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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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In The Other Side of Organized, Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® will encourage you to get organized enough to reduce the stress of life’s details and make time to embrace your passions. Already, thousands of clients and readers have found help and inspiration in her advice, personal reflections on change and connection, and vision of what can be accomplished when you find that sweet spot between chaos and perfection.

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« Motivation & Deadlines | 4 Working Through Imperfect Tips »

Ask the Expert: Leslie Josel

Leslie Josel "Ask the Expert" interview about MotivationThe popular “Ask the Expert” interview series connects you with industry thought leaders. This year we’ve spoken with David Allen about time management, Peter Walsh about clutter, Sheila Delson about letting go, Laura Berman Fortgang about next steps, Judith Kolberg about change, and Sue West about fresh starts. This month I’m excited to bring you a trailblazer in the professional organizing industry, Leslie Josel, to share her insights and wisdom about motivation.

Leslie and I have been friends and colleagues for almost 10 years. We met through the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with Leslie on several projects in addition to having time to just socialize with her. She has tremendous energy, drive, compassion, and a fabulous sense of humor. What can I say? She’s savvy and a lot of fun to be with. My deepest gratitude goes to Leslie for taking the time to join us. Before we begin, here’s more about her.

Leslie Josel is the Principal of Order Out of Chaos, an organizing consulting firm specializing in student organizing and chronic disorganization. She is a member of NAPO and holds her ADHD and Hoarding Specialist certifications from the ICD as well as her ADHD coaching certification from JST coach training.  Leslie is known as a respected resource on ADHD and Executive Functioning in students and has been featured in national broadcast and print media on these subjects. She also speaks nationally to parent and educator groups on a variety of issues and topics facing students today. Leslie is the creator of the award winning Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management (a student planner that helps teach students time management). She is also co-author of The Complete Diabetes Organizer, being released later this year. You can connect with Leslie on TwitterLinkedInFacebook, Pinterest, blog or website.

Linda Samuels:  What motivates people to move forward when they are feeling overwhelmed?

Leslie Josel:  That's a tough one as each individual comes to motivation with their own set of unique obstacles and drive. But I like to work with my clients to help them understand that motivation can be to some degree needless.  Believing we have to "feel" like doing something in order to actually do it can lead to not getting anything done.  Sometimes if we simply just begin, we can become motivated as the task is in action.


Linda:  What suggestions do you have for sustaining motivation when you encounter setbacks towards your goals?

Leslie:  Most would say picture the end result. "See" yourself where you want to be. For most (including me), I like to reflect on where I've been. Seeing how far I might have gotten or even staying still (no backsliding) is very powerful in putting me back on track.


Linda:  What are your favorite techniques for getting motivated?

Leslie:  Some of my favorite techniques for staying motivated are doing the hardest or longest task first, constantly building in rewards, faking urgency (creating deadlines), working at my "peak" energy times, and setting timers.


Linda:  What has been your biggest personal motivation challenge?

Leslie:  My biggest personal motivation challenge is to exercise more. I've tried it all – classes, equipment in my home, making appointments with myself – all of it. You name it; I have tried it. Buddying up is the only thing I have found to work. Accountability is key! And having someone literally pick me up at my house!


Linda:  What is your most surprising discovery about motivation?

Leslie:  My most surprising discovery about motivation is how motivating fear can be. Fear can be paralyzing for some and highly motivating for others. I know that fear is what propels me forward. To some degree it is probably insecurity or self doubt of some kind. “Do I know enough? Have I done enough homework? Will others find me knowledgeable and my content useful?  What will happen if I don’t…?”  All of those questions are what keeps me going. However, for others that same feeling can be completely paralyzing. In fact, in a lot of my clients fear is the first obstacle we work on to get unstuck.


Linda:  What else would you like to add?

Leslie:  I try to strip the layers away when working on motivation techniques.  The build up or anticipation is usually worse than the task or situation itself.  So when I get hit with the “I don't want to,” I flip it upside down and say don't do it because you have to; do it because you can. I am a huge believer in good enough. I believe you need to create energy around your tasks to sustain motivation and to that point environment is key. Surround yourself in an environment that will provide a state of high enthusiasm to create motivation. Kind of like a natural caffeine boost!


