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Rule 12: Stay Ahead of Your Schedule

Aug 11, 2008
Alice de Sturler is a Dutch lawyer who teaches human rights at Virginia Tech. She lives in Blacksburg, Virginia with her husband and daughter.

If there is one thing working moms need to do, it is to manage their time. In my humble opinion, every working mom needs a good organizer to accomplish this. I know that electronic organizers are all the rage - Blackberrys and iPhones are super cool, but not always practical (at least not for this working mom). Paper works everywhere and doesn't run out of batteries. Soft cover, hard cover, ring-bound, glued spine, a week at a glance, one day per page, a month at a glance, spiral bound, electronic organizers...you name it, I have it (partly used and abandoned in a trunk in the basement!)

Ultimately, I keep coming back to my leather bound ring organizer with yearly refills. Advantage: old-fashioned with a quality cover that lasts a lifetime. Disadvantage: old-fashioned and pricy. But, you get what you pay for; mine dates back to the 1980s.

Now on to content: I like a horizontal week-at-a-glance. The month at a glace does not leave me enough room to write what an appointment is about, what to bring to a field trip, or whose birthday party it is. I chose refills that have the times and dates preprinted. A page per day makes the book too thick and will not fit in an average-sized handbag.

I once saw the loveliest organizer, but it had a day per page. It did not fit into any of my handbags, so I started carrying it around. It didn't take long and, you guessed it, I got annoyed with that. So I set out for the nearest department store and searched through all the handbags to see which could hold my lovely organizer. When I realized I was buying something I didn't need to carry something that annoyed me, I got so discouraged that I went back to the old format and size.

Now, make sure when you purchase your organizer that you think about how you will use it. If you leave it at home on the table, then any size and thickness will do. Leave it in the car? Better choose a cover that wipes clean easily and has a clasp to make sure you do not lose tickets or scraps of paper that invariably get tucked inside. Do you keep it in your handbag on a daily basis? Then a smaller, pocket size model is probably best.

To make sure I am on time for appointments, work, or classes, and still have some time for myself, I follow a few guidelines. At the beginning of each school year, all school drop-off and pick-up times are penciled in making sure I catch all the early releases (they really mess up a working mom's schedule.) Next come the work schedules, mine and my husband's, plus all the family sports schedules. Then I block parts of the days. If for example your child is out at 3 p.m. and has soccer at 5 p.m., the time in between is blocked for driving home, snack, homework and driving to practice.

I also keep addresses and/or telephone numbers I need on a daily basis, the rest stay at home. I also have a few checks tucked in the cover. No cash at a store that only accepts the one credit card you do not have? No problem! Grab your handy organizer and pull out your emergency check.

Every time your child comes home with new schedules, dates of field trips, or music events, immediately adjust your organizer. If you write all school days in the calendar it also becomes clear in the beginning of the year where the long weekends will be. That will give you a chance to keep an eye out on airfares to book a get-away with the family.

After all, that's why we plan and schedule...so we can work and raise a family without going completely crazy.

As excerpted from "42 Rules (tm) for Working Moms" Super Star Press, 2008
About the Author
Laura Lowell is the executive editor and author of "42 Rules for Working Moms." She has gathered practical advice and information from working moms all over the world to share with others. She lives and works in Silicon Valley with her husband and two girls. http://www.42rules.com/working_moms/index
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