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keeping track of what you have done

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  • keeping track of what you have done

    Any thoughts one on easy ways, digital or paper, for keeping track of what tasks you have done (maybe including when and where you have done it) and readily locate this information. I find that if I cannot look back and see this information I don't have a trusted system. I am using plan vanilla Palm. An example is that I will have items @adgenda and when I see that person discuss the items and then say I have some other things that I may have forgotten to tell you about and when I say them the person will say you told me about some of those last time. The same thing happens to me when I am processing or planning or reviewing, I will think of things I need to do and I can't remeber if I have captured them already or not, or done them or not. This is more of a problem for actions that independent. Also, sometimes I need to capture a little observation or reflection at the same time I do the action. Obviously this information is only useful if you can readily connect to it or search it. I am just sick over the fact that I will execute a task and only a few days later or at the weekly review simpley not recall if I have done it and then make it my next action. Just in case it isn't clear I cannot carry my project support materials all about with me.

  • #2
    It sounds like you need some kind of log book. On paper, one common way of doing this is the "diary" page of a paper planner, but really any notebook will work. In my own system, I use notebooks that I've had custom made, with numbered pages. I keep the last few pages of each book as an index, and when I'm feeling really energetic (or procrastinating) I color code the pages by project or client.

    If you need to go back more than a week or so, you may find that you need more searchability, in which case an electronic solution is the way to go. Here again, just about anything will work. Outlook has a Journal feature, which might be nice if you use Outlook for other things, but dated entries in a text file should work just as well. I'm experimenting with Tinderbox (Mac only), but haven't been using it long enough to have much to say about it. On the PC, I used Evernote. Some people swear by plain old text files. For this kind of application, though, I would say that the most important requirement is low overhead: notes that you don't actually write down are useless. Once the notes are captured electronically, any competent search tool should be able to find them again.



    • #3
      Thanks for the post; it's an interesting scenario. I don't have a good answer.

      I've tried a medium unlined Moleskine notebook, a whiteboard, a computer spreadsheet, and a computer database. Except for the database, none lasted more than a week. I just can't remember to update them.

      Even the database is annoying to use; it takes a long time to load.


      • #4
        Really interesting question. I've struggled with the same issue myself. Generally, I can remember where I'm at in a project for about 7-10 days. After that, however, it takes a lot of work to remember where I was at. (I suppose this provides incentive to get projects done sooner rather than later.)

        One solution is to use your collection device to capture not only new ideas/thoughts, but also to record completed tasks, meeting notes. At the end of the day, you could enter these in central digital log. (I use plain text for this type of thing--one line per action/meeting makes it really easy to search.) If you tag entries by project, this type of log can be really nice for comparing what one actually did with one's project plan.

        You could also use email to keep a log of completed actions. After each action completed, send yourself a note with the action in the subject line. This would be easy to search.

        Or, if all else fails, a simple question will suffice: "Have we discussed x yet?"
        Last edited by madalu; 04-12-2007, 10:08 PM.


        • #5
          Completed @Agenda Actions

          This is an area where I definitely prefer paper. I have a separate page for the people I would normally see in some routine way. For example, I have a page for my supervisor, and I add anything I need to discuss with him as an item on that page. When I see him, I can check off the items we discuss, so it is easy to refer to that page to know whether or not I have touched base with him on an issue. I prefer small notebooks, whether it's Moleskine, spiral bound, loose-leaf. If there are items on the list that are yet to be reviewed with him, that is noted on my @Agenda list.



          • #6
            Tracking completed projects (but not actions) has been talked about before, which makes sense. I keep a professional log, as Katherine mentions, which comes in handy in many ways. For example, I track "lessons learned" and "decisions made" as a way of improving myself. I like the digital tool (even though my GTD system is all paper) because I often need to search for things like "When did I talk with Sue?" There are other ways to do it, of course.


            My Big-Arse Text File - a Poor Man's Wiki+Blog+PIM

            Some thoughts from tracking "lessons learned" for a year

            A key to continuous learning: Keep a decision log


            • #7
              I use the right hand page of my Day-Timer. I go back through it for creating monthly reports and it works great!


              • #8
                A task log

                I use a variation of the spreadsheet on this page:


                It really started out as a reminder of recurring tasks, but I've found that I can modify it for use as a log by having a page for each client. I set mine up in Excel and print them out and put them in my planner. I like highlighting the week I need to do tasks--it makes it quick and easy to see if that highlighted cell is checked off or not.

                I made two sheets per year--one for the first half of the year, one for the second, and punch holes in the short end of the page so it can fold out landscape and I can look over the entire half year. Am not sure if it's better to list the tasks by client or by task type, whether to put all tasks for one client on one sheet, or try to get all the cients onto one or two sheets. I've just started using the task sheet so am not sure which way I want to go.

                With this and my appointment book, I can be pretty certain that I've done something, and when I did it.

