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Tracking Your History

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  • Tracking Your History

    The one thing I haven't figured out from the book or the CD's is how to track history when necessary. I am handling a LOT of projects right now that toggle between a quick action like a call or an email and then back to the waiting list. With email I can look in my sent folder, but what about calls and other actions. Sometimes I really can't remember if I did the action or not. I know our minds can't always distinguish between thinking about doing something and actually doing it and I think that happens to me a lot. I think I did something, but in reality I didn't. Many times I will get a call back from someone I am waiting for and discuss a topic which ends up with me waiting for them again. Perhaps I shopuld be noting these conversations? I was thinking if I could somehow keep project history at my fingertips I could quickly review the project before I pick up the phone. Does anyone have any working suggestions? Where should I keep these notes? In an agenda, in the contact note field for the person or the project notes?

    Here is another perplexing issue I have. There are lots of things in my business that I need to let others be aware of so I usually forward an email or make a note to tell them about it. My problem is that I may end up telling them more than once or in some cases I don't tell them at all because I think I already told them. How can I make this more consistent and less fragmented?

  • #2
    If you're not sure you did it, and the action is still on your NA list, re-do it. It's the only way to be sure. Then, when you've done it and you're sure you've done it, then you can remove it from the list.


    • #3
      I move a lot of phone call related things in between my "waiting for" and "phone" lists. But one way I keep up with things is by using a blog. I have a personal blog running on my laptop that I make entries in throughout the day as I do things. Each entry is categorized by context and project name.

      So I can search in a specific project for phone calls and see all of my notes.


      • #4
        I use a "legacy blog," that is, a paper notebook into which I jot notes all day long. Paper is the fastest method for me. When in doubt, I capture it, but most of the time a day's worth of notes fit on one 3.5" x 6.5" daytimer notebook page that has narrow ruled lines.

        The notebook is also my default capture device for thoughts, phone numbers, commitments I make during conversations, etc.

        I also put icons in the margins to the left of items. I use a plus-sign (+) to flag an item that is actionable. This way, I can quickly scan my notebook for new NA's. If I complete the item, I put an (X) on top of the (+) making it more of an asterisk. If I transfer the item to my trusted GTD system, I circle the (+). If I delegate the item to someone else and want to note it in my notebook, I add a (>) to the horizontal line of the (+), making it look like an arrow pointing to the right, and I put the person's name or initials underneath the arrow. If I drop (cancel) the item, I put a (V) on the vertical part of the (+), making it a down arrow.

        During my weekly review, I check the notes since the last review, transferring to outloook (my GTD system), marking complete, dropped, etc. There have been many times when this has saved me from letting something fall through the cracks.

        I also capture each phone call and use some short abbreviations for common phrases like "TF:" for "telephone from."

        There have been enough times in my career when my phone log has given me the confidence to argue with someone that I really DID call them at 9:48 on the 18th to request their approval of the new shipping date. The specific details I can provide give me confidence that I am right, and help convince the other person that I am not making it up.



        • #5
          I often have sequences of trivial actions connected to a major Next Action. For example, setting up an interview with someone (I'm a writer) can involve several phone calls or emails to schedule (and reschedule) times, set an agenda, actually conduct the interview, and then take any followup actions. Closing a project can involve numerous conversations and followup contacts around proposals, timelines, and so forth.

          Usually, I recycle the same "task" for all of these. I'll change the due date, and keep the history of the task in the notes field. The task in turn is categorized according to the project it belongs to.

          These conversations may generate more extensive notes, too. The notes go into the project file, but any associated actions (including Waiting Fors) go into my task lists.



          • #6
            Gretchen, I found the sample chapter (Ch. 3: Time Management - see the link near the top of the page) from Larry Becker to have some useful tips in that regard. I don't use his "system" but his method of recording things for diary purposes has been helpful. I have used the method but applied it also to Memos which track my Projects.


            Best Wishes,


            • #7
              I like what Ken does from a paper standpoint. It's much like what I did with my Day-Timer before going to Palm synced to Outlook. During phone calls, I had access to my computer and have Outlook up all the time, so here is a digital approach. (It's a copy/paste from a post of mine from some time ago):

              When I made the conversion from my Day-Timer to the Palm synced with Outlook, where to put all of the stuff I had been using the right-hand page to capture was a big concern. What I do now is make these journal-type entries in the note section of the respective task. For example, if I have a task that is to call Joe, while I am on the phone, I will record the date and time of the call, Joe's name, and important points about the call in the note section. When the call is over, I will amend the name of the task to reflect the next action and change the category name as appropriate. As I perform that next action, the notes regarding what has preceeded it are in the note section.

              When there is no follow-up and I can simply "check-off" the task, I ask myself if this matter is of "lasting value." If not, I simply check it off. (I can still retrieve it through the search function in Outlook or Palm OS.) If it IS of lasting value, I add a date to the very first of the task line, and drag the task over to the "Notes" icon in Outlook. I never archive the Notes, so all of that type of journal unfo is available to me on either Outlook or my Palm.

              Hope this helps.