mom who works

the joys and challenges of being a working mom trying to find "balance"

Resistance is futile January 30, 2010

I’ve been on a mini-quest to get better organized at work. I’ve purchased a shiny new red Moleskine weekly planner, and even a backup plain Moleskine notebook, just in case the planner didn’t work out (there are about a million different versions of Moleskine – check out their site at moleskine.com).

Getting Things Done

Image from Amazon.com

So I had the tools, but was not sure I had the best system. In my research on managing tasks I kept coming across references to Getting Things Done, or GTD, as the groupies call it. For a while I resisted checking out David Allen’s book by the same name, as it seemed so, well, cultish. And I’m one of those people that if something seems kind of cultish, I will usually view it with skepticism (so says the woman who has only bought Macs since the early 1990s). I mean, this guy has built a whole empire around GTD, including consulting, seminars, training sessions, planner pages, so it’s got to be a sham, right?

Well, I’m here to say, it’s not. Now, I’ve only been using the GTD “system” for about a week, and truth be told, I’m not even all the way through the book yet, but this system is deceptively simple yet very effective. In essence, the principle is that you capture EVERYTHING that you need to do (they are called “open loops”), and then process those things into a task management system to allow you to keep track of them. What was relevatory to me was not so much that core idea (duh!), but the method for processing and organizing those tasks.

You break out these “open loops” into categories like “next actions,” “someday/maybe,” and “projects.” You also break out items you are “waiting for” into a separate list. I chose not to do that and instead combine my next actions with waiting for tasks to keep me on top of both. By separating out your “someday/maybe” items into a separate list, you avoid cluttering your task list with things you KNOW you aren’t likely to do this week but that you still want to have visibility on. By keeping your projects on a separate list (and “project” here is very broadly defined as anything that requires more than one next action), you keep visibility to the bigger picture of what has to get done, but are able to keep very focused on the actual tasks you can do at any one time.

It was very easy to modify and customize this system – there are GTD hacks all over the web. I can see this evolving over time as I get used to it and as my responsibilities change.

I still have 2 more weeks to go before this becomes “habit,” but I’m thankfully, finally, on my way to feeling more in control of what I have to do. I am now a proud member of the GTD collective.

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What to Wear at Your First Big Job January 27, 2010

Filed under: fashion & style,work — Deborah @ 1:14 pm
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navy suit

Image from Corporette

Last week I enjoyed this guest post on Corporette by LPC of Privilege on What to Wear at Your First Big Job. The advice given was valuable not just from the “first job” perspective, but also the “new job” and the “I want a promotion” perspectives as well.

Especially important to note is the fact that men in the workplace really do pay attention to what you wear and what you look like, whether you like it or not. This idea, How Men Perceive Women in the Workplace, was explored a bit further recently on MSNBC.

Check it out.

 

Amen, Sister!

Filed under: family,general — Deborah @ 11:59 am
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When life is especially frantic, I often lament to anyone who would listen that “I need a wife.” I look with envy at my male colleagues with stay-at-home wives, wives who keep a beautiful and immaculate house, care for the kids, shop and cook dinner every night. They really don’t realize how lucky they are. Sigh.

It looks like I am not the only harried working mom to have fantasies of a 1950s-style home life. To wit, the op-ed piece “My So-Called Wife” at the New York Times today.

 

French women don’t get fat January 26, 2010

Filed under: beauty,food,general — Deborah @ 1:13 pm
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I’m sensing a theme in the books I’ve been reading, which seem to tilt toward the fluffy, “French women are awesome” kind of books. Don’t know why, exactly, as I am decidedly not French, but fluffy, well, fluffy is relaxing.

French Women Don't Get Fat, on Amazon.comAnyhoo, I’ve read Mireille Guiliano’s book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, at least three times in the last 18 months, and finally just went ahead and bought the darn thing (the librarian was all, “dude, just buy the book already, it’s $9.95 in paperback”).

I don’t know what it is about this book and Ms. Guiliano’s “plan” that particularly appeals to me. I’ve never been a diet kind of person, and up until about a year ago (can you say FORTY!), I had a nice, peppy metabolism that allowed me to eat reasonably and not really gain any weight.

