Susan Fay West, Certified Organizer Coach 
Life’s big changes. We all get overwhelmed sometimes.

  • You’re stuck and want to move forward but how?
  • Adult ADHD diagnosis and ... now what?
  • Want more time but you’re not sure where the problem is?
  • Tired of running in circles?
  • Change, time management, organization and transitions work is our focus.

    Build on what you already know about yourself and collaborate with me – a coach, professional organizer, teacher and change-lover.

    Discover new ways to:

  • organize your life,
  • deal with these changes and move on,
  • in ways that make sense to you and how you’re wired.
  • Curious? Click Here to Learn More about My Coaching Services.

    Organize for a Fresh Start - organizing self-help book

    "West has written on a topic dear to my heart, getting organized to cope with and embrace change and transitions. Organize for a Fresh Start is a great roadmap."
    Judith Kolberg, Author
    Conquering Chronic Disorganization

    Perspectives: 6 Tips for Holiday Overwhelm

    December 19th, 2014


    For some calming words and practical advice you can use right away, below are 6 quick tips if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the business of this season.

    Read them right now – each is only a sentence or two – and carry them with you as you move through today. Or keep with you on your iPhone; write on a post it note to put on your car’s dashboard or on an index card in your pocket.  If you’d like to hear more detail, there’s a podcast Carol Williams and I recorded, too.



    Summary of our tips on this podcast:  

    • Make a quick bullet point list of the “top three things for today.”
    • Set reminders on your phone to check your top three at least twice during your day and that will help keep you focused.
    • Identify needs vs. wants.  “Is this thing a ‘nice to get done by Christmas?’ or is it a “need to” get done for Christmas.  What’s the worst that will happen if you don’t do the ‘nice to do’ things?
    • Simplify to reduce the overwhelm. Ask: What’s the simplest way I can do this? Excellent, but not perfect. (“Perfect:” the enemy of actually getting things done.)
    • Keep the week in front of you. Use a white board, calendar, task app on your iPhone or just white paper. Map it out and keep it visible.
    • What’s most important to you about this season? Focus there.  What would you miss the most? 
    • If Christmas were TOMORROW, what are the three things you REALLY need to make sure are done?  *Now go and do just THOSE things.*  Come back to the others in a next round, phase, chapter.


    For some calming words and practical advice you can use right away, we invite you to listen to our short podcast with a bit more detail … 6 minutes is what it takes.

    Just click on this link>> Ticket to Sanity – Christmas Countdown – The Week before!



    Thanks for being here with us.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


    p.s. If you’re in need of a sounding board to “organize your thoughts,” please call 603.554.1948 for a one hour phone consultation meeting. You’ll have a plan of attack, next steps, and gain some control over the upcoming weeks. That’s a promise. Call or write: [email protected]




    Links to Prior Podcasts

    *If you’d prefer to read, click the “Holidays” category in the list to the right>>>

    CHUG thru your holidays

    Breaking down the end of your year … 6 tips for the holidays.

    Breaking Down Our Year – Small Business Owner Advice 

    Breaking down the end of the year: Lists – Made more fun as a way to clear the fog!

    Back to school transitions -tips for parents on scheduling life

    Advice for Kids – Habits for School Routines

    True student and family success


    Routine Support: Healthy Routines with Dr. Mark Bertin, CHADD Speaker

    December 2nd, 2014

    ADHD: a Matter of Routine — Some great ideas and suggestions from Mark Bertin, a pediatrics doctor, who spoke at the CHADD conference recently.  CHADD conf sign hallway

    His website:

    His session description: ADHD  - A Matter of Routine


    I’ve written two other articles about learnings at CHADD: one about Executive Function (search engine or orchestra conductor of the brain) and instilling habits. You can read both of them starting here.


    ADHD gets in the way of managing habits. When you consider that ADHD is an issue with organizing, working memory, prioritizing, and motivation … this makes perfect sense. “I know what to do; I just can’t get myself to do it.”

