Pretend You’re Helping Someone Else

Overcome obstacles when you pretend you’re helping someone else. I need to cook. I have vegetables that will soon spoil. I even want to eat vegetables. But I don’t want to cook. Just don’t want to do it.

Maybe it’s because I’m craving pizza. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to do the dishes afterward. I’m not sure but I bet you know the feeling. If not, dining out would be way less frequent and packaged prepared food would not appeal.

I could order in and put off the cooking for one more meal. That’s a great option if one meal doesn’t turn into three. Another option is to give away the veggies. That could be good for my neighbors. Another possibility would be to pretend I’m someone else.

When I’m helping a friend, I never mind doing the dishes. I feel no dread or hesitation. I don’t worry about drying out my hands. I just get in there and get it done.

Cooking for a sick friend is the same way. I don’t hesitate. I quickly figure out what I can pull together and prepare it.

Missing ingredient? I come up with a substitute.

Chopping needed? I chop, dice, and mince like a pro.

Why is it so much easier to get started in someone else’s kitchen?

Don’t answer that. There’s not really a need to analyze. Like many things, it’s only important to understand that this is my pattern. I can use that information to get past an unnamed, unanalyzed obstacle.

That realization makes my day easier right off the bat. There won’t be a chance to lament over my momentary laziness or feel anxious that I may waste more food.

I can simply get started and work from the point of knowing a way past procrastination. All I need to do is pretend I’m in a friend’s kitchen.

How do I know this will work? I’m practiced at using my foibles to my advantage. Or you could just say, I’m good at managing myself.

I’ll soon be sautéing green beans, roasting butternut squash, creaming spinach, and cooking onion, red pepper, and yellow squash. By dinner time, I’ll have a smorgasbord from which to choose. The bonus is that my refrigerator will be cleaned out as well.

I mention all of this to say, there’s nothing bad about flipping a weakness into a strength. In fact, it’s a great way to exceed our own expectations.

When I feel inclined to slack, I have many self-management tools at my disposal. These allow me to function efficiently and with much less angst. And they make chores feel more like an adventure.

If you’ve never considered harnessing your hesitation as an asset, go for it! My dinner tonight will be proof that it works.

How About a Ta-Da List?

Instead of a to-do list, how about a ta-da list? This post is for all compulsive list makers. Don’t worry, I’m one too. Many of my lists stay in my head, but once they become too numerous or too long, I put them on paper or on a screen. Doing so makes me feel organized. It can also leave me feeling discouraged when the lists get longer instead of shorter.

Obviously, discouragement won’t help me get tasks completed any faster so I’m filing away my to-do lists in favor of ta-da lists. A ta-da list can contain anything I accomplish. Sometimes that may be a task from my to-do list. Other times, it could be eating a healthy meal or treating myself kindly.

A ta-da list is a way to give myself credit for all that I do. And seeing it in black and white makes me realize I’m not a slug who never completes a to-do list. I’m a very engaged person who accomplishes an amazing amount then takes on even more.

It also lets me see where my time is going without getting lost in feelings of inadequacy or frustration. That can give the perspective I need to help align my priorities and goals with my activity. Rethinking my obligations shifts from a difficult task to a rewarding experience.

And ta-das are a reason for celebration. It’s so easy to focus on what I’ve failed to do rather than celebrate what I’ve done. Having a ta-da list shows me exactly how many reasons I have for jubilation!

It’s the beginning of a new week and a great time to start. Here are today’s ta-das so far:

  • Dried towels
  • Wrote draft of a children’s book 
  • Did yoga 
  • Contributed to critique meeting
  • Tweeted @Cooking2T 
  • Downloaded and installed software
  • Sorted and threw away misc stuff from porch
  • Made a list of fuses to order 
  • Resized a mat for the RV 
  • Moved kitchen items into the RV

But it would feel much different if I were to compare that to the multiple running lists I keep in color-coded steno books: Pink=personal, White=work, Gray=house projects, Teal=landlord projects. So, I think it’s best to create the master lists that will guide the overall direction of my personal, work, house, and landlord projects and then file them away for the week.

I’ll only work with my ta-da lists until an appointed review time. It will take some experimentation to determine whether weekly or monthly review will be most effective. At review time, I’ll compare my ta-da lists to my to-do list. What I’ll be looking for is a ratio of goal accomplishment to self-celebration that feels satisfying, positive, and encouraging. 

