I had a couple of experiences in the past year that made me say, “Well, that was easy!” out loud. I was both surprised and impressed by the speed and ease of which my requests were fulfilled, but then I started wondering why an easy process was almost shocking. I realized it’s because many of the tasks we do daily and interactions we have with businesses are unnecessarily difficult.
First to give credit where credit is due - here are the two experiences that were easy peasy lemon squeezy!
I was so pleased with these two experiences that I told a bunch of people about them (even better marketing idea than giving kids free tickets to an event - make people talk about how great you are!) One of the people I told was my mom, who made a very interesting observation. Both of those interactions involved human beings, not merely technology. Now, I work in a technology area, so technology is something I like and am familiar with, but there was no denying what she observed was true.
"...the key isn’t personal interaction in and of itself, but instead the focus on how customers want to use and access their products and services and how those same customers want to be treated during the process."
It seems like the businesses that are thriving these days are the ones that are make things easy - Netflix, Amazon, Uber to name a few. These examples certainly use technology, so maybe the key isn’t personal interaction in and of itself, but instead the focus on how customers want to use and access their products and services and how those same customers want to be treated during the process. Have you ever been to Chick-Fil-A where they are extremely polite or to Dress Barn where they learn your name and bring you different sizes and suggest additional styles that may be flattering? They seem to be concerned about how people want to be treated. My local pharmacy considers how I want to access their services and realizes I don’t want to wait in line - they texted me when they noticed my insurance card was out of date, and all I had to do was text them back a picture of the card to get it updated prior to my next visit.
Staples started the ‘That was Easy’ campaign in 2003, and even though they abandoned that a few years ago, I think a lot of us would really like to push the metaphorical “Easy Button” a lot more often! Since my recent positive experiences, I’ve been brainstorming about how to make tedious or inconvenient processes easier either through human interaction or technology or maybe a balanced combination- - hoping for a lightening bolt moment to start the next big thing!
I took away a few things for personal productivity from this:
What processes do you dread because they are over-complicated and what ones make you say, "That was easy"? How can you make your own life more productive and how can you impact others to make their lives easier? Share with us in the comments below.
When I decided to stop longing for order and do something about it, I wanted to get the biggest gain for the least amount of effort. Was there a magic formula out there to give me more time with my kids, declutter my house, purge my junk, create creative storage systems, track my spending, file my paperwork, and curate my memorabilia? I read productivity books and listened to organization podcasts looking for the answer. The answer was....no. There are certainly many, many tools to use and frameworks to help us, but all of them have one thing in common - You have to DO the work!
Before I was ready to actually do anything, I needed to decide what it was I wanted to accomplish. I knew I wanted to get rid of the sense of dread I felt at the thought of some tasks in my life, I knew I wanted to spend less of my time cleaning my house, I knew I wanted to stop losing things, I knew I wanted more time with my kids and husband, I knew I wanted more of the feeling I had when I walked into someone else’s house that smelled good and had no clutter, I knew I wanted to feel in control of my finances, I knew I wanted a wardrobe of clothes that I liked and fit me. That’s all - - not too much to ask, right? Just that list in and of itself was overwhelming - where in the world would I start?
I consider the beginning of my journey to be when I sought wise council. I did this through working with a coach. Coaching was fantastic - I could just spew out all my frustrations, my fears and my shortcomings, and I learned about tools that I could apply in my own life. The biggest two takeaways from that experience were:
Boom, mic drop - I realized I was drowning in my own pool of expectations. I had asked myself, “Why can’t I do it all? Why can’t I work full time, commute 2 hours/day, keep a clean and orderly house, maintain a garden and flowers, be an involved and loving parent, a dependable volunteer, an active church member, a caring friend, a helpful daughter, a loving wife, remember to schedule and go to regular health care appointments for everyone in my family, arrange childcare and transportation for two kids, manage the family budget, maintain elaborate scrapbooks of all our family activities, plan said activities and vacations, read enriching books, keep up with a hobby, stay informed about current events, and assure that I had time for myself?” Why couldn’t I do all of those things?? Because it was IMPOSSIBLE for one human being to do all of those things to the level that I expected them to be done. I had to have help, and I had to be realistic with my time and set boundaries. Coming to that realization was life changing. I sincerely want you to come to that same realization. You are not a failure.
