Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Big Office Reorganization

The post you’ve all been waiting for: The Office Re-Org!

While most of you were having family time, buying last minute presents, and defrosting the turkey (or in my mom’s case, thinking enough days in the fridge would thaw the thing only to wake up on the 25th to a still-frozen bird), I was madly decluttering and reorganizing an office in Midtown Manhattan. Jealous much?

My dear friend of mumble years, Rob Hartmann, just took over as the Chief Creative Officer for Camp Broadway, an organization that focuses on theatre education for kids through phenomenal camps and study guides. Rob is a composer/lyricist/bookwriter who also has a tremendous gift for management, organization, and aesthetic. In addition to writing brilliant music and teaching grad school at NYU, he has helped many a company who has found themselves in need of someone to increase efficiency and morale.  He has a presence that automatically centers and calms a room. This super power makes him indispensable in a stressed environment in the traditional workplace, as well as theatrical situations, where we met (doing insane rep summer stock at Bigfork Summer Playhouse).

Camp Broadway has been active since 1998 and moved twice.  The nature of show business is somewhat transitory, and that has been reflected in the sheer turnover of employees and management. As a result, there have been no consistent protocols regarding...anything. The result?  There was no one person who really knew everything that was in the office, whether it was needed or how often it was utilized. Translation: stuff...everywhere. There were papers on every surface, a ton of file storage out in the open in wire racks or plastic stackables (my least favorite thing), and an overall feeling of insanity.

This square office (roughly 25’x25’) needed to have 8 workstations but was packed with 11 desks with hutches on top, 15 office chairs, two copiers (only one of which was used), and several printers not hooked up to anything. A conference table in the middle of the room had a huge cord coming down from the ceiling. The desks and hutches, probably purchased with the intention of giving privacy and storage, ended up making it a dark, segmented office with no flow or airiness. 

Although equipped with small lamps on each desk, numerous tracks of lighting, six huge, dome lights, and a wall of windows, this office was a dark cave. In the attempt to create a separate space, the last director had formed a cubicle with a desk and bookcases right by the windows, effectively cutting off any natural light source.

The most important issue: everyone was miserable. This is an office filled with vibrant people passionate about the arts. The oppressive office space and work environment had taken its toll. When I asked what they liked, if anything, about their personal space, one woman expressed that being in the corner “allowed her to hide” from the craziness. Not acceptable. 

In terms of feng shui, forget it. There was no flow of energy, the air itself was stagnate. The shredder was in the financial corner, a recipe for disaster, many things were broken, unused, or unneeded, and there wasn’t a plant in sight. 

I talked with each employee about their space, how they worked best (did they get easily distracted by sound or movement), and asked them to label what they needed all the time, what they accessed regularly but didn’t need to be directly at hand, and what could be put in storage or shredded. 

Here's what we were working with:

The first thing we did was clear out the refreshment area. It was a hot mess. The overflow of paper plates, cups, and napkins (the NAPKINS! Thousands of them.) had never been taken to storage, they were in the office. This area was in the Relationships/Helpful People corner of the office. We put all supplies in the lateral filing cabinet underneath the microwave, so they would disappear. An unused glass shelving unit was moved into the corner, and we put the Standing Ovation Reward Camp Broadway received from The Education Theatre Association recognizing it as a valued contributor to arts education. 

The next big move was to paint. The mustard yellow of the walls was a bit nauseating, instead of sunny, and peppered with framed study guides that weren't uniform and felt sloppy. They were also a bit precarious, not relaxing to sit under. How could we choose something that was art, in itself, and masked the somewhat less than perfect walls in this older building? Rob and Amy chose a beautiful shade of blue that is not only centering and calming, but exactly matches one of the study guides they use the most often. It creates a great background for the dark gray of the desks and Camp Broadway's signature accent color, a deep red. 

[Note to you all: if your office is networked with an insanely antiquated, cord-based system, DO NOT move anything without calling in IT to help you so you don't, um, unwittingly create a LOT of extra work for everybody.]

Then we went through every thing in the office. And I do mean 'thing'...some of these objects were a bit of a mystery. Why were there all these wicker baskets? What ARE all these unlabeled cds? Do we really have a box on tiny, usb mice? Why? WHY?

And the PAPER! The lovely people working in this office are so organized and together that they were able to do their jobs in spite of the insanity they were surrounded by. It wasn't a result of being slobs. Every surface was covered with paper because the file cabinets were filled with reams and reams of things that either shouldn't have been kept in the first place, or no longer served any purpose. Eventually, every piece of paper was touched by at least three people: whoever picked it up first, the person who was responsible for it and decided if it needed to be kept or shredded, and the person who put it where it ended up. We expected there would a ton of paper destined for storage, but ended up with 2 file boxes of tax info and official papers that didn't need to be in-house. We called a shredder service to pick up the 4 boxes of sensitive info we needed to go away.

