Firstly please let me say thank you so much to all those who replied, and I really appreciate the time you have taken to give your input.
Sorry I haven't been back online to follow it up...
The last couple of weeks have been quite terrible for me, my grand plans for a perfectly organized and efficient life have crumbled before my eyes with totally unexpected things popping up both at home and at work, and some illness issues [migraines, ulcers] to deal with too...
But I'm on holidays now.
I type this in the budget terminal at Singapore Airport where I have a 9 hour stopover, and free internet.
I have four weeks ahead of me now, to re-connect with my wife, and hopefully get my head cleared out so I can come back and finally get on track and make some damn money.
I am quite constrained by the limitations of the work environment. Specifically, I can forget about introducing any new software solutions - IT just won't entertain the idea. I guess they have a point, if they make an exception for me, no matter how much potential the idea has, then suddenly they've got 50 other managers asking them for the next latest greatest thing. If I was them I could see it turning into a nightmare. Even spreadsheet macros are pushing it a bit. I've got a couple running now, but I've been told not to do any more of that sort of stuff without getting specific permission first.
For jbkendrick: the trouble with a cell based solution for me is two problems - firstly, where I live we don't have NextG or 3G access, we only have GPRS so it's worse than dialup speed and hideously expensive per meg.
Overriding that, however, is that I have to have two completely separate systems, one for work and one for home. No matter what ppl here say, that's the way the company wants it. My AM points out that it's important to have work/life balance and I should leave shop problems in the shop when I lock the door and walk away. Not only that, he doesn't want shop stuff in some outside system, and he doesn't want ppl dealing with personal stuff in work hours.
I work 43 hours a week, and the theory is that I should be *easily* able to get everything done in that time. My trouble is I find myself constantly getting sidetracked off my sidetracks. For example on Monday mornings I have a bunch of admin stuff to do - timesheets, run stats, send weekly report etc etc but this all has to be done on the PC which is on the front counter, so I get interrupted constantly by customers. Of course, the customer who is right in front of me has to be dealt with there and then - that's the immediate item. There's no choice. Particularly if it's a return or some kind of problem with an item, that NEEDS to be dealt with there and then. So what should normally take less than an hour ends up being not finished at the end of the day... To say nothing of suddenly realizing it's almost closing time and you haven't had lunch, and the pot of coffee you made in the morning is still sitting in the machine stone cold...
So, to sum up:
I need a paper based system, probably based on an A4 DTP diary [it's what the company has given us]
I'm thinking of making up checklists like pilots use [preflight, etc] for opening, closing, banking, timesheets/stats etc etc] and either printing them out and laminating them or just run them through the photocopier every day, then just having the checklist name as a single item on the diary page to be ticked off and initialled by whoever did it [esp. on days I'm not on].
My concern is I'm having trouble visualizing in my mind the actual mechanics of actually doing it. Say you've got something to order for a customer, and you make a note of it. Then you make another note in the diary in "x" days time to follow up to check that it's come in. Then you call the customer, and make a note of it. Then when the customer picks it up you make a note of it. What if it gets delayed? do you go looking through the pages for the note and cross it out and write it again on another day? What if they call up asking about their order - I could see myself flipping pages back and forth while they're waiting and I'm looking for that note - and any update note. . .
That's the thing that's nagging me in the back of my mind now - paper is not easily searchable or sortable. If you go the diary way then you're pretty much stuck with sorting by timeline. If you go the cardfile or clipboard way you can sort on customer name or item number, but the thought of having lots of little bits of paper with important info on them just screams "lose me"...
It's got to be simple and easy.
Simple enough for me to do it, and easy enough for me to explain it to everyone else so they'll do it the same way too.