View Full Version : Cueing/tracking recurring actions?
12-15-2005, 11:39 AM
I am curious how other people track this kind of thing. About 1/2 of my work day is doing repeating projects which have to be done daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly. Each has some actions that are sequential and some that are not, Many have a bit of a window in terms of either the day or the time. I would like to find an easy way to both cue myself and to track my completion of these steps as I do them. I want to do this so I don't fail to do a step or re-do a step (I do get interupted a lot). Also, I want to get a handle on how long these really take me. I used to use index cards in a tickler type of set-up but you don't really get the full view of a project that way. Also, I would like to be able to give this to another person in an easy to read format because the higher ups sometimes don't realize how many steps are involved and how long they take, or how often certain have to be done. Another method I used was to handwrite ina teacher's roll book the specific actions (where the names of the students would go), and designate the frequency. Then check off if done. But, the number of specific actions now exceed the number of spaces for names (usually 30). I am kind of thinking about something I could put on my Palm and synch with desktop.
12-15-2005, 08:50 PM
For recurring actions that I need to be reminded of, I set up recurring tasks in Outlook. Then I can check them off as they're completed, and if I need a report I can print it out from outlook, with date completed, etc. But Outlook doesn't help me with the various steps of the task.
For complex tasks with many steps, I have two kinds of checklists in Excel. If there are many steps but there is no need to record variable information, like times, or values, check numbers, etc., I set up the checklist with multiple columns, one row for each of the steps, and then columns for each week or month or quarter. Then I have little checkboxes for each step and I go down the column for that week (or whatever timeframe), and as I go I check the checkboxes. It's easy to scan the column of checkmarks to confirm that nothing has been omitted. At the end of the year, month, or quarter, I have all those columns checked off, so I feel confident that I've done everything I needed to do. I can even pencil in at the bottom of the column the date I completed the process if I feel it would be helpful.
There are some tasks that are more variable, where I need to make note of the beginning and ending numbers in a check run, etc., and how many transactions were entered, or some data may have changed (like someone's salary), or a deduction will be made from someone's check for only two or three times, and I don't want to forget to take the deduction, and don't want to take it too many times. For these jobs, I print out a new checklist for each time I do them. I have fill-in-the-blanks for recording check runs, number of checks, the total number of checks, amounts, etc. For a deduction I include a line with the deductions detailed (Deduct $345.00 for tools to Acct #1205: 11/01 $115.00 11/08 $115.00 11/15 $115.00) As I go along I check off the date and amount just so I know I did something. I update these checklists every time I do the task because this type of task has so much variability. I use this type of detailed checklist for situations like payroll where accuracy is essential, and where control is needed. I have a password on these checklists and any changes have to be initialed by the owner. Of course the same degree of control may not be needed all the time, and if I can I simplify. But if there's a possibility that someone will question why I did something, how a mistake was made, etc., I've found that this gives me a lot of control and documentation. It also slows me down so that I am more mindful of what I'm doing. I find that when I'm doing something repeatedly it's easy to overlook something because it's so familiar, so I need to slow down and be more deliberate about it and reduce errors.
Some checklists are two or three pages long--whatever it takes.
It takes several iterations to get a checklist set up with the right level of detail, but it doesn't take too long, and it's worth the time because it helps me do things correctly and methodically, and the people who will get the finished product have more confidence and peace of mind.
The busier the environment, the more interruptions, the more necessary the checklists are (for me, at least). If I find that I've made the same mistake twice, I try to work out a checklist so the mistake won't occur again. And of course, it's helpful to have a checklist to pass on to an assistant or to someone who takes on a task when I'm on vacation or ill, or for training.
It really helps to print the checklist onto colored paper, so you can find it immediately without having to leaf through a stack of papers, but go right to it.
And if reports are printed, the checklists can be saved with the reports.
Hope this provides some useful ideas.
12-16-2005, 10:03 AM
I appreciate the detail you provided. It looks like you have regular excel checklists for the routines that don't have exceptions and then check lists for the exceptions. I like that, not just for making sure I have done the stepa but it provides some way to show and explain what extra actions are involved when must depart from a routine or make an exception.
12-16-2005, 02:06 PM
Yes, for tasks that are pretty routine but detailed, I use the re-usable checklists, with multiple columns so that I can keep the checklist in a binder or file for reference each time I do the procedure. It just helps me make sure that I confirmed or did various things--like for Get Ready to Go Out for the Day: take glasses, take wallet, take keys, take daytimer, take calculator, etc. I could just use the same list every day for a week or a month, running down the columns. It reminds me to do these things, can't forget them or I'd have a big problem or waste time.
Then if there's something that's really detailed and things sometimes change, I have a checklist, or maybe it would be better to call it a worksheet, that has reference information so when I audit payroll I can check off each person's hourly wage, and if they got a raise the responsible person can initial. From time to time an employee has turned in two timesheets and the data entry people have created two checks for him. So as I go down the list with the timesheets I would find a checkmark already in the box when I started working with the second timesheet-this is almost the only way, in this particular office, to prevent duplicate payments. This worksheet also has blanks for beginning and ending check numbers, etc. And this worksheet wouldn't be re-usable, because of the changing information, but it documents and controls the process. And there's enough blank space that I can make notes.
I started using checklists like this because I found I would get work returned to me for errors or omissions. There would never be a procedure that would fully explain what needed to be done, and how. I would always be told to just do something the way it was done before, but there was little or no explanation of how it was done, and there would be procedures or check-points that were important but weren't documented anywhere. So in order to get it right the first time I started making notes about what happened last time I did it and referring back to the notes. That just grew into a checklist format.
I still find that when I start working with someone new, or providing a new service, I need to set up a new checklist. Otherwise, as happened last night, I print out a report and then have to throw it away because I forgot to confirm a number that needed to be adjusted.
12-17-2005, 10:57 AM
I have daily reminder check-lists in page-protector sheets. You can use a dry-erase marker to check things off, then wipe them clean with the eraser for the next day's use.