"Why couldn’t I do all of those things?? Because it was IMPOSSIBLE for one human being to do all of those things to the level that I expected them to be done."
If you’re like me, you can focus on a fraction of things you’re responsible for and do them REALLY well, but then the other areas of your life suffer. I would go on like that until the areas I wasn’t paying attention to were in real danger of being destroyed, and then I’d switch my focus - and it would cycle like that over and over again. It was exhausting. Eventually I learned to prune my responsibilities down to what really mattered to me and lower my own standards so that I didn’t leave any area of my life in total disarray.
I started with the hard part - the head and heart part What matters most to me? How do I get there? What/who can or should I eliminate from my life that is keeping me from what matters most? Where can I afford to lower expectations in my life? Once I got through that, I started thinking functionally. What could I do in my everyday life that would make me feel more ‘in order’? The answer to these questions are multi-faceted and broad and what inspired me to start this blog. I look forward to sharing some of these changes I made in my life with you in future posts. I'd love to hear your experiences about making changes that helped you feel more in control of your life - share in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A great read:
If I have to hear my family say that I should do what Sarah did one more time, I swear...well, I might swear. Sarah is a good friend of mine and a wonderful person to emulate, and I honestly don’t have any ill feelings toward her whatsoever. She had a good idea, she told our family about it, and they thought it was a good idea, too. Great, right? Well, the annoying part is that if I would have had the idea in the first place, they wouldn’t have thought it was so great.
The idea, if you’re curious, was to split up the house cleaning chores among family members so we would all agree on who does what and make a chart of the chores. Sarah’s family and my family had the same cleaning lady who recently had to take some time off. Instead of trying to find another cleaner who would most certainly not meet the expectations set by Miss Sherri (as my kids call her), we decided to try it ourselves for a while.
We did split up the chores, and after I printed out a nice little chart, I presented it to my family angrily, “Here’s your chart -JUST LIKE SARAH'S!” It got me thinking, though...this could be a stroke of genius...what if Sarah and I colluded and had each other tell the other’s family our “ideas?” Would we both suddenly get what we want? Or is it possible that Sarah’s family wouldn’t hold me in such high esteem, and she’d still have trouble convincing her family? Or does Sarah have a magic ability as a wife and mother that I don’t possess, and her family already thinks her ideas are amazing even when they come straight from her mouth??
The best part of this whole thing is that, not long ago, I was listening to the “Happier With Gretchen Rubin” podcast episode where Liz and Gretchen talked about how to use envy to our benefit. The gist of it is that you should think about who you envy, really ponder why you envy them, and then figure out how to get some of that in your life. I didn’t have to think too long before it hit me like a lightening bolt - it was Sarah that I envied and specifically her time. I envied the time Sarah had from a semi-flexible work schedule, the time she spent doing activities with her kids, the way she spent her time doing things she enjoyed, and the way she didn’t seem rushed even though she was busy. It would be interesting to hear if Sarah feels the same about her time, but it was how it I perceived it, which, as we all know, made it my reality. I brainstormed and thought about ways I could have more time, spend my time better, be present in the things I’m doing. I came up with some hair-brained ideas, sifted through them, picked out a few that seemed doable and implemented them. I had to give myself permission to give up some things, throw away the worry of others’ perceptions, and become more self-disciplined in some areas. It’s been a few weeks, and I am amazed at how much happier I am!
So, in the end, I guess Sarah’s fantastic ideas are just one more thing I envy, but I made it work for me by teaching my 11 year old to clean toilets and my 6 year old to dust!
The kitchen is where your whole family gathers multiple times each day - for meals and snacks, but also for homework help or family game night. From pouring a bowl of cereal to cooking a gourmet meal to popping microwave popcorn - the kitchen is a key part of our entire day. Most kitchens are in the an area of the home that, even if you don't cook often, you still walk through to get to other parts of your house. This means we often use our kitchens as catch-alls for mail, shopping bags, keys, kids' school papers, medicine bottles, magazines, etc., etc.
Because we spend so much time there, the kitchen is the obvious place to make our best effort in organizing. It's a great spot to get some quick wins and gain momentum. There are several distinct areas in the kitchen, so we can break it down into small, bite-sized steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed with the task.
If you'd like to get your kitchen in order, check out the free course, 7 Days to an Orderly Kitchen! Get a short video and a checklist for 7 days to help guide you in each area of organization.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!