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Scatterbrained Sally

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief Social Media Strategist at xynoMedia Technology

Scatterbrain I must admit that there is nothing that gets under my skin more than someone who is scatterbrained - and since this is a blog about women for women...

I just had an interaction with someone whom I'll call Scatterbrained Sally. Sally is by all rights an accomplished professional. She's got great experience, she's great at what she does, she's attractive and smart.

But, she's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you know what I mean. She has an email inbox that looks like Collyer's Mansion, she let's opportunity after opportunity slip through her fingers because she doesn't make time to follow-up with influential people who have offered their help in growing her business, she misplaces important documents and contact information...

...yet she continually wonders why she doesn't have the same clout as other people in her industry.

You know the type:

  • she would lose her head if it weren't attached
  • she's leaves you waiting for at least 30 minutes every time you meet her
  • she constantly asks you to re-send emails because she can't find the email you just sent
  • her Post-It note usage is a threat to the rainforest
  • she keeps a 'back-up' sim card because she loses her cell phone so often
  • her house always looks like a small explosive device was detonated therein

She thinks it's cute, funny or just "how she is",but you're about to start selectively screening her calls.

And, being a Mom and a business-owner is NO excuse.

Now, I ain't perfect by a long shot, but c'mon Sally...get it TOGETHER.

Here's what works for me:

  • I subscribe to a productivity belief system. I happen to work best with David Allen's Getting Things Done approach. The Simpleology system works for a lot of people as well. I don't care what you pick, just pick something and stick with it.  This will give you a productivity framework throughout your day.
  • When someone says, "I'll have that to you by Wednesday." I immediately go to my calendar and set up a tickler for them on Thursday (I give them a day to get it together) and then I'll ping them on Thursday if I haven't heard from them.
  • When I make a commitment to have something done by a certain time, I add it to my calendar right then. When I don't, I invariably lapse into Scatterbrained Sally's territory.
  • I clean out my inbox. I try to do this daily. I succeed 90% of the time, which is better than most people so I'm ahead of the game. People who know my schedule and responsibility level are often shocked at my response time.
  • I make things clear. Who's calling whom? When? Why? What's the agenda? Can we do it in 15 minutes as opposed to a half-hour? Roy Williams is a respected guru of mine -- and he likes my writing so much, he put it in his book, People Stories: Inside the Outside. When I attended one of the classes he still teaches (if you haven't been to the Wizard Academy, make it your business to get there), he said something that changed my life. He said, "The risk if insult is the price of clarity."  I have found that the people who are most...afronted...by my personal style are people who are usually muddled thinkers. Clarity saves time for those who want to be productive, it annoys those who don't.

What could I do better? Definitely project management! More on that later...but project management is my Achille's Heel!

Bottomline: Are there one or two small ways that you can "get it together"? Why aren't you doing them already? How many missed opportunities and projects will it take for you to make a change? How can you take what you're already doing right and pull that over to areas in which you need help? Do you need an assistant? An intern? A time/energy management course? What do you need to get there?


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Lena West


Well, we LOVE people who LOVE us :) Thanks for clicking and writing.

Wow, I hadn't given any thought to Celle Belles. That's interesting.

One would think that since they're so addicted to the cell phone and they miss emails a lot, that they would get a Treo or a Blackberry...but, as my Mom would say, that's too much like right. :)


Sarah Browne

Love this blog and so glad I clicked on Yvonne's article on ADOTAS. I'm not a big clicker so clearly this is biz karma. Right on, re Scatterbrained Sally. But I actually think it may be more than mere scatterbrained-ness . . . it's WAR! It's VOX VERSUS TXT, pitting fanatic Cell Belles who want to endlessly chat while in tunnels, subways and black holes against those of us who prefer the non-intrusive Texting and email.

The Cell Belles seldom check their emails --and either act annoyed if this is suggested or giggle as if to say 'oh silly me! I am such an adorable dinosaur!" They naturally do not set up White Lists or check their spam folders for stray mail. In this day-and-age, twenty years deep into the email era, one would think this well-entrenched tool would be as basic as that first cup of coffee in the a.m.

But some continue to resist ... at their business peril. I have one buddy -- a former college administrator -- who has missed 3 killer opportunities in the past 3 months alone -- because she 'can't seem to find that email.' But she has no problem whatsoever wasting everyone's time with repeated dropped/fuzzed/echo-chamber cell phone calls.

Arrgh ... and thanks for letting me vent.

Lena West


Argh. People who can only think in theory are frustrating for me to work with as well. Now, by nature, I am a big thinker, but at the end of the day, like you, I need to 'go granular' to think about next steps.

There are some people who can think big and then think tactically...sadly, many people can't....which makes you and I rare birds indeed.


Kate Hutchinson

Your section on making things clear is crucial to how I work, but at times it has backfired on me. My last job was at an office populated with women who were more concerned with thinking in theory than actually getting things done. I got a performance review that as a junior team member I had "unnecessarily taken over" a meeting, because at the end I had asked for specifics on the tasks that were assigned to me. I'm very glad to be out of there. I find one way to end a meeting productively is to look back over my notes and just say, "well, then, we've decided that I am going to do X, and Jack will call Y, and we'll reconvene in a week." By encapsulating a meeting clearly, I find more work gets done later.

Lena L. West

No, you're right it isn't...but since Lipsticking is a blog about women, for women and written by women ;)

I think it's so interesting that on this blog that's (again) about women, for women and written by women, many of the comments start with "men do XYZ, too!" Yeah, odds are they do. But, I'm wondering why we want to throw the guys in it, when it should be all about us?

That's an honest question. I know I do this as well. Someone will make an observation about women to me and my first thought is to talk about the similarities between what women do and what guys do. Like, why, you know?? It's like who cares what the guys do? Let's talk about us. But, perhaps in some way it gives us a context in which to see ourselves? Dunno.

I know several Moms some are total Scatterbrained Sally's and some are powerhouses like Diane Danielson from the Downtown Women's Club. Like how does she get all that stuff done? I'm convinced she has a clone...or two. C'mon Diane. What gives? :)

Thanks for chiming in, Mary!


Mary Schmidt

Well, this "charming" trait isn't just found in women. I've come to expect that with many men that I will have to start from scratch in every discussion - regardless of emails, documentation, etc. And, have to listen to them tell me the same things they said the last five times, even when I say, "Yes, you told me that and I sent you...")

I also hate that "Mom" excuse. I know too many Moms who have it together far better than me.

That said, back to working on my "three things today" on one post-it note! ;-)

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