Thursday, February 21, 2013

Licorice Grandpa

In high school I wrote this story about my beloved Grandpa Chuck.  I just read it again yesterday for the first time in 15 years to my son.  I am very thankful to remember these details I had forgotten and to share the essence of such a wonderful man with my boy.   I also realized how much of an impact he has made on me that still holds in my character today.  In memory of grandpa, here is the story.  Slightly edited. :)

Licorice Grandpa

My grandpa was simply the best.  There is no way I can describe what an incredible person he was.  He seemed to be the only grandpa alive who was still "a kid" inside.  It is because of these reasons that my grandpa Chuck has made an impact on how I live my life today.

One of the best memories I have of my grandpa is going to his house every holiday.  My family would enter my grandparent's huge immaculate house and be overtaken with the strong thick smell of my grandpa's pipe.  As soon as we entered, my little sister and I would run directly to my grandpa and fight for his attention.  He was always sitting on the couch reading his newspaper.  He would smile as soon as he saw us running towards him.  It would be at that moment that our attention would be diverted over to the huge licorice jar that laid just in front of my grandpa on the coffee table. 

Immediately we'd beg for licorice in whiny voices, hoping to have been felt sorry for.  My grandma would intervene and respond, "Wait until after dinner."  A few moments later my grandpa would reach in and grab some licorice and then lie back and continue reading the paper. 

We would stare in jealousy and wish we were older so that we could eat licorice before dinner too.  Just as we had lost hope, my grandpa would sneak a few pieces to us behind the paper while no one was watching and smile at us. 

We couldn't believe there was a grown-up on Earth that was so cool!  We were almost too astonished to eat the licorice.  He made a child feel as if they were understood and not so meaningless.  He made us feel recognized and important.  Most adults made us feel so young as if it was a bad thing.  I still hold this event close to my heart today and I feel that I am nicer to children because of it.  He helped me to realize that the slightest positive action can really change a child's life for the better.

Another memory I have of my grandpa is waking up early one morning to voices in my living room.  I thought I must have been dreaming because no one in their right minds would be up this early on a weekend.  I must have been 6am.  I ripped myself out of my warm, cozy bed and crawled into the freezing cold living room.  After struggling to open my eyes, I could finally see my grandparents there with my mom.  All of the sudden, it was bright and warm.  I ran to my grandparents and hugged them.  I couldn't believe they were at my house.  We would usually go to their house.  My mom said they were going garage-saling and wouldn't be back for a few hours.  "Promise to get me something?" I begged.  After agreeing, they left.  My grandpa arranged the newspapers on our coffee table, said goodbye, and tickled my toes.  Then they walked out the front door. 

A few hours later my grandpa had a stroke.  He was at a garage sale when it happened.  He was taken to the hospital and he died soon thereafter.  He was just fifty-nine years young. 

My entire family was devastated.  No one could believe that a person so young a heart was gone.  Although I mourned his death so much, I did have one big reason to thank God that day.  I was given one last chance to see my grandpa. 

I was the last of five grandchildren to see him.  Now he has over 15 more that he never got to know and they never can have the chance to meet him.  Had I not woken up that morning, I would have no final memory of my grandpa, the world's greatest man in my eyes.  He was the person that taught me how much a relationship can mean to someone and how much it can make someone happy if you just acknowledge them.  There are so many things he taught me, I just wish he knew how much. 

by Danielle Crume © 2013 

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Fresh Start: Organize Your Work Space

Having your work space set up optimally is foundational to being productive on greater levels. When certain conditions are present, you become more attracted to the space and drawn there naturally. It also allows greater accomplishment as you are able to focus on your magic with all your tools at hand.
Here are some step-by-step tips I've found that help me be my best:

Step 1. Totally Reorganize/Pre-Organize.
Clear out your old stuff to create space. To get started, freshen up your area. Schedule an evening or weekend to box old files or shred them. Simplify and let go of what you don’t need and haven’t looked at for years. Only keep current files in one central box or cabinet that is easily accessible and near your workspace. Think bigger than you ever have before. Create a tornado effect followed by the world’s best clean up/restructuring crew.
“Next to the dog, the wastebasket is your best friend.” ~B.C. Forbes
Step 2. Set up your master work space.
Put everything that you need to use daily within arms reach. Make it so that you don’t need to get up too often or interrupt your work flow. Things that you use weekly or less often can be a little farther out. Leave them out of eye range to create a feeling of spaciousness and reduce eye clutter.

Organize your work flow system. Move in to an organized system that allows you to be fully productive and aware of where everything is. Ditch the system that only you can figure out.

