Congratulations... Now What?

The following is the first in a series of three posts from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.). The other parts of his Guide to Congress for incoming lawmakers will be published later this week.

In an open letter to new Members of Congress, I have put together a series of suggestions based on the experience of somebody who was a freshman member twice, coming in a special election, and then at the end of year, choosing to go through new member orientation, to see what I had missed.

The most important point is not to rush the organization of your office. The key date is not when you're inaugurated, but the week of February 26th, which kicks off “March Madness.

Be very careful about staff and logistic decisions. If you open a satellite office in a far-flung portion of your district, you'll never be able to close it without creating a firestorm. Slower is better. Likewise, while you need key staff to be in charge, to take care of the books, and to deal with the computer/technology issues, you won't need the full complement of staff on Day One. Taking time to find out what you want to do, what you need, and who to trust is far better than making rapid hiring decisions and perhaps NOT being completely certain about any of it, especially when you're feeling overwhelmed. Letting somebody go after you've invested a lot of time and money integrating them into your operation is disruptive and wasteful.

Living in the Congressional fast lane can be hazardous to your health, both mental and physical, as well as family and personal ties. Making time for what's important and being in touch with people and places that are very important to you will keep you grounded.

Your health is critical. Many people come off the campaign trail fatigued, under- or overweight, and really stretched. Rushing into a hectic congressional schedule without attention to fundamentals like rest, exercise, and diet, can set you back even further. There are some suggestions enclosed, like scheduling a “meeting on the move