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  • Emily Tse

Photo Series Part 2: How to Plan Like a Boss and Treat Yourself Like a Plant

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

There is a magical stretch of time between deciding to tackle a big project and actually starting the project. It's the satisfying feeling of "I committed to doing a big thing! That took a lot of thought and energy and I should give myself a few days to bask in the good feelings of committing to doing the thing!" Days turn into weeks, and before I know it, I've bought a one way ticket to procrastination station and the excitement of starting is crusty tumbleweed in the distance. It's happened to me more often than I'd like to admit, and if you're still reading, I imagine it's happened to you too. Is laziness to blame? A lack of willpower? I used to think so, until I realized that more often than not, the culprit seems to be Willpower's much less sexy cousin, Planning. The less I plan, the less likely it is that my big idea will ever get off the ground. I wouldn’t ask a contractor to build me a new home with blueprints I drew half-assed on a cocktail napkin, therefore I shouldn't dive headfirst into a huge project without taking pause to decide how I want to do it first. If you’ve grown weary of watching your project inspiration fizzle away faster than the time we all thought “2021 would be our year”, then you might just need a to make a game plan too.

Planning an organizing project might feel strange if you haven't done it before. If you're staring into the abyss of a big project, try the tips below to help you get started with your own plan!

Tip #1 - Define the boundaries, and be REALLY SPECIFIC!

If you cast your net too wide and try to do everything at once, you will run out of steam long before you see results. Instead of deciding to downsize your house, break it down into smaller chunks and start with examining one category of belongings at a time such as sorting through your book collection. For my photo project, I have my family’s hard copy photo collection as well as thousands of digital photos from my adult life to make sense of. I decided that digital photos could wait, and then broke down the sorting into one single year at a time. My project went from "organize all photos" to "sort the hard copy photos from 1991". Way more manageable.

Tip #2 - Identify who else is invited to the party

Unless you're just sorting your own personal items, other people might need to have a say in what stays and what goes. For my photo collection, this bit was really important. While my dad has already scanned the photos he is most attached to, my two sisters wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with me tossing photos without their approval. After some conversation, we decided that they would trust my overall sorting skills, but that every photo I planned to toss would be kept in order and sent to them to review before getting thrown away. This way I could still move along with the project at a good pace and they didn't have to worry about any of their favourites getting tossed. If your project requires input from multiple people, consider scheduling a day to work all together, or encourage a tiered approach where you sort the items yourself, then pass them on for the next person to sort for themselves. A word of caution with the tiered approach, don’t feel obligated to take back the items they no longer want. Your home is not a storage unit. While it can be uncomfortable for everyone to let go of items, that responsibility needs to be shared.

Tip #3 - Like a fancy chef, prepare your supplies and workspace

This includes the stuff itself (for me, the photo albums), the area where you will work, and the items that can help with the sorting. I wanted to be near my scanner so I set up a corner of my desk to be my photo sorting station for the duration of the project. To help me keep track of the years and the categories, I used small bins, and sticky notes. Your workspace can be in the space where the items already are, or any empty surface like a kitchen table. Don't hesitate to box things up and move them to a more comfortable space for sorting if that works better for you. Gathering your supplies first and setting up a comfortable workspace will prevent you from disrupting yourself later.

Tip #4 - Make a date with your project

Schedule in some dedicated time to work on your project. If you currently have a flexible schedule, a general time of day will do. If you are working around a job schedule, kids activities, etc., then actually writing in times on your calendar will help you establish your project as a priority. Be realistic about the length of time you plan to spend. If you know you run out of steam after an hour of sorting, don’t schedule an 8 hour organizing marathon that will leave you feeling disappointed in your efforts.

Tip #5 - Treat yourself

If you’re dreading the actual work, try to plan fun activities shortly after. One hour of sorting on Sunday morning followed by brunch with friends might be more motivating than scheduling your grocery shopping immediately after. For the part of my sorting that doesn't require a ton of focus, I plan to sort while watching TV, Youtube, or listening to some music. Try finding a fun podcast or playlist that you only allow yourself to listen to while you’re doing your project.

Tip #6 - Remember that you are basically a houseplant

Keep a water bottle handy and don’t forget snacks! I tend to get really into my own projects, forget to drink water or stretch my legs, then emerge hours later like some shriveled raisin gremlin. Your body and brain will thank you for drinking your water and eating your snacks if you’re planning to work on anything for more than an hour.

Now it's GO TIME!

Now you've got the tools you need to push past the fizzle and see your efforts pay off! Next week I’ll walk through the specific steps to organize your photos and how to stay motivated (I've been trapped in my 1991 pile for the last eight days so I'm writing this next one as much for me as I am for you). In the meantime let me know what you will include in your game-plan, or most importantly, if you've encountered any really inspiring snacks. If you like what you're reading, please share, like, or comment to help me grow!

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