Step 3. Have these four boxes or slots be on your desk or within reach:
Go out and buy these if you don't already have them.  You can keep them hidden in a fancy cabinet if you don't want to look at them all day long:
  • Top: Inbox. Everything that comes in goes directly in here. Empty it out at least once a day. From your inbox, things can transfer to one of the other files. Do not leave anything in your inbox. (It can be done!) Once you’ve touched it, don’t put it back. At least move it to one of the boxes mentioned below. The same should be done for all types of messages that come in including voice mails.

  • Second: Processing. This is just like what you are using your inbox for right now. Have one processing file on your desk for things you will work on this week. Anything that isn't on the schedule for this week should be moved down to one of the other boxes.
Only things you need today should be on your desk. Keep your desk free from clutter and excess. A clear mind allows more focus. Review your processing file and reschedule associated activities during your Organization Session at the end of each week.
  • Third: Org Sesh. Put items in here that you do not need to look at during this week. Sit down once a week during your Organization Session and go through this box to keep in touch with all that's going on. Take time out once a week to schedule these activities – rather than taking time out each day to reorganize. It is much more efficient and frees you up to trust things will be handled and will all fit in.

  • Bottom: Follow Up. These are items that are not urgent but that should be followed up on next month. On the first Organization Session of each month, go through this box.

Additional Spaces to Set Up to Facilitate Your Flow:
Reading Nooks. Keep a SMALL collection of things you want to read in areas around your living spaces that prompt you to pause and read. Create reading nooks that are physical reminders each day to sit and read. Make each a fun place to visit. Areas to place selected reading material include: the a corner desk in your office, the bathroom, your kitchen table, by the couch, near your bed, etc. If the reading material keeps growing and you never read them, move some to a library or forward to friends (circulate). If you have too many, you will never start reading. Prioritize!

A "To Be Filed" File. In your file cabinet, create a first file that is “To File”. Once a quarter or so file its contents and empty it out. Don’t let things gather here too long. An organized file cabinet is most beneficial. This will strengthen the core of your foundation. Sorting your physical work helps clear these things from your subconscious also, clearing your mind. This can provide incredible amounts of healing and closure. Get blank folders, make new files, organize them by groups and colors, and get very involved. This is very representative of where you are at with your work. A dependable and creative system will support the success of your work.
Cornerstone. In your home, create a place to retreat to that is nourishing. Ideally you should have a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing center in your home. These should be spaces that are inviting to visit and prompt your attention to yourself, solace, nourishment, and connection.
For more wonderful inspiration on design, I recommend any of the books on Vastu Living written by Kathleen Cox. Her talent is to create interior environments that appeal to us visually and viscerally—they appeal to the mind, body, and soul through applying ancient wisdom.


by Danielle Crume © 2013

Originally posted 5/11/09.  Refreshed 2/13.

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A Great Set of Tools

To be serious about anything, you’ve got to get the best set of tools you can get your hands on.
Tools are not just for handymen. Superheroes are even more super because they have a perfect gadget for the job.

Superman had an indestructible cape that offered him use of a pocket, carried a disguise, and always wore his mighty S shield.

Wonder woman had special bracelets, a belt that contained a miracle metal which enabled her to deflect bullets with her wrists, and a golden lasso that wrangled her opposition. 

Now, you may or not may be a superhero.  Either way, tools empower everyone.  What’s important is that you have the tools that are right for you. It can be very reenergizing to set your self up nicely for your next work session. Taking care of all the details, refilling your supplies, and improving your tools can help you dramatically increase your efficiency and creativity.

Take some time to check in on the tools you use.  Do you need to refill some things? Are you ready to graduate to a higher level?

Here are some creative ideas to prompt your review:
  • Specialty Supplies. Have all the utensils that will help you while you are doing your work ready and at hand. Everyone can use basics such as a phone with an updated contact list, a full tank of gas, and a healthy body. Be creative in getting the things ready that help you do your work specifically. For example, a painter should have a range of paint colors, brushes, water cups, canvases, rags, etc. If you’re a writer, having a great set of journals, plenty of paper, and a great collection of pens all help to facilitate the creativity and it shows in the final copy.
Other specialty supplies to think about are things that keep you whistling while you work. It may be tea, coffee with all the special add-ons, a fun candy dish, your favorite music playlist, or a warm pair of slippers. Treat yourself to little things that make a big impact on how you feel while “doing your do”!

