Wednesdays are software days at SimpleProductivity blog.
One of the mainstays of my hacks is a Palm program called SmartListToGo by DataViz. It is a very simple database program that can link to Microsoft Access. I use it in a variety of ways that I thought I would expand on here.
Note: I use an older version of SmartListToGo because the last upgrade I took from DataViz introduced an automatic sync to Access that I found wasteful. I prefer to do my exports and imports by hand.
Timesheets and Status Reports
My employer requires me to produce either monthly or weekly status reports for every client that I bill hours to. At one point I was billing six clients at a time, and the status reports were taking me forever. My timesheets are to be filed weekly, and it was getting hard to remember what days I did what hours.
I set up four tables in SmartList, with the following information: Client, Project, Task, Hours. The client can have multiple projects, the projects can have multiple tasks, and the tasks have hours. This is how I am required to break it down for both timesheets and reports. I enter the client information once (including the client code and whether or not they are active), the project information (including the internal project number, the contract expiration date or the number of hours on the contract), and the tasks (including the internal tracking number and a more verbose and understandable description). Each day I enter hours against the tasks, along with a brief summary of what I did.
At the end of the week, I do one export, and then using a small Visual Basic application against the exported data, it generates status reports for each client and project.
Where status reports used to take me a few hours to complete each week, I can now “write” one in about 3 minutes.
I love to read, and there are several series that I follow. I try to read book series in order, mainly because reading them out of order can lead to confusion and blanks in the story where the author assumes you are familiar with the history. Four times a year, I update the series I track against Amazon.com information. When I am looking for something to read at the library, or browsing the bookstore, I open up this list to see what I need to read next.
This database is a list of everything I have at home to read (see Can You Stop Buying Books? I’m Going To Try) and everything that has been suggested to me. When I am looking for my next candidate to read, I go to this list.
I have a small family website which has the primary purpose of entertaining family and friends. It contains, among other things, the software links for my Palm PDA, my reading lists and movie reviews. Updating these pages in HTML can take a long time. So I developed databases to hold all the information. These then export into an Access database, where they generate the HTML pages.
The process of updating the site, which used to take me a few hours, now takes less than a minute.
Since I usually have my PDA with me, I also have this information with me on the go. Here are some instances where it has come in handy:
- Confirming work dates. One client got hit with a discrimination lawsuit. I was questioned by the attorney, who wanted to know if I had heard a remark made during a specific staff meeting. I was able to tell her that I had not heard the remark, because I had been out sick that day.
- Book Names. People ask me for book recommendations. Using my list, I am able to tell them exact titles and authors in a given genre, along with what I liked best. Since I read widely, this would not be possible without my list.
- Avoiding Duplicates. I found a book in the bookstore I wanted to buy, but the title sounded familiar. Looking at my reading list, along with the candidate list, I was able to determine that while I didn’t own the book, I had read it about a year ago.
- Browsing the Library. When I take my daughter to the library, I usually end up browsing. Rather than picking books at random, I use both the book series list and the candidates list to pick out books.