Sunday, September 27, 2009


Changing jobs requires a high level of organization. I need to do everything I can for my clients, including finishing open projects wherever feasible, finding new attorneys to recommend for those projects I cannot finish, and officially withdrawing from as many cases as possible. I need an entirely new wardrobe because the clothing required for a combination of one to two court dates a month, meeting with clients in a small town, and hanging out at coffee shops is very different than that required for constant travel to various courtrooms and city meetings. I have to rearrange childcare, and since no daycares are available, that means hiring someone to pick up the kids and deliver them back and forth to their current childcare. I have to close down the office and cancel all my business contracts (advertising, utilities, insurances, rent, etc.). I have to hire household help because we literally won't be home to do things we normally do. And I have to get started on the new job, including meeting with the new boss regarding a start date, attending the Board meeting to confirm my employment, and filling out state human resources paperwork. Oh, and my laptop goes back to my current supervisor (and I get a new one), so I need to back up my pda on something else. Plus, I have to physically move out of the office.

Overwhelmed is an understatement.

Good thing I have an excellent organization system in place. I can add everything I need to do to my to do list. I can go through my list of clients and send them all letters, based on a form letter I plan to create. I can glance at my calendar and know exactly what is coming up.

I can't wait until Christmas. Somehow, Christmas seems less stressful than October and November will be!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Closet

In prep for the new job, I need new clothes. Because I only had one or two court dates a month before this, I could get away with only one suit. Now, though, I'll have meetings and court (not as the lawyer handling the cases, but to evaluate other lawyers) and public appearances. And no matter how much What Not To Wear says I can mix and match my suit jacket with other bottoms, I really need to have a suit for everyday.

I currently have two black suits - one if old and shiny and one is new - because a petite size suit is impossible to find except in black. So I'll need to get some suits I can get tailored. I have a white and black jacket that I can wear with the black skirt on Fridays. It's too casual for court, but plenty dressy enough for the office. I also have two other skirts that can be worn to the office with the black suit jacket - one is tiny black and white checks (so it appears gray) and one is a light gray, almost silvery, fabric. Both need minor tailoring (a stuck zipper and a too high slit). Still, neither is technically a suit, so those things are only good for office only days.

I bought a brown suit. I didn't wear it for a couple of weeks and then threw away the reciept. I had tried it on in the store and it looked nice. It was only weeks later that I discovered that the color in the jacket and the pants, which matched perfectly under the harsh lights of the dressing room, do nto match at all. It looks horrible, so I never wear it. I really need to get rid of it.

The biggest hole in my wardrobe is probably blouses. I have trouble since I can't wear anything button up, like a crisp white shirt, so I have to shop and shop to find blouses that work.

I'm off to shop this morning, so we will see what I can find.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

On The Go

Today, I helped Alan set up a simple system in his office for getting ready for meetings. I use a similiar system at home and at work, so i thought I'd share. I've probably mentioned it already, but I call it my Launchpad.

Basically, you should designate a space for THINGS that are leaving the house/office and a briefcase/tote/folder (whatever works for you) for PAPER that is leaving the house. I'll describe my work solution, Alan's work solution, and our home solution so you can steal whatever ideas work for you.

At work, I have a cheap rolling cart that is my launchpad. When I arrive at work and unload my laptop, my open laptop bag goes in the rolling cart. That way, I can't forget to bring my laptop home. My work tote is unloaded (to the extent necessary - if something is only used outside of the office, I don't unload it) and left open in the rolling cart. In my tote bag, I have a brown, drop-in folder labeled ERRANDS. As the day goes forward, I put anything (or have my secretary put anything) that I need for out of office meetings in the errands folder, with a post-it note serving as a label for the document which notes the date and time of the meeting (so that I can have the items for the nearest meeting in the front of the folder and meetings a long time away in back of the folder). If I have court coming up, I pull the relevant folders and put them in alphabetical order in the cart. If I need to bring something home (like a printout of my calendar for Alan), I put it in the launchpad. At the end of the day, all I have to remember is what is in the rolling cart. If it's a lot of stuff (say, because I have court), I bring the whole cart with me.

