THE RELUCTANT BUT REFORMED
it’s true. There is another path to organization. Maybe you’ll be like
Meagan as the reluctant but reformed organized person. You weren’t born
with a penchant for organization and routines. In fact, for a long time
you rebelled against anything in your life that resembled structure.
But then you began realizing that when you make small, orderly changes
to your environment, you feel better and it is easier to get things
done. Organizing may not be second nature to you, but you can still
exert control over your surroundings. You can be just as disciplined
and orderly as the naturally organized—as long as you give yourself
plenty of time to create a new, healthy habit.
LEAVING THE OFFICE BEHIND
first thing we have to do is make an assessment of your projects. What
has to happen with each one while you are gone? Do you have competent
people covering for you? Are your clients aware that in the
not-too-distant future they will be dealing with someone else at your
company? Now is the time to check to see if there are any details that
need your attention. If you will be returning to your job
post-maternity leave, it is especially important that you provide for
smooth sailing. Otherwise you’ll be a sore, sleep-deprived new mother
who has to deal with unnecessary chaos at work.
second question is: Do you have all your papers in order should anyone
wish to check out the status of a project? There’s no time now to
overhaul your file system. If it’s in disarray, at the very least you
can pull the files your colleagues will need to access and put them in
one drawer. Let’s say you have the ABC, the XYZ, and the DEF projects.
There are about five files for each that contain volatile information
that someone will most likely have to access. Empty a file drawer
(preferable the one in your desk), and place the projects in
alphabetical order with the files for each in box bottom file folders
(if the material is large enough to fill one). This emergency step will
short-circuit complaints about your lack of organization. It will
remain your dirty little secret. After your return you can revamp the
system as you make room for the new information that has accumulated.
Remember to ask whoever is collecting your mail to leave it all in a
box in your office. You don’t want to walk in and see mail, memos,
newsletters, magazines, and other communications sprawled all over your
desk. It will be Little Shop of Horrors without the music!
women will want to be out of the loop while they are away. Others will
want e-mail and/or phone updates so that they can stay current and save
time when they get back to the office. It depends on your personality
and the type of job you do. If you fall into the latter group be sure
and set boundaries. You don’t want calls, e-mails, or IMs being sent at
all hours of the day and night. At the same time you set boundaries for
others, set parameters for yourself. When and how you respond is up to
you. If you have an assistant, ask everyone to run their communications
through him. And give your assistant specific instructions about what
information can be shared with others. Do you really want everyone to know when you go into labor?
what does your physical office look like? If it will be closed up while
you are gone, don’t think you’re off the hook. Remember that
sleep-deprived, sore, cranky mom I referenced above? She deserves to
walk into a space that is at the very least devoid of extraneous
debris. I’m not asking you to organize the space now; it’s really too
near to your due date. I am asking you to divest the space of junk. You
know what I’m talking about. Here are some ideas for you to consider:
If you have lots of office supplies, return them to the central area.
Let others use these in your absence. You can restock later.
• Now is a good time to take home personal mementos, photos, and plants (real or fake).
• Take home the shoes, sweaters, umbrellas, and boots that clog this space.
• Check your drawers and files for anything relating to your personnel file or any personal information you have stored here.
• If you have sensitive information about other employees be sure it’s left under lock and key.
• If you have food items like condiment packages, take them to the communal kitchen or toss them. Don’t leave any food in your office.
• Did you stash items here that needed to go to the post office or be returned to a store? Dispense with these tasks now.
you gaze around your office, what would you add to this list? Pretend
it’s a few months or weeks after the birth. What visual do you want to
be presented with upon your return? Create that this week! You want to
walk into this space after your baby arrives and feel welcome. It’s
possible with the work you do this week. And if you are leaving your
job for good, clean out your space and set up those key files I
mentioned above to honor the person who follows you. It’s funny the way
life works: When we take the time to care for others the very same
energy returns to us multiplied. In fact, why not take a few extra
minutes and divest the space of all extraneous files. Send off to
archives any material that must be part of the company record but
doesn’t concern the next person working here. And finally don’t forget
that your computer and your physical space mirror each other. Be sure
they are both streamlined before you walk out for the last time.
THE HOME OFFICE
Please read the
material for the mom working outside the home . If you skipped
that material, I assure you there are many parallels. And the key is
communication. By now, everyone who is involved in your work, from
clients to vendors, knows you are pregnant. The most important things
you can take care of this week are twofold: First, make sure all
projects are on schedule. Secondly, make your post-baby plans clear to
everyone. You don’t want anyone to assume you are going to shut down
your business after your baby arrives and take the precautionary step
of taking their business elsewhere. If you need this income to support
your lifestyle and your baby, safeguard it with care and clear
Working as a freelance
writer, Meagan had a challenge when deciding how to handle her
maternity leaves with babies number three, four, and five. She didn’t
want her clients to feel anxious about her ability to handle her
workload, but she also didn’t want to find an unexpected “emergency”
issue in her inbox a few days after giving birth! So Meagan took a few
minutes to contact each of her clients about four weeks before her due
date, either via e-mail or phone (whichever the client seemed to
prefer). In this communication, she’d tell her clients that she was
just a few weeks away from her due date, and ask them to come to her as
soon as possible with any questions or concerns . . . or else to shelve
them until a few weeks after her due date. Her clients were always
grateful for the heads-up and usually either let her know there was no
hurry on the project, or else came to her right away with last-minute
concerns. She never had to field a question or problem during her
self-created maternity leave!
AS THE MONTH DRAWS TO A CLOSE
a long time we were inching along, weren’t we? Now time is flying and
your progress needs to be swift. Baby may not follow the proscribed
timetable and may decide to arrive early. Next month the assignments
won’t be as time consuming, I promise. But they will be important. Next
month is the last mini-rest you’ll have before your new life begins.
Savor it. And if you are berating yourself for not doing more office
organizing earlier, remember that everything happens when the time is
right. Instead of guilt and regret, make this a teaching moment. For
those of you who are prone to these feelings, I’m closing out the month
with a quote: