246: Doing the Most with Your To-Do List with Suzanna Kaye

By January 8, 2018Podcasts

 

 

Professional organizer Suzanna Kaye shares her tips on optimal to-do lists for optimal productivity.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to cope when your tasks are too overwhelming
  2. A common mistake when working the to-do lists and apps
  3. Guidelines for identifying your priorities

About Suzanna 

Suzanna Kaye is a speaker with a passion! She can be found training and speaking to audiences both locally and internationally about how to structure their lives in new ways to be more productive and organized. Suzanna is the founder of Spark! Organizing, LLC as well as a former CFO for a national corporation. She brings a creative, encouraging, and judgement-free approach to productivity and organization. Her favorite topics include Productivity, Organization and Time Management. As a LinkedIn Learning author, she really does make productivity look effortless.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Suzanna Kaye Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Suzanna, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Suzanna Kaye
Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to get your take, you’ve done a number of jobs over the course of your life. But you said that one was noteworthy, and that was as a Disney Ferry Boat driver. Can you give us the backstory there?

Suzanna Kaye
Yeah, I was lucky enough to be living in Orlando, Florida when I was younger, and one of my first few jobs that were beyond babysitting was driving the Ferry Boat at Walt Disney World, at The Magic Kingdom, which was a fantastic job and the best customer service training I could’ve ever asked for.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m intrigued. So, now Ferry Boat driving, that sounds like it could also get pretty intense at times with regard to the people and the potential for being packed in there. Any noteworthy stories?

Suzanna Kaye
I actually had to dock the Ferry Boat during a hurricane once. It was the last run of the day and they were shutting down the Ferry Boats because, you might not know this, but there’s only four feet of those Ferry Boats that are under the water and the rest is all above the water so it’s basically a giant sail. So, as the winds were whipping in it was very difficult to get that docked to this little slip, and they were just pulling the plug on it and it was the last boat to make a run, and it took me, I think, 12 or 13 tries to get it into that slip finally. But I cheered when I finally got it in. It was nerve wracking.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I bet. Everyone’s watching.

Suzanna Kaye
It was great. I felt very successful.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is cool. Well, so now you are the founder of Spark! Organizing. I try to put the exclamation point in my voice there. And so, you have some experience as a professional organizer and a CEO and I guess organizer of other organizers. So, maybe, could you kick us off by sharing, do you have any really cool stories with regard to how you saw just like an amazing transformation occur in the realm of organization and what difference that made for someone?

Suzanna Kaye
Yeah. Well, there’s so many. I’ve been doing this for over a decade and it’s just been amazing seeing some of the changes that go on with people just simply having your space under control or your schedule. I can think of one in particular that just amazed me because the great news just kept coming. Her name was Mary and we got her home under control after she’d suffered a big loss and was trying to get back on her feet.

So, giving her home back in control was step one. But once her home was in control, the confidence and the feeling of just having her life back in control then helped her increased her salary and her position at her job, it helped her lose weight and she actually ended up in a new relationship all simply from getting her space under control and feeling more confident from it. It was amazing and I still get updates from her, that’s just amazing things happening. It’s wonderful.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that is absolutely so cool. And so, we’re talking about to-do list here today, and I think that a lot of times the to-do list problems we bump into have some sort of deeper issue with regard to kind of unresolved priorities, or values, or decisions, or some psychological stuff that’s going on under the hood, under the surface there. Could you speak to maybe a pattern or two or three you’ve noticed when it comes to working with the people behind the to-do list?

Suzanna Kaye
Oh, yeah, that’s the great thing about – the fascinating thing to me about productivity is that it really has only a little bit to do with the tools, 80% of it is the psychology that goes into it which I love. So, one of the things that I find most common is this feeling of overwhelm that people have whether it’s from the task seeming too daunting, or something that’s tapping into one of their fears, or simply the quantity of them, and if they’re unorganized it can be very overwhelming, and that’ll just shut you down immediately. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the first thing that you do is just absolute shutdown and don’t make appropriate decisions or stick your head in the sand and make no decisions at all.