Alan has an area (a shelf) that will serve as his launchpad. His laptop case and briefcase are on the launchpad. Anything leaving the office goes in his briefcase. He actually goes to a lot of meetings, so he has a meetings folder (like my errands folder). He also has fairly regular meetings with a number of people, so he has folders nearby his launchpad with their names on them. That way, if something comes up that he wants to discuss with someone, he can drop a note in their folder. When he leaves to meet with them, he just grabs their folder.

At home, it's a little bit more thing oriented and the launchpad takes up more space, but it is REALLY IMPORTANT to a smooth life. We have a two-tiered shelf in the coat closet. The bottom tier is for stuff that is leaving the house later, like a wedding present for a wedding next month. The top tier is for stuff that is leaving the house tomorrow/today, like my purse, work bag, keys, bags for grocery shopping with a list attached, or a tote with errands to run in it, like my skirt that needs to go to the tailor. Finally, the top shelf of the closet contains seasonal items that are only used outside of the house, like hats and scarfs and gloves.

Having and using a launchpad is so simple, but saves so much time in the morning and keeps the counters from being cluttered with things that will be leaving the house "later."


Thursday, September 10, 2009


On my quest to get organized, I had to learn to let others do things for me. Not having control sucks. Sucks big rocks. Big, unorganized rocks. Just sayin'.

I was watching the Duggars one day (aside - yes, usually I disagree with them...but they are truly good people with kind hearts), and the mom mentioned how she was helping her friends and that accepting help is a good lesson in humility. It truly is. When I was on bedrest, my friend Karla offered to bring me food. She is allegedly a great cook, but I never accepted. It made me nervous. I regret that. She is wonderful and, had I showed humility, I would have accepted her offer and ate a fabulous meal.

So I am working on it. I am denying my nature. I am delegating.

Delegating at home and work is different. At work, I'm Rachel's boss. Rachel understands that I am a bit anal (if she reads this, and she might, she'll totally comment, "A bit? Ha!"). I understand that I need to leave her alone and let her do her job, which, by the way, she is much better at than I am. But because I am running a business (so, if a bill doesn't get paid, I become jobless) and am a lawyer (who can get sued or arrested for failure to do important stuff), I need to keep track of what she is doing. We have a system where all assignments (except routine filing, mail processing, answering phones, and keeping the office clean) go out by e-mail. Here's the thing, SAHMs: this system might work with your husband. Husband's read e-mail! So pay attention. :)

I send her an e-mail, with a due date, a notation if a document is attached, and a description of what to do. I keep a copy of the e-mail in a folder on my e-mail server called Rachel. And once the assignment is done, she sends me an e-mail that says DONE. If she calls in sick, I can instantly look in her e-mail folder and see what needs to be done. Oh, and the e-mail program I use sorts by date, so I can see how much I've assigned out. When I get a "DONE" e-mail, I delete both the original and the "DONE" e-mail.

At home, delegating is much harder. Alan is mostly in charge of the laundry, dishes, and deep cleaning (like the occasional dusting and vacumming before parties and the bathrooms). I am mostly in charge of day-to-day putting things away, preparing stuff to leave the house (diaper bags, birthday presents, etc.), RSVP'ing and scheduling for the family, cleaning the kitchen (except the floor, which is Alan's), the trash except on trash day (when Alan does it), and any organizing in the entire house. Mostly, we just ask each other for help when we need it.

But I am about to hire someone to help and I am nervous about making it work. I need someone to cut the grass. I'll probably call my godchild, but he is so busy with work that I might have to hire a neighbor. I'm hiring a housekeeper to come in every other week, but I suspect, right at first, she'll need to come in a couple of long sessions, because the house is THAT bad. I'm thinking I'll have her deep clean all seven rooms (kitchen, living room, guest bath, our bath, our room, Ander's room, and Loki's room), then have her regularly maintain the kitchen and the living room and our bathroom every other week, plus one bedroom a month and our guest bathroom during the other monthly visit. I think I'll make a little schedule on the fridge and attach the check and any special instructions to the schedule. I know the housekeeper, so I'll probably hide a spare key (only on the day she is coming to my house) for her to let herself in. Is it okay to leave a batch of towels to fold or sheets that are cleaned to remake the beds? I am also interested in hiring someone to grocery shop for us, especially since Alan and I basically have the same grocery list every week. I think my sister might be interested, but she's really busy, and I'm not sure if it would be worth it for her to come to Ascension Parish. On the other hand, she could shop for her own groceries and the same time, and the way she eats, my payment to her would almost cover her groceries. :)

