The feeling of being overwhelmed is often the cause of procrastination. It definitely is for me. Feeling as if I simply cannot get the job done is the main cause, maybe the only cause, of my procrastination, because I get lots done. But I’m often berating myself for leaving some things, always the same things, undone.

One example is email. And I’m getting a handle on it now by slicing and dicing it into manageable chunks. You can use this system for most things, so let’s go step by step with what I’ve been up to.

First, you have to know how to use your tools. In this case, your email program. I know mine pretty well by now—I’ve been using Eudora since the last century. One of the most important things I know is how to make mailboxes. Other programs might call them folders. This is where you can put emails by group, just as you file papers. Next, you need to know how to filter messages. I do that for some friends, family, lists/groups and certain businesses. In Eudora, the mailbox name gets bolded when there’s anything unread in there, so I always know where I have new mail.

Now my inbox looks a lot less full (overwhelming), thus a lot more manageable. So, when I check mail, I first go through my inbox and delete every piece of spam I get. If any stray messages are in there, I slide them over into the correct mailbox. Now I have the email I really should attend to right away in front of me. The others can be read and answered, if needed, in their own time.

I also don’t answer every email right away. If I do, many people will then answer me right back, and I could spend all day with seven or eight emails, reading, then answering. If not urgent, wait at least a few days, a week or ten days may be better to answer friends’ emails. Back in the old days, people didn’t get those instant responses, and we’re probably even more busy now. Check the date every morning, and anything older than the week or ten days you’ve set for yourself is the one that needs to be answered right away.

How can we apply this process to other to-dos that overwhelm us? Cut them down to size, into pieces. I do this with housework. I do a couple of things every day. One day it might be laundry and ironing. Another day it’s cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms. One day I vacuum and dry mop, etc. Getting too much regular mail, as well as email? Spend fifteen minutes a day with it after dinner, handling it as quickly as you can. Throw away the junk, unread. File things right away that need filing and pay bills. Make a pile for reading, take it with you to your chair to read during commercials or in other stray moments. Planning for a party or big event? Do one chore a day, making a plan in advance so you know how many days you’ll need, adding a couple for a cushion.

This system defeats boredom and makes you feel in control. It changes what you say to yourself about what you need to do. Instead of, “I need to clean the whole house today,” you say, “I only need to dust and vacuum today.” Instead of saying, “I need to straighten out my closet today,” say, “I’ll work for half an hour on straightening out my closet, then quit for the day, and do the same tomorrow.” And so on. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.


Entertaining can be a chore (you have to invite everyone from work because that’s the way it’s done at your office or your partner’s office), can be stressful (you’re new at it, or unsure of some aspects, or just generally have stage fright about such things, like this and making speeches), or can be loads of fun.

Of course, you know your attitude can make a difference. That and a lot of prior planning and some experience with entertaining either small or large groups.

the toast by johnny_automatic - man making a toast at a dinner partyFirst, tell yourself over and over again how much fun everyone is going to have. Think up some topics of conversation to have handy in case it lags. If you feel pressed for time, delegate. Either pay for someone to cook and/or clean, or get family members to pitch in. If you can’t do either, scale back on what you will serve for food. Can you just make it a cocktail hour instead of a full meal? Can you have some relatives and close friends bring food? Can you lock some bedroom doors if you don’t have time for a thorough cleaning?

Have you planned what you’re going to wear, what you’re doing for decorating, and what you’re going to serve for food and drink? Plan what you’ll wear first, then decorate, then plan and make food ahead.

Have signature drinks and food that are quick and easy to make. Things people always want you to serve. Try for one for each course, so if you’re asked to bring something for a specific course for someone else’s party, you’ll have making it down pat. This means an appetizer, a main dish, a salad, a vegetable casserole, and a dessert. Also think about a nice punch. Fill in with what other people bring, with beer and wine, if yours is a drinking crowd, soft drinks. Use easy things like chips and dip, a main course you can make days ahead and freeze, a simple but fabulously elegant dessert.

Be sure you have enough serving dishes and utensils for everything. If possible, use paper plates, napkins and so forth for a large crowd (unless you can afford large services and people to do the clean-up). If you buy special serving dishes and other things for the holidays, be sure to have one spot where they are kept so it will be easy next year to get them out to use again.

Most important of all, when the big day comes, relax, plan  to enjoy your own party, and go with the flow. Most likely it will be fabulous. Anything that goes wrong can be something to laugh about at next year’s party. Remind yourself that you’ve done the very best you can, and let it go at that.


No, not just cleaning it up. Living with it. It seems to nag you. It’s always taking up space in your head as well as in your workplace or home. It can slow down your work pace as you search for one piece of paper or a single object in all the mess.

If it seems overwhelming, pick a certain time every day (after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, before bed are all good times because they are easy to remember). For fifteen minutes, work on the clutter. Then you can stop. Because the next day you’re going to work for fifteen more minutes, and so on until done.

