Just a little blog about me and mine.

3 Things April 3, 2009

Filed under: work life — Katie @ 11:55 am

Just 3 Things. That’s all I’m trying to get done each day this week. Well 6 actually, 3 at work and 3 at home. I’ve been having some, um, productivity problems at work and also having a hard time staying ahead of the curve on keeping the house clean.

I have two major work projects that have been moved from December, to January, then to February, and March…you get the point. They really need to get done now. It’s not a crisis that they haven’t been done yet but they are actually things that are really important to do. And it is a crisis if they don’t ever get done. There’s always a bigger, more urgent or more important project to do, so I’ve been able to justify ignoring these tasks since I had so much else to do. But I’m slowly getting caught up on other stuff, and it’s a now a slower part of the year for me, so I’m out of time to procrastinate on these anymore.

On the home front: Our dogs shed a lot and we have the world’s fluffiest cat. Plus we eat most of our meals at home and cook a lot so that makes a lot of dirty dishes. We also create a lot of dirty laundry–I do have to confess that I seem to wear 2 times as many shirts as PL in any given week and I don’t know how. It’s also now yard work season and our yard is looking like a jungle while the elderly neighbors’ yards all look neat and clean.

I occasionally read a few blogs on productivity and getting things done. The GTD (Getting Things Done) system is too involved for me, but I think it’s a great system for those who need a little more structure. I have a good memory and always keep one master list of all of my work projects (whether or not I do them, I still have the list), so I haven’t really needed to totally overhaul my entire to-do system. I do benefit from breaking up big projects into actual tasks to go on my to-do list, but GTD is just more detail than I need. I do most of that mentally and have a good memory–I just need a little occasional help to get re-organized and motivated.

That brings me to 3 Things. Just do 3 Things every day. But make them count. I’ve read about this a few times before, and love that it’s called Lazy Productivity.

Here’s how it works: Make a list of 3 things to do at the end of the day, and then then do those 3 things the next day. (I still need to work on the day before part so I won’t wake up worried about forgetting something I need to do.) Try to do the first task when you get to work in the morning, before email or other small things get in the way. Others suggest actually having a list of 4 things: one thing you are proscrastinating doing by doing the other 3 things instead.

I find that doing one thing first thing in the morning creates a lot of momentum to keep working–it really does feel better to get something done than it does to spend an hour or more in the morning wasting time but worrying about how much you need to get done. I know that’s one of my biggest problems. I get to work, check email, read some news, and then can’t quite get started on work. And I look at my list of a dozen or so things to do and know I can’t get it all done. So I read some more things online. Having something that needs to get done first thing in the morning helps me avoid that vicious cycle of getting a slow start to the day.

Yesterday, I got rolling on my 3 things as soon as I got to the office. I finished 2 of my 3 things before lunch, and then spent most of the afternoon on my 3rd thing which was a little more time consuming. Then I was done. And I gave myself permission to take a little break. After that, I felt so good about finally getting those 3 things done that I spent a few minutes working on some smaller projects.

I tried the same thing at home. I didn’t write this part down, but when I got home from work I wanted to do three things.
1. Vacuum (the dogs were at daycare and therefore not actively creating more hair faster than I could clean it).
2. Do the dishes before we cooked dinner and made even more dirty ones.
3. Put some work stuff that’s been sitting in our living room for 3 weeks in my car to take back and store there instead of walking around it each day.

When I got home from work, I immediately put the seats in my car down and put the work stuff in there. Then I vacuumed. I was done with all of this in 30-40 minutes and took a break to play online and read magazines before PL and the dogs got home. We had dinner, watched the Rachel Maddow Show Podcast, and then I did the dishes. I did my 3 Things, the house looks great, and I still got to spend several hours doing whatever I wanted.

I also like this system because it makes a big work-load seem managable. We all have many more than 3 things to do at work or home, so you might be thinking that this system isn’t actually all that practical for getting things done. But I know that when I feel like I have a ton of things to do, I get overwhelmed by how big all of the projects seem and then don’t really manage to do anything. Not even one. So really, three is much better than zero.


Molding Young Minds…or at least no one fell asleep February 12, 2009

Filed under: work life — Katie @ 5:20 pm

Today I was the guest lecturer at an Emory undergraduate course on Non-Profit Marketing. Yes, I do feel important and wise. And I got a free bottle of water and a parking token in exchange for my genius. (Parking at Emory is hard to come by, so a parking token speaks quite highly of my importance.) The class is actually pretty cool in that the professor works with a number of different non-profit agencies each year and has the students work as “consultants” on a marketing problem faced by the organization. I met with my group earlier in the semester to pitch our problem to them and now serve as a mentor to them as they work on their project. A representative from each of the agencies comes in and teaches a class, and then at the end of the semester all of the students give a presentation to the non-profits and advise us on our project.

