You cannot be organized if your email is not organized. If you cannot keep up with your email then you scream to people that you’re overwhelmed with your job, and maybe your life (depending on how many personal emails you get and do not answer). Don’t tell me you get too much email. Everyone gets too much email. You still need to be able to be effective with it.
Here are three things people do that they shouldn’t. If you do any of these, you need to get a better grip on your email.

1. Do you keep emails in your in box to remind you to do something?

Get a real to do list. Your email box is not a to-do list. Well for some of you maybe it is, but it shouldn’t be. Your to-do list is very important. It determines what you will get done in your life. It determines what your priorities are and what you value. So why would you let someone else dictate your to do list?

If your in box is your to do list then you have so little control over that list that you don’t even add your own stuff. (Unless you are sending yourself emails, which is so dysfunctional that I’m not even going to make it an item in this list.) If you aren’t writing the items on your to do list then you are not controlling your own destiny. Really. It’s that serious. So write a note to yourself on your to do list about each email, prioritize it, and then delete.

2. Does it take you more than forty-eight hours to respond to people you love?

This is lame. It’s actually lame in response to anyone, but especially for people you love. A twenty-four hour response is the expectation of email. If you can’t meet it don’t use it. It’s like this: If you respond to an IM message ten hours later, you’re not using IM, you’re using email. And if you respond six days later to an email you may as well write a letter.

If people you love send you stupid emails that you don’t want to have to respond to, then tell the person directly. This is a much more effective way to operate than to passive-aggressively take a long time to respond.

3. Do you avoid scrolling through your in box because you know it’s filled with emails you don’t want to have to answer?

Try resorting. I usually sort by date sent. But I accidentally sorted by sender, and I noticed that I owed 80% of my responses to five people and 20% to 20 people. Just knowing that situation encouraged me to get moving. Instead of thinking of the task as thirty emails, I could think of it as five people. Much easier.

Here’s a game I play with myself: No reading unless I’m deleting. Either I respond right away or file the email and add it to my to do list. That’s a lot of work —filing and adding. So I tended to answer quickly and right away. And the more practice I got answering email quickly the easier it became.

I noticed that the primary cause for not answering an email right away was not that I wasn’t sure what to say, it was that I thought I needed to say something amazing. But really emails need to be timely more than they need to be amazing.

Something else I noticed. It’s fine to respond with a quickie one sentence when you are getting back to someone right away. But if you wait five days to respond, and then send a quickie sentence, you look like a procrastinator.

On the other hand, if you spend all day answering your email obsessively, you also scream to people that you’re losing your mind. Because if you answer all mail as soon as it comes in you’re not doing your real job — unless your only job is to answer email.

I went on a business trip and I took my mom. When I got there it was apparent that I was underdressed, so we went shopping. I planned on getting rid of my ratty sneakers, but my mom said I needed a suit. Somehow a civilized disagreement turned into an all-out fight with me and my mom using clothing as a metaphor for everything we hate about each other. At some point, I said under my breath, “I’m going to write about this is my column.”

My mom said, “Don’t do that! You’ll make yourself look bad! People will know you didn’t dress properly.”

But here it is. For the world to know. I dressed inappropriately. I ended up buying expensive shoes that I already had at home. And I fought with my mom in public.

Surely you’ve had a moment of failing — maybe similar to this one. Don’t be so quick to hide it from people, because the new battleground in business is authenticity and you’d better get some.

The Harvard Business Review (paid) reports this month that authenticity is the trait that uniquely defines great leaders. Generation Y values authenticity above almost everything else, according to a report from demographic research firm Yankelovich Partners. You can already see that playing itself out in advertising, where glitz is over. The power of authenticity hit me recently, when I had a speaking engagement at the Richard Ivey School of Business in Ontario, Canada. In a post-event survey, the reaction of the students was very positive; though ironically it wasn’t the content of the speech they cited so much as the authenticity.

Research about authenticity by Rob Goffee, professor at the London Business School, explains that authenticity is largely defined by what other people see in you. So you have a good amount of control over how authentic you appear.

