Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My organizational challenges

So I have this new schedule, which is really intense. I leave the house before dawn, the wee one is in the care of others all day long, while I try to assuage the anxieties of students going through the selective admissions process and taking my required (and pretty difficult) classes. I only have some limited time in the middle of the day to eat, copy handouts, prep for labs, write and/or grade exams, answer student emails. Oh yea, and write in my blog ...

The sheer amount of "to do" details is starting to challenge my organizational system. I've been doing really great at writing down the things that I need to do as they occur to me (hello, sticky notes!) and I've been getting them somewhat done when they need to be. But my students are starting to get annoyed with things I haven't done. They don't care that I teach 25 hours this semester. It's THEIR quiz grade I forgot to post to the online gradebook.

I tried a to-do notebook. I have always bought into the idea that you need ONE single "planner"/"organizer"/calendar/place that you keep all your stuff. When I was a Division Chair, that's how I worked it. And it worked well. I had a huge organizer and I kept everything in it that I needed. Lists of adjunct faculty and their classes, schedules for a number of people, phone numbers. And of course, pages of stuff to do. But I'm no longer in charge of that many people (as a boss, but more as a teacher) and I have so many details to take care of with 4 different lectures and 6 different labs, so a to-do notebook seemed like a good idea. But with a to-do notebook that means I have a calendar AND a to-do notebook to carry around. And guess which one is likely to get lost?

Okay, so the calendar + to-do notebook is a no go. What else?

One system I like is GTD (Getting Things Done). [I have considered doing a series on GTD for mommies. In my spare time :) ] The ideas that I liked were (1) you get everything out of your mind and onto a piece of paper, freeing your mental energy from trying to remember, (2) contexts - GTD is based on making to-do lists in "contexts" - things I need to do the next time I'm at a computer, things I need to do the next time I'm in my kitchen, things I need to do the next time I'm near a phone. I didn't get that into the contexts when I first started the system. Now that I have different lives and don't live in my office so much, I'm starting to see the beauty of it.

The great thing about GTD is that it is more of a behavioral system than a planner system. It is based on behaviors - write things down when you think of them, collect the thoughts and papers that you need to organize as you experience them, once a week go through and sort them out and make lists of things you need to do and where you need to do them. It leaves out the details of the calendar/planner/to-do notebook, and leaves the format up to you. Which is good, because you can get on the internet and read about how lots of other people "implement GTD".

Its not good if none of those people are moms and have no suggestions when you're not sure how to keep track of the myriad of things you have to do in all your different lives.

Before the wee one was born I sized down to a normal sized planner and bought a purse the right size to carry it with me. I really like having an organizer that I can keep with me. The way my brain works, I need to be able to see calendar pages to make plans. If a friend wanted to get together, I can't come up with what my "Saturday" looks like if I'm mired in "Wednesday" details. Having an organizational system means you no longer have to keep details in your head where they make you crazy. But when they're not in your head when you need them ... so I carried my organizer with me and was ready to make plans whenever a conversation struck.

But now I am a Working Mommy. Part of the time I am Mommy - and I can keep my personal stuff in the diaper bag. Wallet, sunglasses, keys, organizer. Part of the time I am Working. Meaning transferring all said items to my work bag. And if I happen to forget one Monday morning to do that ... no lunch for Hungry Working Mommy.

I bought a cute little purse and a cute new wallet that also holds my cell phone. So now I have to carry the diaper bag and the purse, or the work bag and the purse (oh yea, and the breast pump, so I look like a freaking homeless person schlepping all my worldly belongings to and from my car every day). But at least if I have the purse, there is no Hungry Working Mommy.

Cute. Little. Purse. Organizer doesn't fit. Besides, it didn't have enough room to write to-do lists. But it took too much other space with worthless stuff that I wasn't using.

So once again I am assessing my organizational system and trying to figure out how I want to best try to manage all the details of my life. I have left out of this discussion my little foray into electronic organizing. I had an iPaq that was the coolest thing ever - calendar, music, notes at the click of a stylus. Alas, I am unable to sync PDA's with a work computer where my Working Mommy calendar lives, so that is probably not going to be a valid option at this point either.

Someone's going to tell me to buy a Blackberry, I just know it.

I need something small, that can fit into a purse. Something easy to use, so I'll use it. It has to have dates for at least a semester going forward, bonus if it carries dates 12-14 months ahead. I have to be able to write to-dos and things-to-not-forgets as well as big planning ideas like "talk to a lawyer about a will and trust since I'm a single mom" and schtuff like that.

I'm thinking about just doing a stack of notecards. Whadya think? (The actual templates can be found here.)

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1 comment:

Funky Mama Bird said...

I *was* going to suggest a blackberry. =) I work from home and just keep everything on the laptop in to-do lists. It's the only way I can function. Otherwise I miss deadlines because I'm too busy running to the store to pick up the items I forgot the last time I was there.

My husband uses a blackberry; he runs two businesses so he needs to keep his info portable. Seems to work for him. I know he picks up his on ebay for very little money. Just get one that's unlocked so you can use it with any plan. Good luck!