mom who works

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

Organizing Checklists Everyone Should Have — 5 Best Lists June 23, 2011

The summer travel season is upon us, and I found this collection of checklists really helpful from Lorrie Marrero, guru of The Clutter Diet . I am always looking for ways to get more organized. Thanks Lorrie!


Stay on Target March 21, 2010

Filed under: general,organization & productivity — Deborah @ 10:15 am
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I find it interesting that when you are the busiest, most hectic, most overwhelmed, it is also the most difficult to stay on target – to remain focused on what you need to get accomplished.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Life has been throwing me for a loop lately. We’ve had some issues at home with our daughter, which has challenged me emotionally and has distracted me immensely. I’ve now been in my new job for three months and am knee-deep in several large, critical projects and a whole bunch of smaller, also critical projects. And the demands on my time, my thoughts, my focus just keep coming. I’m finding it difficult to keep it all together and get done what I need to get done. Which just makes it worse.

I have recently rethought my organizational techniques and have become a “convert” of Getting Things Done, or GTD. I am only about three weeks into this, which, for those of you who know the old adage, is barely enough time to develop a habit. I’m slipping. My inbox is growing – I’m checking and rechecking things constantly to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything, which again, is what GTD is supposed to free you from.

Is it really possible to keep it all together, all the time? Is there a critical mass of “things to do” that is just too much for any system to handle?

Existential ramblings aside, I have recommitted myself to organization (again!). I spent a good hour and a half on Friday afternoon doing my weekly review. I have captured everything, for the moment at least. Now the challenge is to expand the 24 hour day into something a bit longer to enable me to get it all done.

If anyone has learned how to do that, please let me know. I could use it now more than ever.


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

Getting Things Done

Image from

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.


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

Image from

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.


manage your energy, not your time June 17, 2009

Filed under: general — Deborah @ 10:09 am
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Just read an interesting article/report from the Harvard Business Review on Manage your Energy, Not Your Time.

The premise is that time is finite, energy is not. You can get more done in the same amount of time if you have the energy to do it. The article comes at it from a management/organizational approach, but there are tips and ideas here to help not only within your organization but also your personal life.

Now who couldn’t do with more energy these days? I know I can!