Being genuine means you don’t do or say things you don’t believe. Everyone understands this in principle. But people who are authentic are fanatical about it. The other quality you need for authenticity is to be able to relate to a lot of types of people — otherwise you’ll have a career where you only connect to people who are like you.

The first thing, then, is to know who you are and what you believe. Then you need to have confidence that being your true self will get you where you want to go. But you don’t need to tell everyone everything about yourself every time. It would be impossible, in fact, and any attempt at that would sound insane. You need to manage your authenticity by revealing the parts of you that will best connect with your audience.

Success at work requires working well with many different types people while remaining true to yourself. You do not have to agree with everything your boss does, for example. But you have to speak about his policies in ways that remain true to your own values — which means not lying but not undermining your boss, either. People who think this task is impossible are actually people who are too lazy to be authentic.

The real work of authenticity is not just knowing yourself, but taking the time to understand where other people are coming from and to respect them for that. If you have a fur coat and you love skiing, talk to the animal rights activist about skiing and talk to the seventy-year-old heiress about fur coats. In both cases you can be authentic without putting the other person off.

A lot of people think that the business world is not compatible with authenticity. However the exact opposite is true; those who stand out as leaders have a notable authenticity. People are attracted to authenticity because the alternative is so disappointing: Cliched relationships, empty promises and conversation with no soul. What people value in business is what they value in all of life, and that is a real connection. People need to see a genuine part of you and they need to relate to it. So in many cases, a wardrobe mishap or fight with your mom is a good opening.

Liz Phair has just released a new CD, titled Somebody’s Miracle. I’m not saying you should go out and buy it, but you have to respect Liz Phair’s ability to manage her career.

For those of you who did not spend 1991 listening to her widely touted CD “Exile in Guyville,” go buy that CD now. It is about mainstream, upper-middle class women who wish they were beautiful and fun and loved by people much cooler than they are. For men who worry that the album is like a chick-flick, no worries: You can skip to track 14 where she sings about being a sex goddess.

The latest CD is an expression of the fact that Phair never did make it to the mainstream, but she really wants to. And, in a rare moment of reality from a musician, she has confessed to needing to make enough money to support her son. That’s when I started thinking about her CD releases like a career path instead of a pop-rock event.

Her last CD, released in 2003 and ominously titled Liz Phair, was a disaster, trashed by music reviewers across the country. Not trashed like, “track two is insufferable” but trashed like “this CD will kill her career.” Diehard fans were upset that she was giving up her edgy self to make as much money as Britney Spears.

And now, here’s another CD, in the same genre that people hated. I give her a lot of credit for doing it again. The difference between people who have huge success and people who do not is ability to cope with failure. People with huge success are more able to take risks because they have less fear of failure. And then, when this type of person does fail, like Liz Phair, she tries again.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t like the new Liz Phair music. But I like watching her perform what was basically a career change — or at least a shift. And there’s a bit we can learn from her about career shifts for non-rock stars.

1. Don’t let other people steer your career
No one wants to see Liz Phair selling out. But she ignores that. She has the maturity to decide that she knows what’s best for her life, and she has faith in herself to execute a vision, even if people around her don’t like it.

At some point or another you are going to want to change what you’re doing in your work. You’ll have to put up with people around you saying you shouldn’t change. (“Why go into marketing? You’re a great programmer.”) And then you’ll have to put up with people denying that you’ve changed. (“Even though you got promoted out of your horrid assistant job, can you get me some coffee?”) These will be good times to remember how strong Liz Phair is about sticking to her new vision of herself and forcing us to see it.

2. Be true to yourself
Liz is not, in fact, an indie queen, but rather, an accidental tourist on the indie road. Even on her indie CDs she sings about wanting to be rich and famous. So she had to ditch the indie crowd and become her rendition of girl-pop-star because that’s really what she’s about.

