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Writing a To Do listLooking for a way to avoid actually doing things?  There are two great solutions:  meetings and lists.  In this article I’m just going to discuss lists though, specifically the To Do list.  We’ve all got one, even if it’s just mentally and not written down.

Yes, lists can just be an avoidance tactic, but they can also be a very useful tool for being organized if you use them effectively.

My definition of an item for the To Do list is anything which is not part of your normal routine.  Writing this article is not on my To Do list, because I write it every two weeks, so it’s a routine task.  I set it as a repeated event on my calendar, so I can easily see when it’s due.

Brass scalesLife is full of decision making, and one type of decision we need to make constantly is what to do next.  Which of the tasks we have decided to complete takes priority?  What is the most important thing to do next?  What order should we do things in?

Just a clarification before I go on.  I’m not talking about regular, routine daily tasks.  There are some things we need to do every day as part of our routine, and that’s a different topic.  I’m talking about To Do list items, tasks you are going to allocate a block of time to attend to.

So backing up your computer, for example, should be part of your routine, not a To Do item.  (Note to self).

In the last article about To Do lists, I talked about taking the top 10 or 20 items and numbering them in order of priority.  Well, how do we do that exactly?  It can be quite difficult to decide what the most important things are.  You might feel all the items are important, or you wouldn’t have bothered writing them down.

Young man doing push ups looking determinedWhat is self discipline and where can I buy a big jar of it?  Is it in the same aisle as the elbow grease?

It’s the ability to exercise control over our own behaviour.  This includes our thoughts as well as our actions.

How well we are able to exercise control over ourselves is closely related to self esteem.  To obey ourselves, we must first respect ourselves. 

We need to think our own decisions are worth following.

We also need to have the necessary confidence in our own ability to follow through on our decisions. 

And of course, we must make worthwhile decisions for ourselves to begin with.

So, the place to start when we want to build self-discipline, is with our thoughts.

Wonan waking up to retro alarm clockEvery day is a new opportunity to do things a bit better, to be more organized, to be more productive, to be more positive, to handle things better.  And how do we start the day?  By getting out of bed.

Ok, so you might start your day before you get out of bed, by thinking, meditating, stretching, or cuddling if you have someone to cuddle.  That’s all good.

But there does come a time when you need to be up and at ‘em and face the day, by getting out of bed.  And I’m sure there are lots of people like me for whom that’s not always so easy.  (And I wouldn't mind an alarm clock like this old one which is considerate enough to let you know what day of the week it is.)

Well, we can make it easier for ourselves.  The most important factor in doing this is making our own decision, in advance, about when we want to get up.  We need to own this decision, believe in it, feel good about, take responsibility for it.

Meal cooking in a crock potDoes the idea of preparing your next meal bring a feeling of dread, a feeling you’ll need to go shopping, or a desire for take-away?  Does it make you worry about your budget for some reason?  Do you get a general feeling of uneasiness?

Or, do you know what you’re having, know you have all the ingredients on hand already, and look forward to your time pottering in the kitchen, relaxed, chatting, maybe listening to some music, knowing you’ll enjoy the meal, feeling confident about the whole thing, and certainly not worried about money?

Meal planning is the answer to finding yourself in the second scenario more often.  Yes, meal planning is the answer.  You need to plan your meals.

No, it’s not boring, and it doesn’t stifle creativity.  Planning things in advance gives you more freedom and flexibility. 

Eating take-away often may not be a terrible thing; if you’re ordering healthy Asian style meals with plenty of vegetables for example, and if you can afford it, why not.  The cost of a takeaway meal, however, is often up to three times what it would cost you to prepare the meal yourself.  This is not because the businesses are overcharging.  It’s because they have overheads and wages to pay for as well as the ingredients.

Messy bathroom cabinetSo, it’s all very well that we’re getting more organized ourselves, keeping things neat, cleaning, getting things done, managing our lists and so on, but how do we keep it up if we are sharing our space with people who don’t share our desire for order?

It’s annoying and frustrating to repeatedly find someone else’s dirty dishes laying around, or to have to use the bathroom after them when they’ve left whiskers in the sink, step over their junk on the floor and so on.

Well, I have some strong views about this issue.  I’m going to get all philosophical on you now, but I see it as practical too.

If you are focussed on what someone else is doing ‘wrong’ – you have got it wrong already.  This won’t help you, or them, or make any difference to your quality of life.