First handle the latest papers or objects that have shown up in the space you want to clear. Always have a trash basket nearby. Maybe you want to tackle a craft room. You’ve recently been shopping and piled a bunch of objects on a table, plus you haven’t put away stuff when finished with it. Start when the latest purchases. Remove packaging and throw them away. Put the objects in a designated places. The next time you go shopping, do not consider the trip over until every item you bought is put away. And the next time you stop on a project for the day, do not leave a mess. Put away tools and materials you’re finished with. Lay out the project nicely for the next time you want to work on it.

If it’s your office, start with the day’s mail. Throw away junk without opening. Open every other piece, throw away inside junk and the outside envelope unless it contains a return address or other information you might need—if so, staple the envelope behind the paper. Glance at the piece of paper and put it in your inbox to handle later (bill or to reply, for example), or in a pile to file away (or if your files are handy, simply file it), and throw out anything you can after reading it, or put it in a spot you’ve designated for reading later. Once you’ve done the daily mail, start with any other paper and do the same with it. If you don’t file as you go, save a few minutes at the end of your fifteen minutes to file.

For the kitchen, begin by figuring out where you want everything to be for ease of use. Then empty out one area, go through the rest of the room and gather everything that should go in that area, putting things away in cupboards or drawers as necessary. Of course, throw out things you never use, or donate them.

You may stop after fifteen minutes, but sometimes you may want to go a bit longer. But don’t wear yourself out, because the next day you won’t want to do anything. The trick is to make this a habit, and skipping a day is not good for habit-making. So, go easy on yourself. Be sure that you remember to always put away purchases you bring home right away and that you clean up and put away everything you used after doing a project, making a meal, or doing office work, or anything else. Habits are easier to break than to make, but if you try this system, you might be amazed at what a clutter-free environment you end up with.


If any time of the year needs planning ahead, this is it. Here are some basic suggestions to keep you from driving yourself (and everyone else) crazy. I hope you’ll find at least one or two tips that will help you during this hectic season.


There are greeting cards to send out. You have that all organized, right? Every year you have a printout of people’s names and addresses of cards sent. Maybe if you send out a newsletter, you even have a code on the list to indicate which people received it. And you mark who sent you cards last year before putting them away or discarding them. If you were wise you bought cards on sale after Christmas to send this year, and you know where they are. If you don’t enjoy doing the cards, just plan to do a few a day until they’re finished. Take a break from something else and address and sign some, then go back to whatever it was. And if you don’t enjoy standing in line at the post office, you can buy stamps on-line, as well as order packaging materials. There’s even a calendar to show you when to order. You can print out a shipping label and order a pick-up of your parcels. Once you set up an account, the following years should be a snap to do any of this:



Most of us have lots of stuff to put up or out or on a tree, something for the front door, yard, roofline and so forth. I hope you have everything organized in boxes from years past. If not, make a vow to do that when you put everything away this year. My only real advice here is not to over-decorate.


See tips for Thanksgiving prep:


This is the time of year I love to try out new recipes. Only on the family though. Anything I take for a potluck or other meal, I’ve tried at least twice in the privacy of my own home. You know why.


Ask for help. Have everyone bring something to eat or drink because you’ve been frantically cleaning house, decorating, shopping for supplies, and making a few dishes yourself. Right?


Lots of people recommend buying them as the year goes by. Great advice. Be sure you have a designated spot to put them, and make sure you label them somehow (sticky notes are good). Also be sure you keep a list in your purse or on your smart phone of what you’ve bought and for whom. If you haven’t done all this, and you love to shop, have fun. If you haven’t done this because you don’t like to shop, I recommend you do it on-line. You can even have the items gift-wrapped and sent to out-of-town people. You can also buy stuff you need for entertaining on-line. Clothes to wear. The possibilities are endless!

What great tips do you have for getting through the holidays? Let’s have them in the comments. Remember to take care of yourself, get plenty of rest. Now is not the time to start a new project or take on anything extra. Treat yourself as well as you’d treat a beloved friend. You deserve it.


This is the time of year to make master lists and schedules and do some major planning. Today let’s talk about Thanksgiving.

With this major holiday coming up, wouldn’t it be great to have a shopping list you’ve refined over the years so you have everything on hand if you’re making the big meal, or even a dish or two to take to someone else’s celebration? If you don’t have one yet, make one. I like to do this on the computer so I can make changes when needed and print it out again so it looks neater. You can also rearrange the items by where they are located in the stores more easily using your computer. And if you have a smart phone, you can do the list on there and not forget and leave it at home.

Of course, all your decorations, special place settings and so on are in one box. Right? If not, this year buy a special box just for Thanksgiving.

