Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Finding the Middle Path

In my current work, I needed a way to manage tasks that I think of now, but which cannot be completed until some future date. It's really important -- if I say I'm going to phone someone in two weeks to follow up on their decision about something, I simply must do it.
The answer: a tickler file.

Now those of you who are Getting Things Done probably have some array of folders. This is nice, but big. I don't want to be dragging around a filebox, and because some of my calling and work has to happen after hours, I need the information with me in a convenient form.

I decided on index cards after I found the pictured index card binder. Great day in the morning, it's a wonderful thing. So here's how it works: I've got 1-31 for the days of the month, and then a Jan-Dec section for things that aren't this month. I move cards from day to day, and then I'll move next month's in at the end of this month. Pretty simple. For cards that are going to have a long life (for example, people that I'm working with and will be making a series of calls to over the course of a few months) I use a Sharpie to put the permanent information on the card -- name, phone number, class year and the like. I add the notes from my most recent call or my planned call in pencil, then as I transfer those notes into the core database, I erase and put my next planned action on the card, and rotate it into the day or month when I plan to call. I punch my own cards using a standard three-hole punch, and as I get things completely done, I just file away the completed index cards.
I feel a little obsessive-compulsive, but then I am reminded of things like this, and I don't feel so bad.


Anonymous said...

Funny--I am working on a product that does this for bankers! They need some way to organize the follow-up calls they make to their customers, as well as describe what happened when they spoke, and make referrals to bankers and other people like attorneys. It's called CRM (customer relationship management) in our world... (AT)

Stella Commute said...

Thanks for reading, AT ;-) In development land we have software that does this too, only we call it "Moves Management" (e.g. the moves you plan to make to cultivate the prospect toward a gift). Unfortunately our somewhat antedeluvian database doesn't really have the capability that I'm used to. So I've resorted to analog technology. Where CRM really gets powerful is when it is closely integrated with calendaring, so that your planned actions pop up on your primary electronic calendar as tasks, appointments, and so on.

Oh, yeah, and people have to actually use CRM systematically. Don't forget the training and rewards for putting planned actions in and then executing them on the appointed day.

But I digress.