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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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Lists, Habits, & Next

As I jotted down some notes for today’s post, I realized that literally my next step was just that. Let me explain. The story begins with my trusty electronic “to do” list. I regularly use the 2Do app to help me plan, organize, and manage my action items from tiny “dos” like “Do laundry” or “Buy groceries,” to larger projects such as “Organize 2014 ICD Board Orientation,” or “Plan summer vacation.”

The beauty of 2Do is that I can schedule my action items on certain dates and add customized features like repeating tasks at specific intervals, grouping by type or setting a priority. Once a task is completed, I tap the box to check off the item, a tiny image of a pencil appears, and crosses a line through the words, as in “done!” It’s so satisfying.

This is all background to get to my point. Are you still with me?

One of the things I struggle with is getting enough exercise. I keep telling myself that if I just walked more, a little each day, it would be beneficial for both my mind and body. There’s research to support the health benefit of regular interaction with nature, even if it’s for just five minutes a day. I tried coming up with ideas and incentives to get me up and out, but nothing has worked so far.

The other day I had an “ah-ha.” As I was organizing and reviewing my “to dos,” I knew that in addition to what was already on the list, I also wanted to take a walk. I needed to feel that spring air. So I wouldn’t conveniently forget, I added, “take a walk” to my list. Guess what happened? I took a walk. 

Was my solution that simple? Apparently, it was. Big changes happen with little steps. The idea of “more exercise” was too daunting for me. However, adding a simple, daily repeat on my “to do” list, wasn’t. This made it doable and measureable.

This one small change will encourage other positive changes. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes about keystone habits that if altered can have a positive far-reaching influence on other behaviors. I think in taking a daily walk I’ve identified one of my keystone habits.

What’s next for you? What small step can you take to move you towards your larger goal? What will motivate you to stay committed? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come join the conversation.

Guess what’s next on my list for today?

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Reader Comments (14)

ANY step I want to take goes on my "to do" list, because I am kind of obsessive about it. I never leave items on the list unaddressed - even if they get moved to another day because I didn't complete them. I love the idea of "next" because it alleviates the pressure of knowing the "final" or the "ultimate"... When big decisions loom (what college should I go to? what job should I take? where should I live?) the easiest way to tackle them is simply to take the next step: pick up the phone, visit a school, talk to someone. Taking the next step always leads somewhere!!

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

Seana- You bring front and center such an important concept behind the idea of "next." It takes fear or getting stuck away from those things that can paralyze us. Nothing quite like small, next steps to "lead" us to our goals. Wonderful, as always to "hear" your voice.

March 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I, too, use a to-do list. I write down everything I want to accomplish today. I love crossing things of my list and feeling that sense of accomplishment! Usually, I make my list the night before so that I don't have to think about (worry about) it until the morning. I also make a master list of things I want to get to this week so that if a window of time/opportunity opens up I will have a memory jog.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

Let me guess . . . you took another walk after posting this article:-))) Yay for you! On your way to creating a habit.

Joking aside, I am so happy for you. I've struggled with the same thing myself and I've noticed that, when I write it down, it's a lot easier to get it done.

Why is it that we can go just about everything except for that one thing that's for us and us alone? Yikes. I don't like being a cliche:-)

I agree with you . . . there is something about crossing an item off the list that feels really good. It's like having an invisible, big, beautiful fairy giving us a warm squeeze and whispering . . . "Good job! You did it!"

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYota Schneider

Congrats to you Linda for finding the missing link between wanting to exercise more and taking (literally) the next step in making it happen. I love what you wrote about the positive benefits of being outdoors and exercising. This winter, for the first time in my life, I ran outside about once a much as the weather would permit. And while I am craving spring, I don't have that "I've been cooped up for months on end" feeling that I normally have this time of year. It's a great feeling...and it all happened one step (and one run) at a time.

