weekly view also gives you an easy overview of what’s coming up.

I reviewed 2 planners last year, both of which I still think about and appreciate: Planner Pad and Taylor Planner.  If I was still using a paper calendar, I would be using one of these and I would be torn about which one.

Something else you want to think about is how you handle your to-dos.  Do you put them into your calendar?  Do you put them in another place within the calendar or are they completely separate?  What other things do you want or need to track with your calendar (or calendar system) – phone numbers, grocery lists, websites, projects, ideas, etc? Digitally, this would likely require different programs or apps on the device, whereas with paper it could all be contained together or divided, as you prefer.

The only time to change your calendar is if you’re struggling with your current system.  With so many choices of calendars, it can be challenging to decide on which one to use.  Therefore, before rushing out and simply grabbing something, consider what your needs are for your system.

Organizing Jewelry

It’s always interesting to me how even I approach some organizing projects.  I’ve been working my way through our home, room-by-room, doing some rearranging and deep cleaning.  I did the bedroom quite a while ago now and pulled the jewelry boxes out and set them aside.  I left room for the 2 I knew would go back in and continued on my room journey.  When I finished with all the rooms, I went back to the jewelry.

I figured that it would take me between 1-2 hours to go through it and get it set up.  I don’t even wear much jewelry.  So, I sat down and spread the 9 jewelry boxes around me, all opened up.  And suddenly I felt overwhelmed.  Ugh, where do I start?  Bah, maybe I don’t really want to do this after all.

Yet my motivation from the outset prodded me – remember you don’t want 8 jewelry boxes, that’s too many.  Then I jumped in and I won’t mislead you, it didn’t suddenly become easy.  It was still with dread that I moved through the various pieces, struggling with feeling overwhelmed.

Depending on your situation, it can be helpful to know how you are going to arrange your jewelry.  I knew there was a minimum of 3 jewelry boxes I was keeping and each of them had a distinct purpose for me.  There are times that this isn’t possible or practical – and getting a sense of what you are keeping can lead you to deciding the best way to keep them.

Even though I know better in general, when I started I didn’t empty those 3 jewelry boxes – I tried to move the pieces around.  This rarely works – in any situation – as it’s most effective to completely empty the receptacle (whatever it is you’re working with) – and in this case, jewelry boxes.  I quickly realized my mistake and emptied all 3 of the ones I was keeping.  From there it was relatively easy to put some things in their places, as those loved pieces weren’t even being considered for donation.

Consider what sub-divisions there are with the broad category of jewelry.  These will vary from person to person.

  • Sets: necklace and earrings, bracelet and earrings, and all 3 (necklace, bracelet, and earrings)
  • Watches
  • Bracelets
  • Necklaces: independent and then pendants (that I put onto chains to wear them)
  • Rings
  • Earrings
    •    Dangly
    •    Non-dangly (or studs)

I started at the top of the list, with my sets, and looked at each of them.  Although I often ask how often is something used, I knew that most of my sets were extremely rarely worn.  This didn’t mean that I got rid of them – a couple of them are from our honeymoon in India and likewise important.  Yet, by evaluating, I found one set that I had no sentimental attachment and little appreciation for – and I simply set it aside. Then I moved on to the next subdivision and then the next.

With each grouping I would gather them together.  From there, sometimes I would grab a piece I knew I wanted to stay and move it off to the side.  Other times I would grab a piece that I knew could go away and put that into the give away pile.  Often it’s easiest to pull out our favorites and least favorites.  It’s those things that fall into that middle ground that can stymie us – uh, how do I decide about this other piece?  Those can be easier when those are the only ones left – although I leave the favorites close by so they can be seen as I evaluate the ones that bring more ambivalence.

With each group I needed to ask myself how realistic it was that I would wear it and what I was saving it for.  I have a whole group of jewelry that I couldn’t bring myself to part with – they were too sentimental while I know that I will never wear them again.  Sometimes it’s important to challenge yourself – would you be able to wear and appreciate all your jewelry?  I know I tend to re-wear my favorites, in order to fully appreciate them.