It’s much more important for you to figure out what’s right for you than for you to act out a rendition of what someone else thinks you should be — your mom, your friends, your mentors. They can’t know what’s best for you. Be honest with yourself and have the strength to disappoint your fans.

3. Find a new mentor to help you change
Phair is known for her spare recordings that have a tiny-recording-studio feel. (Quote from my mass-market brother: “Couldn’t she afford some recording equipment?”) For her recent CDs, Phair enlisted people who could get her a more polished, mass-market feel.

Part of taking yourself seriously in a new position is getting people to give you coaching on how to look like the new part you’re taking on. Maybe this means bringing your friend’s girlfriend to go shopping with you for new work clothes. Or maybe it means getting coaching on how to speak with more authority. The more you start looking and sounding like the new you, the more people will believe you have changed.

I interviewed for a job. I haven't interviewed for the last three years. Since my first son was born. I felt that awkward feeling that people describe when they break up with their long-term significant other and have to date again.

It was a writing job. Most writing jobs don't require an interview. You just send some writing and if they like it, you get the job. But this was a big writing job, so I had to interview. However no one seemed to care what I was like in person since they'd probably never have to see me. So everything was riding on a phone interview.

I tried to do all the things you're supposed to do. I dressed in business clothes because you sound different when you are in your pajamas and when you're in a suit. Even on the phone. I stood up while I talked to sound energetic. I smiled because I read that a smile changes your voice to sound upbeat.

I thought things were going well. I liked the interviewer and all the questions were easy. When I got off the phone, I started think about my greatness: Name in lights, bank account brimming.

By bedtime, I was a wreck. I thought of questions I answered poorly. For example, “Where do you want to be in ten years? Would you go back to executive management?” The obvious answer should have been, “No. I want to write forever.” I didn't say the obvious. I decided to discuss the fact that my income as a writer is about twenty percent of my former, executive income. And, like that wasn't enough, I started talking about my childcare arrangements.

For those of you who struggle with similar problems, do not talk about them in an interview. Such talk makes you look confused, on the fence, overwhelmed by kids. All of which were true for me. But I could have hidden my problems for a twenty-minute interview. I hadn't rehearsed. I talked off the top of my head. And such an easy question to blow.

Later that night, when I was lying in bed, my heart was racing. I told myself to stop thinking about the job. I told myself, There is nothing you can do now, and There will be more jobs. But that thinking never works when you interview for a great job. It never seems like there are more jobs.

So then I did something I learned in sixth grade. I made a list of things I did well. In sixth grade it was why I would make the basketball team next season. But this time it was why I will get a great job next time. I made my list. I put it on the fridge. I felt good.

Then my husband saw this list. He said, “Did you say this stuff to the interviewer?”
Then I felt bad about the interview again.

So what could I have done? There are no re-dos in interviews. But we can all learn from my mistakes:
1. Rehearse. Very few questions are unpredictable. There are plenty of books to buy that give you the questions and answers to memorize. Try, for starters, The Complete Q&A Job Interview Book, by Jeffrey Allen.
2. Make a list of off-limits topics so you don't go there. An interviewer can lead you to a topic, but your answer can lead somewhere else. Have a plan in place to make this happen.
3. Make a list of reasons you are great. Use it in the interview.

But guess what? I got the job. So here's another lesson: Get some perspective. It was very normal for me to not be sure what I want to do career-wise when I have two kids under four years old. I need to know what I want to do now, or how can I do it? But I don't need to know where I want to be in ten years. And I am thinking it might be an irrelevant question for today's workers, because in ten years most of us will be doing something completely different than what we're interviewing for, so why talk about it?

Entrepreneurship used to be an inclination that festered until a midlife crisis. But the entrepreneurship bug isn’t something that hits in middle age, so why wait that long? Today, the people who start most new businesses are under 34 — and if they’re doing it, so can you. Don't be stifled by your age or lack of experience. And don’t be put off by the bad advice people spew when you mention entrepreneurship.

