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Mobile consultant, customer files--any ideas?

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  • Mobile consultant, customer files--any ideas?

    Hi, I am new to this forum and to GTD. I am very excited that my problems with managing all the details were not just because I am a bad manager of time/life/commitments. Well, I might still be, but there is hope!!! I am not sure if this post should be here or in tools.

    I am wondering who else out there is a mobile consultant (I am in IT) and if you have any starting out tips for our particular lifestyle. I have done some searches, and I have a found some good tips here already, like on billing time. I currently use a laptop and a 5"X7" notebook with a page for every day.

    ENVIRONMENT:
    **I am usually at customer sites through the day. (home at night)

    **I drive 5-120 minutes a day. I average 30 mins each way. Wish I could use that time.

    **I need to manage the technical and IT project information of 20 some customers, some I might see weekly and others yearly. Many of whom do not want to pay IT prices for IT work and DEFINITELY do not want to pay IT prices for me documenting my time and the project.

    **There is a company office and I have a cubicle but I am not there by any set schedule, some weeks not at all.

    **There is no good company system for keeping information handy for all. There are paper files on customer billing, and SOME project info, and contract, SOW info kept there. But much of it is on various consultants hard drives. We have wanted for a long time to get a sharing system, but we never get it done. (Is there a GTDFO--for organizations???)

    **I am required to email in my time daily and the company bills the clients from that.

    **In the past, my life has been in my GroupWise Calendar/mailbox, my little5X7 notebooks (for action items and collection items) and in my backpack, which frequently gets unhealthily heavy, with customer files, laptop, user guides. I think that I will sort it out every night, but often I get home at 7,8,9 and just don't want to by then. I often don't know what files I will need, so I carry too much. I think I need to go digital.

    **I am mom to an 18 month old, so the evening is crazy....until about 8:30 or 9:00, but then I have housework, make lunch, clean up dinner, etc. I really want to keep work at work, if I can.

    IDEAS:
    +I am thinking maybe it is important to schedule a 1/2 day in the office once a week for the purpose of filing, weekly review, etc. Or, I need to stay at home for 1/2 hour every morning and take care of yesterdays inputs?

    +Considering Palm-type device? Don't really want to though, because the little notebook is more flexible.

    +I may be getting a Blackberry Pearl for work.

    +Considering voice recognition software and dictate my notes in the car on the way home??? Hands free? Or stay at the customer site for an extra 20 minutes every night.

    Anyway, sorry so long!! If you've kept reading, does any of this sound familiar and do you have any advice? I have 2 weeks off in July, and I want to use it to do a full collection and set up better filing system, and better habits.

    Thank you!!!!
    Elaine

  • #2
    My few pennies...

    Hi Elaine - welcome to Connect

    Just a few commments and suggestions below according to some of your questions:



    **I drive 5-120 minutes a day. I average 30 mins each way. Wish I could use that time.

    You can - iPod + Connect Podcasts will sort you out


    **I need to manage the technical and IT project information of 20 some customers, some I might see weekly and others yearly. Many of whom do not want to pay IT prices for IT work and DEFINITELY do not want to pay IT prices for me documenting my time and the project.

    Can I suggest you use OneNote from Microsoft - that way you can keep all your notes from all of your clients in one place (and if you have paper versions - they can be scanned in). That way, no matter where you are, as long as you have a laptop with you, you can refer to your notes.



    **There is no good company system for keeping information handy for all. There are paper files on customer billing, and SOME project info, and contract, SOW info kept there. But much of it is on various consultants hard drives. We have wanted for a long time to get a sharing system, but we never get it done. (Is there a GTDFO--for organizations???)

    Referring to OneNote - you can synch notebooks across computers - so if you and a colleague work with the same client, you can both work in local OneNote workbooks, and then all changes will be synchronised.


    **I am required to email in my time daily and the company bills the clients from that.

    You can keep track of that in OneNote too (Sorry - starting to sound like a broken record here). You could also use Outlook's Journal for tracking this sort of thing.


    **In the past, my life has been in my GroupWise Calendar/mailbox, my little5X7 notebooks (for action items and collection items) and in my backpack, which frequently gets unhealthily heavy, with customer files, laptop, user guides. I think that I will sort it out every night, but often I get home at 7,8,9 and just don't want to by then. I often don't know what files I will need, so I carry too much. I think I need to go digital.

    I'll let you fill in my recommendation here...



    IDEAS:
    +I am thinking maybe it is important to schedule a 1/2 day in the office once a week for the purpose of filing, weekly review, etc. Or, I need to stay at home for 1/2 hour every morning and take care of yesterdays inputs?


