Getting Organized for the New Year

I may rarely end -- or even get halfway through! -- the year organized, but I like to start out with my thoughts marshaled, my supplies in their places, and my plans laid out. Here are four ways I'm getting organized in 2014:things-organized-neatly-clipboard Less Paper. This is tough one, since I work in direct mail, which is a paper-based business. But just because the end product ends up on paper doesn't mean I have to use it day to day. I'm learning to edit effectively on-screen, only opting to print pieces on the last pass. I have developed a pretty sophisticated virtual filing system that includes art, proofs and email communications from clients. I'm even learning to type my notes during a conference call, rather than jotting them into a notebook first -- although I admit that's a work in progress.

Eliminating as much paper as I can is great for the environment, of course. But it's also great for my sanity and my time. No more filing, no more space taken up by bulging folders, and no more paper cuts!

Lists and more lists. I know some people aren't list-makers, but I am. I love to make global lists of things I hope to accomplish this year, as well as the micro lists of daily and weekly tasks. But if you're not into lists, try a spreadsheet or even a Venn diagram -- my husband the former architect enjoys drawing his to-do tasks. The act of jotting down your goals will help you remember them and hold you accountable to achieving them.

calendarTaking Time for Me. I often short-change myself in my rush to complete all my tasks -- and my house isn't even that clean! I'm not sure what's going to be pushed aside this year, but I am determined to take time each day to focus on myself and what I need. I'm confident that it will make me a better consultant, wife, parent, neighbor and friend. Even if it does mean the floor stays dirty.

Be Ready for (Almost) Anything. I often find myself needing to adjust my plans, and when I don't have the right equipment, it slows me down -- and sometimes keeps me from doing things altogether. When the car breaks down, I want to be ready to bike, so I'm getting my winter biking gear stowed together for easy transitions from four wheels to two. When a colleague calls me for lunch, I'm going to be ready to leave the house instead of scrambling to find a clean pair of pants or to brush my hair for the first time that day. And when working at home isn't going so well, I want my laptop bag ready to roll, so I can hit the road without losing too much of my day.

What are you doing to get yourself organized in 2014? Any other tips for me? I could use them!

One-legged Biker

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I commute to work by bike. It's an easy way for me to squeeze exercise in without taking extra time away from my family and other obligations, there's a great infrastructure for it here in Portland, and it allows me to one-up those sanctimonious Prius drivers. (Win-win-win!) I've been called "hard-core" more than once as I've ridden to work in the pouring rain, hail, snow and wind. Hard-core? Hard-core is those guys on fixies who race past me up the hill without breaking a sweat. Or those folks who scream at cars that don't leave enough room in front of the bike box. I am not hard-core.

I'm not above muttering complaints about the weather, the hill, the errant squirrels darting in front of me, the exhaust fumes, and the wardrobe limitations imposed by my bike-commute. I am a whiny bike commuter.

But a few weeks ago, I rounded a corner on my daily commute (grousing under my breath about the bitterly cold wind and the threatening gray clouds) and found myself behind a one-legged biker.

That stopped my grousing cold. More than that, it made me re-think my commitment to bike commuting. Because if I lost a leg, I'm pretty sure I would give up biking.

Clearly, I wouldn't have to. Here, riding twenty feet in front of me, was proof that if I wanted to, I could continue biking even in the face of a lost limb.

Now, I don't know if that biker had a special, transcendent passion for biking, or if he lost his driver's license, or if he couldn't afford parking downtown and hated the smell of the bus. I don't want to apply some there-but-for-the-grace-of-God sentimentality to his situation, which I know next to nothing about.

But whatever his reasons, he had committed to riding his bike when that can't have been the simplest option, the path of least resistance.

Nonprofits are often faced with projects that take every ounce of perseverance for them to complete. Lack of money, staffing problems, red-tape and bureaucracy can all conspire to make every battle an uphill one. But the most effective organizations don't give up. They take setbacks in stride and continue pursuing their goals, even if, to outsiders, it may seem impossible.

That kind of perseverance inspires donors. Those stories about the times you overcame huge odds to move mountains are fundraising gold. Collect them. Share them with your staff and your donors. And remember them when the going gets tough again, as it inevitably does.

I only followed the one-legged biker for a few blocks before I turned to continue on my way to work. I didn't have the chance to study how he accomplishes what in my head seems like an impossible task.

But the memory of those few blocks has stayed with me. I challenge you to find your own one-legged biker. What inspires you to keep going? What makes you approach your projects with the creative energy of someone who would choose to bike through rainy Portland streets with only one leg?