Bad advice #1: You won’t make enough money.
Insane. Who is making enough money at the anything new? No one. The few who pull down six figures at the beginning probably spent six figures on grad school and are paying it back, with interest. So the fatalists who say you won’t make enough money are really telling you to never switch careers, never risk being a beginner, never bet on yourself. This way of thinking will put your career in a coma.

What many people mean when they say you won’t make enough money is that you won’t *raise* enough money. After all, if you raised a ton of money to start your business, you could pay yourself a great salary. Most of you have ideas that do not require amazing fundraising efforts. And, let’s face it, if you are coming up with ideas that require a six-million-dollar investment, that’s not really a good idea.

Bad advice #2: You can be entrepreneurial in a large company.
Large corporations suck up fast-paced, fun, innovative small business and make them boring, and then tell you, in an interview, that the position you are considering is very entrepreneurial. It’s not. If it were entrepreneurial then it would be too big a wild card to fit into a corporate hierarchy. What the corporate maven really means is that the position you’re interviewing for could be entrepreneurial if it were not in a large company.

Bad advice #3: Starting your own business is too risky.
At this point in loyalty-free corporate life, it may be higher risk to work for someone else. You probably know someone who got laid off in the 90s. And you probably know someone who got off-shored in the 00s. It was risky of them to bet that a large company would keep them around.

And when you’re sifting through those ubiquitous statistics that say most new business fail, think about the perspective of those numbers: Seventy-six percent of new businesses make it off the ground. Sure, most do not last as long as say, General Motors. But are you looking to run a multinational company, or are you looking to get control over your time so you don’t get laid off or tapped to travel from home six weeks in a row?

Don’t listen to those people who tell you small businesses are risky. Listen to Matt Rivers, owner of Pump House surf shop in Massachusetts, who went into business when he was 17. To him, the biggest risk was that he’d have to grow up and get a job that wouldn’t allow him to surf. Matt redefined the meaning of risk, and you should, too. What is most important in your life? Can starting your own business get that for you better than a corporate job? Then entrepreneurship is pretty low-risk for you.

And here’s a piece of good advice: Don’t think of failure as black and white. Rivers was so successful with his first shop that he opened a second. But running between the two shops took too much time away from surfing, and the extra money wasn’t worth it. So he closed the second shop. Is that failure? To some, maybe. But to those of us who are enlightened, closing down a business is not so much failure as it is gaining self-knowledge to lead a more fulfilling life going forward.

Forget the glass ceiling because it’s about to become irrelevant. Not because women are finally going to get to the top of Fortune 500 companies in forces of more than two companies at a time. That may happen, but no one’s holding their breath. The glass ceiling is going to become irrelevant because the women who are coming into the workforce now see what’s above that glass and they are uninterested.

Recently I got a peek into the world above the glass ceiling when I read a profile of Jeff Immelt, chief executive of GE. Immelt said that he has been working 100-hour weeks for the last twenty years. He also said that he married a co-worker and they have an eighteen year-old-daughter. It is unclear to me why anyone would aspire to this life. If I were his daughter I think I’d feel neglected. And if I were his wife, I think I’d feel like a single parent with great alimony. If this is life above the glass ceiling, I think it’s absurd.

By definition the glass ceiling only exists if someone is below it, longingly looking up. And soon, there won’t be anyone left looking up. There is a broad disenchantment with corporate life that is gaining force among young workers. A new definition of success, that includes taking part in the unglorified daily tasks of raising kids, does not accommodate dreams of crashing glass ceilings.

So it is no surprise that five years after earning an MBA, 40% of women are working from home. Often the press writes about this statistic like it’s a travesty, but I think it’s great. It’s an achievement that these women have decided they can find success on their own terms instead of having to fit themselves through paths that were established for men, decades ago.

The disenchantment with corporate life is not limited to women: eighty percent of men aged 20 to 39 said that a flexible job to accommodate kids takes a higher priority than doing challenging work or earning a high salary. And this trend is growing: Study after study shows that one of the defining traits of generation Y is that they are determined to not give up their personal life in order to get ahead at work.

