DEAR HARRIETTE: I am extremely disorganized, and it’s catching up with me. I just scheduled three meetings that overlap each other. I can’t believe I did that, but it’s true. They are all personal, after-work meetings, but still. My friends feel like I don’t care about them. My work is crazy busy, and I am so tired that I have been forgetful about keeping a good schedule. What should I say to my friends, and how can I get better organized? -- Too Much to Handle
DEAR TOO MUCH TO HANDLE: I keep a calendar and daily schedule that includes everything that is important to me, including personal responsibilities. When I am at the top of my game, I make my list the night before. I plan out my day, and often my week, so that I know how I will order my steps upon waking. I include such list items as "meditate," "drink water," "go to the gym," "call Mama," and all of my work items. I also do my best to record meetings the moment I make them. Even if the meeting starts out as tentative, I write it down with a question mark. That holds the space and alerts me to pay attention before I fill it with something else.
If and when you slip up, which is possible for even the most organized person, apologize immediately. Just know that apologies work best when behavior changes. If you keep doing the same thing that inconveniences other people, your apologies will begin to ring hollow.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Now that my son is a teenager, I have given him a few more privileges. We live in a city with a good public transportation system, and I let him go about on his own after school with his friends. He does have a curfew. Plus, I require him to keep his phone on with a GPS tracking system so that we can see each other’s whereabouts. He hates this, but it is my insurance policy for a teenager so that I have a sense of where he is. Sometimes he turns it off, and I have threatened to ground him if he does that again. Do you think that grounding is too harsh? I realize that sometimes the GPS system glitches, even if we both have it on. How can I keep him accountable? -- Teens on the Loose
DEAR TEEN ON THE LOOSE: Your job as a parent is to teach your child how to be responsible when you are not around. This is beginning now. The GPS is a good backup plan, but what you really need is for your son to be in communication with you as he is moving about town. Make a system where he texts you when he gets to his destination. You can also require him to send you a photo of him and his friends when he arrives. He may hate that, but he will hate it more if he has to stay at home.
Regarding rescinding privileges, if he really is dodging you, ground him. He will quickly learn that being responsive and honest is way more effective than being sneaky and lying.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)