Make a Note of It for Next Year!

Do you have tasks or procedures that you do only occasionally, perhaps just once a year? I tackled one of my annual projects recently.

I maintain the membership database for my hand spinning guild (Illinois Prairie Spinners). Before I produce the annual membership directory, I send members customized letters that list their current information and ask for updates if needed. I start by modifying the previous year’s mail merge template that pulls information from the membership database in Access. However, making these changes can be tricky, as there are nested IF…ELSE statements in the template. These need to be changed in several places. I also need to update fields and queries in Access. It’s difficult to remember the details from year to year. For example, does -1 in an Access query mean True or False? (True!)

So I was pleased to find my notes from last year’s verification project. I’d forgotten that I’d written them, but fortunately I had saved them where I would come across them this year. They saved me lots of time and frustration.

The next time you’re working on tasks you only do once in a while, take a few extra minutes to jot down some notes on your procedures. They don’t need to be elaborate, but record key steps or details that are difficult to remember or time-consuming to recreate. Save your notes where you will find them again easily when you next do the task. You’ll be glad you did! Eventually you may even want to develop your notes into a detailed written procedure, which could enable you to hand off the project to someone else.

Have you used this technique to save yourself time and frustration? Share your ideas by posting a comment!

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Mohan Arun January 19, 2011 at 6:36 am

    I can relate with this. I usually record steps or procedures for any task that is not done frequently enough. What you assume you know today one will forget tomorrow. Thats why God has given us pen and paper.

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  • Jane Plass January 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Yes, it certainly pays off even though it takes extra time at first. Thanks for your comment!

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  • Stephanie Calahan (@StephCalahan) January 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    Jane -
    Yes! In addition, I use the Paper Tiger (www.FindInFiveSeconds.com) action date to remind me to take action on those not-so-frequently-done activities. I file the procedure away and note it in my Paper Tiger and set the reminder. Super simple, but saves slews of time later down the road.

    Even though thinking through and writing down procedures (and or policies) takes time, there are many benefits. As you note, it can save you slews of time down the road when you are trying to remember how to do something. In addition, if you own a business, it will actually increase the value of your business! One of the things that business appraisers take into consideration when they are determining the value of your business is if you have your processes and procedures written down.
    To your success!
    Stephanie

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  • Jane Plass January 22, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Great tips, Stephanie. Thanks!

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