Instead of aligning yourself with people who are giving up everything in their personal life to “get to the top,” be one of the people who is redefining success. You can decide what is success for you. Don’t be sucked into the idea of success as defined by the men who constructed the glass ceiling. After all, their lives included little room for passionate interests outside of work, only ceremonious parenting, and a wife who managed everything about that man’s personal life.

That vision of success sounds quaint and outdated, but look, Jeff Immelt is still living that life. And so are the majority of his peers (although it’s hard to believe many others are living it to the extreme that he is).

Maybe, in ten years, there will be no one left to march up the stairs to the glass ceiling. Maybe it will be like the tree falling in the forest: No one will see it, so it will be as good as non-existent.

People used to think that the revolution would happen above the glass ceiling, as more women pushed their way to the top. In fact, though, the revolution is happening below the glass ceiling, where people are reestablishing their priorities. Kids and ambition can co-exist beneath the glass ceiling. Plenty of ambitious people have grand, remarkable achievements without giving up a vibrant personal life. Why would anyone aim for anything else?

Cold calling is for champions. It used to be that cold calling was for the losers so low on the corporate ladder they were falling off the last rung. But today it's clear that cold calling is an art form, and people who are good at it can do a lot for themselves — most notably get a job.

Skeptical? Well, I'm not sure you have much of a choice. Fewer than half of all available jobs are advertised and most people don't get jobs through listings. So how are you going to find them? Your best odds are networking. But most people exhaust their network in a month, and most job hunts last at least four months. So after networking, the best thing to do is probably cold calling.

Everyone knows that it's really hard to make a cold call, so people will respect you for trying. But you'll get self-respect, too. Because if you only respond to ads, then you are basically running a passive job hunt, waiting for something to pop up on your computer screen. If you approach companies you're interested in, whether or not they post jobs, then you are taking control of your hunt, and actively trying to attain your goals.

Think of all the times in life you regret. Usually it was when you didn't take a more active role in your life. When you didn't take control of your life. In this sense, you can't lose making a cold call. No one ever says to themselves, “I wish I hadn't been so aggressive in trying to get what I wanted.” If you are aggressive, and you don't get what you want, you probably weren't going to get it anyway. So might as well go down swinging.

The easiest and most obvious cold call is not really even cold. It's a follow-up call. This is what you do when you've been sending tons of resumes out and you are receiving no interviews: After you send your resume, call the hiring manager to say you really want the job.

You will probably have to dig a lot to find the hiring manager. But hey, you have all day to dig, right? You'll have to call human resources. Maybe some random dialing within the department. Maybe some Googling. But you can find someone who sounds like they might be the hiring person and ask who the hiring person is. Sooner or later someone will tell you.

Once you get that person, pitch yourself on the phone. That pitch has to be good. Friendly, informative, fast. This is the crux of the art form. Then, ask if you can come in for an interview. Even though the advertisement says no calls, a call is a great way to get someone to pay attention to you when there's a huge pile of resumes.

You can use this same tactic even if there is no job offered and you have not sent a resume. Just call someone in a department that interests you. Business development in an advertising agency. Marketing at a Fortune 500 company. Tell the person you're interested in that industry, and you really admire the company and you'd like to schedule an informational interview. If you ask for a job the person can say no, outright. But information? That's not so easy a no. Of course, the person has information. And you'd be surprised how many people are willing to give it if you just ask.

Then you need to be charming. And smart. If the person loves you, she might make a spot for you in her department. Or maybe she has a friend who is hiring. Who knows? You never will until you try.

It's all about odds. You need to have the ego strength to dial these people all day. You only need one person to say yes. That yes means you expanded your network that day. And all those people who say no, you'll never see them again. They are gone. No need to feel bad or embarrassed. It's over. Move on.

Of course, the odds are not great that the cold call will work every time, but you only need it to work really well once and then you're done. You have a job.

