the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Be the Felix to my Oscar


Is there anyone out there who is excellent at managing their life? Do you effectively juggle work, family, romance, blogging, hobbies, writing, friends, and keeping up with “Dancing with the Stars?”

I need to talk with you.

How do you do it? Do you use any tools to keep yourself organized? Do you keep all your tasks on an online manager? Do you actually FOLLOW it? Have you ever tried working at home — and were actually productive? Why is cleaning the house such a drag? Do people with cleaning women have happier lives? Have you ever missed appointments to your therapist? Should I just drop Facebook completely since it is a time-killer? Have you ever been forced to masturbate using a timer because it wasn’t “slotted” into your daily schedule on Outlook?

I’m serious. I’m somewhat of an organizational mess. I know it looks like I’m a “together” type of guy because I blog frequently, but it is all a facade. I’m embarrassed to show you what my desk looks like. (Sadly, Sophia is not much better as an organizer. We stare at mounds of laundry together for entertainment at night)

My therapist is terrific, but so far, she is only good for helping me “understand” myself. When I asked her how I’m supposed to “change” just through understanding, she said that therapy isn’t supposed to be quick. She said that if I really wanted a quick-fix, I should turn to the internet instead.

So, that’s what I am doing.

Can someone be the Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison, and tell me how you keep your life organized and productive?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: I Sing, I Dance, But Dooce is Still Funnier


  1. mrsmogul

    wow therapists are going out of business because of the Internet. WHen i was 21 I went to one and it turned out when my friend went to the same woman she had fake letters after her name on her business card! i’ll be your FElix! Im not as neat as I used to be but I am organized and tidy. Here…let me get a cloth!

  2. Rhea

    I could help you. I am super-organized and have actually helped others do what you are looking for. You would have to put me up in L.A., though. Heehee, I’ve been looking for a way to spend some time out there….

  3. sizzle

    i think maybe you are looking for a life coach then? i hear they abound in LA. as organized as i am, my life is often a mess. but i think life is just messy by nature.

  4. Richard Heft

    Keep a supply of Books On tape for when you clean house. Pop one into the cassette player, then begin to clean. If you just listen to music, you’ll still think it’s all mindless drudgery. But if you have a story to follow, one part of your brain will be engaged with the narrative while your body is scouring.

  5. Jenn

    “One Small Step Can Change Your Life”
    by Robert Maurer

  6. Caron

    I don’t believe anyone is good at time management all of the time. Some days I get a weeks worth of work done, and other days all I get done done is staring at the wall. (I’ve decided to call that, “processing”) The thing I try to remember when I’m really down on myself about mismanaging my life is that the only truly life and death crises happen in hospitals. If I’m not in a hospital, things are better than I thought.

    It’s the chaos that keeps life interesting.

  7. lizardek

    I’m super organized but I don’t think it works for anyone but me. I think you either are or you aren’t, sadly.

  8. Neil

    Jenn — I once saw Robert Maurer speak at UCLA, and he was very inspirational, but being unorganized, I forgot to write his name down. Is he the guy who works with a lot of Hollywood types? Thanks!

    Caron — I like how you call staring at the wall “processing.” I like to call watching Oprah during the day “research.”

  9. psychomom

    Sure, everyone thinks they need a Felix, until she yells at you because you didn’t put the sissors back where they belong, then you think she is crazy OCD lady.

    Me, I’m a lister. If it needs to be done, I have to write it down or I will forget. And crossing stuff off the list makes me very happy!

  10. sween

    Might I recommend… meth?

  11. kristen

    I need some help with this myself. One thing I *was* doing, which seemed to help, was planning my week out in advance on Sunday nights. I draw 7 columns on a piece of 8.5 x 11″ paper, put the name of the day at the top of each column, and then plan my day in rough increments: e.g. “exercise from 10-11”, “write from 1-2”, “client work from 3-6”, etc.

    It kind of works. I’m not doing it this week, and guess what? I’m spending way too much time on Facebook.

  12. kristen

    p.s. The reason I have to do it like this is that I in fact work from home. I think this hyper-vigilance is the only way to keep from spending the bulk of one’s day sitting on one’s ass.

