Open Thread: The Best Notebooks

2017 Update: We still think this is a great discussion of the best notebooks, but you may also want to check out our latest discussion on our favorite office supplies.

When we talked about the best pens a few weeks ago (which I’m still in the process of trying out — many of the ones mentioned by the readers were subsequently sent to me by Jet Pens, so thank you! — others I’ve bought myself) some of the readers noted that we should also talk about notebooks. This took me a wee bit by surprise, I realized, because I feel so strongly about my notebook choice — so I’m really curious to hear what the other ones that people love.

best notebooks: Mead Composition notebookMy favorite notebook is your simple, cheap, Mead Composition notebook, at least for use at my personal desk. I like how the pages stay together no matter what, and how the book can take a beating and still hold up. I’ve spilled coffee on these notebooks, doodled on them, ripped out pages, photocopied them — and they still hold up incredibly well.  I’ve used them for years to keep track of personal things — I still have the notebook containing my budget from back in my lean days, right out of college! — but when I switched jobs from a big firm to a small not-for-profit I rediscovered my love for this kind of notebook because I think it’s great for when you have multiple small projects going on and you just want everything in one place.  I tend to only have one notebook at a time — the front part of the book (at least the first page going forward) is for business stuff, and the last page going backwards is for personal things.  I’m also incredibly ADD when I get on phone calls, whether for business or personal matters, and I find that it helps me to focus if I’m “taking notes” during the call, even if it’s something as simple as arranging a furniture delivery. [Read more…]

Open Thread: Which Tools/Programs/Tricks Are Your Current Favorites?

In a semi-regular feature here on Corporette, we’ve talked about “Tools of the Trade” — ways to make a busy woman’s life easier, either in terms of scheduling programs, tricks to make things go faster or help you remember, and even the multitude of uses for a scarf/wrap. Do you have a newly discovered favorite trick, tool, program, or other — what need does it fill, and why do you love that particular program, tool, or trick?

(Pictured : Hammer Group, by Noel C. Hankamer.)

Time Management, Down to Minutes


2016 Update: Don’t forget to check out our more recent discussion of the best ways to manage time, as well as this magical billable hour spreadsheet tool

Reader M writes in with a question about time management and billing fun…

There was a discussion a few weeks ago regarding timekeeping methods for those of us enslaved to the billable hour. I would LOVE to see a whole post on this. It’s been a hot topic among the associates at my small firm lately, particularly with the increased scrutiny our bills are getting from clients in the late economic times. What do people use to keep time? How efficient are people? Am I normal to have to spend 10 hours in the office to bill 8, or does that mean (a) I need to stop messing around so much (I’m looking at you, online shopping and Corporette threads!), or (b) I need to bill more aggressively? Any helpful tips on being descriptive in bills (5.9 hours for “organizing files”??)?

Tough question, and I’m very curious to see what the readers have to say.  I remember being told, as a summer associate (many moons ago and in a very different environment than we find ourselves today) that “everyone bills differently — some people get that flash of brilliance on a case in the middle of the night, or in the shower.”  (Um, for the record, I never billed any time for showers or middle-of-the-night-tossing-and-turning — not that work thoughts didn’t ever intrude on “private” time.)  (Pictured: Pocket Watch Clock, originally uploaded to Flickr by Svadilfari.) I’ll also point out that it varies from client to client — some prefer you to bill in quarter hours, others in tenths of the hour; some will let you get away with “Drafted brief” as your description; others will want “Researched and wrote section of brief on copyrightability.” [Read more…]

How I Use Remember The Milk

Remember the MilkI’ve posted before of my love for Remember the Milk, but it’s come up in two separate conversations I had recently, so I thought I’d post on it again.

As a reminder, this is a free, web-based application, and it e-mails you when your “due date” is up.   (You can also check items off it before the due date, and e-mail it “to dos” from your Blackberry — it’s also available as a free “app” on the iPhone and Android, I believe).  I head there at least 4-5 times a week for the following kinds of things:

a) Online purchases – If, say, you’ve done a lot of online buying recently (cough, cough — great sales, I swear!) — then this can be handy to remember what you think is arriving in the mail, as well as by when.  (Or am I the only one who returns home sometimes to be surprised by a delivery of clothes I hadn’t remembered ordering?)  If I remember, I’ll also add “return by” dates as separate to-dos… and if I actually do return something I try to generally ballpark a date (yet another task) by when I should have received the refund on my credit card. [Read more…]

Open Thread: A Comfortable and Pain-Free Office…

a comfortable and pain free office

2018 Update: We still think this is a fascinating discussion of how to have a comfortable and pain-free office — but you may want to check out our more recent discussion on how to get better ergonomics at the office.

Here’s something we’re curious about:  How many of you have picked out your own desk chairs, keyboard drawers, and so forth in an effort to make your office more ergonomic and comfortable? Which brands have you found to be the best?

We’ve read a million articles about how — without the right set-up — your office could be causing you back pain, headaches, eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more. In terms of eye strain, we’ve noticed a huge difference in a flat-screen monitor versus one of the old CRT monitors.  We also prefer a keyboard tray versus having our keyboard sitting on top of our desk.  Otherwise, we are far from experts on the subjects, so thought we would turn to you guys.  Does anyone swear by the Aeron chair?  Did changing the “refresh rate” for your monitor change your life?  Do tell — what are your best tips for a comfortable and pain-free office?

(Pictured:  Ergonomics matters, originally uploaded to Flickr by Ezu.)

Further reading:
Office Ergonomics, WebMD

How to Ease Back and Neck Pain at the Office, eHow

Tool of the Trade: The Crockpot (and: Recipe Open Thread)

crockpot busy2018 Update: While we still stand by these reasons every busy woman needs a crockpot, you may also want to check out our most recent roundup of 5 all-day crockpot recipes

We were pleasantly surprised when numerous commenters to our What to Eat When You Have No Time to Eat post started mentioning the crockpot — we thought it was our dirty Midwestern secret. But it truly is one of our best tools in the kitchen, and if we’re preparing dinner (beyond boiling water) it’s pretty much all we can manage on work days.  (Pictured: Hamilton Beach 33967 Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, available at for $58.)

If you don’t have one, here are the reasons we love it:

  • The food is amazing. Moist, falling apart, delicious. It’s particularly great for recipes involving spices, as they tend to soak in. [Read more…]