How to organize that will help you do more

January 2018 blew in like a hurricane. Fast-moving cold fronts broken with 3 to 5 days of good weather became the pattern. When it snowed, it wasn’t much and melted quickly except for shady areas, including the cabin’s roof. High winds and snow on the roof meant work on the roof was sporadic.

Planning and Logistics

As the new year began, I started in on the items listed below:

  • Insulating
  • Plumbing
  • Wiring 
  • Covering the inside walls, stairs, and trim work. 


Living off-grid usually means the logistics of gathering material is problematic. You can’t jump in the truck and pick up an item or two at Home Depot like you would in the city and expect to get anything done in the same day.

The nearest Home Depot for me is in Pueblo Colorado, an hour and a half drive one way in good weather. Thirty miles of the trip is on a rough dirt road. And in the winter, the route often has to be conquered instead of driven. A trip to the lumber yard in Trinidad, on the other hand, is only around 45 minutes in good weather. But, material availability can be an iffy proposition compared to a Home Depot.

Having items delivered was another problem. Companies like FedEx or UPS need a physical address (in the U.S. Postal System); it took over a year for the post office to set my address up. However, I have to hand it Home Depot. I ordered a specially sized gas stove, which they-their contractor-delivered using GPS coordinates.


So, it all boils down to planning. Simply stated, it is setting a direction that guides you to your ultimate goal. Using my corporate experience, creating a plan involved setting goals, identifying activities, setting milestones, tasks, estimating possible risks, and budgeting. Although I didn’t sit down on a tree stump and write out my plan on a piece of bark, I, for the most part, followed what I outlined above. However, I think there is much more that affects our ability to plan and organize that should be pointed out, especially when faced with a difficult and challenging project.

Create a Vision

When faced with a challenging project, I create a mental vision of what needs to be accomplished. I have worked with others that sketch on paper what they want or write down a vision statement. What is interesting, at least for me, building this initial mental image, causes the thinking part of my brain to be activated and focused.

No Negative Waves Moriarty

The line from the movie Kelly’s Heroes, “No Negative Waves Moriarty” reminds us of the power of words and thoughts. For some unknown and inexplicable reason, when a project starts the quintessential naysayer always seems to magically pop up blowing flame retardant phrases around such as, “you’re not intelligent enough,” or “you’re not big and strong enough,” or “you can’t do this or do that.” If that’s not bad enough, our internal baggage is so heavy we are often incapable of moving beyond what happened yesterday or last year.

Do you think Harrison Ford, Elvis Presley, and Walt Disney believed the naysayers? How did Oprah Winfrey and Abraham Lincoln overcome the horrible events in their lives? Yes, they all had or have a tremendous capacity to persevere, but also the ability to ignore thoroughly.

Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people ignore. ~Albert Einstein

The point is, to plan, organize, and execute effectively requires a mindset in which our higher cognitive functions are ignited, cooling and quieting other parts of the brain, and ignoring external distractions like the naysayer.

Stick what naysayers say, negative emotional baggage, and distractions in the closet and move forward.

Nothing But the Present

“Don’t let your reflection on the whole sweep of life crush you. Don’t fill your mind with all the bad things that might still happen. Stay focused on the present situation and ask yourself why it’s so unbearable and can’t be survived.~Marcus Aurelius

Recall an instance in your life where you were so immersed in doing something so focused that you lost track of time, oblivious to what was happening around you. Then, when it was over, you felt calm, and perhaps joyful, and couldn’t recall where the hours went.

Focusing on the present alters our frame of mind eliminating intimidating or negative thoughts. The only thing you have is the present moment, so why not give it your best shot.

Little by Little

Take your time and work in incremental steps. Most projects require a linear progression from one phase or mini-project to the next. Accomplishing one step and then moving on to the next will help bolster confidence and instill a sense of accomplishment.

Maintain a Balance

Accept things as they are. Like Taleb’s black swan, unexpected things are going to happen. Most things in our lives are out of our control. The only thing we have complete control over is our thinking. So, don’t get upset if you make a mistake or something happens that sets you back. Learn from it and move on.

Stop, Relax, and Reflect

Allow time to relax, recharge your batteries, and reflect on your project. Record your cognitions in a notebook, such as things you have learned or plans for the next step.

The Final Result

After almost five months, losing over 30 pounds, developing pneumonia, and two trips to the emergency room, I finally completed something a person could live in. I could not have done it without maintaining a focused state of mind.

Don's Tool Picks

Undoing and stringing power cords is annoying, so, thank goodness for cordless power tools. Milwaukee and Makita are the two brands of cordless power tools I used during construction. I had a good collection of both brands, but I added a few others that proved to be well worth the money.  The Makita cordless rear handle 7-1/4″ circular saw, 10″ Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter (chop saw), blower, and the Milwaukee impact driver, Hackzall recip saw, and work light.

The circular saw has the right balance and weight, especially for cutting thick material such as a 4 x 6. I didn’t think I would use the blower as often as I did. It has excellent power for blowing sawdust off the floor or deck. And then, in the winter for clearing snow. However, my favorite is the chop saw. I spent many days and well into the night cutting 6″ tongue and groove boards and trim to finish the inside of the cabin. Overall, these tools withstood the test and never failed.

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