I also delegate to the kids. Yes, Loki only turns one in a couple of weeks, but he can throw blocks back into the container. I expect him to do so and make it a game. Ander can clean the living room (put blankets in the ottoman, put pillows in his room, put toys in the poroper rooms, and put shoes away) by himself. He can clean his room with just a little guidance. He can put his plate away in the sink and his milk cup in the frig. He gets little stickers on a chart for helping, but it is expected (meaning he would get punished) anyway. Still, we try to make it fun and he is really great about it.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Task (or To Do) Lists

For Stacy. ;)

I bet since paper, pen, and mom's existed, there were "to do" lists. Even though I have a great system for my Tasks list (that I'll share below), I still use pencil and paper to make a quick list of things I'm going to do for a specific situation. For a birthday party, for example, I might make a list the day before the party of all the things that are still undone (ie. get chairs out of the closet and set up). Lists keep you from having to think. That's always nice.

If you are a pen and paper person, I strongly recommend a Master Task List and a weekly (or daily) task list, stored with your calendar. Everything gets dumped on the Master list (with a due date to the left side, if there is a due date). If something can ONLY be done ON a specific date, it is more appropriate for a calendar than a Master list. When you transfer to the Weekly list, you scratch out what is on the Master list. If the Master list is just a bunch of scratch-outs, it's time to recopy it. What a pain!

That's why I use my PDA for my Task List. Here's my top-secret, extra yummy, how-to-kick-butt-at-maintaining-a-to-list secret formula, with chocolate sprinkles on top.

First, you need to recgonize that there are things that NEVER make my Task List. If something is an appointment or can only be done on a certain date, it goes on the Calendar. For example, if I am invited to a Labor Day Bar-be-que and I am bringing the ice and brownies, my calendar shows "11 a.m. Dawn's Bar-be-que" and a note is attached to the calendar for me to bring brownies and ice. Since I CAN make the brownies (but not the ice) ahead of time, my Task List will have an entry, "make brownies", due by Labor Day (and Priority 2 and in the Home category, but I'll discuss that later ;)).

Also, I keep a legal pad at my office (and in my tote for the coffee shop and at home if I'm working from the house). If a task is to be done today, it just gets jotted on the legal pad and scratched through as I do it. Only the things not scratched out at the end of the day go on the Task List. For example, let's assume I am at the office. I might have client meetings or court. And I will need to do (or assign a new due date to) everything due today and tomorrow on my Task List. In the meantime, Rachel requests that I review and sign two letters, but as she does, a client walks in. I jot "sign letters" on the legal pad, since I can't do it right away, but will do it today. The client notes that he needs to know how much it is going to cost to serve the lawsuit. I don't check during the meeting, but jot "check lawsuit filing fees and e-mail John" on the legal pad. After the client leaves, I get up to get coffee and realize I need to assign Rachel to order cups for people visiting the office. "R - order cups" gets jotted down and then I make my coffee. Notice I don't have to stop what I am doing to deal with my Task list. At the same time, it is critical that, at the end of the day, all undone jotted to dos get put on the Task list, or this system won't work. Also, take note that if something can be done IMMEDIATELY, I don't write it down. I just do it.