So, that’s one that I see very often. And then the other one is not knowing your priorities. And like priorities is the true priorities, not what’s on fire at the moment but what will move you forward towards your goal and fit into your value set more than anything else on the list. And when you got a very long list, or you’re being pulled in multiple directions, it’s really common to lose sight of what that is and then you feel unproductive because you get a lot done but nothing important.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Noted. And so, then, when it comes to that overwhelm piece, I guess, do you have sort of an SOS or an emergency stuff drop-and-roll protocol for, “Uh-oh. Uh-oh”? When you’re in the overwhelm place rather, as you said, making dumb choices or no choices, what do you do to sort of quickly snap out of it so that you minimize the amount of time that you’re in that suboptimal zone which can have some cascading negative consequences?

Suzanna Kaye
Right. Well, there’s a couple of strategies depending on where the overwhelm is rooted. One of the common strategies – I don’t know if your listeners have heard of Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. It’s a fantastic book. But the concept there is to do whatever the scariest, ugliest, nastiest task is on your list first thing in the day.

A lot of times our overwhelm is because there’s something on that list that is just growing bigger and uglier that we’re avoiding. So, eating the frog first thing in the morning, doing that nastiest thing first is going to set you up for that day to be amazing after that because there’s nothing else that will be as bad and your brain is not making this one task worst and worst and putting it off and feeling guilty that you’re not doing it. So, that’s one of the best ways to get over that overwhelm if it’s a seriously nasty task or a daunting task that you’re not looking forward to.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. Any other kind of quick tips come to mind?

Suzanna Kaye
Some other quick tips: knowing your priorities, like I mentioned. One of my favorite things to do is called the top three. And when you got that hundred-task long task list, knowing which three items out of all of them are the most important and fit into your goals and your values, that means that you can mentally let go of the rest.

So, you no longer need to be overwhelmed by that other 97 items because you know none of those are as important as the three that you have highlighted that you’re working on now, and that can just give you that sense of relief. But when you don’t know, when they all seem equally important, that’s a great way to get you to shutdown right away. So, that’s another one of my top go-to ones.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Noted. Well, so then, I’m curious then. I want to dig into some particulars which is just to make sure I don’t overlook any of the best stuff. You’ve got a whole LinkedIn Learning course about to-do list which I think is pretty cool to go into some depth on this topic. And so, I’m curious, when it comes to all the work you’ve done with all your folks, what do you see as being some of the most high-leverage suggestions that you offer in terms of folks making the most of their to-do list?

Suzanna Kaye
The one that I have come across with almost every single coaching client that I worked on for productivity is over-organizing it, over-thinking it, working with tools that aren’t appropriate. So, for example, I had a coaching client that was international and he would frequently change his task management programs because he was trying to find the perfect one, that Holy Grail of task management that’s going to solve all the problems, and it’s not out there.

There’s no one that’s perfect for any one person. They have all have some issues. You just have to find the ones that work with your personality type and then – and this is the part that nobody seems to grasp easily – to stick with it and keep working on it through the growing pains of it and the learning process of it. And once you’ve committed to it, really commit to it long term so you can then analyze it and see what parts of it could be better.

But at the beginning it’s way too early to be changing to another platform again. You’re not gathering all the information you need about your personality and what’s working and what’s not working, so don’t grab that overly-complicated list thinking that it’s going to be that wonderful problem solver unless you’re willing to stick it out and see which parts that are truly useful. So, don’t keep popping around, don’t choose the over-complicated options, go for just what you need and stick to it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s good. Thank you. So, now let’s talk a bit more about the priorities matter in terms of a lot of folks, they start from a place where their priorities are unclear. You had a tip earlier just there about the zeroing in on the top three as antidote for overwhelm. And so, then, what are kind of the key questions or rules of thumb you use to quickly surface, “What’s the true priority here?”