  • Craft/Work Space. Setup your creation and/or work space like a cockpit in which all of your tools are centered and ready for you to grab within reach. Have an area for everything you need while in your process. For example, an ideal desk for an office worker should allow plenty of counter space to spread out work on, be stocked with a full set of pens, pencils, rulers, scissors, tape, notebooks, a planner, paper, etc. You shouldn't have to get up at all just to get something that you use every day.  Move things that you don't reach for daily a little farther out of reach.  Optimize your space based on use.  Then look back and make sure it looks nice as well. :) 
While in this space, take a moment to be aware of all of your senses and how you can better their experience. Have the sound at the right levels to facilitate your concentration. Create a Vision Board to keep near your work area that is aesthetically pleasing to see to give it a personal feel. Make it fun to be in your space.  It should draw you in and you should want to be there.
  • Inspiration and Daily Motivation. Just like we need to take a bath or shower every day, a daily dose of inspiration can help us get moving and feeling great about it. Whether it be a quote in your email, messages through Twitter (see my Daily Inspiration List), a special ritual and/or prayer that helps you to feel connected, a CD, book, music, or class – find some way that works for you to easily enjoy receiving a daily splash of inspiration at the time that works best for you.
  • Ready Packs. Keep a small bag of your essential tools in the spaces that you frequent such as your car, your friend's house, etc. Have a mini-version of your most needed tools on hand for spontaneous creativity. Add some basic things such as a $20 bill, a snack bar, and a bottle of water. With these, nothing shall get in your way! 

  • And most importantly.. You. Make sure you are up to par first. That means take care of yourself. Nurture yourself so that you are ready to be your best. Do what it takes to get off to a great start!

    Have fun playing with your tools! =P

    by Danielle Crume © 2013 

    Originally posted 11/2009.  Refreshed 2/2013. 

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    Monday, February 4, 2013

    How to Best Organize Your Inbox

    Most of us get hundreds of emails per day.  It is very easy for messages to get lost in the shuffle.  How can you stay on top of so much information without being overwhelmed, missing important deadlines, or losing key details?  It is actually very simple.  It just requires a technique to organize the information so that what you need is where you can easily find it when you need it.


    Clean Your Inbox

    First of all, you must commit to only keep items that require action in your inbox.  For those of you that have 15,000 old emails in your inbox, this can sound like the last thing on Earth you want to do.  Hear me out. 


    Start with taking all of those old emails and putting them into a folder called “Pre-2013” for example.  Move EVERYTHING into that folder.  There you go.  You’ve got a clean inbox. 


    Sort Incoming Emails for Efficiency

    Now, for all future incoming emails, read through them quickly and determine what action you need to take.  Take the action immediately to reduce the amount of time you spend on each email:

    1.      If no action is needed, read through it and then move it to an appropriate folder.  Make your folders applicable to categories of work you often perform so that you can easily find any information when you need it, such as: Best Practices, Clients, Financial, Insurance, Meetings and Scheduling, Projects, etc.  By using appropriate folders you will be able to find a message if you ever need it without it clogging up your inbox and diluting your attention.


    2.      If action is needed, keep it in your inbox.  You will now be staring at it until it drives you crazy and you take action.


    3.      If follow up is needed, put it in a “_Tickler” folder and flag it with an appropriate follow up date (right click, follow up, add reminder). 


    Pending Folders vs. Archive Folders:

    By using an underscore (_) at the beginning of a folder name, you indicate that the folder is pending and requires further action.  This allows it to show up higher on the list of folders so that you actually see it and don’t forget about it.  Folders without the underscore are regular archive folders that only need to be looked at if you are searching for something to reference it. 


    Set a recurring appointment on your Outlook calendar once per month to go through this follow up folder for a half hour or so and make sure you haven’t let anything slip too long.  During that appointment also file away any emails that are completed and no longer need to remain as pending. 


    *Tip: It is a great tactic to move your own sent items that you want to follow up on and make sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle into this tickler folder as well.  Simply drag them from your sent folder to the tickler folder.


    4.      Projects: If you get a lot of emails per day for a certain project, create a folder for pending items for that specific project.  That way those emails aren’t bogging down your inbox and are ready for your review when you are focused to work on it.  For example, I get hundreds of resumes in my inbox per week.  Upon receipt, or first thing in the morning, I move them all to “_Recruiting to do” – a pending folder I keep in my inbox.  I also move all correspondence from managers or coordinators in there so that the hour or two I spend on that project per day, I can focus on all the new activity at once with full concentration.  When I am done with something from that folder, I move it to a regular archive folder “Resumes and Recruiting”.   You can also set up recurring appointments, as needed, to remind yourself to catch up on those folders, if needed.


    Keep It In Control

    Learn your comfortable limit of action items in your inbox.  Mine is 30 on a good day, 60 on a busy day.  I’ve been to 100 and that was the most I could handle before I pulled a Saturday to catch up on the backlog. 


    It is ideal to touch things only once if possible.  If you can process something in a minute or two, do it quickly and be free from that task in your life.  If not, put it in the appropriate place and deal with it when it is best for you.