If I find I’m celebrating so much I fail to achieve any goal, I’ll adjust. If I see that I push myself so hard I don’t enjoy anything, I’ll adjust. If I only used to-do lists as a reference, I’d be more likely to measure success or failure and move on without analysis regarding improvement. The slight change in the system makes me more likely to become more and more efficient and effective.

It must be working already. It sometimes takes a whole day to write a blog post. It’s only 12:35 pm and I am ta-done!

Stuck Inside? Organize.

Stuck inside? Organize. This winter may bring weather that keeps you inside where it’s snuggly and warm. Once you’re tired of binge watching, it’s a great time to organize. I always like to start with the kitchen.

Pull-out drawer organizers

A few years ago on such a day, I installed pull-out cabinet drawers in two of my kitchen cabinets. It was a great decision! I can get to everything in the back of the cabinets and it makes cooking much more pleasant.

The drawers came pre-assembled and were easy to install. I needed a drill, but nothing more. You can choose from wood, chrome, or plastic in a variety of sizes and configurations. These can make old cabinets feel customized and modern.
drawer

Adding under-shelf storage to open kitchen shelves is another way to both organize and create additional space. If you have glass jars with metal lids available, fasten each lid to the bottom of your shelf with two screws, fill the jars, and then screw them into the lids.

The jars can be uniform or different depending on your style. Filled with colorful contents, they’re sure to add visual interest to any room. With these installed in the kitchen, you can have almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, dried mango, trail mix, granola, coffee, tea, or candy at your fingertips.

Buy larger; store smaller

Jars are also great for storing items inside your cabinets. I buy spices in bags and then transfer small portions into glass spice jars that I place on a stair step organizer in a small cabinet by my stove.

Rather than buying jars, I save glass yogurt jars, jelly jars, pimento jars, pickle jars, etc. This means I have a variety of sizes and shapes to fit specific needs. When I feel like I have enough on hand, I add newly emptied (washed, of course) jars to my donation box.

Reimagine tools

I sometimes pick up display racks from stores that are going out of business and selling the fixtures. I don’t go crazy, but I’ll buy a couple of items here and there and then use them the next time I organize. My plastic lid organizer is a divided acrylic box that came from a defunct bookstore.

Tins that arrive at Christmas can be used to hold tea bags, sweetener packets, yeast packets, yogurt starter, or dried chile peppers. They’re also great for snacks you don’t want the kids to see in the pantry and picnic supplies you don’t use often. Stackability is a great reason to use tins in some spaces.

Somehow I ended up with too many mini loaf pans. Rather than get rid of half of them, I repurposed some to hold cupcake liners, spice bags, cheesecloth, and silicone bands. I’ve also used stoneware crocks in similar ways.

Safe for exploration

My most recent organizing projects have been to baby proof my kitchen for curious grandchildren. I removed cleaning products from the cabinet under the sink and placed a rubber band around the cabinet door knobs. The only other accessible cabinets contain cookware so I didn’t need to add hardware for safety.

There are two low drawers a toddler can reach. I use one for dish towels. I filled the other with measuring cups and spoons, a collapsible colander, a small rolling pin, and other child-safe items. Having a drawer the children are allowed to play in lessens the chance they’ll get into the cookware cabinets when I tell them no.

My two oldest grandchildren have spent hours playing with the items in that drawer. They turn measuring cups into pots for their miniature stove. They grab a variety of cups and stand on a stool at the sink pouring water from one to the other.

KB took each and every item out of that drawer and licked it one day. Of course I had to wash everything afterward, but it entertained him for a long time. Having these items accessible gives me an opportunity to introduce cooking tools and terms to the kids when they’re small. By the time they’re ready to cook, they’ll be familiar with the language and comfortable in the kitchen.

Convenient and efficient

Organization as a tool to improve efficiency makes sense to me. Organization as an end unto itself does not. I embrace the time it takes to make things easier to find and reach. Past that point, organizing feels like a waste of time. In fact, if I end up with too many levels of organization, I can’t remember where I put things.

The good news is, at the end of an organizing day I know where to find the ingredients for a cup of hot chocolate that I can drink when I go back to binge watching!

https://www.containerstore.com/s/kitchen/cabinet-organizers/lynk-chrome-pull-out-cabinet-drawers/12d?productId=10017298

https://www.homedepot.com/b/Kitchen-Kitchen-Storage-Organization-Pull-Out-Cabinet-Organizers-Pull-Out-Cabinet-Drawers/N-5yc1vZci43

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/make-the-kitchen-your-happy-place/

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I Love Systems!

