Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Keeping a running tab of what you’ve done

Some people are "score keepers" and others are not. I'm not. What I mean by this is that I am not very good at keeping track of all the specific things I've done, helped with, written, etc. - it's something about the way I'm wired (I also don't easily hold grudges, either, so there is an upside to not being a "score keeper").

However, this tendency can make it difficult when it's time to write a monthly status report / recap - I often find myself having a difficult time retracing my steps and creating a list of the things I've done for the past month, quarter, etc.

Archaeology is not easy

In the past when I sat down to hammer out a status report, I relied on my "Sent Items" in Outlook, a scan of completed items on my Task list, and other artifacts of my work. However, I often engage in things that aren't on my Task list, or don't involve email.

Recently, I've adopted a new technique (and am on my way to developing a new habit) that makes the bookkeeping a bit easier.

Note to self...

Now, when I do something significant (a phone conversation, a meeting, completing a project, making a significant contribution to a project, etc.) I send myself an email to create an artifact of that activity or milestone. I almost always have the means to send myself a note, either via my Blackberry or through Outlook.

When I process my Inbox, I file them in a time-labeled Status subfolder. For example, I do monthly status reports so I have folders under status called Apr07, May07, etc.

As I process my inbox, I can use ClearContext to file it by assigning "Status/Apr07" as the message's topic, or simply hit [Ctrl]+[Shift]+V, and typing "Apr07" and letting Speedfiler drop it into the appropriate folder.

Then, when I sit down to write my status report, I simply go to that folder and use the data there to complete my status report.

I can imagine variations on this theme that would be helpful, as well - you could create subfolders under Status for Projects, Clients, or other target audiences to help create an easy recap.

A nuance when dealing with support material

One subtelty about this is you sometimes have "support material" in your email inbox - do you file the support material in your Status folder, or do you just send a note?

As a die-hard GTD'er I favor leaving the support material in a Topic-based reference folder (Articles/Change Management), and sending yourself a note that you've completed something ("Completed article on Change Management for IT Auditor Magazine").

The hardest part

The hardest part of this (as with any system-based trick) is to develop the habit of sending these status notes. You can remind yourself by putting a calendar entry or a reminder into your system to say "Hey - did you do anything worthy of a status note today?"

Got any tricks that work for you? Let me know.

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