  13. therapydoc

    Like that therapy doc on Ordinary People said, I’m not so big into control.

  14. Mike F

    I’ve been using Remember The Milk. Pretty handy but more than likely a fad with me. I had a palm pilot once too, another fad. Between my wife and I, I am the one that is disorganized she is a very strict list checker. It’s helps if one of you is anal retentive.

  15. brettdl

    Lists. Lots of lists.

  16. whoorl

    Yes. Housekeepers make lives happier. The end.

  17. Peter

    The trick isn’t figuring out how to accomplish everything on your list, it’s figuring out how to be happy with the fact that you’ve accomplished almost nothing on your list.

  18. Tuck

    1. Turn off the TV…really!! not multi-task (fold laundry while watching TV).
    2. Yes, hiring a housekeep = happy wife/husband (and allow more time for …)

    3. Get enough sleep..otherwise you drag the next day.

    4. Reduce your internet time…see…you could have been organizing instead of blogging.

  19. therapydoc

    Probably the most important thing to remember to do is the thing that Sophia told you to do. That one probably matters.

  20. Neil

    Kristen — Your method just made me… laugh. That would take me all week just to make that list.

    Mike — I’ve tried Remember the Milk. I’m not sure it really works for me. I still have to look at it. I wonder if someone can create an application that is connected to Remember the Milk that shocks you in your leg to remind you to move on to your next item on the list.

    Sween — I like the Meth the best!

    Whoorl — Are you still working on the answers to my questions? You know what I’m talking about. Put it on your list! Or get the housekeeper to answer them.

  21. pocketCT

    I just started using remember the milk which is an on line to do list. Since I have a new phone with internet capability I can ignore my to-do list from anywhere now. The people that have it all together, I think maybe they have cut way back on something. Like sleeping, eating and all those annoying human needs. They are probably aliens or more likely they don’t really exist.

  22. Finn

    I use the “I Really Have No Choice” method. Shit’s gotta get done and I’m the only one who’s actually gonna do it.

  23. Atomic Bombshell

    As a Virgo, I’m a natural born perfectionist, and therefore my organization skills are better than most. However, what works for me will certainly not work for you. You’ve just got to experiment and find something that feels right. For some it’s an iPhone for others a moleskine notebook, and the list goes on and on. (Pun intended.)

    Happy Halloween, Neil!

  24. Atomic Bombshell

    Oh, I just remembered, and this might help you, too… This blog often gives me really great ideas:

    Good luck!

  25. gorillabuns

    you led me to the answer i’ve been looking for months – a housekeeper.

    now, i must go sell some plasma to pay for one.

  26. scarlet hip

    There is an old saying. If you need something done, ask a busy person.

    Seriously, the busier you are, the more you get done. You know why? Because you are forced to manage your time properly.

    Now get busy.

  27. CP

    I think this is a Jewish trait. I think. I don’t know. I’m not organized enough to understand.


  28. OMSH

    If it weren’t for my husband and my kiddos I’d probably work around the clock, so I might not be a very good person to compare note with, but…

    I do work from home.
    I keep a calendar that is literally organized in 15 minute segments.

    I work from 5:00-7:00, get kids ready to school and take kids to school.

    I work-out from 8:00-9:00ish, come home, have breakfast, shower and clean up and get to work again at 10:00.

    Work ’til lunch – sometimes through lunch.

    Work until 3:00 and pick kiddos up from school.

    I play at night after the kids go to bed. That could be online with you guys, with my husband, or with … er … myself.

    I have a housecleaner and do my own laundry – because honestly, laundry is enough with 5 people.

    Weekends I don’t work unless I have a pressing deadline.

    I LOVE working from home.

    The hardest part for me is stopping work to tend to life. That is why I HAVE to have a schedule.

    I’m very busy.
    I get a lot done.
    I pay people to do the things I can’t and it makes my life a lot easier.

  29. OMSH

    Oh My Stinkin’ Heck that was a novel.

    *beet red*

  30. nelumbo

    If you find the solution let us know.