Thank you, Leslie for sharing your thoughts about motivation. Your no nonsense, practical approach is Oh, So Leslie! There are so many valuable nuggets here. In particular, I appreciate the useful perspective of removing the “don’t want to” and replacing it with “because you can.” That’s a powerful strategy as it distances us from our negative feelings and refocuses us on the doing.

I invite you to join Leslie and me as we continue the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts about motivation. What resonates with you? What are your recent motivation challenges and strategies? 

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Reader Comments (40)

As always I love the Expert posts! These are insightful personally and professionally! Motivation is an amazing topic because it has so many layers. The thought that you don't need to feel motivated and just get started intrigues me especially. That starting a task is enough to create a new perspective will be a new awareness for me to help my clients.

On a personal note, I am all about partnering about exercise too! It does make you accountable, its more fun, and greatly rewarding. Thanks for sharing Leslie!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

Excellent thoughts on motivation. Leslie is fantastic! I especially relate to the incredible power of accountability in keeping us going, especially over the long haul. Sometimes we summon motivation in the short term, but have difficulty sustaining it. Thanks Linda for sharing this interview!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Love the interview Linda and Leslie! Quite an insight on motivation through the questions, very interesting. Your first answer brought the biggest smile in my face as I am exactly like that. I don't give myself much wiggle room "waiting" for it to come. I just get it done except when it comes to my biggest personal challenge: exercising. I need a partner urgently! It's interesting how you point fear as a motivator as I also find myself questioning if "I'm ready" and just keep preparing more.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

Great interview! The quote below could not be more true--I never really stopped to think about that before. Now that I see it in writing, I totally get it. It's how I get every time I clean the house! :)

"Believing we have to "feel" like doing something in order to actually do it can lead to not getting anything done. Sometimes if we simply just begin, we can become motivated as the task is in action."

Thanks for sharing!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSmead Manufacturing

This was so timely for me! First of all, I had the opportunity to meet Leslie (by phone) recently, and I found her to be everything you say she is. Secondly, just before reading this I was telling my husband I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the non-work stuff on my plate this week. Reading this reminded me to just do one thing at a time and everything that's important will get done.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Such an enjoyable interview from Leslie here, as she delivers some really concise
thoughts & ideas about motivation. I particularly liked the concept of 'faking urgency', as well as the point about working at peak times - both of which really resonate with my way of thinking about motivation. The clarity about working with fear as a motivator, or as a paralyser is a highly useful to anyone when they first set out with an end in mind, & knowing which team you are on is going to be priceless in achieving continued motivation.

Bravo to Leslie & Linda for such a delightful discussion, with lots of takeaway value. I'd certainly recommend Leslie's writings to anyone wishing to gain further insights.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrant Willcox

My favorite insight: "So when I get hit with the “I don't want to,” I flip it upside down and say don't do it because you have to; do it because you can. " I love this idea, because it's more than being positive. It's CHOICE. It puts the person in the driver's seat plus it means accountability to our choices we make. It seems like this would also help with letting go of things on our plates, too. Hmm. Have to try this one - thank you both!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSue West

Just Begin...simple yet powerful
Great post by someone who I remember fondly after meeting in a taxi in San Diego and instantly connecting with.
Leslie is the real deal and I thank you Linda for sharing her insights.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElaine Shannon

Totally agree with Leslie's insights! For years Nike used "Just do it" as a marketing tag for their products. Definately easier said than done for so many.

I don't think much about motivation as I believe it's a choice based on the individual's desire to do what ever IT is after an internal dialog with themselves. This dialog ( filled with truth and lies based on the individuals fears) could take a split second or can take years. As Sue West said its CHOICE! I believe accountability, responsiblity and motivation are related when it comes to getting something accomplished, what ever it is.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Schlesinger

As an ADD/ADHD Coach, motivation is key, as our ability to act is so intertwined with the degree to which our brains are 'turned on.' I encourage clients to find ways to convert "have to's" and "must do's" into "want-to's" (even if it is wanting to just get it over so as to stop thinking about it!).

