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Organize and Mobilize
- Don't Agonize!
by Jill Ellen Shankar

These days, it seems that people are struggling to make unusually complex decisions, or maybe it's just that we are more jittery about the resulting changes. Choices regarding such issues as relocation, health care, elder and childcare, professional and business situations and many others, haunt us. We fear doing the wrong thing, and even doing what we intuit to be the right thing can be scary when it involves taking a flying leap of faith.

Would you believe that improving your organization skills could significantly reduce your feelings of anxiety in most any situation? I have seen it happen over and over again; relieving your brain of all the swirling facts in an structured fashion calms and relaxes, making almost any choice more manageable and less stressful.

How?? There are lots of ways to bring order to your thoughts depending upon the context. If you are trying to get your hands around a lengthy to-do list, try this: on a blank piece of paper, write down the current date, or whichever day you want to start with. Under that, write down everything you want or need to complete that day. Leave a little extra room so you can add things that come to mind later.

Next, write down following date, and its tasks. Keep doing this until you are comfortable that all of your projects are noted on paper. Then go back to the first day and number each item in order of importance, and proceed until your paper contains a blueprint of what needs to be done when.

It is no problem that you will probably end up moving some jobs and deadlines around; the point of the exercise is to sort out that stress-inducing brain chaos, and thus compose yourself.

If you are faced not with myriad to-dos, but choices (to get bunion surgery or not, to move into a condo or stay in the house, to move to Florida or not), have a go with this strategy: as a heading on your blank piece of paper, name your quandary and underline it, as if it is a title: Bunion Surgery.

Then divide your page in two with a vertical line; call your left column "reasons for" and your right column "reasons against." Then, dump out all of the possibilities and advantages on the left, drawbacks and concerns on the right. Just let your fingers fly, and get it all out, tangible and intangible reasons alike.

Take a look at how each side tips the scale-do you have 101 reasons for and two reasons against? If so, your decision is likely to be easy. If you have 11 reasons for and ten reasons against, you may have a stickier wicket. In this case, take more time-over days if needed-to add reasons.

Once the particulars are in black and white, weighing your alternatives is much easier. Having visibility to all of the elements provides much needed relief, and usually tons of clarity too.

A third information organizing methodology is helpful when you are trying to compare terms for several options. If you are considering three different banks for a loan, or several doctors for a procedure, try lining up the facts in this way: down the left hand side of your blank page, write all the issues inherent in the decision.

Using the bank loan example, you will need to consider matters such as interest rates, penalties for early payment, application, underwriting, document preparation, administrative fees (list them individually) and perhaps branch locations, internet accessibility, and so on.

Horizontally across the top of your page, create a column for each bank, and fill in your grid as you collect the data. Your ability to see it all on one sheet will illuminate and simplify, reducing complexity and the resulting anxiety. The best solution answer often just topples off the page when you have all the facts.

It may sound too easy-the notion that sorting out information on nothing more sophisticated than a blank piece of paper can bring enormous relief and lead you to make very good decisions. Do not be fooled-you can change your life with these strategies.

Don't agonize, get organized!



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Jill Ellen Shankar
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