  • Make a list of what you’re going to serve for Thanksgiving dinner if you’re preparing it.
  • Make as much ahead as you can and freeze it.
  • Set the table the night before.
  • If you can afford it, have a cleaner come in a few days in advance.
  • Buy prepared veggies and other food from the grocery store. The bakeries make really wonderful breads and desserts nowadays. Look around and see what you can use to fill up the table with no-to-little work.
  • Use other devices besides your oven to keep things hot if you run out of room. Use the crockpot, thermos containers, or even buy one of those new buffet warmers or smaller triple crockpots. Anything cooked ahead can of course be warmed up in the microwave.
  • Be sure to include some cold dishes that just have to be placed on the table. For example, Waldorf salad, a layered salad, a macaroni salad or coleslaw.

Now, get a good night’s rest, relax, and enjoy the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!


You probably already have weekly goals, whether you know it or not. If you have a job outside the home, one of your goals is to go to work every day. Another goal will be to groom yourself every day, eat several meals, maybe do some exercising, sleep a certain number of hours, clean the house, work on the yard, take care of kids and pets and so on. These are so routine, you hardly ever have to think about most of them anymore.

But if you had to pick one goal you’ve been putting off to work on for this next week, what would it be? What would happen if you picked one every Monday and tried to accomplish it by Friday or Saturday bedtime?

I would bet that in a month or two, your overall to-do list would have shrunk to a more manageable size (it never, or rarely, gets to zero if you keep it updated, unfortunately).

Remember the process for accomplishing a goal. Write it down. Write down the steps you need to take to accomplish it. Move those steps around in the order you need to do them in. Go!

For example, you want to paint a room. First you have to pick which room. Then write it down. Next, you have to figure out what you need in order to paint it. You may already have some supplies on hand, but need to buy others. You have to pick a color and get the paint. Maybe you want to check out paint chips first. Put all these things in order on Monday and see how far you get by end of the week. Even if you don’t get the painting done, you’re that much closer to end of goal. The next week, you can have the same goal, and probably finish the job.

This works for just about everything. Need to see the dentist?


You have to make an appointment. If you don’t have a dentist, you have to decide whom to see. You need to gather information, find out locations and telephone numbers. (See where the steps aren’t in the right order as I quickly wrote them down? Remember to re-order your steps.) Then you have to call for the appointment. The dentist may not be able to see you the same week, so again, you have to put that goal off to the week you can go.

If you concentrate on only one rather large goal each week, you will be a lot further ahead than if you take a scattershot approach and work on two or three or more each week. You also lose momentum if you don’t narrow it down to one. You may go get the paint chips, gather the information about dentists, then decide to work on something else because you’ve lost interest and focus.

What one major goal will you pick for this week? Write it down. And check in with yourself on Friday or Saturday to see how far along you got.


New account. Went to set it up in my newest version of Quicken. Wouldn’t let me do it on my computer, wanted me to give my bank information so Quicken and my bank could talk to each other and input the info automatically. Sounds great, for anything except financial stuff. It’s bad enough all that info is already out there on my bank’s website. Now it should be on, let’s face it, another corporation’s website? And won’t it be harder to find incorrect transactions if the bank inputs the info in my Quicken?

Yes, I know so far nothing has happened to compromise anyone’s money. The key words being “so far.” I have a rather active imagination—usually a good thing for a writer. Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but maybe not. Better safe than sorry, no?

I’ve been using Quicken for about fifteen (yes, 15!) years now. Twice in all those years, I found a bank error. Both times for the same monthly transaction where they read my 0 for a 5, weirdly enough. Fifty cents each time. That was years and years ago. Every month I faithfully reconcile my balance and spend a lot of time inputting the info into Quicken. Every month, everything is okay.

So, do I trust the bank, or do I let another entity have my financial info, too? How much time will I save if I just check on-line, say once a week, to see if anything looks really off? Or even just check the amounts against receipts—shouldn’t take too long. Can keep the receipts, which I already do, anyway.

I love being efficient. In the beginning, I loved Quicken because it did the math for me. But the bank also does the math for us. How much time can I save by making this change? How much anxiety will I produce in myself if I do? How much of a control freak am I, anyway? Time will tell.

Not to get too personal, but what do the rest of you do about keeping track of your finances? I figure I can do a quick and dirty spread sheet for certain items if I want to keep track of how much we’re spending on, say, gas or groceries. But most bills are the same or close to the same every month. A glance will tell if they’re off. I think I’m going to go for it.


Most of us have things that we just don’t like to do for one reason or another. Depending on what those things are, we can blow them off most of the time (is it absolutely necessary for you to write a holiday newsletter every year?) or we absolutely have to do them (sorry, the kitchen has to be cleaned on a regular basis).

And it may be that you can blow it off, but you’re really rather do whatever-it-is because it will move your most-favored goals forward. Your most-favored goals are those that you have at the top of your goal list. You have a goal list, right? And you have put it in order of priority. If not, stop a few minutes and do that, now.

