Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I am lucky that my work is very structured. Work comes to me in discreet chunks that are tracked in an external system. Each chunk has a name and reference number that is used from the start of the project to its closing.
I have worked out a system that allows me to keep a complete record of every project, including supporting emails and paper, so that I can get to them in a moments notice. Here are the details:
The Computer Folders
Underneath My Documents, I have two folders that deal with my work papers. The first is called “Current Projects” and the second is “Archive”.
When I am assigned to each chunk of work, I create a folder in the Current Projects folder labeled with the project reference number.
In Outlook I create a folder with the tracking number as well. All emails pertaining to a project, including my replies, are stored in this folder.
At the same time I am assigned to the project, I create a new page in an electronic notebook/wiki (I use the now-defunct Notestudio) that contains the basic information about the project and links to both the online tracking page and the folder in Current Projects.
Work In Progress
While I am working on a task, everything that is done electronically is saved right into the project folder. Most things are named the date I did the work. If I work on something a second day, I save off a copy under the current date. This allows me to figure out exactly where I left off, while maintaining an archive of previous day’s work. (this is helpful when the client changes his mind mid-stream).
Each aspect of the task is tracked in my Wiki, noting what I am working on, items I changed, phone conversations and other information that can help me recreate the whys and wherefores of the project.
When I receive an email, I will deal with it directly. If it is something I need to take action on, I will do so, filing both the original and the reply in my project folder.
Sometimes it is necessary to have paper. It might consist of information from the client, meeting notes, or design documents. These are kept in a spiral notebook with the top of each page labeled with the project number and the date.
Closing the Project
When a project has been closed, I pull everything together into one place.
- Progress notes. I print the Wiki page to PDF and store it in the project folder. The Wiki page is then moved to another electronic notebook so that I only have current projects in my notebook.
- Email. I drag all email from the Outlook folder to my project folder. I do this at the end of the project because Outlook will handle the email with the same names gracefully. Doing the move as the email comes in will ask you to overwrite email with the same subject line.
- Paper. All paper is scanned at our copier and emailed to me. These scans are put in the project folder, and big red lines drawn through the notebook pages so I know they’ve been processed.
- The Project Folder. Once all the subordinate information is in the folder, I move the folder into the Archive folder.
This system has allowed me to quickly dig up precious information months after a project closed. I have been able to give information to co-workers, saving them time hunting for the right area to change. I have provided documentation on decisions that were made, saving my employer extra expenses when a client wants us to fix (at our expense) something that they requested to begin with. And I have been able to quickly pass on information about things in progress when I have switched teams.
Photo by theilr