Fear and perfection are great obstacles, and ones we are often not consciously aware of having. Ways to avoid the paralysis of perfection are to focus on producing an initial "sloppy copy" (version 1.0) and to make a mantra of "good 'nough."

In my '7-Step PowerPlan to Success' I talk about this. Even when you feel stuck or can’t “just do it,” you CAN CHOOSE to take control and do SOMETHING towards accomplishing your goals. (In the case of super-reluctant exercisers, start by putting on a pair of sneakers then walking for a timed 5 minutes. If you can't write that report, open up a page or file and put the title on the top - you've begun working, and getting started is often the most difficult hurdle.)

I am a proponent of the Morita School of Psychology, which focuses on taking actions, even tiny ones, despite your emotions. Dr. Shoma Morita said:
“Begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect,
or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or
any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself.
Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be
and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.”

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Lasky

Thank you Linda for this wonderful interview about motivation with Leslie Josel. I love what Leslie said about tackling the biggest task first and building in rewards along the way. I also agree with her comment about remembering and celebrating how far you have come rather than picturing the end result. I often think that we forget to celebrate our accomplishments and spend a little too much time thinking about how much more we have to do!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Sometimes, I'm *too* motivated and I get sucked into a project ... which means that everything else takes second (or third or fourth place). I make a conscious effort to stop and smell the roses and not stay glued to my chair. And, on days when my motivation is lacking, I think back to the days when I'm rocking my to do list and use it as inspiration to do just one thing.

As always, great interview series! Looking forward to seeing you at MARCPO, Leslie! =)

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Lee

Fabulous blog Linda and Leslie. I agree with surrounding yourself with positive people for that boost. Smiles to all who need help getting motivated to exercise, I agree it's hard to make time and commit to a routine. Im now motivated to try a buddy system, thanks for the tip!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Seavey

Great information. I can relate to the techniques for getting motivated!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMonika Kristofferson

Excellent interview, Linda and Leslie. So much valuable information. It's like Nike says in their ads, "just do it". We can't always wait to "feel like it" or let fear stand in our way. We just need to take control by taking action. Thank you for the insightful reminder!

Great post! I really like Leslie's idea of flipping the "I can't" around for clients. I'm going to have to try that one.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanice Simon

"See yourself where you want to be" - that is great advice for keeping anyone motivated. Thank you to Leslie & Linda for this fabulous post, y'all are "top shelf" in my book!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie Meek

So sorry to becoming late in the game to comment. First, thank you to the amazing LInda for this series. And I am honored to be included! Second, thank you all for your kind words and inspiration. I have learned SO much from these dialogues -- not just from the "experts" but from the comments and feedback along the way. And truthfully (and you know I am no other way), this was a wonderful "exercise" for me to get over my fear of exposing my imperfections and struggles. I am thrilled to hear everyone's supportive and insightful takeaways.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Josel

Thanks for sharing Leslie... and Linda.
So true! Great advice and always with such thoughtful insights!

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterColleen Ashe

Great insight, especially about tackling the hardest, longest project first. The little projects are often hard to get done because you don't have to "invest" in them--therefore they are the easy ones to push off to another day or time or never. But because you actually have to focus, plan and expend energy on the harder projects, once you get moving, momentum can carry you pretty far. And the bigger the project, the bigger the return on the investment.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Wow oh wow everyone! Your comments are amazing. Will respond personally a bit later this evening. What an incredible group of people you are and I'm grateful for your thoughts and additions to the conversation.

July 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wow oh wow everyone! Your comments are amazing. Will respond personally a bit later this evening. What an incredible group of people you are and I'm grateful for your thoughts and additions to the conversation.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wonderful interview, as always. I loved getting to know Leslie, a new friend from NAPO this year, a bit more. Thanks for the chance.

