Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Structured Day

Back in the prosperous ‘80’s, when Fortune 100 companies had money to blow on training, I was in a formal training class for my first job in credit & collections. Our little class learned the ins & outs of the mainframe computer system we used, the tedious processes we had to follow, and various tips on how to work our assignments most effectively.

One of those “tips” was The Structured Day. It wasn’t a micro-managed uber-structured use of our time; rather, it was more like, “When is the best time to do X?” A credit rep’s structured day was typically:
· review that day’s follow-up’s (what you had scheduled for that day)
· make phone calls during peak times (9:00 – 11:30, 2:00 – 4:30)
· do paperwork/computer work during off-peak times

To me, this made a lot of sense. Once I got used to the rhythm of my job, I learned to adjust the schedule to accommodate meetings, unassigned inquiries and even time to finish a full cup of coffee!

More than the actual schedule, the reasoning behind “when” certain tasks were done is what has stuck with me. With the various restrictions in my life (job, kids, etc.), I have to ask myself again, “When is the best time to do X?”

Take vacuuming for example. You usually can’t vacuum when the baby’s napping, so you wait till he’s awake. When the kid grows up, you may be working away from home, so perhaps the weekend is the best time, or maybe the kids could do it during the week.

Being a list-maker, I write down when I’m going to do the task. Once I think of all my tasks, the time I have to do them in, and then finally schedule them, pretty soon I’ve created my own structured days. Yes, there are times (oh, are there times!) when a monkey wrench is thrown in and the schedule goes out the window. But I haven’t found it difficult to get back on track. For me, having some framework is better than having no framework.

Does anyone else have a method of organizing their day? Let’s hear it!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting the Most Out of the Friendly Skies

Recently I went out of town on some urgent family business, which required me to make travel arrangements (flight, hotel, rental car). It’s been about six years since I’ve done that, but I managed to find really great deals on and

What I was forgetting about in my emotional turmoil were many of the logistics of the meat of the trip. I did one Mapquest printout, but not the return trip, which would have been helpful. I could have used a few others for possible changes in plans as well. Also, since it had been so long since I flew and because I was not so intimate with the traffic patterns of the city I was in, I nearly missed my flight!

So I thought, “Next time I’ll…”

· review TSA’s security check-in rules (available on the airport’s website) & follow them to the letter. No matter what Airport A does, Airport B might be more strict. In my case, my netbook had to go in a completely separate bin from my other stuff; my things had to be re-scanned.

· print to and from directions to each destination. This may require planning the visiting order of your destinations. Also, it might help to double-check the websites (if available) of your destinations regarding where to park. This helps if you’re dealing with one-way streets.

· leave the hotel shampoos in the hotel. Unless you follow that “3-1-1” rule and have a one-quart zip-top bag to put them in, you will have security issues. I tossed mine in the garbage before scanning.

· leave the keys in the rental car, write down the mileage and, if needed, the fuel level. Normally, there are rental car peons everywhere to help you out. Sometimes there isn’t. I had to go to the Customer Service desk, who asked me all these questions. I didn’t have to go back to the car, but it would have cut a few minutes off check-out time.

· plan to be at the airport two hours ahead of take-off time. Because it was the weekend, I did not anticipate such heavy traffic on the way to the airport (you never know when there will be an accident to snarl things up).

To the degree your pre-flight schedule allows you, the above can save on some unnecessary headaches. Does anyone else have some valuable travel lessons learned? I could probably use those, too!