Do you feel a pull to be present, to match your pace to the fluid and complex world ours has become? If so, the more traditional approaches to managing your life and structuring your days can hog-tie you, forcing you to relinquish the skills most needed in today’s world—like intuition, emotional intelligence, creativity, and big-picture thinking.
I’ve got an alternative. This process, what I call life organizing, is infinitely richer then plotting your days in fifteen-minute increments in your planner. But one warning: change can be frightening, especially at first. I will ask you to trust, to loosen your grip on life. I will ask you to stop and feel, to tune in to what you really want and what you really know. The rewards of your courage are limitless—a life that sings, that moves with instead of against.
A short article isn’t enough space to give all the knowledge, experiences, and thoughts I have about life organizing. I’d need to write a book to do that—and, in fact, I have! But I can provide the basics here. Life organizing works in two complementary ways, easily adoptable and adaptable:
• A life planner that you choose and create. This planner will enable you to discern what you want week by week while gently tracking where your time and energy are actually going and what might be getting in your way of living a life you love. The life planner’s core is four to six weekly mindful questions that build on and refer to each other, and move you into a deeper mode of awareness and listening.
• A check-in that consists of five steps and requires as little time as it takes to open the freezer, find the ice cream, and get a spoon. Here are the steps for checking in:
1. Connect: Breathe deeper, stretch your arms overhead, step outside, and feel the breeze on your skin—anything that connects you with the physical world.
2. Feel: Tune into your heart to access information unavailable to your head. Put your attention on your heart, placing your hand there. Recall a time you felt loved and appreciated or loving and appreciative. Linger there for a few seconds.
3. Inquire: Ask a mindful question to open up possibilities you literally couldn’t see before. My favorite: What do I need to know right now? (What if you really didn’t need to know more than the next immediate step?)
What do I want? (Creativity requires being in touch with your undiluted desires. Remember, you don’t have to act on what you want, and wanting doesn’t mean getting.)
What don’t I want? (Sometimes the process of elimination can be less intimidating than naming your desires outright!)
How can I be gentle with myself in this situation? (We can all benefit from asking this many times a day.)
4. Allow: Trust that, by connecting, feeling, and inquiring, you’ll hear or see or feel or sense what your next step is—and only your next step. Allowing is about noticing your experience and opening to your next step.
5. Apply: Action is where the practical and results-oriented parts of you get their due. Without action, without decision, you remain in possibility, which is safe and beautiful but eventually enervating and boring. That doesn’t mean eating the whole elephant in one bite. Small steps aren’t just okay; they’re encouraged.
Life Organizing in the Moment
It’s mid-morning, and your plan for the day is already in shambles. You’re reaching for a Diet Coke, hoping it will give you the energy to deal with the next crisis. Then you remember that there’s another way. You make the choice.
Feel your feet connecting with the ground beneath you. Take a deep breath and reach your arms overhead, exhaling with a huge sigh. Put your hand on your heart and recall feeling balanced and flowing. Ask, “What choice feels easiest in this moment?” Visualize bringing this question into your heart, and take a breath or two to infuse it with flow and peace.
Perhaps a brief image of your sister comes to mind, or you hear a refrain of an old song that reminds you of her. Or perhaps you remember the feeling of your sister hugging you. You call her, have a lovely chat, and when you get off the phone, you have new energy—enough to move you forward to the next task awaiting you.
Do you begin to see how this approach flows with life? I’m not proposing you sell your worldly possessions and move to the woods to live in an unheated yurt. I’m not recommending you consult crystals or the I Ching before moving a muscle. What I’m saying is when you think you’re lost, overwhelmed, and without direction, you do “know” what to do to restore your balance and your direction—but it’s a different kind of knowing, one you already possess, and need only be reminded of how to access.
Jennifer Louden is the author of The Life Organizer and The Woman’s Comfort Book. A personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement, she’s written four books on well-being and whole living that have inspired women all over the world. Jen believes self-love + world-love = wholeness for all. Visit www.jenniferlouden.com/lifeorganizer for a life organizer app & other useful freebies.
Adapted from The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year © 2013 by Jennifer Louden. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com