Judging and rating others makes something your problem that needn’t be.  It makes you a victim, it focuses on negativity, it makes the other person defensive, it creates an atmosphere, and ultimately, it’s a reflection of how you see yourself.  Another person’s lack of skill or experience or good habits in matters of organization, tidiness and cleanliness, affect them more than they affect you.  It is their issue, not yours.

Hand holding grocery receipt with fruit and vegetables in the backgroundIt’s got to be done, and there are lots of things we can do to make it work better with organization.  What do we want?  We want to stay within our budget (have I talked to you about budgets yet?  Don’t worry, I will soon).  We want it to be as painless as possible, possibly even enjoyable and/or satisfying.  We want to get everything done that we set out to do.  And we don’t want it to take longer than necessary.

When we do our regular grocery shopping there are often other errands to be attended to as well, such a going to the post office, the dry cleaners, the charity bin to unload some unwanted items, filling the car and so on.  It will all go much more quickly and smoothly if you plan it in advance.

So, before you think about stepping out the door, you need the following:

- A list of errands to be done.

- All items you need for your errands, i.e. letters to post, library books etc

- Your well prepared shopping list

- Know how much you expect to spend and where the money is or where you need to get it from

- Eat before you go- don’t go shopping hungry

- Make sure you are appropriately dressed.  You should always look your best, and you need to make sure you will be comfortable.  You don’t want to bump into a friend in the street with greasy hair and sloppy track pants on, and you don’t want to be feeling cold walking up the freezer aisle, or get blisters on your feet from walking a long way in high heels.

Coat hanging on a hookOur lives are made up of habits and routines, and if they’re good ones, our lives will be easier and more enjoyable, simple as that.  Developing and establishing good habits and routines is something worth making part of our lives, because having them abolishes the need for willpower and kills self doubt.

If you have a habit of leaving your clothes on the floor, leaving dishes for “later”, deciding you’re going to exercise, write that book, sort out your junk “one day”, that’s how your life is going to continue until you replace those patterns of behaviour with new ones.

Shop window at ChristmasOk, so it’s nearly December, and you know what that means!!  Out of control shopping, worrying, stressing, lots of parties, which means wanting nice clothes to wear, lots of extra little things to pay for, for a lot of people Christmas presents and Christmas food and decorations, celebrations for the new year, followed by problems with bills and a very scary credit card balance.

Right, so obviously we don’t want that.  We need to really spend some time now, sit down and plan, budget (yuck) and prepare.

I know many of you have lots of cooking to do, and decorating and so on, but that’s not what I’ll be writing about.  I want to talk to you about your budget.  Yes, the boring bit.  The really dull and tedious part of the holiday season.  Snore.  ZZZZZZZZZ

How did your budget go last year?  How does it tend to go every year?  Do you have any idea what you tend to spend?  Do you have a realistic budget of what you intend to spend this year, and what on?  Do you know where the money is coming from?  Can you afford it?  Do you still have most of your shopping ahead of you?

Soup stockAs I put off the topic of filing yet again (yes, and I know I’ve written about procrastination) and struggle to decide upon a topic for today’s newsletter, a friend telephoned.  I told him what I was working on, and he said he thought I would have had several of these articles always written in advance. 

Of course!  The same thing occurred to me as I noted the lateness of one of my recent newsletters when I was ill.  I did have the topics planned in advance, but have now come to the end of those, and it’s time to do some work, and improve my own habits in this area.

My friend and I discussed the advantages of preparing in advance, which is something he finds very helpful in choosing music for his radio show.

- If you get sick or something else unexpected comes up, it’s ok, because you’re already prepared.

- When you are working on the project, in my case choosing topics and writing articles on those topics, you can do it without the pressure of a deadline.

- This lack of pressure can improve the quality of your work.

- You give yourself some breathing space and flexibility.

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Heather
Melbourne, Australia

"Yvette is a great coach who inspires you to overcome the obstacles that she finds in working with you.  She is highly motivated and has worked hard to increase her knowledge in many areas that in turn help her clients.  Yvette draws on her own real life experience adn studies to help those of us who have to juggle many responsibilities and mangage the conflicts in thinking that come from that.  I am looking forward to working with Yvette again in the near future"

Liz Jarvis, CSI Business Solutions, 
NSW, Australia

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New York, USA

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Melbourne, Australia

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