My suggested talking points were:

  • Organizational Overview (mission, history, initiatives, programs)
  • Customers
  • Competition
  • Staffing/Board Structure
  • Sources of Revenue
  • Business Challenges
  • Success Measures
  • Data Collection
  • Trends
  • Personal Career Path

With about an hour to speak, I obviously couldn’t cover everything and wasn’t expected to, but I looked at their syllabus and tried to cover the points that were the most relevant to what they are studying and what they need to know for their final projects and paper.  

I first started with the personal career path part though, and told them that when I was sitting on their side of the classroom I wished I had someone speaking to me about what they did everyday in their real jobs. I think that Non-Profits are still a vague entity to them, and most people, so I hope it was useful to hear what kinds of things you actually do if you work for a non-profit. Then I shared with them how I was a Chemistry major for a really really long time and then learned it was ok to change my mind because something else stirred my mind and my passions.  I shared with them that along my long and tangled path towards gainful (yet poorly paid) employment I had some great teachers and mentors who taught me that vocation is different from occupation. I said that your life is more than the sum of your income.  Yes, I said that to a bunch of business students. I quoted Parker Palmer and his tiny but profound book Let Your Life Speak in which he defines vocation as the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need. Then I bored them with a Powerpoint. But I promise I didn’t read the slides to them.

I always start any talks about my work with “Who is a Refugee?,” simply because I was guilty of living in Atlanta for more than 5 years and not knowing the difference between refugees and immigrants or knowing exactly why there are quite so many foreign people at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. I always have to tell people that our government, along with many other governments around the world, invites refugees to come life here after escaping really terrible, unimaginable things in their home country. They are legal immigrants. They arrive here with work authorization and great hope for a better future. They also get handed a bill for the cost of their airfare here pretty much as soon as they land, so the whole system is set up with the idea that they will become self-sufficient and not be a drain on the community. And did I mention that our clients are legal immigrants? Our newest neighbors need a lot of help, and are having a really tough time–worse than previous refugee groups–in adjusting to life in the U.S. The economy also sucks, in case you haven’t heard, and is hurting our clients, and our agency, a lot. So, yeah, I guess I probably wasn’t able to convinced them that a career in the non-profit sector is a great idea after all.

The rest of the presentation probably isn’t exciting to most people, but since it is actually a business class, I talked about unrestricted versus restricted cash flow, revenue sources and I also had pretty bar graphs and a pie chart.

Nobody fell asleep. And did I mention I got free parking? 

I think the formatting might end up being a bit off in the transfer to the web, but behold, through the magic of Google Docs.


Help Wanted November 20, 2008

Filed under: work life — Katie @ 5:02 pm

Today I found my dream job, and I’m so quailfied. Over-qualified in fact.

Job Title: Alpha Omega
Organization: The Universe

Job Description:

The Universe, a well established nonprofit organization since 14.5 billion years ago is searching for a person to lead daily operations.

Duties Include:
– Scheduling of the planet rotations in the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond.
– Monitor rotation of the Earth to ensure proper weather temperatures for precipitation, heating and cooling.
– Manage sun set, sun rise and the gravitational pull of the moon.
– Must be able to control winds and produce fire, hail and other natural occurrences
– Produce a rainbow on occasions.

– At least 10 billion years of galaxy management.
– Demonstrate ability to perform all duties above.
– Multitasking is a must!

Experience Required: 10 years
Visa: Will not sponsor
Potential Page Range: 0
Travel Requirements: Speed of Light / 100%
Preferred Major: Management
Preferred Degree: Doctorate
Job Certifications: None

To Apply:
Please e-mail resume and cover letter to:

Or send hard copies to:

The Universe
Big Bang Drive
Milky Way Galaxy, Universe, 00000

No phone calls please!

The Universe is an equal opportunity employer


Lawyers wrote it, but a politician voted on it. August 25, 2008

Filed under: family,work life — Katie @ 9:39 pm

In honor of PL’s first week of law school.

In Georgia…

It is illegal to use profanity in front of a dead body which lies in a funeral home or in a coroners office.

No one may carry an ice cream cone in their back pocket if it is Sunday.

All sex toys are banned.