    I plan to do some freelance writing and tackle projects around the house during the summer when I’m off from teaching and I get next to nothing accomplished. I get much more writing and cleaning done during the school year. It’s a giant paradox.

    Maybe it’s just the fact I will do anything to avoid grading papers?

  31. Noel

    It’s spelled Ungar.

    The other guy in that photo came to my show, which, thanks to the push given by your blog, became the best-received of the 133 musicals that have played The New York Musical Theatre Festival. Oh, and an even bigger star from an even more popular 70s sitcom attended. You may have heard her sing “Gee, our old La Salle ran great” but didn’t know it.

  32. Neil

    Noel — Mazel tov on the show. I’m so glad to hear that. Did you know Mel Blanc’s son is named Noel. And the last hurricane was Noel. Email me and tell me what happens next.

    I knew it was Ungar. We need to tell Wikipedia that they are wrong!

    Scarlet — I think you may be right!

    OMSH — Thank you for the details. It is very clear to me that you are very good at this. I may be contacting you very soon because I have a feeling you are a role model.

  33. ImprovGal

    Just had a baby and my mom bought me house cleaning services. Yes, I am much happier.

    Not that they keep your house tidy every day *tripping over kiddo’s puzzles in hallway*, but at least I don’t have to pretend I’m going to scrub the tub.

    If you want to clean house yourself is a must.

    If you want to organize your time and put FaceBook in it’s place is a must.

    But who’d want to do that?

  34. better safe than sorry

    i’m extremely organized, i’m a worrier, i’d rather have things done then just sit around waiting to do whatever. i agree, lists are a great way to get started, write down each and every little thing that needs to be done, as you think of it. i’ve found over the years, writing stuff down, seeing what i need to do right in front of me, almost empties my brain of thoughts (seriously) and i’m able to get more done because i’m not worrying about forgetting what i need to do, if that even makes sense to you.

  35. ekramer

    do things right away .for instance if you want to book a flight dont wait until the last minute but do it right away and then you dont have to think about it.It is done and then you go on to something else

  36. Neil

    Thanks, Mom.

  37. plain jane

    Evidently you mom and I think alike. That was the advice I was going to give. A lot of energy is lost, thinking about all the stuff you should do. Just do it! Don’t wait for a magic fairy to show up and take care of it, it isn’t going to happen.

  38. plain jane

    Another idea. Spend a week tracking what you actually spend your time doing. Keep a log and mark down how much time you spend on Facebook, blogging, working, watching TV, whatever. You might be shocked.

  39. Neil

    Plain Jane — I think that is a great idea. I thought of this myself, and was a little afraid of actually doing it, fearing that I would notice that most of my day is being used up with nonsense.

  40. communicatrix

    If you suspect time leakage, Plain Jane’s idea is the way to start.

    But two things can be “wrong” (my ex liked to say this, although not with the quotes.) You may be wasting time on crap that could be better spent on other things. AND you may be fundamentally disorganized. Two separate issues, to be dealt with separately.

    If there’s one particular problem that’s bugging the crap out of you, I’d suggest you start there. If you’re not getting bills paid on time, do some research on methods (or use NaNoBloMo to ask the peoples!)

    Someone else in this thread brought up a good, if frustrating point: everyone has her own, best method. You kind of have to sort that out for yourself; there won’t be a custom solution off the rack.

    If you post about what particularly is driving you bats, maybe the nerds in your audience (ahem) can be of more assistance.

  41. Erin

    I messaged you about my input… I’m sure others have heard of David Allen – Getting Things Done.

    Order yourself a copy… it’ll change your life.

  42. brettdl

    If you keep a log on how you waste your day, we expect you to post it.

  43. michael5000

    I keep a spiral notebook — TOTALLY high tech solution here — and keep lists of things I gotta do, should do, and kinda want to do. Plus, I always have it with me if there’s a chance that there will be downtime, so I can write, rearrange the lists, do blog posts in longhand, whatever. Helps!

    Plus, the books on tape concept that somebody suggested is great too. Just get ’em from the library.

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