Suzanna Kaye
I think setting your goals is the important first step when you talk about priorities. You don’t know what your overall goals are. You don’t know how these different tasks fit into them. So, when I’m assessing priorities I sit down with what my goals are and specifically what my highest goal is at that point in time, because you know we always have more than one. We got a bunch of things that we want to do.

So, knowing which top goal you’re working on, that will then help you see which of those tasks will help you reach that goal fastest. So, out of your tasks list, figure out which one is going to move you closer to that finish line the fastest while still fitting in with your values of who you are. A lot of times we leave values out of our goals, and that’s a surefire way to come to a crashing halt because our insights resist reaching a goal that does not align with our values.

So, if it’s not inspiring to you it’s probably not a good goal. And the same thing with the task, if it’s not inspiring to you, you don’t feel like it’s part of that passion, it’s probably not supposed to be on your tasks list.

Pete Mockaitis
And what’s intriguing when it comes to priorities is I think that some of the goals could nest into much bigger sort of macro goals, like areas of life. So, I think like many, many, many things on my to-do list could sort of fit into the realm of run a great business or grow wealth. And so, I think sort of within that area I can get a means of prioritizing metrics such as estimated wealth creation per hour invested is a metric I use as I’m kind of thinking through different potential initiatives.

But there are other important goals like be a great husband, make my wife feel loved and cherished and great, which are a little trickier in terms of finding a clear unit for prioritizing that. And then there’s the bigger question in terms of the prioritizing across sort of disparate life areas and sort of what takes the cake. And so, then, this is almost like an existential or sort of deep human purpose type question. But how do you help clients navigate those trickier questions of priority setting?

Suzanna Kaye
That’s a very big question and there’s so much that I would love to just dump on you with this answer, but I’m going to just pick a couple of areas and focus on those. First off, I do believe that you do need a broad set of goals. There’s not just one area of your life that you’re trying to achieve great things in, such being a great husband need to go along with building wealth.

I think making your goals SMART goals is very important in order to make sure that you’re working towards the goal in the way you want to achieve it. And for those who aren’t familiar, a SMART goal, there’s very different words for the acronym depending on where you learned it. But, basically it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

So, you need to be able to set a value to know when you have achieved this. So, for me, being a good wife might mean my husband absolutely loves when I cook dinner. It makes him feel very loved. So, being a good wife, my goal might include cooking dinner two nights a week for the month. And then at the end of the month, I can then look back and say, “Okay. Well, I had time-bound, it’s within a month. I had a quantifiable number, it’s measurable, two times a week. It is attainable and realistic. It’s very specific. Did I achieve this?”

So, knowing those SMART goals makes it a little bit easier to see exactly what you’re working towards instead of just being a good wife which can be a little overwhelming and daunting as well because you don’t know how to do that unless you set a measurable number to it.

Pete Mockaitis
And could you help me? I’ve wondered about this. I’ve seen a variety of this SMART goal acronyms and done a few speeches on it myself. So, can you distinguish for me between attainable and realistic? Those kind of sound like the same thing.

Suzanna Kaye
They do sound a lot like the same thing, and depending on, like I said, where you learned them from. Back in my days in business school those were the words that they used. But in the way that I use it, attainable would be if it’s something that can be achieved within the reasonable amount of time that you’ve set.

So, if I were to say, “I’m going to cook dinner eight nights a week,” that is not attainable. Realistic in this sense kind of crosses over that. For me, realistic fits into how my life is structured. If I were to say seven days a week, for me that’s not realistic. Yes, it’s attainable but it is not realistic in my scheduling and my lifestyle. That’s the framework I use. Like I said though, depending on where you’ve studied, they have different acronyms but it also falls into that same framework.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. Thank you. So, then, for priorities, so we talked about some of the big questions. Anything else you want to say about zeroing in on and establishing priorities?