All citizens must own a rake. (Acworth)

It is against the law to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp. (Atlanta)

One man may not be on another man’s back. (Atlanta)

One may not place a dead bird on a neighbor’s lawn. (Conyers)

Chicken must be eaten with the hands. (Gainesville)

Though it is illegal to spit from a car or bus, citizens may spit from a truck.(Marietta)


Project Lists vs. To Do List August 13, 2008

Filed under: work life — Katie @ 4:53 pm

At work, I occasionally read websites and blogs focused on productivity and work management.  It’s totally not slacking off and not the least bit ironic to be reading a blog about productivity when you are supposed to be working.  I generally don’t buy into that whole “success in business” genre though and find it all pretty worthless and it also makes me glad I don’t work in a corporate environment. 

This attitude dates back to a memory of my dad being forced to buy and read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and attend a management seminar on it back in the 90s.  If you know my dad, or even if you know me, you know how well this went over and how useful he found the whole exercise.

I did learn something a while back though that has really helped me keep up with my many tasks–a To Do List is different from a Project List.   Maybe other people realize this already, but thinking about this and putting it to use has really helped me manage my to do lists for work and home whether they are in my head or on paper. 

I have big projects that I work on most of the year, so if my To Do list says “Festival” I find that totally overwhelming and rather than getting work done, I get panicked that there’s too much to do and wake up really early in the mornings thinking about it.  Instead, the Festival is actually a project and not a single task, and is broken up into many different tasks for my To Do list that happen over many months such as 1) send in rental application 2) review draft from graphic designer. 

The same is true at home.   Writing “clean the house” or “do yard work”  on a To Do list (I don’t usually write tons of home stuff down on paper, but thinking in those terms is the same thing really) isn’t too helpful because those are projects and not tasks, and there’s always something to clean in the house.  Housework, yardwork, home maintenance, and shopping are all never ending projects, for better or worse.  Being able to think of them as different smaller tasks helps you to prioritize and get more done.  Instead of writing “clean house” and “do yardwork” and expecting to successfully mop the floor, vacuum massive amounts of dog hair off the couch, clean the toilets, do laundry, weed the flower bed, clean the gutters, and cut the grass all in a single Saturday, a home To Do list works better if it has actual tasks on it that can be done one at a time.  All of those things have to get done, but if they are many small tasks and not a giant project, they can be broken up, accomplished every day or every other day in just a few minutes, and that makes it much more manageable.


Doing the Job of 3 People August 12, 2008

Filed under: work life — Katie @ 4:42 pm

There’s a chance that we can leverage some resources at work in the coming months to get some extra help in the Development side of things at the office. I’ve never been in the corporate world, luckily, but in the non-profit world, resources are scarce and there’s too much work to go around.

I’ve been the only full-time person we have doing Development since my position (and I) started almost 2 years ago. I’m managed by a 30-hr week consultant that deals with the higher-up agency management issues but is spending more and more time on other projects. We have more work that we can ever finish though as we grow and want to increase the quality of our publications and write more grants and build more programs. We’re slowly adding to what we call our empire (somehow we don’t find the empire metaphor offensive in our multi-cultural office full of people who escaped brutal regimes and civil wars, don’t ask me why), and have a new Americorps VISTA person with us, and another Americorps position that was already around move into our empire from another section of the office management.

We’re not sure yet what kind of staff changes might happen over the next year or so, but we had an interesting meeting today to talk about some options. First, I created a list of all the different projects I do to see what kinds of things it makes sense to segment off to other positions and also to see what kinds of things I would choose to spend more time on if given the chance. I jokingly made it clear that I was here first and get to pick what I want to do, but that’s pretty much what will happen. It was pretty enlightening to see how my current project list as it now stands could keep 2 full time and 1 part time person occupied.

So, the 3 schizophrenic parts to my job break up into being:
1) special events and donor relations
2) database admin and management for the donor and client databases
3) grant writing and communications

If given the choice, I want to do number 3, because I can spend a whole day messing with writing a grant or newsletter and not realize it. I’m learning to build more and more complex programs, and set up structures to manage their outcomes and evaluate them. Over time, I think I could see myself advancing further up this ladder than the others based on my skills. I would be perfectly happy to never do number 1 again, even though I’m really good at it and might have trouble trusting the details of pulling off our events with anyone else. I’m a geek so number 2 is fine, but it gets boring quickly. Having been the only person doing what I do at the office, and having been the one who figured out the how to’s of it all, I know that the jobs are all closely linked and each need to get done right for the whole ship to keep floating, or at least to not sink too quickly.

We don’t do it often enough, but I think today’s meeting was a good chance to step back from the busyness of our usual days and reflect on the work we’re doing, my personal career development and interests, and agency strategic planning. Taking the time to do this made me feel a little better about feeling like I’m drowing in work most of the time, and it’s nice to know that the “management” doesn’t think I’m slacking off when projects take longer than expected.