What Lara Holt loves about being a professional organizer is knowing that she helps people realize their goals and dreams.
We are often so distracted by to-do and should-do lists that we end up short changing what matters most, simply because we run out of time, she says. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
At an upcoming presentation, “Time Management Tools for Living Well,” Holt will share some practical tips and strategies for prioritizing your time based on what is most meaningful in your business and your life. The event takes place Thursday, June 18, noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Intelligent Office, 300 Carnegie Center, Suite 150, Princeton. Price, $10, includes lunch. To register, visit eventbrite.com and search for “Princeton lunch n learn” or call 609-786-2400.
Holt, founder and owner of the Well-Ordered Life, will share three time management tools that can improve the quality of your life: creating daily routines that work for you, taking items off your task list, and focusing your time on your highest priority. Holt describes this as “harnessing the power of one.”
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, Holt suggests that you ask yourself, “What is the one best thing I can do right now?” Do that, and then move on to the next thing.
To illustrate her point, Holt recounts an example from the late Steven Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and “First Things First.”
In a demonstration presented to a live audience, Covey used several props including two buckets, a bag of sand (representing low-priority things to do) and several rocks, each labeled with a high priority goal like a business opportunity or time with family, etc. He poured the sand into the bucket until it was half full. Next, he invited a volunteer to fill the rest of the bucket with the high priority rocks.
Try as the volunteer might, she could not fit all the high-priority rocks into the bucket. But during her trial, she got it. Turning to the second bucket, she places the high priority rocks in first. Then and only then, she poured in the low-priority sand. The sand filled the spaces around and in between the rocks. TaDaa! Everything fit. Covey’s message, says Holt, is that when you take care of what is high-priority first, the lower priority things find a way to fit in.
Another person who inspires Holt is Richard Swenson, physician-researcher and author of several books including “Margin.” The margin, says Holt, is the space you allow yourself between the things you do. You can create this space by delegating some of your tasks or just letting go of some activities.
In addition to time management, she helps people organize their work spaces and information systems. Work spaces can be made more efficient by getting rid of clutter and setting up task-specific areas. Information management can involve something as simple as reducing paper clutter by scanning business cards or keeping receipts in one place. On the other hand, it could be more involved, like using a software solution on your computer to manage your business projects and contacts.
When Holt isn’t working with clients, she devotes her energy to several professional organizations, including the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce; the Tigers chapter of Business Networking International; and the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), where she is the director of marketing for the northern New Jersey chapter. Founded in 1985, NAPO provides networking and educational programs for its almost 4,300 members.
This year Holt is working with other NAPO members to make the public more aware of their services. Although most NAPO members are professional organizers, there are others like storage facility owners, movers, shredding companies, junk haulers, and attorneys. “We learn from them and they learn from us,” she says.
People use professional organizers for a variety of reasons. At the northern New Jersey NAPO website (naponnj.org), you can search for organizers by category. There is one for special populations, including seniors, students, ADD/ADHD, American sign language, and others. There is a residential category, including estates, relocation, feng shui, and others. Within the business category, you will find coaching, ergonomics, and event planning. The industry specific section includes manufacturing, commercial, legal, and medical offices.
Most of Holt’s customers are small business owners, but she also helps home owners and non profits. “I have a soft spot for non profits,” she says. If you are interested in contributing to a non-profit while reducing your clutter, you can donate your gently used, unwanted belongings to one of several groups listed on Holt’s website at wellorderedlife.com.
Although Holt is the first in her family to become a professional organizer, she says her parents showed her by example the value of being organized. Her father was an architect; her mother was the family homemaker and a secretary with a keen sense for business. Holt grew up in Pittsburgh and after high school earned an accounting degree from Kings’s College, Wilkes-Barre, and later a Master’s in organizational leadership from Regent University, Virginia Beach.
Before founding the Well-Ordered Life, Holt held several executive positions at Princeton based organizations. She was the finance director for three and a half years with the Todd M. Beamer Foundation, founded in honor of the Cranbury resident who died on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. In 2006 Holt became the executive director at Princeton Bible Church during its time of transition until it closed in 2013.
It was then that Holt decided to put her executive skills to work in a business of her own. After more than 20 years of organizing office work-flow, events, volunteers, and accounting systems, she decided to turn her passion for creating calm out of chaos into her own professional organizing business.
Focusing on your top priorities is a big step toward achieving your goals and living well, says Holt. The techniques and tools you will learn at the June 18 presentation will set you on the right track. But there’s more to it than that. “Be present in the moment,” says Holt. “Pay attention to the person you are talking with or the place where you are. Take a deep breath and engage with those around you. Live each moment.”