Love this quote: Surround yourself in an environment that will provide a state of high enthusiasm to create motivation. Kind of like a natural caffeine boost!

Yes - that! Create a natural caffeine boost in your environment - fun and purposeful at the same time. Love it.


July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAby Garvey

Sorry for jumping in late, but I must applaud Leslie for her great shares! She is so genuine and authentic with her philosophy and work, it jumps right off the page. I concur with all of her techniques, including FEAR! Thinking now that am driven by this, as well.

I absolutely agree with the "feel" for motivation because that is the very piece that fuels the action. Simply creating a list of goals to motivate oneself is not enough.

My technique to "ignite" motivation is to start simple. Just do one thing that will get you to the point to make you "feel" good about the accomplishment. Bingo. That sense of pride usually encourages you to continue. That's my little secret.

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Borg

Wonderful to "hear" all your voices. Feels like we're sitting around together with our iced teas and coffees having a chat. I appreciate your enthusiasm and positive feedback. And of course, it's great to meet more Leslie fans.

@Ellen- Exercising is a tough one for me. The accountability piece might be the thing I need to motivate me to action.

@Seana- Accountability seems to be the theme here. And you're right that it's particularly effective for the "long haul."

@Helena- Too bad we live 3,000 miles away from one another. Otherwise, I'd sign up to be exercise accountability partners with you.

@Leiann- I'm with you on that quote of Leslie's. It's a powerful perspective to act anyway, despite how we "feel."

@Janet- Wonderful that you "met" Leslie this week. Really thrilled that the post was helpful for where you are right now. And knowing you, you WILL get what you need to done. One thing at a time.

July 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

What a joy to read all of your comments and ideas. I am grateful for the time and care you've taken to join the conversation and be here with us.

@Grant- You honed in on all the salient points. Glad to know how much of these ideas resonated with you. Happy travels!

@Sue- Love how you read beyond Leslie's words to introduce the idea of "choice." Sometimes we forget that part, which can be liberating in itself.

@Elaine- Yes indeed. "Just begin." And yes...Leslie is the "real deal."

@Lisa- And as you've identified, nothing is that simple. There are many intersecting issues around motivation and interesting how big a part "choice" has in it.

@Susan- What a wealth of insights you've shared. Have to say just love this one..."be the best imperfect person you can be..." Priceless!

@Diane- Thank you for bringing back to the conversation the piece about "celebrating how far you have come." So important and often forgotten.

@Deb- Ah. Interesting twist about feeling overly motivated (to the exclusion of other things) at times....and tapping into that energy when you need it on the more challenging days.

July 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

And the party continues...great to have you all join the conversation. It wouldn't be the same without you.

@Rachel- Getting motivated to exercise seems to be something many of us here struggle with. Buddying up with an accountability partner sure sounds like a great idea.

@Monika- Glad you relate to the motivation techniques.

@Peggy- Yes! The idea of taking control by taking action is so powerful.

@Janice- Keep us posted how the "flipping" the "I can't" perspective around goes.

@Laurie- Future focus to motivate us forward...can be an effective strategy.

July 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Leslie- You're not late. It's just that everyone was so excited by what you said that they joined the conversation in record speed. Thank you for being here with us, for sparking such a rich dialogue, and for allowing us to know more about you. You can see from the comments that what you've shared is resonating big time with everyone.

July 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great to have you here with us. The conversation just keeps getting better and better. Love hearing all your ideas.

@Colleen- Lots of concepts to ponder. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

@Mr. Anonymous- Interesting idea about how "investment" plays a part in motivation. Thank you for adding that twist to the conversation.

@Aby- Great circling back to a salient point... the positive boost the right environment can lend to motivation.

@Nancy- No apologies needed. You're not late. You're here. Thank you for sharing your motivation secret about taking pride in your accomplishments encourages more success. Lovely.

July 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I just want to add that what you've created, Linda, what you've generously offered, Leslie, and the wonderful comments and perceptions everyone has shared is incredibly motivating to me! I spent most of today writing. Thank you :-)

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Lasky

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