    It's always good to be as clear as you can be on any given day. For myself, I have set the target of a clear inbox (both email and physical) at the end of every day. I will be the first to admit I'm not quite there yet.


    +Considering Palm-type device? Don't really want to though, because the little notebook is more flexible.
    +I may be getting a Blackberry Pearl for work.


    Use whatever you think you will use regularly - as long as you're comfortable with the tool, you will use it (also helps if it's fun - Tablet PC for me)

    +Considering voice recognition software and dictate my notes in the car on the way home??? Hands free? Or stay at the customer site for an extra 20 minutes every night.

    Be careful about doing anything that will distract you from concentrating on the road - listening to a podcast/ the news is a lot less attention-needing than Voice Recognition on notes.



    Hope my ramblings have been of some help (ahem, OneNote). I should say I don't work for Microsoft, but consider myself a fan

    cheers

    Nick

    Comment


    • #3
      Great idea (s)!

      Nick,
      Thanks for the ideas and for the welcome! You are not a broken record-- it is great that one application can address so many areas, and therefore simplify. (guess the ONENote is well-named.) It is a small consulting firm where I work, with no real middle-management, so I actually might be able to influence work to consider OneNote for all. (The only problem is....have you ever tried to get 5-10 techies to agree on something technical??!!)

      It sounds like I could use it myself for awhile, and then could do a demo of how it has helped me, etc. I had been thinking about just using text/docs and just being more organized about it and syncing manually. It is amazing how the right tool really makes a difference. Something may only take a few minutes, but if you have to use it so often, they really add up.

      I did not even see the podcasts yet, thanks! You are right, I should keep it to one-way communication on the road. Or get a driver.... We are rural, so no hope of public transportation.

      I really appreciate your thoughts, thanks again!
      Elaine

      Comment


      • #4
        Sometime ago, we try to agree on some technical app without success.

        The solution was a Text file in an FTP (you can use email too)

        We use the Name of the Client (David Allen Co) the Date (June 24, 2007) the initials of the last person that work on the file (XXX)

        Inside the comments were put in an inverse cronological form, that wy the last information was on the top.

        In the case of the FTP was simple, in the case of the email it is a little more complex.

        You just add info to the file and updated in the FTP, you can access FTP for almost anywere (and there is even free options) then the last person has the responsability (one of the big challenges) to update the file within 24 hours.

        That way you always has access to the last info in a file that it is super light.

        If you happen to be in a place in an unexpected way, it is easy to access the FTP from the client side or ask someone to access in the office and mail you the last comments on the file.

        If you want to print the last things you just need to print the last page, ussually includes the last 2 or 3 visits (depending on the notes) but works great.

        Hope this helps.

        Best,

        Comment


        • #5
          I'll second the advice to avoid the temptation to multi-task during drive time. David Allen has published a list of things that can be done while driving. Making phone calls and dictation are, I believe, the primary things recommended. However, I just do not think it is worth the distraction. Passive listening activities are probably fine during most driving situations, but more active things like phone calls have been shown in studies to measurably reduce driver performance, even when using hands-free devices. You are better off getting home uninjured with a few minutes of dictation to do.

          Comment


          • #6
            thanks!

            Apinaud, thanks for the simple solution, and for explaining how you use it in detail. The FTP solution has a good probability of appealing to all the various techies in the company, with the added plus of not costing anything. I am definitely going to look into OneNote, though, too.

            Barry, I appreciate your guidance on the driving. It IS tempting to want to "use" that time, and I need to not even try to make that a crucial piece of my routine by depending on it for my daily processing. (although, I do live in the midwest with stick straight highways....no, j/k) I am now thinking, better to use the time to unwind with music and possibly the podcast idea...to possibly use the time to get inspired. Maybe I need to stop a mile or so from home, write down/dictate anything that has brewed to the surface during the drive, then go on home and embrace the wonderful 18-month old chaos with a clear head.

            Also, in the terrific thread on billing time, someone brings up the excellent point that you cannot leave that all to the end of the day. You should document the billable task, best before you start since you are usually interrupted at the end. WONDERFUL advice also. So I at LEAST need to just stay at the customer site 15 extra minutes before I drive home and finish the documentation, if not do it throughout the day. If that makes the job take an extra 1/2 day, so be it. I good client will not mind. I HAVE to build the time-billing documentation and the technical documentation into the onsite work, or I will continue to always be behind. I don't want it hanging over my head at home.

            Thanks all. I know this isn't stricly GTD technical process. I'll get better!
            Elaine

            Comment

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