Suzanna Kaye
Yes, another part that I love to use with people as far as priorities, because we’re all in different points emotionally in our lives, at different points in our lives, if you search it online you can probably even find a sample of it, and I can always send you a link. But if you create a pie chart that shows the different areas of your life such as spirituality, relationship, financial, health, all of those major areas, and then rate how you feel about your life right now in each of those areas and just color it in up to the point where you feel like you are succeeding in that area, then that’s going to be a great visual about what areas you need to focus on as far as your priorities and goals go.

So, if it’s being a good wife, if my relationship is a 10 out of 10 right then, or an 8 out of 10, that’s great. But that means that those goals might not be as high on my list as maybe my health which might be a 5 out of 10. So, that’s going to help me figure out which of those goals in my life as a whole should be more top focus so I can keep that a balanced circle rather than some being in the one or two areas and not even noticing it until it’s too late.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. Now, I also enjoyed hearing your “if only one thing” approach. Could you unpack that a little bit?

Suzanna Kaye
This one goes along very well with my type of personality. And I am definitely one of those people where I naturally rebel against other people telling me what I should do, as well as myself telling me what I should do. So, some days I simply need to feel successful, and I have on my desk a picture frame with a framed piece of paper that says, “If I can only accomplish one thing today, it will be…”

And within that there’s a box, and I take a Dry-Erase marker and I write, “The main goal, for me, if I complete this one thing, I can feel that the day was a success.” Most of the time this is my frog. It might be just something that really has a tight deadline that needs to be done, and I know that once this is off my plate I will feel better.

But this is my one thing, in that way no matter what breaks out during my day, what fires happen, what goes wrong, if that was completed at the end of the day I can still give myself a pat on the back because that one thing was achieved, and that was my goal. I had one. So, on those really rough days it’s the only thing that keeps me away from the Ben & Jerry’s.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. Thank you. Well, so then, I’m thinking about all these things and so if we’re going to get into some systems type approaches. And I like how you mentioned the personality and the differences and the preferences, and how that all kind of plays in together. So, whenever I’m talking to productivity folks, I like to get them to weigh in on what are your thoughts when it comes to David Allen and Getting Things Done or GTD?

Suzanna Kaye
I think it’s a great system. I think that there are so many great systems out there actually. And, like I mentioned before, it has a lot to do with your personality type. Currently, I have my absolute favorite book, I keep buying copies of this book and giving it to people because I think everybody should read it. It’s called The Four Tendencies. I don’t know. Are you familiar with The Four Tendencies at all by Gretchen Rubin?

Pete Mockaitis
Just from what I’ve read in the summary because I haven’t read the whole thing myself.

Suzanna Kaye
Yes. Well, it is a must-read because it really digs into not only what your own personality type is as far as accountability, but also those around you. So, I understand the people who work for me better, I understand my husband better because of this book, but I primarily understand myself better. All of a sudden it clicked that I am not the type of person who works well with a very structured list. It’s just everything that I naturally fight against.

So, there are four tendencies, in general, when it comes to how we meet expectations. There is the upholder who can meet both inner and external expectations without much problem, that’s the one I wish I was but I’m very far from it. There’s the obliger who does really well with meeting outer expectations which are if somebody else needs it, they’re really good at making sure to get that done, but they’re not as good as getting it done for themselves if it’s just an internal desire.

Then there’s the opposite, there’s the questioner. They’re really good once they feel that it’s logical. They’re good at having those internal expectations met, or if it’s an external expectation, when somebody asks for something, if it falls into their own logic, they’re really good at meeting those. And then there’s the rebel, and that is where I fall.

We need to see it as part of our identity. We have to really have it resonate with who we are a lot of times in order to get things done. So, simply having somebody else ask for it, or deciding that we should do it is not enough for us. So, knowing these tendencies about yourself tells you a lot more about the systems that will work for you.