Thanks for sharing! Hope you enjoyed your walk. ;)


March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAby Garvey

I've never been an extensive to-do lists maker, I just write down up to five keywords for tasks I need to do, and then delete them (use computer or a dry board) when it's done. Recently as part of the necessity of acquiring knowledge about various topics on organization, time management and learning styles, I've been reading David Allen's GTD and realize as you Linda, that I need to put on my list tasks as "time for reading", "walk", etc; and commit to that reserving a time frame so I feel the task as a duty instead just a good resolution.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNacho Eguiarte

I love my to do list but I am old fashioned and write it on paper. I have those cute little note pads that say To Do Now and To Do Later you can get for $1. I love them! I think I might take a lesson from Linda and try her App though! It would be nice to have my list with me on the go.

As far as exercising I am bad about scheduling it in for myself so yes it must go on the To Do list to get done. Also if I can keep doing it at the same time for a few weeks then I actually begin to look forward to it!

Luckily, living in Colorado we get plenty of exercise hiking and skiing in the winter. So Spring just brings new forms of exercise!

Great post! Thanks Linda!

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAutumn Leopold

This picture reminds me of places I would walk with my family as a child. Great picture.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJill Robson

Wow oh wow! What positive energy coming from all of you wonderful people. Thank you for being here.

@Diana- Nothing like working the lists, is there? Sounds like you've got a great system going.

@Yota- You guessed it! :) In a book I was reading last night, "Leaders Eat Last," Simon Sinek talked about the good feelings we experience when we cross something off our list. And do you know why? We experience a dopamine surge (the feel good chemical that's released when we progress or accomplish something.)

@Aby- Thanks so much for your encouragement. I admire your commitment to running and other physical activities. Guess we're both taking things one step/run at a time. :)

March 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great having you here! I love "hearing" your voices.

@Nacho- There are so many ways to organize ourselves and get things done. I love the idea of your "5 things" on a dry erase board. It sounds like you're thinking about expanding it to include some regular/repeat activities. I'm sure you'll figure out what's most effective for you. Would love to know what you discover.

@Autumn- While I primarily use my electronic "do" list, I also am a huge fan of sticky notes and index cards. All items are captured electronically, but sometimes I pull out a few priorities onto the sticky notes to help focus me. It's a flexible system. As far as exercise goes…did you read above in my comment to Yota about dopamine? We can begin to crave endorphins (hormones that mask physical pain with pleasure) that get released when we exercise. So the more we engage, the more we want to engage.

@Jill- Glad you like the photo. I took it down the block from where I live (in the Hudson Valley.) The path leads through the woods to the Croton River. Where did you grow up?

March 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Reading your post this morning made me smile. I use Toodledo as my daily reminder app and exercise is and has been on my daily reminder list for years. It doesn't always happen at the same time or in the same way, but I know it would happen a lot less often if it weren't on that list. Walking has become my favorite form of exercise - so much easier on the joints than running and simpler than my old standby, cycling. Walking also allows me to zone out a little (something that was never safe to do cycling) and do some deep thinking or connect with my walking buddies - a close friend and my husband - both of whom will be walking half marathons with me this year. I wish for you similar joy and health benefits that I've reaped from walking. Who knows, maybe we can walk a half or full marathon together some day?!?

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

Andrea- Guess you got the "exercise" memo sooner than I did. No wonder you're in such great shape! I appreciate your perspective about recognizing that within the commitment you allow for flexibility. That's especially helpful advice as I'm at the beginning of changing a habit. Walking with others (friends, loved ones) is a bonus. Breathing, walking and talking (or not) side by side, strengthens those connections. As for walking a marathon with you some day? Love your positive seed planting!

March 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I've made a lot of healthy changes in my life over the last few years, but I still struggle to eat enough fruit and vegetables. I've just downloaded an app called the Get Enough Helper which makes it fun and easy for me to track what I eat, and I hope that I'll be so motivated to fill in that pie chart every day, that I'll increase my intake of the right foods.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Janet- Who knew that there was an app for eating more fruits and veggies. Amazing! Based on your description, it sounds like the app does an excellent job of "rewarding" the behavior, which in turn, secures the new habit, with the visual of a full "pie." Congratulations on taking another step towards your many "healthy changes." Go Janet!

April 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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