It ended up taking me about 4 hours to sort and organize my jewelry – double from my high-end expectation of 1-2 hours.  I ended up getting rid of 3 of the jewelry boxes and have limited myself to using those 3 jewelry boxes I’d already decided on keeping.  You can see from the jewelry box below with jewelry in it, what I am getting rid of.

2 empty jewelry boxes and 1 filled one

2 empty jewelry boxes and 1 filled one – all being donated

There’s no point in my saying it was easy or fun.  It wasn’t.  It feels wonderful to have done it and to be more consolidated.  The more we can break an organizing task into sections, the more successful we can be – maybe even more so when it comes to jewelry. And remember, it’s easiest to regain order by completely emptying the thing you are organizing.  Does your jewelry need to be sorted and organized?

Thinking about Money

Sometimes I think money is thing that causes people the most anguish.  Even if you have “enough” it doesn’t eliminate the concerns and issues that come with needing money.  And really, how many of us feel like we actually have “enough” – there are so many unknowns in this world.  We tend to have strong opinions about how it should be spent or saved.  I’m not here to tell you any of those things, yet to encourage you to think about money more.

Several months ago my husband and I were talking about some purchases.  We checked prices online and it gave us pause.  The lovely picture we were considering for over the sofa was a bit more than we’d expected.  Since we’ve already recognized the temptation for making purchases without enough thought, we consoled ourselves that we weren’t making a decision in this moment.  There was time to see how we felt later and moved on with our day.

It was a weekend day and we headed to the Renaissance Faire.  We had a few vendors we wanted to visit and were considering a purchase there.  It’s a tapestry shop and we discovered these exquisite tapestries – a set of 4 – and it came with a discount when you buy at least 2.  Oh was I drooling over them.

Fortunately my husband and I had established a good pattern before buying anything unplanned.  We walk away.  We found a place to sit and talk about our thoughts regarding these tapestries.  He liked them as much as I did and had the same temptation to bring them home.  Still we moseyed along, visiting another vendor, knowing we still had time to get back and buy the tapestries.

Then something interesting happened.  My husband was struck with the irony that just that morning we were cringing about spending about the same amount on one thing yet somehow we weren’t reacting in the same way at the thought of buying several things.  We’d been sucked in by the idea that by getting more for the same money it somehow wasn’t the same – never mind that we’d get a discount for getting more than one.

It doesn’t matter what it was or how much – it’s about how varied we can be about things.  In one context, we pause and consider; in another, we barely pause and almost rush in.  We practice being thoughtful – controlling our impulses in order to discern what matters most to us.

Have you ever bought something and later regretted it?  I’d be surprised if you haven’t.  We’re working on cutting down on those regrets, hence why we walk away in the first place.

  • What is it about that thing that makes you want to take it home with you?
  • Will this feeling fade or will you feel the same way in a year?  Are there alternatives?
  • Are you simply wanting to buy and not so concerned with its use and value?
  • If you were to spend the money on this thing, is there something else you’d rather spend the money on?

Buying things is necessary – we all have to do it.  Yet how mindful are we of how and on what we spend our money?  If we begin to recognize our own patterns about money, we can take steps to lead a life that supports who we are and our values.  Money causes enough headaches; don’t let it cause you unnecessary pain.

By the way, the beautiful tapestries stayed with the vendor and the limited edition print was ordered a while later.  Months later this still feels like the right decision for us.

Cycles of Time

For every time there is a season.  I’ve talked before about how I deeply appreciate the seasons, the symbol of how things change – maybe not a lot, yet change surrounds us.  This doesn’t necessarily make it easy.  It can be challenging to embrace the changes happening.  Yet, adapting and then thriving require us to figure out how to make the most of the changes.  If you think about yourself over the course of a day, your energy and focus shift throughout that day.

How do you handle your own cycles?  There are lots of people who’ve talked about working on your most challenging task during the time of the day when you are most focused.  I think of this as finding and working during your prime time.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out your prime time.  There are many factors that impact your focus – the biggest being sleep and making sure you are getting enough good rest.  If you are dealing with mental health issues, these too take a tremendous toll on your focus. There are many things that can interfere with your prime time.  It’s important to handle these things and be gentle with yourself if you’re struggling to make the most of your time.