So, some of these very structured systems are fantastic for somebody who might be an upholder or a questioner, and who’s really good at those internal expectations and doing what they’ve decided they want to do. Now, somebody like an obliger or a rebel might have a little bit more difficulty with the structure because there’s no external accountability for the obliger so it might be a little bit too much and it might be a little too overwhelming, they’re just too detailed.

And then, for a rebel, the details, when you get down to that level, can be kind of suffocating. It’s way too much detail, puts a whole lot of pressure on it. You’ve spent so much time planning just to let yourself down. So, that being said, somebody like a rebel does really well with a looser system, so something like beginning things done or some of the more robust task management systems, something like OmniFocus or Todoist or WunderList that have all these great bells and whistles. Those don’t work quite as well for a rebel because there’s just too much detail.

But if we can work with our moods and our emotions and our energies within a simpler list, so I use Clear myself, or there’s also Google Keep is a really good one, and they’re just very basic list, and you can have a list of lists within them but without all of the flagging and tagging and all of those things, those work really well for rebels because they’re very simple and you can go with your mood and go with your energy when you feel the pull to do these things.

Now, upholders, they do really, really well with things like the Getting Things Done system or OmniFocus or Todoist, those are great for them because they love the details and, like I said, I wish I was more of a detail person but us rebels have some good things too.

And then there’s also the Bullet Journal which is a fantastic system for people who don’t necessarily want to be tied to the technology, so not everything is necessarily good online for everyone. So, if you like something more paper-based, a Bullet Journal, it does not have to be drawn on all pretty and you don’t have to spend hours setting it up, but that can be a really good system for people too.

So, know your personality type and test some out and see if it works for you really well then just adjust the few things that need to be changed. But if it’s just a struggle then it’s probably the wrong system for you and you should go to something either more simple or more structured or offline.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I’m intrigued there when it comes to if it’s a struggle for you then maybe you need to change your system. But thinking about your previous advice when it comes to, “Don’t kind of always be flip-flopping and jumping to the next thing,” I guess I’m wondering if there might be some, I don’t know, fundamental kind of mindset or discipline or habit things that need to kind of be in place to make any system work, and without them all systems will fail. Can you comment on a couple of those sort of universal human fundamentals that may be at play here?

Suzanna Kaye
Most definitely. And, yes, you should not just jump crazily from one to another. I think, if everything, if you’re going to try it, try it solidly for at least 30 days. And by solidly I mean if you fall off the wagon, get back up, and then go for 30 days from there. Don’t miss a week and then hop back on for another week and say that it’s not working.

So, that’s one of the basics with humans, 30 days, 28 days, there’s varying numbers but they’re all around the same area to build a new habit. If you do something consistently for approximately 30 days, that’s when the habits start to get built, and that’s when the struggle becomes less because, now, it’s just something you do instead of something you have to try to remember. So, with any of these systems, building that 30 days habit is important because if you’ve done that, after 30 days and it’s still a struggle that’s when it’s obviously the system and not just the underlying habits.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. And a Bullet Journal, can you elaborate, what is that, how do we get our hands on one?

Suzanna Kaye
Sure. A Bullet Journal, you have your hands on it right now. It’s simply a book and a pencil or a pen. And a bullet journal begins with an index usually, or you could put it at the end. I put mine at the beginning. But the first part is an index, and it indexes all of the different topics you’ve covered within the journal. And then within the journal you can have multiple things you track. The main thing is going to be your daily activities.

So, for today, I would have my 10 or so tasks, and then I would index the page that those tasks are on, of I took meeting notes with those tasks, the meeting information, those that that page is on in that index. So, my index can now tell me where my notes are or what page that it’s on that I did certain tasks and certain activities for tracking purposes and to look things back up which is one of the things that paper system you lose, you don’t just do a search.

