Daily Archives: June 15, 2010

Are you organized?

Are you organized?  Do others think you are organized?

If not, you need to get there if you want to improve your productivity and success.

I carry three key items with me, , , along with my laptop :

  1. Cell phone
  2. Notebook
  3. Calendar

Can’t live without a cell phone, , , although there are times when I wish we could. Actually, cell phone technology has come a long way. My preference – an iPhone.

The notebook is simply for taking notes and has a document flap to hold my small pocket calendar, a few brochures, and some business cards. Lightweight and small is what I prefer, , , when I travel it needs to fit in my brief case and take up minimal room.

I have tried to use a PDA (personal digital assistant), but just didn’t like it as much as the pocket calendar, pen and paper notebook system  I’ve used my entire career.

A small pocket calendar is used to schedule appointments and I have a technique to track travel miles for tax purposes. I prefer a monthly presentation scheme so when I open it up, I see all the days and appointments for an entire month. Many people prefer weekly formats because they have more room for notes, , , but for me, it makes the calendar too big and bulky. I want everything I use to be small and lightweight.

I update my contact list once a year and print it out in alphabetical order. You never know when you might lose your cell phone or destroy it, , , I’ve killed several phones in my career including one 18 months ago when my canoe tipped over, , , not fun if you have to restore all your contact list. My key contact phone numbers are also maintained on my phone, but we have a backup with the printed list if and when we need it.

It comes down to a matter of preference on how you like to manage your calendar and addresses. For me, retrieval is quick using the old fashioned paper system, , , although my iPhone has a quick and flexible retrieval process I find myself using more and more.

I create a weekly to-do list every weekend to help me focus my attention on what needs to get done in the week ahead.

Project  folders and Client folders keep information that I want to save and are filed alphabetically in my desk. Archived files that I need to keep are filed in a file cabinet in alphabetic sequence for easy retrieval.

I also maintain a “Manager’s Notebook” where I keep information I need to access from my office from time to time, , , things like:

  • Master contact list
  • Company financial summaries
  • Strategy documents
  • Resources

I don’t carry this with me when I travel due to its size, but I know where to go when I need something quick.

Keeping yourself organized is a discipline that you need to develop. Use a process that works for you and is easy for you to maintain, , , keep it simple.

Determine what’s important to track for your business and use the tools that work for you and your way of doing things. Play around with some tools to see what you like best.  I’ve probably used a dozen different types of notebooks and portfolios over the years, but find myself always coming back to the type described above.

For me, I like simplicity and lightweight tools that are easy to carry when I travel. The key is to have a system that allows you to retrieve contact information when you need it and that you can make notes for follow-up so your clients and business associates can depend on you.

Whatever your choice of tools, you really can’t go wrong when organizing yourself.

One last tip, , , don’t forget to carry a pen or two, , , you always need something to write with.  🙂

Better inspect what they tell you

Back in the early days of minicomputers, IBM introduced systems that used diskettes for backup instead of tape which had been used for 20 years. The minicomputer brought into the fray a whole new type of client – the “first time user”.

If you didn’t experience this time (late 70’s and early 80’s), it was a new age when companies installed their very first computer system to run billing, accounts payable, general ledger and other key applications. It was a great time to be part of the computer industry and some of the experiences were truly memorable.

A great lesson I learned in those days was to inspect closely and to absolutely insure your client understands what you are saying.

It all began when I went to a client that I had inherited from another IBM Systems Engineer (SE) who had moved onto new opportunities. My first visit was to help the client upgrade to a newer disk drive that had more capacity.

This particular upgrade required swapping out the old fixed disk drive and installing a new one. Once that was completed, we had to reload the client’s operating system and restore their data backup, , , both items were saved onto groups of diskettes.

My job was to prepare the client for the disk swap when the Customer Engineer (CE) arrived and after the hardware change was completed to restore the system for operation. No big deal, , ,  I had done this procedure many times before.

After talking through the steps to be taken with the client, I asked about their Systems Backup and their File Backup at which point they told me they were in the file cabinets stored away. Excellent!

The CE swaps out the disk drive and hands the project back over to me. I immediately ask the client for their Systems Backup diskettes and for their Data Backup diskettes. As the lady hands me their data backup diskettes,  she asks, “What’s a System Backup?”.

My heart skipped a beat, , , have you ever had that sinking feeling in your stomach?

You guessed it, , , they didn’t have an Operating System backup, or at least none we could find. In normal circumstances, this would be OK but today I didn’t have a copy of the Operating System that I could use to reinstall their system.

I had to call our office 150 miles away and get a copy sent to me so I could finish the job the next day. The Operating System software I needed arrived the next morning and I reloaded the system.  The exercise took an hour versus the 10 minutes it should have taken, but I completed the job.

The client lost about 4 more hours of systems availability than necessary, but the biggest problem I had was the needling I took from my IBM pals.

This mistake taught me two key lessons:

  1. A sense to inspect answers from clients to be sure they understand what you are asking and that you have what you need to do the job.
  2. Always have a backup plan if things don’t go as planned. In this case, I could have finished the job if I had brought along a spare operating system that I could install in case their backup did not work.

Luckily, this wasn’t a catastrophe, , , but my IBM buddies helped me remember the mistake for a long time.