                Also I'm starting to use a Session Report for my consulting which provides space to list what was done at today's meeting and what should be done in the next session, and issues for me to deal with and for the client to deal with before our next meeting. A copy is supposed to be given to the client and one kept in my notes. I believe I'm going to like the session reports but I also like the recurrent task spreadsheet above, as they answer different needs. But it looks like the overhead will build up if I try to use both. Am just not sure how to work it all out. After seven years at this I feel like I should be able to settle on a system, but the sand keeps shifting under my feet, it seems.

                In short, perhaps a session report specialized for your type of work would be best. Mine has fields for client name, date of service, start and end time and elapsed time, next appointment, items covered today, items to be covered next session, client homework, consultant homework (I know it sounds corny), a line for the client's signature, and a line for the consultant's signature. I think it adds value to the engagement. It helps people who aren't so organized and satisfies people who are organized and makes me look better and keeps me on my toes.


                • #9
                  I use my planner and EXCEL

                  I have to keep track of Release Schedules and make sure everyone stays on track. Within each release there could be as many as 100 projects being implemented, and 100s of system involved. For people I deal with constantly, I have a page in my planneer with their name on it. I write down what happens (briefly) between us for any issues we resolve on a given day. Then I keep adding things I need to discuss or do with that person. When we schedule time to talk through it (usually a couple of minutes each day) I have every project for every release (and they do overlap) behind a tab just for them. I also have an MSPROJECT schedule which I convert to EXCEL, add actual start and end dates, and keep a history of issues in a comments column.

                  There are days I wish I did not have to do this, but when the next release comes around and no one can remember why we did something in the last release, I can pull up the spreadsheet and my old project notes and refresh everyone's memories.

                  Please understand I am a visual tactile person, so scribbling and seeing it on paper works better for me.

                  For others it may be some really neat software and Outlook or a PDA.


                  • #10
                    When you delete tasks and calendar entries on the Palm, you have the option of leaving the "Archive deleted task(s) at next HotSync operation" dialog checked, which allows you to recover them using Find.

                    Another trick is to create another category for completed tasks (e.g. "Done"), and make a habit of transferring each completed task to that category instead of deleting it.


                    • #11
                      Creating an audit trail

                      I've tried a number of things to handle this situation, and so far haven't found an ideal solution. There are a couple that show the most promise and I come back to them frequently:

                      1. Use a hard bound capture tool. I tend to take notes in a Large Moleskin 5.25 x 8.25 squared notebook. By taking copious notes I generally can find what I need here to tell me what has happened in the past and can put together an audit trail.

                      2. Outlook Journal. The Journal is unfortunately the most poorly engineered "feature" (among many) of Outlook. It is almost set up to work properly, but apparently a psychotic madman was put on the design stage at the last minute and removed the key features that would have actually made this part of Outlook useful. (It's truely weird because if the journal worked like other items in outlook it would be much more valuable.) The addition of the project view in the Add-In for outlook has made this part of outlook more useful, but it is still unfortunately a fraction of the value it could be.

                      3. DayNotez. This is a great palm app that is designed for providing you with your notes and there is a desktop app that works reasonably well.

                      The challenge of course is that none of these three work particularly well together. With a hardcopy notebook, double entry of data is required and this takes away from getting things done. Even with this hiccup it is still probably the best solution. If you put it down in your hard bound notebook each day, you can go back over the hard copy record and determine whether or not something was actually done, and you have a hard copy note referring to the activity or conversation.

                      (Important Safety Tip: Never speak with a customer service representative from any vendor without recording the salient points of the conversation, including the cs reps name, the number you dialed, date, and time, etc. in a hard bound journal. With out this the conversation might as well have never happened... because next time you call in it won't have happened...)

                      Outlook journal could work reasonably well if drag and drop worked with journal the way it works with other items. Unfortunately somone at Microsoft decided to that Journal drag and drop should work differently. It's still possible to get this to work, but it is a headache.

                      DayNotez is great on the palm, but the desktop app is weak, and I'd really prefer to sync with Outlook Journal.


                      • #12
                        I use a Palm as well, and this is my solution. I keep all my next actions in the standard Tasks application, and of course check them off when done, recording the due date. For archiving/history I use the freeware utility Tsk2Cal. This app converts all your completed tasks into calendar entries (untimed events, on the recorded due date). So for history, all you need to do is search/view the Calendar database. I generally run the utility first thing in the morning... it takes seconds.

                        Another helpful utility along these lines is FindHack. This replaces the standard Palm find funtion (which is lame) and adds the ability to save specific search criteria, use wildcards, and search selected databases (IE Tasks & Calendar only, if you're trying to determine if you've done or entered something)


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jamie Elis View Post
                          Any thoughts one on easy ways, digital or paper, for keeping track of what tasks you have done (maybe including when and where you have done it) and readily locate this information. I find that if I cannot look back and see this information I don't have a trusted system. I am using plan vanilla Palm.
                          Have a look at 'Handy Shopper' for your Palm. It's great not only for shopping lists, but for Next Actions as well. When you enter a task you decide what happens when you tick it off as completed - deleted automatically or just marked, with completion date.