Unemployment is traumatic, and people who have been there never shake the fear of going back. If you've spent five months job-hunting (an average amount of time) you have probably faced worry, uncertainty and financial desperation.

Here are some things you can do while you are employed so that next time you're looking for work, the task is much, much easier:

Save money
The worst job hunt experiences are when you have to take the first job you get because you are risking financial ruin. If you save money when you are employed you'll be able to be a lot more picky when you're looking for a new job. Almost everyone is desperate when they are unemployed, and one of the hardest things to do in an interview is act self-confident when you're feeling down. This task if even harder if you're going to be out on the street in three weeks.

Also, unemployment gives you lots of time but little money to spend. If you have some savings you'll be able to enjoy the time you have when you're not working. After all, you can't job hunt all day every day — it would make you crazy.

This isn't something you do when you need a job. It's something you do when you have one, when you're feeling confident. If you are good at making connections with people, and you do it regularly, then people will be there to help you when you need a job. If you contact people only when you need help you are not a networker, you are a sponge.

You don't need to be friends with everyone, but you need to have some real friends. Note that friends are not people you go out drinking with occasionally. Friends are people you are very honest and forthcoming with, and people who depend on you. When it comes time to get help, it's not the people you're friends with who will help — they have the same information that you do. It's the friends of friends who will help. And they don't come by way of superficial connections.

Focus on achievements
Your resume is what gets you an interview. Even if you are using connections from your network, sooner or later, someone will say, “Send me your resume and I'll take a look.” Your resume should have a few, huge achievements that the rest of the lines are built around. When you are gainfully employed, look for opportunities to create these achievements.

This means being selective in what projects you take on. Projects that are going to do very little for your resume should not take up a lot of your time — do them as quickly as possible and move on. Projects that will give you the chance to highlight grand and quantifiable results on your resume are projects you should be willing to volunteer for. These projects are worth working late nights, taking on huge risk, and working with people you hate.

On a well-crafted resume, one line of greatness can cut months off your unemployment suffering.

Be creative
The jobs that are staying in the US feature some form of creativity — from troubleshooting, to management to strategy. Hone your skills as a creative thinker so that you can sell yourself that way next time you need to find a job.

So many people who are in non-creative jobs tell me that they are creative and their job is safe from off-shoring. They are delusional. Here's a test to give yourself:
Do you come up with new product ideas or features?
Does set up intra-departmental process?
Do you work face-to-face with other people all day?

If you answered no to all three questions think hard about how to make your job more creative and people-oriented so that you can find a new job without moving to India.

The good news is that each of these recommendations will improve your career. Your work will be more interesting and you will bring more joy to your job and the people you meet. The added benefit is that you will have it easier next time you are unemployed, which means a little less worrying now.

Anyone who owns a small business knows that if you don't reinvest in the business, the business dies. So why do so many people fail to reinvest in themselves? Even if you work for someone else, you are running a small business: The business of you. You provide a product and you have to market it and make it better and better so you earn more and more money.

If you put all your money into savings, you are like a business with a lot of cash on hand but only small potential for growth. If you spend all your money on fun and toys you're like a business run by executives who throw lavish parties they can't afford and drive the business into the ground. Your aim should be to save a little (for security's sake) splurge a little (for sanity's sake) and reinvest most of your money back into your business: You.

You the careerist that is. Here's what the business of you needs in order to expand: Headcount. Here's what you need in ascending order, depending on how much money you have.

Childcare — pay the highest rate in your neighborhood
The first thing you need to grow a career is to clear your head so you can think. If you have to worry about childcare, if you have to argue with your spouse during the workday about who is picking up the kid, you are spending time in ways that don't grow your business. Pay enough money for a caregiver who can do the job without you micromanaging.

Personal Assistant – $10 an hour
Take a look at your to do list. Think about how long each task will take, and whether or not a person can do it for $10 an hour. Your time is worth more than $10 an hour. So why are you doing tasks that you can pay $10 to have done? Don't tell me you need to do everything. If it's not integral to your life plan, you don't need to be doing it. Examples: Shopping, dry cleaning pickup, waiting for a plumber.