    Dr. Bertin’s session was about “Healthy Routines” and his list includes something new: nutrition, sleep, exercise and …. media and technology!


    Technology checking  tires the brain. He made the point that the constant checking of email, then Facebook, then your flight app or groceries or to do app … all this switching gears literally tires the brain. Hmm. Makes sense. I hadn’t thought of this, except I have noticed that when I shut off technology, I seem calmer.

    But then if you ignore the pings of texts and emails, what happens?  Stress increases as you stop yourself from checking!

    And if you ADHD, this is all much more a significant an issue. So protecting the work and health of your brain is part of self-care.

    Possible solution? Change the email settings so that your device/pc checks less frequently, and not constantly, real-time. Great idea. What email can’t go a bit longer until you see it and act on it? Setting-Goals-Tony-Robbins-Quote-success

    Other points: Kids have to be taught what “healthy” looks like for technology use: what, when is it okay to be on technology, how long is allowed each day.


    ADHD also gets in the way especially with morning routines. If your ADHD medications are what allow you to focus, stay on track, remember the steps to your morning routine … then your ADHD is going  to get in the way.

    Possible solutions? Post your routine checklist everywhere you show up in the morning, no matter the age of the child or adult. Use smaller steps to the routine. Take medications sooner than later (Check with your practitioner on this.) think about the morning routine as “mini routines” within the larger routine.

    Arguably, depending on when your medications are taken, evening may also be difficult, plus just getting through your days can be tiring to your brain, keeping it altogether. So experiment with how much you accomplish in the morning versus evening, the types of tasks, how you can prepare earlier for whichever is more difficult for you … and use those checklists to make it easier. You may find that checklists are important at startup of a habit, and if you have a lot of stress in life. But then not in between. Or  you might like the comfort of having the list all the time to be sure. ~sfw comments.

    If you are an adult with ADHD and parenting a child with ADHD, he warns that you’ll need to think at two different levels of ADHD management: your  own brain fatigue/energy limits and your child’s.  You’ll also need to observe yourself, to know when you’re getting “hooked” by a discussion emotionally: And then, you’ll: Pause. Breathe. Return to the conversation.


    Where to start if you’re trying to work on several habits

    1. Stop. What’s the most disruptive routine? That’s your primary focus and goal.
    2. Create the routine.
    3. Write it down. (I’d say  mindmap it or draw it out, if that’s your method to brainstorm.~sfw)

      Mindmap – SimpleMind+ website

    4. Post it where you can see it. Helps with working memory. Helps to sustain the habit. Helps to keep track of it in the moment. And helps you understand how much time is passing and how much work there is to this routine.~sfw



    The national guideline is 10 minutes per grade. Homework can be part of an  IEP plan.

    What parents can do at home is decide on the routines:

    • When IS homework time?
    • Where will you choose to work on homework.
    • Create a list of exactly the steps to accomplish the homework.
    • When are the breaks.
    • Break up homework into mini sessions (use your timer).



    I’ve often written about sleep, so I’ll list the new points:

    Consistency is key – when you go to bed and what time you wake up. The more inconsistent you are playing with the  times, the more difficult it will be for your body to understand what it is supposed to do.

    Start 45 minutes before you have signs of tiredness on your wind down routine.

    Learn to settle yourself. Mindfulness works beautifully.


    Overall, another excellent speaker who shared some new ideas with us at CHADD. Check out his HuffPost blog articles - much more detail awaits you, if you’re a family dealing  with ADHD.



    More … Tidbits Learned at CHADD… Habits!

    November 28th, 2014

    Kim Kensington, Psychologist

    My first blog update was about Executive Function and Tom Brown’s explanations. These blog articles include a mixture of ideas, strategies and tips learned from a variety of speakers at different sessions I attended. Today, Kim Kensington, an engaging, experienced speaker, psychologist and stand up comic! (Truly. Check her bio.)