Another thing that does not go on the Task List is anything routine but not especially critical. We have tons of routines. We have a routine for getting ready in the morning, that includes put diaper bag in car and make coffee. But those things do not go on the Task List. If the routine is new, it might go on the Calendar until I learn to do it (if it is really important, like taking daily medications). If many of us need to follow it (like our morning routine), the steps might be posted until we learn it. But routines, like cleaning, are not Tasks. Of course, if there is special, nonroutine cleaning, that goes on the Task List. Routines are otherwise better dealt with as a separate plan, perhaps with a calendar entry to remind you "Daily Cleaning." However, even though paying the bills and refilling the meds is routine, it needs to go on the Task List, because not having meds is bad.

So what makes the Task List cut? Pretty much everything else! Since I use a pda (and the same can be done in Outlook, I think), I can categorize things in a way that works for me. This system sounds complicated, but it works well.

First, my Task List includes two kinds of entries: to dos and projects (otherwise known as multistep to dos). Projects are my secret to keeping my Task List managable. If any to do takes two or more steps, it's a project entry. For example, one entry might be, "pick up dry cleaning." There might be a note attached, if I used a different dry cleaner because of a coupon and need directions, but likely directions are in the "Yellow Pages" section of my Contacts and not necessary. However, if I need to do all the dry cleaning by the time Alan starts his new job on Thursday, it becomes a project because there are several steps. To differentiate projects from basic to dos, to dos all start with a verb (ie. pick up) whiel a project would just have a descriptive title (is. dry cleaning). Attached is a note with due dates:

ENTRY: Priority 1 - Dry Cleaning - 09/08/09 - Category Errands
-gather all dry cleaning at home (don't forget blue suit in laundry room)
-download coupon from website for one-day overnight cleaning for blue suit
-drop off dry cleaning by 5 p.m.
@09/09: pick up blue suit
@Alan: pick up rest of dry cleaning (that I didn't have a special overnight coupon for)

Once I do the stuff listed due 09/08/09, I'll erase those things from the note and change the due date of the task to 09/09/09. Had I listed all the steps, I would have five things on my Task List and it would have looked overwhelming, especially since I can't do many of the steps until other steps are completed.

Now, I want to take about each aspect of the above entry. It doesn't matter if the Task is a to do or a project, it gets a Priority, Due Date, and Category, as well as an @ if it cannot be done until something else is done.

I sort my Task List by Due Date then Priority. Due dates are set realistically, giving me a little cushion (when possible) but not too much. For example, a birthday gift purchase might be due the day before the party. Things I just "might" want to do don't get a due date, so they naturally fall to the bottom of the list.

Priorities are as follows:

1 - MUST do. Paying mortgage is a 1. These are the things that, if you are in a coma, someone else will need to do for you. So, peeps, if I go in a coma, please have someone take care of the 1s for me. ;)
2 - Do. Most things fall in this priority level.
3 - Might do. For example, I might renew my library card, if I actually find myself using it, by January 2012. I might send a thank you note to my friend for letting me crash at her place, but if I don't, it's no biggie.
4 - Pending. All of these entries start with @, like @Alan (meaning after Alan takes care fo his part) or @09/13/09 (meaning cannot do it before that date)
5 - Maybe/Someday. For all those dreams. These usually have no date.

Categories are divided by where I can accomplish them. Anywhere (the biggest category), Home, Work, Errands, get the idea. That way, if I am at the office, I can make sure to take care of all the office stuff that is due.

I use my Task List everyday, checking it in the morning and updating it in the afternoon. That is the real key.

Okay, Stacy, questions? :)


Friday, September 4, 2009

Organizing Is Important

Alan and I had an actual argument, a week or two ago (just so you know I'm not fighting with him and then coming on-line and saying bad things...:)), about in-boxes. You see, being organized is how I deal with stress. If I haven't processed the papers in my in-box, I worry that I missed something. I don't sleep. I eat too much. It sounds silly, but it really affects my life.

So I'm going to try to write a series of mini-posts about how I organize. I welcome tips and feedback. I welcome information that might help me. I'll start simple, although you should realize that my refined system is very complicated and tailored to me and the work I do.

Some topics I plan to cover (so I can keep track):
-using a calendar
-managing your to do list
-working with an assistant
-working with e-mail
-working on the road

Let me know if there is a specific organization thing that you want to ask about. I'll try to tell you how I do it and why.