If you’ve joined us for Week 1’s assignment — working on your pantry and refrigerator and tupperware – you may have already found yourself in this position:   You were raring to go, got an enthusiastic start, you began emptying things out, and then…  

  1. You looked around and got overwhelmed by the volume of stuff you had to deal with now, and suddenly realized what you thought would take an hour, may take 4,
  2. You started getting angry or upset with yourself for things you’ve found that was expired, stale, turned, or just plain wasted,
  3. You began replaying or creating imaginary arguments in your head with other household members about the process, or about what you found, or about why it was so bad in the first place, and it was getting you aggravated,
  4. You got distracted by other things along the way, and started to say, “let me just take care of this while I’m in here”… or,
  5. You got so overwhelmed and self-critical about the fact that you thought that you could really make a change, that you just scooped everything up and put it back where you found it (-ish) and said, “Nope!  I guess organizing just isn’t for me!”

Starting can be easy, but then we find ourselves in the middle of something, and we just plain don’t get it done.  We get surrounded by 90% done projects, or projects we don’t even start because we’re afraid of the work it will take.  I get it; really, I do.

How you can you train yourself to get past this? Well, it’s about understanding FOCUS and FINISHED.

focus and finish


First, ironically, I’m going to start with “finished”.  I often will work with people on a task and we’ll discuss the end goal:  “What does FINISHED look like?”   Why? For 2 reasons:

  1. I want them to have an end goal in mind, so that they can compare their progress to where they are at, and know what a completed project should look and feel like
  2. I want them to make sure they have a handle on what “good enough” is, and that they’re not imagining an unachievable end.   Not only will that frustrate them (“I’m never done!”) but it is also an impossible goal, which can frustrate them from trying other projects that ARE achievable.


 So, first, when you start a project, go through an exercise for yourself of what FINISHED is: “When I’m done, the refrigerator will only have unexpired food, that we need and will use, and I and everyone else in the home can find what they need when they need it. The shelves will be clean from drips and messes. And the expired food will be properly discarded. ” 

Okay, now that we have our end goal, how do we make sure we don’t get distracted from that path, after our strong start was interrupted by our wavering? 

  • Minimize distractions that you CAN control.  This means strategies like paying attention to how you choose the time to start your project, and how much time you can reasonably anticipate to have in a particular work session.  It also means things like getting the kids self-occupied, turning off the phone or the email notifications on your computer.
  • Set yourself specific rules like, “I’m going to work on this straight for 30 minutes, and this is what’s important now.  I’ll only allow an interruption if it is something truly important, like one of the kids got hurt, or something like that. This is an investment in my sanity, and I’m valuing it above other things today.
  • Do your tasks to music. Put on a play list of a few of your favorite, energizing songs.  Not only will it help keep your energy up, it will help you keep track of time (“I’ve been working hard for 3 songs so far!”) and it helps occupy one part of your brain, while letting your decision-making part be more intensely focused. (Side note: Do not spend more than 2 minutes creating said play-list, okay?)  
  • Identify, but do not jump, to other tasks that grab your attention along the way.  When you’re cleaning out the top cabinets, you’re likely to get a different view of the rest of your kitchen. This is not the time to stop what you’re doing and then head over to clean the top of the fridge.  But it will bother you now, won’t it?  Create a list (use your phone, or pen and paper) and start capturing the “when I have time” list of those distractions.  Get them out of your head, but don’t lose them forever.  
  • Create a “goes in another room” space.  When you find things that don’t belong where you are, don’t just put them back down in the space you’re working and don’t just jump up and put them where they go. Designate a space (get a laundry basket for easy toting around the house) for those items, so you can stay focused on the task at hand. 


These strategies of FOCUS combined with your vision of what FINISHED look like, will help you from wavering after the ambitious start!