So, it’s kind of a couple pages of your search function is what that is at the beginning, referring to the page numbers of these different topics, these different key words. And then within it’s your task list and they have a series of symbols that tell you at the end of the day whether you completed the task or, “Did you migrate it to the next day?” or, “Did you delegate it to somebody else?”

There are just different ways that you can use these symbols in order to show what happened with that task, and keep it on your radar so it does not just die on that day and you aren’t writing all of these tasks over and over and over. They’re specifically moving to the next day or to a specific calendar date or being delegated or completed.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. And when it comes to the icon demarcations, how do we know those or do we just make them up ourselves, or is there sort of a master reference list?

Suzanna Kaye
There is a master reference list if you just Google online bullet journals. But I’ve got my own because my brain likes to identify things differently so, to me, having an X next to something does not mean the same necessarily as to you. So, when I complete a task, I like the X versus a checkmark or versus crossing it out. So, I say make up whatever works for you, just be consistent with it. I like to put a dot next to anything that’s delegated because, to me, it’s kind of like a period, so, done.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s so funny, as you talk about this, it really is coming to life. When I am writing things down as sort of like a temporary or sort of like a daily type view because I do love OmniFocus myself. I guess I’m upholding. It’s tremendous. But when I am doing a paper thing maybe to try to kind of focus my day, it’s like, “All right. This is what’s up for today,” as opposed to OmniFocus having the omnibus compendium of all commitments and actionable ideas ever conceived in my brain. It’s kind of the storehouse of that.

And so, if I’m doing it for the day I’d really like to cross out the item, or sort strike through, that’s what we call it, strike through with a green marker. I don’t know. It just feels like that’s so done, like green or cache. I don’t know. So, that’s there. And when I delegate I like to have it be a triangle with the point – I guess it’s not equilateral – but it sort of points it to the right, kind of like, “Hey, this goes to somebody else, not me.”

Suzanna Kaye
Exactly, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
So, yeah, I hear what you’re saying, like make the icons your own, but the Googling might spark some inspirations.

Suzanna Kaye
Yeah. Now, I will warn you, when you Google it you will see a number of these bullet journals where people have taken a lot of time to draw out either make it beautiful or draw different charts and structures, and you can do that if that’s what you want to do. And for some people it’s a really good meditation at the beginning or the end of the day, and it really helps them connect with their day and have that peaceful time as they lay out this journal of their day.

So, some people really thrive with that, but you don’t have to do all of that. So, a lot of people will see online these pictures of these bullet journals that look so complex. Just remember that they don’t have to be. You can even create one one time and print it out each time you need it and put it in a three-ring binder if that helps. If you’re like me, and when I get to your day, instead of drawing out your day for an hour, then it can be done with a bullet journal. Do not let it scare you off.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And I also want to get your view on when it comes to tasks and calendars, I hear a couple of schools of thought. And one is that, “Well, the calendar is for the hard landscape of that which is scheduled,” which is sort of, “I have an appointment with Suzanna at 4:30 p.m. Central Time, and that’s there.”

And so, then when it come to putting tasks on the calendar, do you have some perspective? Like some would say, “They don’t belong there,” and others would say, “Oh, no, no. You should absolutely schedule the things because what we don’t schedule just sort of maybe never happens.” So, how do you navigate the pros, cons, distinctions, guidelines when it comes to putting tasks on a calendar?

Suzanna Kaye
That’s a good question, and you’re going to hate it because I’m going to come back to my answer of it depends on your personality type. But I think it’s a good practice to do every once in a while whether it’s putting it on the calendar or tracking your time, no matter what your personality type is, in order to make sure you’re being realistic about how long your tasks truly take.

So, spending a week putting them on all on your calendar is actually a really good practice to do every once in a while to make sure that you are still being realistic about how long each of these items take, because most of the time we grossly underestimate how long a task takes.

Now, if you’re the personality type that loves to schedule them on the calendar, then that is perfect. I think the calendar is a great place for it and, especially with these digital calendars these days, you can have multiple calendars that you can show and hide so I don’t see why you would not have a task list as one of them if that’s something that you do well with.

