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Checklists or Task Templates (Need help/suggestons)

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  • Checklists or Task Templates (Need help/suggestons)

    Here is my case use [mostly sales specific]

    I have a number of times when I am doing or want to do the same set of tasks in response to a catalyst.

    Let's say I return from a sales appointment with a new client. There are a series of tasks that should occur as best practice. These include data entry and kicking off a series of follow ups ( a note card followed by an email followed by a voice mail follow by whatever else I can dream up).

    So how do I insure these tasks get done? I can't find an app to do this. Well, that's not entirely true. When I was in real estate there was an awesome app called Top Producer. You could assign a contact to an "Action Plan". These plans could be modified to any level of complexity you want. Then, on a daily basis, when you came in in the morning all pending action items were auto-sorted by context (long before GTD). This allowed you sit down and send all emails (either templated/mail-merged emails or individually written emails); print all letters and/or envelopes; write all handwritten notes; make all calls; etc.

    But now that I am removed from that world, I can not find any equivelent. I'm sure that there's gotta be some app (Sales Force, Act, Goldmine, etc.). But I work in an Outlook environment. I have tried other online apps, e.g. HighRise by 37 signals or Pipeline Deals.

    The ability to auto-assign task specific tasks could be utilized on lots of scenarios. Really, too many to list here.

    But the basic idea is very, very critical to me creating an efficient work flow for me and my team.

    I would really appreciate any ideas or web sites or products or blogs or neighbors or psychic hotlines you can point me to that could solve this challenge for me.




  • #2
    If you're looking specifically for software recommendations, you might have better luck asking over on the Toys & Software sub-forum. Or maybe not.



    • #3
      If you must use software to accomplish your tasks, I have no suggestions for you. But if you can use paper then print a checklist of all actions needed to complete this 'new client' project. Place the list in your project support materials or in your project list if you use a folder for each project. Check the checklist as often as you need to to feel comfortable with your progress (at least once per week). Make sure to check off each item as you go and make sure each item is only 1 action, not a sub-project.

      No system will guarantee completion of tasks. If you are resisting the list then you need to redefine the project, chunk it down further, or forget about it.


      • #4
        Excel works well, though not optimally


        I really see what you are trying to do. I have had the same ambition; "what if I could autogenerate the tasks in a specific process instead of coming up with them spontaneously every time?".

        I have solved it by using Excel, like this:
        1) First, I exported a couple of Outlook-tasks to Excel, just to see how to format the spreadsheet.
        2) Based on the exported spreadsheet, I created a template with the following fields (columns): Subject, due date, notes, company (which for me represents the project the task is part of), category (context), contacts, days from day D (to calculate the due date of each task in relation to the initial date or a major deadline such as the start of an assignment et c)
        3) Then I create the "best practice" bundle of tasks as rows in the spreadsheet. The due date of every task is calculated based on a "D" date that I define in a "Ini" cell in a different sheet in the same xls-file, and by adding the value in column "days from day D" (which can be positive or negative). By including the content from another cell in the Ini-sheet, I can customize the project name (such as a customer's name) automatically once and for all for the tasks in the process in question.
        4) Finally, I save the Excel-file as .xls (not .xlsx) and import it into tasks in Outlook.
        Hey presto! - I can focus on getting the tasks done instead of on making up the tasks that I need to get done.

        As for now, I have approx 20 processtemplates that I enhance and adjust from time to time.

        Was that of any help?

        David Stiernholm
        Gothenburg, Sweden


        • #5
          Originally posted by empty inbox View Post
          If you must use software to accomplish your tasks, I have no suggestions for you. But if you can use paper then print a checklist of all actions needed to complete this 'new client' project.
          I'm with "empty inbox" here. There's nothing quite as flexible and customizable as paper. This problem is one big reason I left software GTD implementations behind and embraced paper. As a computer professional, I have lots of projects that are primarily composed of a checklist of steps to get from Start to Finish. Nothing I could find out there could do exactly what I wanted to be able to do like paper. Now, I have dozens of checklists as word processing documents that I just print out whenever I need them: need to clone a Production system back to a development or QA environment, get that checklist; need to prepare for a monthly Production release of code, get that one; going to the in-laws for the weekend, get out a "Going to the in-laws Travel Checklist." It's not automated and some fancy workflow system like it could be in some software application, but then again, I can make of it exactly what I want and am only constrained by my own imagination, not the developer's.


          • #6
            @Roger: thanks for the thought. You might be right.

            @Inbox & @Jon: I don't think I explained myself well enough. However, I have tried using a paper checklist and a tickler file. But it became too cumbersome too fast given the number of contacts I was trying to follow up with. Additionally, there was no way to factor in context in the equation at all.

            @David Stiernholm: This sounds very, very close to what I was hoping for. I will work on this. If there is anyway you might send me a copy of your spreadsheet to help me in starting mine (I am no excel guru), that would be most appreciated.

            My email is in the thread above. But just in case, it's: coach dan 007 at gmail dot com.

            Thanks all.



            • #7
              Stiernholm's solution is extremely clever. He's really taking advantage of the power of both programs.

              I keep all my lists in Excel. I find it very easy to add to, subtract from, and generally edit them. Some I print out and carry with me, some stay on the computer. I make checklists at the drop of a hat, and I'm constantly refining my checklists based on experience.

              I'm a little confused about what exactly you need that you're not getting from a paper checklist. Do you want a reminder of where you are in each project to pop-up automatically? If you're performing the same set of tasks for each client, why not just list each task vertically (one per row in the spreadsheet) on the far left, and each client name horizontally (one per column), then check off each task as you perform them. Granted, this won't produce a context-sorted list per se, but you'd have everything in front of you in one spreadsheet. Print it out each morning or glance at it on the screen, and you're good to go. How many clients are you dealing with at any one time?