By Angela Blue
Cathy Lewis is a planner. She organizes her time in 15-minute increments in order to stay on task and get the most accomplished in each day. In a way, though, she has to be this regimented. As the founding host and executive producer of the news and public affairs talk show, “HearSay with Cathy Lewis,” president and CEO of CIVIC Leadership Institute, and a sought-after speaker and facilitator, Lewis has a full schedule. So, how does she keep track of it all? And why does she have so many highlighters? Learn more below about some of the items that make Lewis, as she calls it, a “total freak” over office supplies.
Ever heard of a Wipebook before? “It’s like a book full of dry erase markers—whaat!” Lewis exclaims. “It’s the best thing ever. I should be selling stationery,” she laughs.
“I cannot have unacceptable pens on my desk,” Lewis states. Her favorite pen for everyday writing is the Uni-ball Air pen, proclaiming that it’s “wonderful.” “I don’t have to have expensive pens; I’m just very choicy.”
3. 15-Minute Planners
For about five years, Lewis has utilized these colorful day-to-day planners (that she makes herself) in which she plans her days in 15-minute increments, switching to 30-minute increments after 6 p.m. “Every single day,” she emphasizes. The practice of planning this way comes from working in news, Lewis explains. “You do a thing called backtime the scripts. I learned that early on, and I think it just stuck—really good.” She has the planners printed about every six months (in bright colors, of course). “I did Senator Warner’s women’s conference two years ago at ODU, and people went crazy over this,” she says. “Time is all we have.”
Almost as impressive as her collection of writing utensils is her jar of reading glasses. “They’re all dollar store glasses, which is the greatest place to get glasses, and I have to have them now. I never can keep track of them, so I don’t buy expensive glasses. I just go to the dollar store, buy 10 of them at a time and have them all over the place.”
5. Colorful Writing Utensils
The first thing we notice on Lewis’ desk is a container full of highlighters in assorted colors. “It’s not just highlighters,” she asserts. “It’s highlighters. It’s Sharpies … and flair pens. All of which have specific purposes. I just am a freak for color.” Lewis regularly uses Sharpies to stand out among the black print on show rundowns for “HearSay.” “And I love highlighters because—who doesn’t? I use all of them. I really just see what strikes my fancy.” Another thing to point out—the colors in her collection are constantly evolving. “Here’s the thing: this is not a color you can get all the time,” she says, uncapping a teal-hued Sharpie. “They’ll introduce colors, and then there’ll be different packs of different colors, so I have to have all the different packs,” she stresses. “Everyone I’ve ever worked with will acknowledge … they have to limit me on office supplies because I am really an office supply total freak.”
6. Passion Planner
The Passion Planner began as a kickstarter project by UCLA graduate Angelia Trinidad. It’s a tool that helps people break down their short and long-term goals and incorporate them into daily life. Lewis explains that the first step in using a Passion Planner is starting the month by reflecting on what happened the month before—what you accomplished that you thought was great, what you learned, what you would do differently. Then there’s the standard monthly calendar, and then a weekly calendar that’s broken up by timeslots. “You can set your metrics, set your goals,” she explains. “I don’t hit it every time. But I get much more done with it than without it.”
“That was my first nameplate,” Lewis notes. “I was in charge of the weekends at a television station in West Virginia, so I keep that to say, ‘You know, some days are rough, but you could be in charge of weekends in West Virginia. So, comparatively speaking, it’s not looking so bad right now.”