I, personally, have been known to schedule batching on my calendar. Now, what batching is is it’s taking similar tasks and doing them all at the same block of time. So, for example, when I schedule a batch day, I might have one hour of answer emails, I might have one hour of making phone calls, and these calls could be for different subjects and different projects, but it’s me being on the phone for one hour.

Or me being on the computer, or me being in the filing cabinets doing actual paperwork items, similar items in one time-block, and does that really well on a calendar if you don’t want to write each individual task on the calendar, that’s fine. Batch them and then your brain does not have to lose that productivity time switching between tasks types because it takes a little bit for our brain to go from a phone call to an email to a computer file. It just takes a moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay. Well, Suzanna, tell me, is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and talk about some of your favorite things?

Suzanna Kaye
I can’t think of anything else. I think it’s most important just know your goals and the values that are attached to them. And when you’re thinking about your goals and the priorities for the day, also one of the questions I like to ask myself is, “Is this going to matter in five years?” So, sometimes when it seems like you’ve got these different tasks that are equally important, some of them in five years it will have made an effect, and some of them it won’t, so that’s a good question sometimes to bring a little bit more clarity as to what’s the bigger priority.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Great. Thank you. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Suzanna Kaye
Ah, I’ve got two, of course, because I’m a quote person. I am very focused on helping others achieve more in their lives, so one of my favorite quotes that’s out there right now is, “Empowered women empower women.” And I have that on a T-shirt, I’ve got that on my wall. And then my other favorite quote that I’ve had since I was younger is by Edith Wharton, it’s, “Be the light or the mirror that reflects it.” And, to me, that simply means I don’t need to be the one that shines all the time if I’m helping other people shine in the world, and that just means a lot to me.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Great. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Suzanna Kaye
Oh, I mentioned The Four Tendencies. Everybody needs to read that one by Gretchen Rubin. I think it’s fantastic. And I heard about Gretchen Rubin actually through Oprah. If you don’t mind me telling, another podcast, or the three podcasts that are on my favorites podcast list: it is yours, it is Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and Mary Forleo’s, and I think that those three are the top hitters, and that’s where you find out about all these big mind leaders that are in the world today, it’s those three.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, shucks. I’m flattered. You probably say it to every podcast who interviews you, “Oh, it’s you and Oprah. It’s you and Oprah.”

Suzanna Kaye
But it’s true, it’s those three. I love to find the thought leaders of the day and the people who can bring me and people to a successful way, I just think are wonderful. So, those are some of the other two of it. If they’re listening to the podcast here, they already know about you, then those are the two others that need to be on their list.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research you find compelling?

Suzanna Kaye
Oh, I am frequently amazed actually by research on the storage industry and the amount of clutter in our lives, of course, being an organizer. But there’s just so many billions of dollars spent each year on storage and it is one of the fastest growing industries in America today. And it’s very unique to America to be such a huge industry. It just blows my mind and I’m fascinated.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I don’t think I knew that. So, you’re talking about like self-storage lockers type stuff.

Suzanna Kaye
Yes. All of these places that we put our things temporarily and then forget about them but keep paying the bill for those places, yes.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so, okay, if you could indulge us, any intriguing numbers? So, there’s many billions spent on it, it’s high growth, I’m wondering what’s the average length of time that someone maintains a storage locker because in some ways I think that makes sense. It’s like, you know, “Hey, I’ve got an internship for three months in this other city, and I’m not going to take everything there and back.” So, I think there’s certain contexts where that makes total sense. But you’re saying that it’s quite common that folks just shove it there for years and years and forget about it but keep paying.

Suzanna Kaye
They do. And I don’t have a statistic on how many years, but one of my favorite statistics is that the U.S. has upwards of 52,000 storage facilities which is more than five times the number of Starbucks which is amazing because you see a Starbucks everywhere you go, and there are more storage facilities than that.