I love systems! I serve as a patient advisor on the Quality, Experience and Safety Team of an academic medical center. During a recent presentation, I was reminded just how much I appreciate detailed, methodical systems. They may not make for an entertaining meeting, but they don’t make me yawn so much as they make me feel calm. There’s something reassuring about having a defined process to guide you toward any goal.
organization
Often such a process ensures safety. That’s the case with using two patient identifiers for every patient procedure in a hospital or using a series of checklists when flying an airplane. I promise you, you want both of these systems to be well-thought, in place, and followed 100% of the time. They are critical for safety.

Some systems help you stay on schedule, collect money owed, or get every dish in a meal to the table at the same time. Creating a system takes the ability to understand the interplay between the big picture and the details of which it’s made. A system doesn’t have to be formal, written down, or generated by an app.

In fact, you probably have a system for getting ready in the morning. It may begin the day before and take into consideration the fact that there is a lesser risk of a need to change clothes at the last minute if you feed the kids before putting on work clothes. It may take into consideration what will happen after work that needs to be prepared for in advance.

You may think of this as a routine. Many routines are personal systems of organization performed at the same time and in the same order each day. Because they are based on years of experience or trial and error, you probably don’t even think about them unless you make a New Year’s resolution that throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. That will tell you how powerfully effective a system can be. Most resolutions change nothing.

The key to effectiveness is to create a foundation that keeps you from starting over all of the time. With that foundation in place, you can immediately determine the next step in a process by looking at the last one. You will also have a view of how what you do affects the next person in the chain. A good system reduces frustration and friction between departments and enhances the feeling of teamwork.

If you know me, my love of systems may sound ironic. I am somewhat rebellious, a bit contrary, and viewed by some as free-spirited. But if you know me well, you understand that all of those characteristics are strongly rooted in a foundation of reliability, work ethic, thoughtfulness, analytical approach, and mindful decision making. I may not be a rule follower per se, but I appreciate rules and defined procedures and I understand why some are critical.

Because of this, I value the freedom that results from taking care of business first. It’s that exhilaration of flight after you preflight the airplane, follow a series of checklists, taxi onto the runway, accelerate, and reach rotate speed. As the plane lifts and the ground falls away, I feel great!

Free-fall in a skydive provides a similar exhilaration. It also requires careful planning and preparation prior to that terrific moment when the wind hits you in the face. I can enjoy that feeling because I am not cloaked in fear. I trust the system that got me there.

I also love systems because they increase my productivity. Working systematically allows me to handle multiple projects simultaneously and ensure that the details will be handled. Relying on the system allows me to relax and do my best work. It also gives me the confidence to be flexible when required.

A working system makes me look like I have the best memory in the world. The truth is, when you allow a system to support you, you don’t have to remember as much because the information you need is always readily available and you know where to find it.

I don’t worry about trying to be fast. I just organize for maximum efficiency based on priority. The cumulative effect is that I can put together a number of items in a limited amount of time without ever focusing on speed. Hurrying takes away much of the joy of an experience. It also leads to inaccuracies and errors.

My use of systems extends to the kitchen. It’s what allows me to prepare a holiday meal from scratch without a last-minute rush. With meals, as with other projects, I begin with a backward timeline. Then I break down that timeline into smaller components and organize tasks in batches.

I often wonder why anyone would want to work any other way. I’m not saying your system should look exactly like mine. I’m just saying I’m not sure why anyone would want to work without one. I find them incredibly freeing.

Through the years, I’ve watched a lot of people struggle, feel overwhelmed, miss deadlines, and get the same details wrong on multiple projects all because they had no system or refused to follow one. A few of them worked for me…for awhile. In some lines of work, this is inconvenient and/or costly. In others, it’s dangerous.

Chaos is not freedom. Record keeping is not a waste of time. Organization is not the enemy of fun. Well-designed systems provide a foundation for teamwork, fairness, safety, productivity, achievement, and calm. I love systems!

https://www.who.int/patientsafety/solutions/patientsafety/PS-Solution2.pdf
https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/students/presolo/skills/before-takeoff-checklist
https://www.cdc.gov/cdctv/video-assets/lifestagesandpopulations/value-systems-thinking/mindset.pdf
http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/coulda-woulda-and-should-have/