mom who works

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

What did we do before Amazon? July 8, 2010

I am a “Prime” member on Amazon, which means for some annual fee (I think it’s $79 or something like that) I never have to pay for 2-day shipping for any item that has the little “Prime” logo on it (which is a lot of items).**

What that means is no more worries about minimum purchases, or “qualifying” purchases before you get free shipping. YOU JUST GET FREE SHIPPING. ALL THE TIME. And it’s TWO DAY SHIPPING to boot.

Okay, technically, it’s not free, because you spent $79 – so it’s sort of like you’re pre-paying your shipping up front – but at a huge discount. Because I tell you, this will change how you shop and you will buy a lot more online than you ever would before.

I now buy EVERYTHING on Amazon. Everything and anything. I buy cereal, body lotion, espresso from Italy. You name it, if Amazon has it and I need it, I buy it and have it shipped free to my house. Usually at a great discount (love the “Subscribe and Save” which gives you a 15% discount on things you buy regularly, like cereal, which shows up at my house every 2 months). No shipping, no taxes, no in-store hassles. Five minutes online versus leaving work 30 minutes early to run to Target before I have to get home. Just voila, it shows up at your door.

It’s a little bit like the early days. Way, way back in the late 1990s, when the web was new, Amazon was new, and it all seemed way too cool to be true. That quickly wore off as sites charged ridiculous shipping fees, and you would wait … and wait … and wait for your item to arrive. With Amazon Prime, bing bang boom … it’s on my door within a few days. Amazing.

I often think about my crazy schedule and life, and juggling trying to do amazing work at my job and also be a competent wife and mother. At least Amazon helps out a bit with the “wife and mother” part. The job, that one’s on me.

** By the way, I am not sponsored or supported in any way by Amazon. This is just my unsolicited opinion from personal use of this service.

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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 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.

 

hard of hearing July 11, 2009

Filed under: general — Deborah @ 3:32 pm
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I used to be able to sleep through anything – thunderstorms, tornadoes, earthquakes, LOUD snoring – BEFORE I had children. Then my daughter was born, and that blessed talent disappeared.  Why is it that moms can always hear the faintest peep of the little ones, even when they don’t WANT to? Even when it’s THEIR TURN to sleep in? Me actually getting an opportunity to sleep in is kinda pointless, as my super duper mom ears tune in to the faintest whisper.

This “skill” is apparently not limted to children – it apparently applies to all young’uns in need. Case in point, our 11-month-old German Shorthaird Pointer puppy Clifford (okay, so the 7-year-old named him, what can I say?). Our daughter was at her grandparent’s house this past weekend, we stayed up late watching movies on Friday, and we had nothing we had to get up for on Saturday. I was really looking forward to a few *extra* hours of sleep Saturday morning. Well, Clifford had other plans. At 5:40 AM, the highest pitch whine on the planet began.

I tried really, really hard to ignore it. I even tried the old “pillow over the head trick.” No use, I ended up getting up at 5:50AM to start the dog’s morning routine (out/food/play/out again & walk/naptime). Funny how men don’t seem to have the hearing problem. Hubby was literally 3 feet away from the dog (sleeping downstairs on the couch because the A/C keeps it much much cooler downstairs than up in our rambling bungalow), and didn’t wake up. Not once.

It’s hard not to get frustrated, although I sometimes just have to realize that at some point in their lives (both the kid, and the puppy), they won’t need me as much. So grin, listen and bear it.

 

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!