October 24, 1995 in Features

Staying Organized: Here’s How 7 Do It

Cynthia Hanson Chicago Tribune
 

How do you stay organized when faced with a mountain of work commitments, family responsibilities and social obligations?

We asked seven busy women how they keep themselves on track.

Ilene Gordon, vice president of operations for Tenneco Inc.: “I split my life between offices in Houston and Evanston, Ill. I’d be absolutely lost without an effective organizational system. I carry The Economist Pocket Diary in my purse, and I cover it with Post-it notes to remind myself of things I need to do. I also carry a small address book containing key phone numbers. The theory is, ‘You ought to be able to run your whole life from your purse, if you had to.’ And I use voice-mail rigorously. If I’m in my car and think of something I need to do the next day, I’ll call voice mail and leave myself a message. It’s safer than writing it down.”

Susan Silver, author of “Organized to be the Best! New Time Saving Ways to Simplify and Improve How You Work” (Adams-Hall Publishing, $14.95): “Organizing miscellaneous papers can be a problem, so I use a desk file sorter. It’s an accordion file that’s open on three sides, and it has 31 tabs for 31 days of the month. I put all date-sensitive material in it, everything from birthday cards to invitations. Looking at it every day is part of my paperwork management system.”

Debra Lee, executive vice president of strategic business development and general counsel of Black Entertainment Television Inc.: “I stick Post-it notes all over my phone and desk. They’re pesky reminders of things I must do, and I don’t remove them until I’ve completed everything. At any given time, I work on multiple projects, so I maintain manila folders for each one. I keep the active folders on my desk for easy access. To stay organized at home, I post a calendar on the refrigerator. It’s the only way to keep track of my son and daughter’s school appointments and activities. I check it every morning, and when I get to the office, I write the activities on my calendar.”

Terri Hemmert, disc jockey at WXRT-FM in Chicago: “I carry a pocket calendar, and when there’s no more room to write, I stop scheduling public appearances. I keep press releases in a box on top of my refrigerator at home. Before I leave to host an event, I grab the paperwork so I know exactly where I’m supposed to be. I always show up on time.”

Rochelle Kopp, managing principal of Japan Intercultural Consulting and author of “The Rice Paper Ceiling: Breaking Through Japanese Corporate Culture” (Stone Bridge Press, $25): “I didn’t have time to file, and as a result I had huge piles of papers cluttering my office. So I decided to hire someone to do it for me. It’s freed me up immensely.

“As my business grows, I’ve also faced another organizational problem: I keep outgrowing my Rolodex. I just bought a new computer program called CAT from Chang Laboratories to help me organize my client base. It allows you to create a screen for each contact, record key information about the person and write yourself helpful notes, such as ‘Call at the beginning of January.”’

Stephanie Winston, author of “Stephanie Winston’s Best Organizing Tips” (Simon & Schuster, $20): “I save time by doing one of four things with paper I handle. I throw it away, refer it to someone else, act on it myself or file it. I file it under general headings, not specific file names. The greatest mistake people make in filing is they’re overprecise, and then they can’t find it.”

Audrey Peeples, executive director of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago: “I maintain two calendars - a small one for my purse and a large one for my desk. Two years ago I started this system because people were calling me at home to schedule business meetings, and I’d say, ‘Sure, I can do it.’ But at work the next day I’d find out that I already was booked. Having two calendars and writing down my appointments really keeps me on target. But I always write in pencil because schedules do change.”

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