It’s great to make the most of your prime time for getting things accomplished; yet typically we can’t stop working after our best time is over.  We still have things we need to work on, though hopefully we’ll have made the most of our prime time.  This is one the reasons that I think about my tasks in relation to various factors, i.e. time, energy, activity, intellectual, etc.

Do you think about your energy and attention when you’re considering your to-do list?  A few years back I began making sure my to-do list had different types of tasks.  Too many times I was staring at the list dreading it all and simply procrastinating.   By thinking about my energy and attention, I wasn’t making the to-do list that would facilitate making the most of my time.  Now I make sure that there are a variety of types of tasks – so when I am feeling more drained, I can work on more sedentary tasks – either needing more or less concentration depending on my level of focus.

In this day and age it seems there’s always more to do, and this means that we can set up our to-do lists with various criteria.  Figure out when your prime time is and make the most of that.  Then consider what things you can do when you’re more tired – those tasks that require less thought or less activity.  If we always have options for getting things accomplished even when we’re not at our best – we move through the to-do list steadily.

Making Progress?

Recently I was talking with a client and she commented that she “should be more positive.”  This came after her sharing that she was struggling with feeling depressed and overwhelmed.  What people might not know is that I have felt this way more than I would care to admit.  So I shared with her that first, we need to eliminate “should’s” from our vocabulary and to allow herself to feel her feelings.  But is that all there is?

Frequently the people I work with have a tendency to neglect taking care of themselves.  This is an area that is important to make time for – if you are struggling with feeling down and to make progress – look at how much time you are spending on things you enjoy.  It’s surprising to see how much we think that I’ll make time for this once I get caught up, once I get that all done.

Our bodies and mind need time to rejuvenate.  If we push ourselves to only be “productive,” then we actually become less productive.  We struggle to get things done.  We end up feeling down and overwhelmed.

This isn’t the end all, be all answer though.  Just because we make time to nurture ourselves, it doesn’t magically cheer us up or make the work easy.

We could use successes.  Our struggle to make sufficient progress leads to another possible culprit to our feelings – depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, etc. – we try to do too much.  We want the whole basement to be organized and expect we can do that in one weekend of dedicated effort.  This is an extreme example – what is “too much” varies from person to person.  It’s important to figure out what is reasonable for you, and only you.

Therefore, as you work to discover what is realistic for you personally, do small things – those things that you can start and finish with a little effort.  By focusing on an area that you can finish in a short amount of time, you can begin to see the effects of your working.  As most people I know struggle with paperwork to one degree or another, I would recommend choosing something other than papers to organize – it’s hard to make enough progress in a short amount of time.  Do something small and feel rewarded with your efforts by seeing your success.

One of the first things I ask myself if I am struggling in this area is, “what do I see that would take less than 5 minutes to do?”  Often it’s those things that are small enough I put off, for whatever reason, – thinking, “they’re so easy, I’ll just do it later.”  Yet, by simply doing them, I see the small successes.

Another thing to consider is a contained space to work on – a single shelf or drawer.  It can be other things as well, as long as it’s relatively simple.  Or consider what else you might be able to break down into a smaller piece to work on and finish.  Shelves and drawers are great options since their space is defined and limited – therefore it’s clear when you are done.  It also means that you can see the effects of your work.  Here’s a link to what I wrote a while back on Diving into a Small Organizing Project.  Consider where you have a clear vision of what needs to happen – you know how and where to organize your photographs, your jewelry, your music, your office supplies, and etcetera.  This is a potential direction for your efforts.

An additional benefit to working on those small pieces is that it frees up the spaces around us – seeing if we have more space here or not enough space there.  We have the potential to see how to break other projects into smaller pieces.  It’s rarely a good idea to set aside a whole day to working on one of our projects – it easily leads to burnout – rather than building up the energy to work consistently, which is more effective in the long run.

Sometimes, we just need to walk away from our projects.  Not for months – yet to step back and let it be for a while.  Whatever it is that you are dealing with, it likely didn’t get that way in the last week, and will take time to work through.  When emotions are running strong, it’s generally hard to make progress, so consider what you can manage.  Then give yourself permission to do only what you can handle – even it’s nothing at the moment.