Well, that’s all out the window now (can you say FORTY!), and let’s just say, well, weight has been gained, about 10-15 extra pounds of it to be more precise. You know things are bad when I start looking past the fitted suits in the closet and steer more toward comfy (i.e. non-restricting) cardigans. And I am NOT a cardigan-type person. Let’s just say it’s too bad I can’t wear yoga pants to work.

So I am trying to diet without dieting, exercise without exercising. This is an art form that French women seem to have knocked. Maybe, just maybe, I can be French too.

 

An organized life? January 17, 2010

I have been in my new job now for about a month and a half, and I find myself floundering not in the job itself, but in how to keep myself organized and on top of the 100+ different things I am responsible for.

The issue is that I have the memory of a gnat, so I’ve learned to become a creator of lists. If it’s not written on a list, it’s gone from my brain as quickly as it enters it, and never gets done (just ask hubby!). I’ve been an avid user of PDAs for about 100 years now, starting with my Palm III through to the Treo 650, then to Blackberry, iPhone and back to Blackberry again. For about the last 10 years I’ve used Outlook at work, and got quite good at using customizing Outlook’s “task” function (which always synced with my current PDA at the time) so that I always had my various lists both on my computer and synced to my handheld. I had a system and I had it down pat. I was the epitome of organization.

Cut to the new job. Which I love by the way. But they use Lotus Notes. Yes, you heard right, LOTUS NOTES. Now I’m sure for all the IT techy geeks out there there is some great and cool reason why a huge organization such as my current employer would choose to go with such a clunky, kludgy, mid-90s-ish enterprise email/contact/calendar system as Notes. But for me, I have just one thing to say about it – Notes SUCKS.

Let’s just say Notes To Do function is useless. I’ve been trying for the last 6 weeks to get Notes to work with my previous “system” of managing my tasks, and the bloody thing just won’t cooperate. To give you just a small flavor for how much Lotus Notes SUCKS – it can’t print out a task list. I’m dead serious.

Oooh, I sound like a whiny baby, don’t I. Sorry.

Image of Moleskine from Lifehack.org

Image from Lifehack.org

So on to some possible solutions. I had just started subscribing to Lifehack, when I saw this post by Dustin Wax on how he sets up his Moleskine. And I was all like, “Moleskine? What the heck is that?”

Turns out that Moleskine is a company that makes these really high-quality, hardbound notebooks. And what I found out is there is this whole cultish devotion to these simple, yet elegant tools.

There’s the Monster Collection of Moleskine Tips and Hacks, How to Make a Moleskine PDA, Moleskinerie, and much, much more. Just Google “moleskine” or “moleskine hack” and you’ll see what I mean. Even anti-Moleskine posts have cropped up to try and combat the onslaught of love the world has heaped upon this simple notebook.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the possibility of going back to an analog task management system, not unlike my first job out of college where I got hooked on the Franklin Planner system (before it became Franklin/Covey and got all spiritual on me). Since my first Palm III in the early 1990s I’ve been digital and never looked back. But I am beginning to think that going old-fashioned may be the way to go.

In either case, I need to get there quick because the email and tasks are piling up.

 

Prayers for Haiti January 16, 2010

Filed under: general — Deborah @ 5:45 pm

One of my favorite bloggers, The Pioneer Woman, provided a giveaway for her readers to the charity of the winner’s choice to support the relief effort in Haiti, and made a sizeable charitable donation based on the number of comments/entries to that post. Amazing.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and with the incredibly brave and selfless people who have gone there to provide relief, rescue and support in their hour of need.

 

day in, day out January 13, 2010

Filed under: general,travel — Deborah @ 1:51 pm
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I’m heading out to one of my company’s plants on the east coast tomorrow, and have planned a “day in, day out” trip. The benefit is that I don’t have to spend a night away from hubby, child and dog, but the downside is my morning flight leaves at 6am. Yes, 6:00 in the morning. Which means that I will be getting up, oh, around 3:00 IN THE MORNING. And I actually live not too far from the airport.

And since this is a last minute trip I don’t have my usual supply of bottled water, healthy snacks and reading material ready to go, so I will be scrambling tonight. Whine.

Maybe hotels aren’t such a bad thing after all.