A therapist – $125 per session, but try to get your insurance company to pay
I'm a big fan of therapy. The more you know about yourself the more likely you are to make good choices for your career. Also, the problems you have outside the office usually pop up inside the office also. So go to a therapist to deal with non-work problems and your work life will improve.

Speaking coach – $300 per session
Charisma can make up for a lot of shortfalls, and good speaking skills gives you more charisma. You probably think you're charismatic already, but there's always room for improvement. People believe that a charismatic person is better to work with than a non-charismatic person. You'll also learn to speak in a way that makes people trust you and believe in your judgment. Scary, but true: This is teachable.

Publicist — $1000 month
Most people who are quoted by the press actually have publicists. For a CEOs publicists are a packaged deal with the job: A PR department. For other executives, and even up-and-coming managers, a publicist is someone you hire. Your name will get into the world and you will have an easeier time getting a new job, easier time making sales, and more justifcation for asking for higher wages. I know, you're thinking, how crass. But it's the way the world works. If you want to be noticed in your field, hire a publicist.

I bet you're saying, “Penelope is out of her mind. This is so much money.” But if you reinvest 20% of your cash back into your career, which is, in fact, very low as small businesses go, then this list starts looking reasonable. I have hired each of these people at some point in my career, and the return on investment for each easily exceeded cash output. Really.

Hey all you women! Looking for a way to look good at a party? Forget bragging rights to house with a picket fence. Forget a plastic-surgeried body that defies gravity. Here are the status symbols for a new generation:

1. A flexible job. This is practically a pre-requisite for being able to successfully balance work and personal life. Ironically, most of these jobs come from years of conniving and strategizing under the guise of being a power-mongering ladder climber. After all, most companies do not capitulate to flexibility until they have fallen in love with you for your performance and ambition.

2. An awesome nanny. Everyone brags about their nanny because if you don't think your nanny is great then how can you leave her with your kids?

But most nannies are not that great. Here is what a status-symbol nanny looks like: She never calls in sick, she can plan and execute a dinner without your input, she doesn't berate you when your kid has a cut from falling off the bed under your care. And longevity counts — if you can keep a nanny for more than two years, the implication is that you are a great manager.

3. A competent husband. Household competence, that is. Delegate everything you can to your assistant. But there are some things that would be heartless to delegate, like choosing a birthday present for your nine-year-old son. This is where a husband comes in. What if your husband knows so much about your kids that he remembers the birthday and decides what to buy, but also makes time to forage for it in the stores? That is real competence.

When it comes to a status symbol husband, you do not delegate to him so much as confer, and you make a similar amount of time in your lives for taking care of your home life. If you find this kind of husband, women will drool over him as if he were the captain of the high school football team.

4. A caffeine-free life. Sure, a lot of women do this during pregnancy, but as soon as the baby pops out, the caffeine ramps up. I don't know any non-pregnant woman who works in business and has kids and abstains from caffeine. Except for Sallie Krawheck, chief financial officer of Citigroup. I don't know how she does it, but she seems so stable and organized to live without caffeine.

I tell this to myself every night at 9pm, which is when I have to get ready for bed in order to get eight hours of sleep and wake up with my son at 5:30 am. But there's always one more very important thing that I haven't done. Sallie must do her very important things first thing every day. Which is what we all should do.

5. A reputation for helping. The standards for women have changed. The status symbols have changed. But all that talk of women “playing like men” is nonsense to me. Women have been helping each other forever, and now is no exception. The women we look up to are those who have a track record for figuring out how to leverage their power and resources to help other women. Give advice freely, mentor someone, share your experience at the glass ceiling so another woman can go higher. A fulfilling career requires that you give as well as receive.

There's a good reason that women brag about the stuff on this list: It's the stuff that really does impact one's happiness. This is a list of things that will improve your life more than a raise or a top-tier vacation. These are things that will pave the way for you to have fun during the day and rest well at night.