Dots, decimals, angel hair keep consultant on track


Patricia Hastings works "big time hours."

An environmental consultant for a major New York firm, she manages projects to evaluate and clean up hazardous waste sites. Ms. Hastings often leaves her New Jersey home in time to catch the 5:59 a.m. train into New York, and gets home after some of us have settled in to watch "Seinfeld" or "Murphy Brown."

As a result, the former Baltimorean has picked up some useful time- and life-management skills.

She numbers and then posts phone calls, memos and meetings as they occur and prints a summary of that documentation at the end of the month. She developed a number-coded, decimal-based filing system so that an office assistant can file documents in the right place without having to understand their content. She uses a colored-dot system on binders, so that she can quickly access documents specific to each client on budgets, law or technology by pulling the binder dotted with the color she's assigned to that account.

And, she says, "At the end of the month, I do a list of accomplishments and print it out." The summary is a quiet way to pat herself on the back, but it's also practical. "When clients come in and ask questions, I have a one-page summary of what I did."

She doesn't leave her time-sensitive ways at the office. "Instead of cooking normal spaghetti [which takes 10-15 minutes to prepare], I cook angel hair. It only takes two to four minutes to cook. I use the hot, cooked pasta to heat up the sauce."

Famished when she gets home, she puts the water on to boil before taking her coat off. She's eating within 10 minutes.

For car repairs, she hires a mechanic who makes house calls. In addition, she uses a snow shield to cover her car windows. "I just pull the shield off, shake it, and I'm ready to go."

All this efficiency does save time, but many people are asking, "For what?" Many single people, especially, use the time gained to work longer hours. This was true for Ms. Hastings, too. "I realized I was getting far too much into my work life. I don't know why it didn't occur to me when I was working late that nobody else was there."

Now, she's scheduling personal activities in her appointment book, right along with professional meetings and deadlines. But it isn't easy to take quiet, personal time. Says Ms. Hastings, "I haven't been real successful, I guess. But I'll keep trying."


What do you do to save time, to make life easier? What have you cut down on or cut out to make more time for yourself and your family? Have you found a way to simplify your lifestyle? Call the Sundial number that follows to tell us your tips and thoughts. Future columns will feature your ideas. Be sure to leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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