    Kim Kensington, psychologist. Her session: Consistently Inconsistent: How to Make a Habit.

    Kim was diagnosed as an adult, not long ago, with inattentive AD/HD.

    • Habits take 21 days, for the person with ADHD, just to make an “imprint,” not the  actual habit.   (I have read research which says it takes 6-7 time longer for the person who has ADHD. – sfw)
    • Cue-response-reward: the framework for creating your habit.
    • To do lists: super difficult for the inattentive ADHD, because it means so many machinations and turning over of details in your  head, not a strength.
      • Instead, use less detail at first. Deal  with a category of your life, one at a time; set a timer and  do all the tasks associated with that category …and respect the timer (alarm) when it goes off.
    • For your task or goal: “It is remarkably different when other people are involved “ (Who is on your team?): Involvement can be for accountability, acknowledging, endorsing, recognizing progress or simply doing the task with you (in person or virtually).
    • Investigate apps to shut off technology, for example, if you stay too long on Facebook in the morning, or are late because you’re still on it, or have trouble getting to bed because you can’t pull yourself away.
    • Anti procrastination for the inattentive inclined: Be near the task. Don’t actually start it. Just move the materials closer to you as the first step. Approach it gingerly.
    • Point of performance: This is the support you need running up to and getting started on tasks.  It is difficult often for the inattentive person.
      • Strategies from Kim:
        • Checklists
        • Tie to another habit.
        • Think of a “pre flight” checklist.
        • Timer – just 5 minutes, no more.
    • Getting up off the couch:
      • Use a timer with a sound you find obnoxious.
      • Toss the timer/alarm across the room.
      • Use snooze, never off, until you are up off the couch.
      • Call a friend while lying down.
      • Watch a funny video. Get your energy going. (And dopamine!)
      • Listen to high energy music.
      • Move your toes, then one limb at a time.
    • Rewards:
      • Allow the adult or child to choose what type of reward is truly going to motivate?
      • Hint: Money is not a reward. What someone can buy with the money is the reward?
      • Use short term rewards. The longer into the future the reward is, the less motivating. Find ways to break up time and give smaller rewards and sooner.




    Her parting words of advice?

    Be humble about your ADHD. Realize how big this ADHD is. Have self-compassion.




    Tidbits I learned at CHADD

    November 24th, 2014

    I work with people on “creating time for what matters,” as I say it. One of the specialties I’ve developed over the years is working with people who think they have or do have AD/HD. I attended and presented with my colleague, Andrea Sharb, at the recent international conference for Children and Adults with AD/HD. This blog is a summary of new learning for me or new ways for any of us to think about some of this knowledge.

    From a session by Thomas E. Brown, PhD. Website, with several excellent book excerpts is here>> 

    Dr. Brown

    Dr. Brown

    “Executive function:”

    • the orchestra conductor for your brain (all the players may be very engaged, but they need the conductor to connect and integrate, to truly make the music)
    • the brain’s management system
    • the search engine for your brain

      Exec Function - Thomas E Brown

      Print small? Click the graphic and you’ll go to Brown’s article with a full sized version.

