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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: What Keeps You Organized?
June 22, 2009 - 9:28pm

We leave for a six-week stay in England next Monday. In between now and then I have to finish my annual review, write a book review, hold a workshop on a novel for YA librarians, convene a committee meeting, and pack. I think I have a couple of personal appointments in there as well — haircut? Dermatologist? I trust to my google calendar to pop up a reminder in enough time for me to get where I need to be. Then there’s the figuring out our travel part, and the planning my summer course part. I’m shelving those for the moment while I work on the more pressing matters.

Whoever said academics got summers off was, apparently, living in a fantasy world. Unfortunately, whoever invented the stereotype of the absent-minded professor may not have been quite so wide of the mark. I’ve not missed an appointment yet, but I did forget to bring the right materials to a committee meeting (in my defense, my son had just been diagnosed with Lyme disease — he’s fine now, but for a few days I was a little scattered). And an e-mail today reminding me of the meeting with the young adult librarians had my heart racing for a minute until I realized that, no, I hadn’t missed it. Yet.

My mention of google calendar, above, is not totally gratuitous, though it’s not an advertisement, either. I’m still searching for the Holy Grail of organizing, the one tool — or two or three, if that’s what it takes—that will keep me on task, prepared for the next, and never overbooked. At the moment I juggle four calendars. We keep a big desk blotter sized calendar on a bulletin board near the kitchen for family events. That works pretty well — we remember to note when guitar and tae kwon do lessons are, as well as the odd hair appointment or doctor visit. If it’s a family responsibility, it’s usually there.

But then there are my personal calendars — and yes, that is a plural. I keep the main one on google calendar. It’s web-based and flexible, but I haven’t yet figured out how to link an e-mail message to a task or an appointment the way I used to with MS-Entourage—so I still maintain that one for recurring events or to remind me of tasks that may have e-mail notifications as well (e-bills, for example).

I also carry a small appointment book in my purse. Mostly, however, I use it to take note of book titles I want to look up, or funny road signs, that sort of thing. I’m not disciplined enough about copying the electronic calendar reminders into it to trust it as a record, though I do—usually—manage to copy dates out of it into the electronic one(s) when necessary.

I recently learned that I could sync my iPod with the calendar program that lives on my MacBook — and that the Mac program could sync with google calendar. So there’s a possibility, too — though, again, it requires a certain discipline in terms of actually synching up the calendars to get everything copied over when necessary. It’s no problem when my schedule doesn’t change much, but at this time of year, when I don’t have a regular schedule but I still have lots to do, it’s a little less efficient.

Folks who’ve seen my office know that organization is not my strong suit. I do meet my deadlines, and I usually manage to keep things running when I need to. But if anyone out there has tips for me, I’m open to them — if I can manage to find them again when I need them! (By the way, I’ll be off next week while we travel to the UK; I hope to be back the following week, though, and maybe I’ll have a report on my reformed organizational strategies. Hope springs eternal!)



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