Guest post: What did you do last month?

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CIMG0958DianeB of Pocket Blonde is a Manhattanite by way of Pennsylvania and a lifelong appreciator of fine pens and paper. Today, she talks about how she and her colleagues keep track of what they do at work each month.

Without fail, on the first work day of every month I send out a one-sentence email to my colleagues: so, what did you do last month? The Monthly Report is due, send them to me as soon as you can so I can put them together, format the document, and forward to our boss, the Assistant Vice President.

The Monthly Report actually began years back as the dreaded Monthly Meeting, a 90 minute endurance test where all of us would report to our two higher ups, the Assistant Vice President and the Vice President. Some of us were brief, some were wordy; a few were great speakers, most of us were not; various colleagues had too much work at one time, while others tap-danced around their lack of projects. And we all had our various delivery styles as we went through the ups and downs of the month past, ranging from Buster-Keaton-Charlie-Chaplin-silent-comedy to Ian-McKellen-Judy-Dench-The-Scottish-Play-tragedy.

But the AVP and VP got bogged down in meetings, and so we switched from a monthly meeting to a monthly written report. Which meant”horrors!”we had to write down what we did each month in order to put it in a monthly report. My colleagues and I have experimented with different ways of keeping track of our workload, including typing everything into an Excel spreadsheet (too sterile for me, but works for many), making notes on yellow stickies and pasting them to each other in long flowing lines (JD was not happy when Housekeeping accidentally cleaned his office instead of DJ’s that one time), and jotting down assignments in a planner (how grown up).

Eventually, I settled on the latter as the easiest and quickest way for me to keep track of my work. It suits my personality”I like writing things and I like to feel the pen on the paper. Keeping notes has a tactile quality I miss most of the day, as I research and write using my computer. So I like to remember that one of the greatest inventions was the fountain pen, my preferred instrument these days. Would that I could write the Monthly Report instead of cutting and pasting it into a Word document from everyone’s emails!

I tend to use my Day Timer for keeping track of assignments, writing them in when I’ve completed them and sent them out. One thing I’ve noticed with this method is that I abbreviate what I did: œbrief write ups for X, Y, and Z is one example as it is short, explains what I’ve done, and doesn’t bore people with too many details. Or so I thought, until I read a few of my colleagues’ reports and noted that they provided so much detail for the same job that their reports took up most of a page, while mine was about five or six lines. As we all get along very well, I mentioned to them that as I’d just finished working with some data on a spreadsheet that had 37,000 separate fields (and I have to review each one, but that’s another post), I’d cut and past the entire thing into my report rather than just write out a boring one-liner like œreviewed the ABC data file. Eyes went wide until they realized I was joking.

Lately, carrying my Equology Textagenda in my bag, I’ve started making notes on things that don’t really seem like work but are how I spent my time that day. Such as the half-day reviewing a new database to add to our subscription services; working with people from another division who were having trouble doing some research and needed to learn how to set up a search; teaching a few people how to use the encrypted flash drives we just bought, and pointers on where to secretly write down the password. All the things I do in a day that I don’t remember and so go into the Monthly Report as Miscellaneous requests for quick research/help. Suddenly I see where my day has gone in a way I never noticed before, when I would look at the clock and wonder how I had managed to waste so much time doing nothing. The extra notes have made me realize I’m a better employee, and a better person (so much time spent helping others, wow!) than I’d ever really noticed before.

So what did you do last month?

One thought on “Guest post: What did you do last month?

  1. Just last week I started using my new Equology Minister, which has timed daily columns that I use not only to plan my days but also record what I did. I have noticed a very similar phenomenon to what Diane has–that I actually do fill my days with work, even if it wasn’t exactly what was on my to-do list that day. It gives me a much better picture of how I spent my time. And most importantly, like Diane, makes me realize that I’ve been productive in ways I never thought of before.

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