Pete Mockaitis
Wow. That is intriguing in so many ways. I’m doing up business ideas as we speak, I don’t know, “Bring it back. Bring it back.” And how about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Suzanna Kaye
I think my favorite tool is actually my Label Maker. I love my Label Maker because if you can see things nicely labeled your brain can read it and register it better even if you’ve got great handwriting. It registers it better if it’s printed so it just puts your brain at ease and makes it easier.

Pete Mockaitis
And the high contrast, I find, because. Now, you’re using the DYMO I saw on some of your photos?

Suzanna Kaye
I have two because, as an organizer, if one breaks you need a backup.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Suzanna Kaye
I don’t think everybody needs two. My favorite is the Brother though.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay.

Suzanna Kaye
The P-Touch by Brother.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Say it again, what is it by Brother?

Suzanna Kaye
It’s called P-Touch. The letter P and the word Touch.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very good. Any thoughts to the pros and cons? That’s right, we go detail here, let’s hear it.

Suzanna Kaye
Yeah, the DYMO is simply the cost and wastes of label tape because they leave so much blank tape on the end of each label. It’s simply more cost-efficient to use the Brother’s P-Touch version than the DYMO. I’ve learned that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, it sounds like you’re saying that the P-Touch is overall fundamentally superior.

Suzanna Kaye
I believe so.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I saw a picture of you with the DYMO Label Maker, and I thought, “Oh, I’ve got the same Label Maker. That’s so cool.” And now you come in here and say, “Actually that one sucks.”

Suzanna Kaye
“Actually, my other one is better.” Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, good. Well, I’m glad I asked.

Suzanna Kaye
DYMO looks better for the pictures, it’s cheaper to use.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, and it’s a sleek-looking unit, I’ll hand you that. So, at the very least, not to trash DYMO. I will say DYMO has served me well. It’s very quick. It’s very portable. I can even operate it one-handed, I’ve large hands, and it looks good in a photo. So, we’ll give them that.

Suzanna Kaye
It does, yes. It’s a very handsome and it does work well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Cool. All right. And then when it comes to habits, in terms of things you do to be awesome at your job, what are they?

Suzanna Kaye
Gratitude. I think gratitude is the habit that I can tell when I start to slack because things just don’t run quite as smoothly or as well, and I miss opportunities because my brain and my eyes are just not opened to them. But by focusing on the things I am grateful for and the why, why I’m grateful for them. It makes me aware of so many other opportunities out there when I come across them instead of being closed off to them. So, it’s been the best habit for my personal life as well my business life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget that you share in your speaking or trainings that seems to really connect and resonate, and getting folks nodding their heads and saying yes and taking notes?

Suzanna Kaye
I think the main thing that I share that resonates with people is it’s okay, everybody has their thing that they’re not at the level they want to be at, and just keep going, you’re not alone. So, if your home is not where you want it to be, if you’re not as productive as you think that you should be, or as successful as you feel like you should be, it’s okay as long as you’re still taking that next step every day. Keep going because we all fail, we just don’t do it publicly. So, we’re all in the same boat. I’m pretty sure even Oprah has rough days that she just does not post on Facebook but we can relate to her.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good. Thank you. And if folks want to learn or get in touch with you, where would you point them?

Suzanna Kaye
I would tell them to find me on my Facebook page. Just search for Spark! Organizing on Facebook, and that’s where I’m always having conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Suzanna Kaye
I think probably my call to action would be to figure out what your breakthrough goal is and keep that in mind. And by breakthrough goal I mean that one thing that if you could achieve it, it would change your life. And just know that and keep that in front of you each day.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Beautiful. Well, Suzanna, thank you so much for taking this time and sharing. It’s been a lot of fun. I wish you much luck with your organizing and speaking and training and all you’re up to.

Suzanna Kaye
Well, thank you so much. I truly enjoyed it.

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