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Yes, 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.



The 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.

The 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!

Some 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?
Physical Space

Finally, 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.

As 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.


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 communication.

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!


For 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:
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