Please don't get me started on the office supplies. If another legal pad or highlighter is bought for this office anytime soon, we'll be discussing a fine. Why were there so many? Because no one could find anything. 

Rob rightly decided there needed to be some plants in the office for oxygen and color. He also came up with the brilliant idea that a climbing vine could mask the awful, yet necessary, cord hanging from the ceiling in the center of the room. 

The result? A truly open and welcoming office that is both functional and welcoming. The employees feel emancipated and supported and are able to perform unfettered by clutter and mess. 

How does this inspire you? What are you holding on to that it's time to get rid of? 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Harvest Time

I do not deny the irony of writing my last post about working through my procrastination with the help of my amazing life coach, Jenny Fenig, and then not writing for almost three months. I don't. In fact, I embrace it! It turns out, the lack of procrastination in all the other areas of my life have created a very busy schedule.

One massive closet renovation (pix and post forthcoming), some very satisfied new nutritional clients who are feeling less depression and more balance, and one less toxic friend later, I'm back to the blog.

The Autumnal Equinox just occurred on September 22nd. For those of you who are planetarily challenged, that means that the Sun is vertically above a point on the Equator and the length of day and night are roughly equal (with a few minutes to spare on one side or the other). Specifically, it is when summer turns to Fall. For the pagan-challenged, it represents the harvest. Reaping the fruits of the summer and giving thanks for them.

What is the bounty of the summer for you?

What did you learn about yourself?

How are you applying it?

I realized that I'm still holding myself back with clutter. With a newly functional closet I am wearing a lot more of my clothes and am no longer taunted by the stuff I felt I "should" be wearing. By setting strong boundaries between me and a "friend" I realized was very damaging to my emotional well-being, I feel happy and confident.

I also realized I'm not great at remembering [that] I do more than one thing. [I get fixated on a single agenda item and feel I need to complete it to be successful.] Not writing makes me crazy. You know I have always got something to say. Come on, now.
Now it's your turn. What is your harvest?
(photo by Jack Delano)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What's Keeping You from Reaching Out for Help?

It took me 30-odd years to acknowledge I actually needed people to get through life. For some reason I refused help in anything from day one, I thought needing others was a sign of weakness. In high school, my volleyball coach called me his Independent Wonder. I took much pride in not needing anyone for anything. That got me super far...away from functional relationships of any kind with myself and others.

Now, people often comment on how together I am: grounded, pro-active, forward thinking. I'm a healthcare provider, it's my job to be together for my clients. What they don't know is that I have a team of people helping me do just that. I don't exaggerate when I say a team. When I find someone who I resonate with, who helps me move forward in life and navigate my BS (that's the technical term), I lock them in. They're in my speed-dial. This includes the remarkable friends I have and the professionals I've been lead to. 

When I work with someone who has helped me change my life, I refuse to keep them to myself. One of the people I've been fortunate enough to cross paths with is my life coach, 
Jenny Fenig. Jenny has worked long and hard to design the life she's always wanted, now she's helping other women do the same. 

What's the difference between a life coach and a therapist? A therapist helps you heal emotional trauma and approach life in a healthy way, a life coach helps in moving your life forward through acknowledging blocks and helping outline specific action steps. I never could have worked effectively with Jenny without years of work with my amazing therapist, Lorraine, but that's another blog entry.

I've gotten more accomplished in my personal and professional life than ever before with Jenny's help. In one especially pivotal session, Jenny helped me get to the root of my procrastination issues. I expressed that I was great at working for someone else, I would go above and beyond in any job I'd been hired to do. She helped me nail down that my greatest fear was that I would not succeed even if I put in all the effort I needed to. 

Jenny pointed out that I was my own boss. "What kind of boss do you want to be?" she asked. Whoa. "What type of performance do you expect from your employees?" I had never thought of it that way. Then she asked, "What kind of employee do you want to be?" There it was. Both sides of the coin. It somehow struck a lot closer to home than knowing I need to be accountable to myself. 

I never know what I'm going to talk about with Jenny in our phone sessions and they always lead to empowerment and clarity. She doesn't talk in touchy-feely platitudes or general, New Age sound-bytes. Jenny works specifically with women, if you are male and need a coach, I know she can point you to the right person. Start reading her blog and sign up today for a complimentary 30 minute "Get Focused" phone session. 

We can't do everything on our own. What's holding you back from being your all? Who can you find who can help you overcome those obstacles? 

How can I help you find the right person? 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Challenges of Meditation

What is it about reflection that sends us running for the hills?

At my most neurotic and ungrounded moments, I often avoid the very things I need: exercise, eating well, but most of all meditation of any kind. It's not just that it is challenging, I'm afraid of what I'll realize or come to terms with. What if I realize I'm on the wrong path and I've been expending energy on something fruitless? What if I have to change careers? What if I have to engage in confrontation? A friend confessed they'd been consciously avoiding their Morning Pages because they were enjoying wallowing in their current state and simply had no interest in the ass-kicking that would ensue when they sat down to write.

Why is it when we most need to listen to the still small voice (or loud, haranguing shriek) inside us, we bolt?

A friend of mine is about to go on a Vipassana retreat. Vipassana (which roughly translates to "seeing deeply") is a type of Buddhist meditation based on the teachings of S. N. Goenka. The goal is non-attached observation of the present moment. The practice is taught at several meditation centers around the world, free of charge. To fully immerse in the practice, students are required to observe no contact with the outside world or other students, and anything that might provide distraction is not allowed (all electronics, reading and writing materials). There is a half hour of Q&A daily but other than that, only the instructors speak. The course is 10 days long.


Just the
idea of this makes me hyperventilate. Me and my thoughts alone in my head for 10 seconds is a challenge some days; 10 days without distractions sounds terrifying! Or intriguing. Both?

Although I may not be ready to embark on a 10 day journey, it has inspired me to get back to regularly seeking stillness. Meditation does not have to be an hour of sitting in the lotus position with yoga pants on. Take 5 minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. When your mind wanders, bring it back. If you open your eyes and 5 minutes hasn't passed, close your eyes again. You may be surprised by your ability to drop in and how it gives you perspective.

Perfection is not to be sought nor will it be attained. People who have meditated intensely for years still have issues with their mind wandering in practice.
In her audio book Getting Unstuck, Pema Chodron, who has been meditating for 30 years, talks about how difficult it is to stay present.
"That's why I have this lousy meditation that doesn't bother me anymore because whatever arises is afresh and I know that's absolutely true. I just have this hopelessly unworkable, non-meditative mind and I've devoted my whole life to it and talked to millions of people about it."
And read the list of things that have distracted this veteran in the post Ways I Have Been A Bad Meditator. The goal is not to do it right, the goal is to do it.

So, if you're at work, go stand in the broom closet or grab a stall in the bathroom for a few minutes. If you're at home turn off the phone and close your eyes. Breathe.

Any other suggestions on how to find stillness and presence in your day?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Product Review: J.R. Watkins All Purpose Cleaner, Lemon Scent

In my continued quest to have the perfect arsenal of organic cleaning supplies, I picked up this spray a few weeks ago. Since I'm a marketer's dream and will believe anything I'm told by a label, I liked the fact that this was an All Purpose Spray. I'm slowly realizing I could really use one product in many ways but I bought several, so here we go.

The first thing that attracted me to this product was, I'll be honest, the packaging. I'm a little bit of a steam punk girl and the olde tyme font and label seduced me.
This is what we're going for, right? Back to basics? Natural products with modern functionality?

The weight of the bottle was reasonable (24oz.); I could hold it with one hand and spray easily. Mind you, I do have large hands, it might be tough for someone petite. The piece that attaches the spray handle to the bottle was childproof-esque, ensuring the irritating drip from a loose connection wouldn't occur. The lemon scent was divine. Finally, it was $5.99. Done!

When I started using it, the first thing I noticed was the smell. It was different than expected. In the bottle, it was beautifully lemony and clean smelling. When I sprayed it, it was sour and not pleasant. It still smelled like lemon, but not in a good way.

I used it on my stovetop and it didn't cut through grease the way I would have liked. I had to scrub fairly hard and letting it sit for a while didn't seem to make a difference. On surfaces like my window sills, which are high-gloss black paint over metal it was fairly effective. No paint came off on the sponge and there was no streaking. Again, the smell...not so much. I am glad that the smell didn't linger, it disippated rapidly.

All in all, I wouldn't buy this again. I'm continuing to stand by my new love affair with Mrs. Meyers. Anyone else gotten on that bandwagon? Tell all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What's Keeping You From Exercising?

I have a client who is resisting going back to the gym because she has an emotional release when she works out. She knows for the first 2 weeks, when things start to get intense…she’ll cry.

I ran for years as an alternative to therapy. When my body could no longer take the intensity of my repression and my knee was a mess, I had to turn to other forms of exercise. The problem was, I was in such insane cardiovascular shape, I couldn't seem to get my heart rate up doing anything, and I couldn't do any repetitive motion since I had obliterated the cartilage behind my kneecap. The same time I started seeing a therapist, I got drawn to Bikram yoga.

If you haven't heard of Bikram, it's hot yoga, yoga in a room that's 105 degrees. Yep. Yoga is a detox already, add the heat and oy. If you've ever done any kind of detox (dairy, caffeine, smoking, juice fast) you know that there is, in addition to the remarkable things your body will physically expel through the skin and digestive system, an emotional release.

