February Tips: Margin, Malt Balls & Malleable Felines

Feb 6, 2024

Dear Together Friends, Fans, and Family

Helloooooo from the depths of winter from your favorite Together Author and Certified Cat Lady. Have you heard? February is the new January, at least here at the Together HQ. My youngest child turns 11 (!) and the oldest has their ACT and driver’s permit hours to get done, so in other words our house has FOUR tweens and teens, which means life is operating at its very fullest in this particular season. (Don’t even get me started on the four cats, one of which just weighed in at 18.5 pounds, and now THAT is a situation).

The Together CEO with her favorite feline Russell the Malleable Cat. Also, this is not the 18.5 pounder.

Anyway, around here, we have been focused a lot on margin (creating extra space and time) because of snow days (we lost a week of school here in the DC area) and sickness (not mine, but various people in my life). I polled the Together Team, and we have some thoughts about how we create margin for work and home.

  • Never take the last flight or train of the day. This one is Maia’s pro tip. There are too many flights rescheduled or delayed, and it always helps to know there is literally one more flight behind you. This especially works out well when you Home-Alone yourself to the wrong city.
  • Leave 10-15 minutes earlier than Google Maps tells you for appointments and events. Both team members Kendra (who lives in rural Tennessee) and Lauren (who lives here in the DMV) flagged this as a way to create margin. Whether because of traffic, parking, weather, or other humans, it never hurts to have a little extra time. Bonus points if you can sit in your car and listen to a fun song with those minutes on the other end.
  • Fill the freezer. Our team has a whole Slack channel on food (see below for how Brandon stocked up the Together Team for our recent Houston trip). Ana always has ingredients to make rice and beans for her family, and Brandon always has breakfast planned for when he returns from a trip. I like to keep some back-up cooked chicken and a bag of Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken in the freezer for THOSE NIGHTS. (iykyk)
  • Test the tech and the systems. Thanks to team member Chrystie’s holiday gift to me, my travel tech set up is so on point right now. HDMI cables? Sure! Back up laptop? Why yes! Extra internet booster? You got it. Back up clicker batteries? Oh, yes, I have six! And wait for it, we pack 30 extra jump drives, each with all course materials on it, in case the internet goes down in one of our in-person classes.
  • Create the backstock. Kendra noted she always keeps some cash on hand for last minute asks from the kids’ schools (filing away this nugget! Hello bookfair!). And Ana notes that she has replacements for key household supplies at all times, such as milk, Tilex, and mouthwash. At my house, I’ve trained the kids to say “One is done! Please add to the shopping list!” While it is always possible to fall into the oversupply trap, it is never fun to run out of toilet paper!

Malt balls are all mine! The Together Team’s Together Tray for our recent HISD training.

At ONE level, you could call this positive paranoia. Fun fact, my delightful former boss accused me of this once. (I said, “Thank you!”)  At ANOTHER level, you could call it preparation plus. Perhaps this is one too many Girl Scout camping trips I’ve led, but at Together HQ, we assume there will be bumps in the road, internet that fails, and thunderstorms that send 10 girls into the backseat of your Honda at 2 AM. So, that is why we create margin, why we anticipate and why we prepare! What does Margin-Making look like for you? Tell me more! What kind of margin do you have this week? One quick way to think about it is building wiggle into your schedule for overflow, extra meetings, or bits and bobs.

#clogsandclipboards #togetherforever


PS The Together Tech Exec and I are taking a long weekend reading vacation in Deep Creek, Maryland (my happy place) in March. I’m stockpiling some good books like this, this, and this. Also I finally watched Beef, and OH MY GOODNESS. (not around your children!)

PPS I’ve signed up to co-lead the 8th Grade End-of-Year Dance for Together Teen #2 at her very large public middle school. TELL ME ALL THE THINGS I SHOULD KNOW. I’m starting my committee meetings this week, I’ve booked the DJ and photo booth, and I made a budget spreadsheet. I think we’re off to a pretty good start!


Together Treasure Box

  • Togetherness + AI = ? Did you all catch Juarez’s Together Tour? Has anyone else employed AI to support Togetherness? I want to hear alllll about it. Many of you already use basic tools like Calendly to make scheduling more efficient, but do you like the idea of Motion? I’m so curious! Erica Smith, a school leader who is oft-featured in our work, said on LinkedIn about her Motion use, “Now all of my tasks get automatically calendared for the time I need to do them based on what I need to get done. I can honestly say I’ve never felt more accomplished and effective in my 16 years of education.”
  • Call it a Cave Day. My bestie Together Tech Exec tried out a Cave Day recently, and I was intrigued! I’ve also been thinking about how to integrate smaller versions of this into my and my team’s day-to-day for both focus and accountability. (For example, an internal Blackout Day can be scheduled anytime!) Hello to both the insurance call I MUST make, and the deep-dive team handbook project that needs some focus.
  • Upping my game on the Tech Togetherness front! So thankful for Chrystie who inspired me and then gifted me with a pouch that will finally get my tech supplies in order! And while no one will ever call me a packing minimalist, you can bet if anyone needs a spare AAA battery, battery pack or audio connector, I’m here for you. And that’s a trade-off I’m glad to make. A key component of Togetherness is having all the tools you might possibly need, and knowing where to find them!
  • Teacher Appreciation Week will be here before we know it… Now is a great time to start preparing for Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-10 this year)! We all know that teachers deserve ALL the appreciation, ALL the time – not just one week out of the year! – but I’m always glad to have this week on the calendar as a reminder to give my kids’ teachers some extra love. Check out some of our tips for ways to show the teachers in your life that you value them.

Chrystie and I celebrating a fantastic day with HISD and discussing packing strategies