Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Too Many Decisions

My desk still looks pretty good, but I can feel myself losing my organizational grip. And the issue is the same as it always was -- how do I prioritize my work? There are so many good stories on my reporting beat that I have a hard time choosing. That's how email piles up and that's how desk piles begin to grow.

Take today for example:
I would most like to be at a conference at the Bellevue-Stratford Park Hyatt (whatever it's called). The conference is titled the Global Creative Economy and it focuses on how talent and creativity and the economy mix. That mix lies directly at the heart of my workplace beat. There is an inch-high stack of notes from the first day of the conference and other interviews on my desk pertaining to that.

There are three other stories I could do today and each one is represented by a paper or email. One is about a five month lockout at Tinius-Olsen Machine Testing Co in Horsham. That is a long lockout and it would be worth seeing what's up there. A lot of unions are rallying to picket with the workers. I have a couple of emails about that, plus a fax or two.

The Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children released a report today that essentially says that Pennsylvania's youth are not fully prepared to enter the workforce. Again, an important story with implications for our future. That's about three emails.

And finally, there's a group called the MidAtlantic Employers' Association that is publishing a salary survey -- usually there are interesting findings and it is very locally relevant information. Another three emails.

I could probably handle at least one of those stories, but a co-worker I need to help me with a technology project is going on vacation tomorrow. He's the one who knows how to create an online version of an interview with a well-known business author which will appear in The Inquirer soon. So what I am actually doing is transcribing an interview. The interview is fascinating. Transcribing it is boring beyond belief!

So I guess that's what I have to do and I have to let these other stories go, along with the emails. But I feel bad about it and that guilt translates into piles. Well, I'd rather write a blog than transcribe, but I need to get to work.

What do you think I should have done today?

Too Many Decisions

My desk still looks pretty good, but I can feel myself losing my organizational grip. And the issue is the same as it always was -- how do I prioritize my work? There are so many good stories on my reporting beat that I have a hard time choosing. That's how email piles up and that's how desk piles begin to grow.

Take today for example:
I would most like to be at a conference at the Bellevue-Stratford Park Hyatt (whatever it's called). The conference is titled the Global Creative Economy and the ideas presented there of how talent and creativity and the economy mix goes directly to the heart of my workplace beat. There is an inch-high stack of notes from the first day of the conference and other interviews on my desk pertaining to that.

There are three other stories I could do today and each one is represented by a paper or email. One is about a five month lockout at Tinius-Olsen Machine Testing Co in Horsham. That is a long lockout and it would be worth seeing what's up there. A lot of unions are rallying to picket with the workers.

Another is that a group called Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children released a report today that essentially says that Pennsylvania's youth are not fully prepared to enter the workforce. Again, an important story with implications for our future. That's about three emails.

And finally, there's a group called the MidAtlantic Employers' Association that is publishing a salary survey -- usually there are interesting findings and it is very locally relevant information. Another three emails.

I could probably handle at least one of those stories, but a co-worker I need to help me with a technology project is going on vacation tomorrow. He's the one who knows how to create an online version of an interview with a well-known business author which will appear in The Inquirer soon. So what I am actually doing is transcribing an interview. The interview is fascinating. Transcribing it is boring beyond belief!

So I guess that's what I have to do and I have to let these other stories go, along with the emails. But I feel bad about it and that guilt translates into piles. Well, I'd rather write a blog than transcribe, but I need to get to work.

What do you think I should have done today?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Teach the Children

At home, all the year-end activities are building up. We are trying to organize a college tour for my older boy, a high school junior, and I'm trying to help my younger one, who is in a high school research program at Central, get his work together for next year.

When I was talking to these organizer folks about cleaning desks, I noticed that some of them specialize in organizing teenagers. (Do they have any tricks for picking up dirty socks?) Tara Grunde-McLaughlin, one of the Inquirer's readers, thinks that all of us should be taught, as youngsters, to be organized.

Here's what Tara wrote to me:

I want to share my thoughts on the origins of our troubles, whether at home or work. Once, we were all new to our jobs (although we may have inherited file drawers full from previous tenants). Once, at home, we only had a few folders of "important documents."

Eighteen years into adult independent life, I wish I had had a system of organization from the very beginning! It seems we are all trying to close the barn door after the fact, so to speak - or at least lead the horse back in.

This leads me to wonder what, if anything, is being done to guide future businessmen and women. How about a weekend class or two for college students? Are any local universities or trade schools providing anything of the sort? It seems that organization is such an important life and job skill, yet it is expected this knowledge would be just absorbed along the way.

Can we help our youth prevent future chaos?

Monday, June 05, 2006

My God! I Have A Chair!

It's totally immature to crow about this, but the chair in my cubicle is empty!

Long before I started this digging out process, I had a mail crate that was full to overflowing with papers, articles, notes that some day...

Sometimes I stashed this box of dreams and regrets under my desk in my cubicle. Sometimes it was smack dab in the little amount of space that I have, tripping me up. Lately, I've been keeping it my chair as an incentive to empty it. It has taken nearly six weeks to empty it.

So why did an 18-inch pile take so long to go through?
Because I'm trying to finish what I start -- and that is a priority.

One of the main reasons I used to have piles on my desk is that I'd finish a story, the article would get published, yet my notes and phone numbers would stay in a file on my desk. The files grew into towering piles, which hemmed me in physically and psychologically.

Now I'm trying to go through those story files immediately after the story is published -- kind of like doing the dishes after dinner instead of leaving them in the sink. I make sure I keep track of the phone numbers and contacts, check my notes, look over reports and toss what I don't need -- which is 90 percent of it. That process can take me about half an hour per story.

Given a choice between staying current with these ongoing organizational tasks, or getting to the backlog, I've chosen to stay current. The reason staying current matters is because the key to this whole thing, I think, is to have a plan for your work and then, as they say, work the plan.
The Box Of Backlog gets more out of date by the minute, which means regrets for some of the ideas that have been lost in the sands of time. On the other hand, there's nothing that screams trash louder than a two-year-old press release! It makes the tossing all that much easier.

After I emptied the mail crate and returned it to the mailroom, I went out for a cup of celebratory latte. Now, I think I'm going to sit on my chair and read something, before I start the rest of my day.

Anybody else have a triumph? You can confess your mess, but you can also trumpet your triumph.