When I started taking Bikram, I cried every class. And by cry, I mean lost it. The kind of crying where you’re not even sobbing, it’s just a faucet of tears and snot. Sometimes I would have memories of events but often it seemed nonsensical, unconnected to anything. Luckily, in Bikram, everyone’s so sweaty and focused, it wasn’t even noticed. I had never been present in the way I was forced to be in these classes. This went on for a good 18 months of taking class. A friend of my sister’s talked about doing camel pose and crying her head off as her heart chakra opened. I couldn’t even do this pose fully for ages because I got so nauseated I thought I was going to toss it.

We store suppressed emotion in our bodies. Most of the things we stifle are dark or negative (anger, anxiety, sadness, grief), we aren't conditioned to do that with positive feelings. Not many of us hear, "Stop laughing!" when we’re growing up. If we don’t deal with our anger, sadness, and frustration, it gets stored on a cellular level. We can develop muscle tension, indigestion, and suppress the immune system (which can contribute to a range of illnesses from the common cold to cancer).

I have moved away from Bikram and now take vinyasa yoga but I still have emotional releases, although much less frequent. What I’ve learned to do, through yoga and a damn good therapist, is to be present with my emotions as they happen. Imagine! It means I have a lot less to work through when I exercise.

I am also able to run again but now approach it as a mind-body exercise, not an avoidance technique. I’m always aware when I’m exercising mindlessly because I almost always injure myself. I’ll be too tired to go running and tweak my Achilles or overextend my hamstring in yoga. There are still some poses which get me more than others (Hi, Camel. What? I have no intimacy issues!) but I now recognize that as growth and not a reason for a detour.

So get out there, work out those issues that are keeping you constantly under the weather. You’re not alone!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Non-Toxic Goodness: Mrs. Meyer's All-Purpose Cleaner

Many years ago I started on the path to health. And by that I mean: I wanted my ass to be smaller and I figured learning about food was the fastest way to do it (but that’s another post). Gradually, I’ve become remarkably healthy in my eating habits. I don’t eat dairy, eat little processed sugar, and am almost entirely vegetarian all because I feel so much better eating this way.

Amazingly, it never occurred to me to be careful about what was going into my body from external forces. Twice this year I’ve gotten horribly sick from chemical inhalation. Once I was staining bookcases (yes, I’m that person…) in my small NY apartment without a mask on, the other time I was cleaning with furniture polish and an inordinate amount of dust. Both times I’ve had intense flu-like symptoms (fever, nausea, aches, raging sore throat) rapidly followed by sinus and bronchial infections.

I suppose I should have been tipped off to this sensitivity when I stopped being able to wear most perfumes. After not wearing scent for 6 months in massage school (it wasn’t allowed) I discovered that all my perfumes seemed way too strong and would turn skunky on me quickly. Now I can wear aromatherapy oils or Jo Malone (which I adore, btw).

On Friday I put all my traditional cleaners in a box in the stairwell (they were gone in 20 minutes) and went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to stock up on some natural alternatives. I went there instead of a local or chain health food store because I knew they carried a particular brand that had been recommended to me by a friend.

After reading every label and smelling everything I was interested in at least four times, I purchased 4 items which seemed to cover all my needs. Here’s the first one:

Mrs. Meyer’s All Purpose Cleaner, Geranium Scent

I was a little concerned that the scent might be too strong but finally bit the bullet based on my friend’s recc and the fact the geranium is a therapeutic scent. In terms of aromatherapy, geranium oil can help with depression, nervous tension, and menstrual problems, to list a few.

Per the directions I diluted ½ cup in 2 gallons of warm water. My lungs didn’t hurt when I breathed it in, my eyes didn’t run at all when I filled the bucket with water. Hmmm.

Then I went to work on my kitchen floor. I was blown away. First of all, the smell is lovely. It has an undertone of rose for sweetness (geranium can be really sharp) and clove to add some depth. It’s not so floral that it smells like perfume, however, it smells invigorating and clean. Not at all girly.

Second, it cut through grime and grease faster than any floor cleaner I’ve ever used including straight ammonia. What?! There was no streaking or smearing, no rinsing required, it dried quickly (although I did put a fan on it), and there was no sticky residue.

It was $7.99 plus tax for a 32 ounce bottle. It can be used on laminate countertops, granite countertops, appliances, finished wood floors, linoleum, tile, bathrooms, etc. Dilute and put it in a spray bottle and you’ve got counter spray.

Love in my heart for this product. It’s bio-degradable, cruelty-free, and as natural as possible.

Common sense caution: Although I absolutely will not recommend anything I haven’t used myself and loved, I am not a scientist or doctor and can’t be held accountable if you hate the product, are allergic to something in it, or use it differently than it’s intended. Namaste!