What has been proven the best way to move your most-favored goals ahead? Do whatever-it-is first. At the start of your day. Your resistance is lower then, but your motivation is highest. This is when you have the most optimism for getting things done. And once you do this a few times, you’ll realize that it makes the rest of your day so much better. You can pat yourself on the back for getting that chore out of the way and over with.

This is a particularly important thing to do when it involves your most important goals in life. That’s why so many people who exercise regularly (even those who don’t particularly enjoy exercising) do it first thing in the morning. This is why so many creative people get up before the rest of their family to create their art. This is how the best businesspeople get the best results. And this is how many great housekeepers keep the house spotless—tackle that dirty oven or cluttered, needs-cleaning refrigerator first thing.

Try it for three weeks (the time it usually takes to form a new habit) and see if it works for you.


Today I decided to talk about packing for a trip. Trips are fun, right, but packing, not so much. Since we just returned a while ago from a three-week road trip in a car (after spending eleven years traveling fulltime by motorhome), the memory of packing and “living out of a suitcase” is still fresh.

Dear Husband does not like to lug a lot of items into and back out of rooms every stop, so I tried to think of a way to make it easier on him. It’s not so bad when you stay in a motel/hotel room for several days, but when you have to take a lot of things out of the car, into the motel, and back into the car the very next morning, hauling a bunch of stuff is a pain, especially if you have an inside room, have to use an elevator, and so forth.

Two things stand out in my mind: less is more, and Ziploc bags are your friends.

What we did was have two suitcases, one medium, one large; and two laundry bags, one large, one small (actually a medium-size tote). The large suitcase held extra underwear, hangers as they were used (we hung up our clothes on a rod across the back of the car), and other miscellaneous stuff (shoes, for example) that we didn’t need every night. Once in awhile we would re-stock our smaller suitcase from the large one. And instead of lugging the large laundry bag in and out as it got heavier and heavier, we simply used the tote and transferred the dirty clothes into the large bag every time we headed out again.

So, these are the things we ended up carrying into a room each time:

  • One medium-sized suitcase with laundry tote inside.
  • One very small cooler (holds six cans, and we stocked it every morning with ice and drinks for the road from a stash in the back of the car).
  • Hanging clothes, as needed.
  • My purse and a tiny tote with miscellaneous things like peanut-butter cracker packs, a visor, brochures, etc.
  • Two laptop computers, one in a large briefcase-type carrier where everything with a cord or that was electronic lived (chargers, for example). Reading material and my Kindle also fit in the case.
  • Another tote with all my hair care items—dryer, curler, wire brush, products (in Ziploc bags).

One place we stayed for just over a week. For that, we lugged up the big suitcase, too, a lot more hanging clothes, and a bed reading pillow for me.

If we were flying, clothes would have to be packed instead of hung on the rod, of course, and the stuff in the hair care tote, too. But we had plenty of room left in the larger suitcase to do that. We wouldn’t be taking the reading pillow or the cooler.

We each had a special carrier for personal items that could be zipped up and placed in the small suitcase. Ziploc bags were used to hold miscellaneous items—for example, extra washcloths, anything that might leak like shampoo, body wash, etc. Easy to see what’s inside and extra insurance against leaks.

And that was it. What more did we need? Nothing. We didn’t have to buy anything while gone. I, of course, worked from a list that’s been refined over the years and is kept on my laptop to print out each time.  The list includes everything we need to do before we shut up the house—turn off the water, unplug appliances, turn off the fountain in the back yard, and so on.

I still don’t like to pack, but at least having a system is reassuring and a lot quicker than just doing it on the fly. Anyone have some other good tricks for packing for a trip? Please share.


How do you see your life? As a journey? A story. A dream?

If you could write the story of your life, how would you like it to be? Imagine your perfect day. What happens when you get up in the morning? Are you happy to be alive? I hope so! Do you have something fabulous to look forward to? A great breakfast, or a brisk walk  in the sunshine, talking to your loved ones, or even—work!? Again, I hope so.

Maybe your life isn’t as pleasant as you’d like because you haven’t really thought about how you want it to be. If that’s true, here are some ideas to make it better.

  • First, write down a few things on separate pieces of paper (that handy small legal pad is ideal for this) you’d like to do in the near future. Maybe there’s a hobby you’d like to pursue. Or you want to lose a few pounds. Or you want a new job. Maybe you’d like to adopt a pet.
  • Under each desire, list the steps you’d have to take to get what you want and the cost in time and money.
  • Next order the steps they need to be taken in.

Then GO! Start with Step 1 as soon as you can. Today, hopefully.And when you get ready for bed each night, are you happy with how your day went? What could you do to make it better tomorrow? This is called an examined life.  A lot better than an unexamined life!