    With this system, I am almost always aware of things that need action and I can usually find things that have been archived.  I also have an impeccable follow up system so I don’t lose track of things nearly as much. 


    Other Helpful Tricks

    1.      Templates.  Do you send some emails repeatedly now and again?  I do. I have a “_Templates” folder that includes things such as directions how to get to my office or responses I have for candidates so that I can go and just forward the template rather than searching and/or recreating it.  Every moment saved adds up!

    2.      Employees.  If you have employees you manage, you can create a folder for their assignments that you don’t want to forget to follow up on.  For example, “_Sarah to do” reminds me of all the things I have asked Sarah to do that I don’t want to forget about.  I drag the sent item into that pending folder.  Prior to our weekly meetings, I go in and see if there is anything in there I want to follow up on.

    3.      Reference.  For those great emails you compose that you will want to refer to someday, or for those amazing emails you get from me that you may want to refer to someday, keep them in a “Reference” folder. These should typically be informational emails that you will want to find again at some point.

    4.      Posts.  Try using posts to leave yourself quick little notes where you will see them.  Use the same type of organizing rules for them as you do with regular emails.  They are a great way of taking quick notes that won’t get lost.

    Posts look like a little yellow sticky note with a pin in them. 

    They act like a regular email message but can be edited.

    5.      Too Much Space.  Do you get the warnings each week that your inbox is too full?  I do.  I have developed a work around with the wonderful guidance of Sandor.  All of the folders I create, except for the “_Tickler” folder are created in the Archive area of my inbox folders.  That way they do not require space from my inbox and are stored directly on my computer.  One bummer of this method is that whatever folders are stored directly as an archive are not viewable on the online access of Outlook.  I do not use the “_Tickler” folder in the archive section because that would disable the follow up flags from working, so I keep that one up in the true inbox folder. 


    The Big Picture

    The whole concept is that your inbox should be a tool that empowers you to be unstoppable.  It should not be a huge maintenance project that requires extra time for you.  Of course this system works best with a great calendaring system… perhaps I will share insights on that soon as well. J  Enjoy!


    If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me at

    by Danielle Crume © 2012

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    Friday, January 4, 2013

    5 Quick Time Saving Tips

    Never enough time? Too much to do? Take a quick look at these tips.

    Problem #1: No Structure. Solution: Organize!
    Taking a few moments at the beginning of your day to put together a basic structure is the #1 way to save time.  This doesn’t mean you need your life scheduled to the minute.  Just a short “Organization Session” can work wonders. It will save you TONS of wasted time most spend in urgent mode. And will also save you from the suddenly recalled tasks to do at 4:59pm.

    Problem #2: I Can’t Just Move Forward. Solution: Create Space.
    Make your priority a true priority. Don’t put it off. A few tricks can help it finish up in no time. Check your email and voicemail only a few times a day. Two would be ideal. Divide large tasks up into smaller ones. Concentrate on a few projects and finish them up. Going back and forth diverts attention and wastes several minutes each time trying to get your focus back. Let others know this is your policy and have them text you if it’s urgent. Don’t be afraid to say no to other’s demands on your energy and time. And make sure to reward yourself throughout the process – it helps with motivation to finish it all.   

    Problem #3: Overflow and Overwhelm. Solution: Let Go.
    Do you get 100 emails every day? Have piles of magazines to read that you never get to? When you see these “stacks” of things and feel them weighing you down, immediately reach for them and toss them in a recycle bin. Stop stressing about getting them done. Look openly and ask yourself, “do I have to do these? Do I really need these? When will I really get to these things?” Let go of the maintenance of things that you simply don’t have time for. This will free up a lot of your energy from carrying around such a heavy burden. Delegate things that you can. Often times others would love to help out and it may even allow them to grow. Consider hiring a helper for a few hours a week. Even if they free you up just a few hours, it is often well worth it.

    Problem #4: Burn Out. Solution: Take Short Breaks.
    Rotating working periods with short rest or recharge periods will keep your energy flowing. An optimal energy flow ensures the greatest quality and quantity of work possible. Every few hours get up and stretch or take a quick walk around the parking lot.

    Problem #5: It’s a Mess Here. Solution: Clean and File.
    It seems like a waste of time, I know. It’s not that you have to do it. But someone needs to. Set your desk up as a cockpit. A great setup can speed up efficiency miraculously. Keep your areas neat and clean. File your work so that you can quickly find it when needed. So, go ahead. Hire that helper if you haven’t already. Start somewhere. Or, if not, pick up that stack and begin today.

    Implement a system that creates a perfect harmony between findable and low maintenance. I’ve found one. It IS possible!

    by Danielle Crume © 2013

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