    • EF purposes: connect-prioritize-integrate
    • Brown and Barkley at our ICD conference both said this from research: that there is delayed maturity of the executive functions in people with AD/HD up to the age of 30. That means, for example, that your 22 year old really might be acting younger than his/her years, and so it behooves us to plan for strategies that would work with someone about 3 years younger. Or your 7 year old … at 4.
    • Motivation: Will you do it?  Planning: How will you do it?  Memory & timing: When will you do it? (Attributed by Brown to M. Lezak, researcher).
    • EF as working memory for the brain: Where your brain has all kinds of information you have stored. The issue is not that you don’t have it. It is an issue with retrieval.
    • His EF chart has 6 functional areas which are involved in EF workings: Each area is  like a “label on a basket of related functions.” (His excellent article about EF can be found here.)
    • EF was thought to be mainly related to the PFC, prefrontal cortex of the brain. The newer thinking is: still release/reload issues with neurotransmitters, but the newer thinking is that the EF is more about coordination among the regions of the brain.
    • Context matters, significantly. You could be highly engaged in some sorts of activities and others simply cannot get your attention (a deficit in regulation, not in attention itself).
      • Context: memories, goals, emotions, what you feel is important versus think is important; how your body and brain were involved.
    • His belief today is that context is impacted by our emotions of the past similar context and the current one, that emotions are the root of paying attention. His new book is here On my shelf, but not yet read.
    • Distinguish “you” versus “your behavior.” You are not your ADHD or its impact.
      • Great phrase he uses with his patients: “At this time, you can’t do xyz, but you will be able to …” Accent is on “at this time.” Because often someone will say: “I can’t do it.” Period. Sounding like on can never do it.


    More blog articles are on the way with  points from other  session, but the Executive Function is the basis for all things ADHD, so it deserved its own blog post.



    How Much Change is Happening: Part 2- Practicing.

    November 18th, 2014

    Last  blog, I wrote about questions to ask yourself so that  you can keep track of how much change is going on for you, over the  course of time. Why is that important? Because we often don’t realize how much accumulated change has happened, and when we don’t acknowledge it, we are left wondering why we are feeling low, or being less productive, or being cranky for no apparent reason. And, because if you’re not recognizing how much is happening, you may slide down that rabbit hole, black hole, into the abyss, and not even know why you got there. And then it’s more difficult to  pull yourself out and get back to level ground.

    The last blog is here. This article is about a story in my recent life which is an example of how practicing for change you know is going to happen will help you deal with the change more easily.

    Practice for Changes You Know Will Happen

    Practice? Yes, and the idea came from our dog Malik’s trainer. (Well, right; she trains all three of us. I know.) Donna’s at a new company, and instead of working mainly from home, she will work five days at her company. That leaves Malik and me. I used to be the backup sitter, not the primary one.

    Malik changes routinesThis is a big responsibility change, along with routines and schedule shifts (most routines, meals, work/personal time, his exercise time, bed/wake times… you name it.).

    We figured out a few things which have helped me tremendously already.

    I tell you this because it’s an example of practice, perspective, and figuring out what works for you – no matter the change.

    • Before the first day of the new job, I practiced last week, just Malik and me, working through my workday, to see how his routines and mine would come together. The practical piece.
    • I have more than one backup plan. This week, we are alone.  I’m not in a panic, which would have been my normal, as I attempt to be as productive as I usually am. I have a sense of how my day needs to shift so that he and  I can co-exist peacefully. The psychological piece.

    There will be lots of surprises, but I have plans A, B, C and D to fall back on.  Why so many? Because, for me, it gives me choices. For me, it’s less  pressure.

    I’m more apt to let go of “plan A” as being the only way to manage my days, because I have other ways to get my work done, if he has a crazy day or crazy afternoon sometime. He’s just a puppy, so he’s going to have those.

    It’s much easier to stop resisting what is, over which I  have little control (a puppy’s impact on my day), if I know I have other options. (In this case, my other options  could be: Spend the time with him during the day, and work after dinner; get up earlier than I had been; use some weekend time; have him take a nap in his crate.)


    So look backwards to reflect and understand what would work better for you,  for the next time.

    • Find a way (or a person) to remind you of what has worked in the past, because emotions will cloud your memory. (I used past experiences of post surgery care, family staying for several week’s  visit, etc.). More on that in my next blog.)
    • Visualize, practice, talk through your routine changes.
    • Consider not only the practical  side, but also how you’ll react to all this change, so you can  take care of your psyche,  too.

    What changes are going on for you lately or do you see coming up? And how could you make them easier to manage?  How do you keep track of the level of changes in your life?