Closing the Gap: A Guide to Not Letting Tasks Slip through the Net

It can happen fairly easily. You are in the middle of a task and the phone rings. An arduous 30 minute phone call later and you have gained several new tasks as well as now having a shed load of call notes to work through. Whilst processing these notes, a colleague asking for advice commandeers your attention and before you know it you are spinning several precariously balanced plates. In the modern office, employees are continuously trying to balance demanding schedules which makes it easy for things to slip through the net. We are only human. However, with the right tools and methods you can begin to close up that black hole of lost information and ensure you stay well and truly on the ball in the midst of many day to day distractions.

Start a Backburner List

Oftentimes you will be presented with a nugget of information that is not presently useful but could be in the future. A backburner list will help you capture these ideas and statements without clogging up your to-do list. Keep an ‘Internal’ list which is specifically for notes and ideas for yourself. This could be ‘Found this website today – contact them about partnership opportunities’, it is not a burning priority but it also not something you want to forget. You should also consider creating a ‘Client’ backburner list so that you can record information specific to certain client projects such as ‘follow up with Bob from Example Company about the friend he said he would refer to us’ etc. Once you have your lists ready, you need to specify a weekly time for checking through them and then do it religiously. The way to remember is to set recurring reminder for yourself (see next point) using your calendar or phone.

Make Use of Reminders

Simply trusting yourself to remember something, without committing it to paper (or the digital equivalent), is a sure fire way to let things slip through the cracks. I don’t know about you but in my personal life I use the reminder system on my phone to remind me about everything; ‘buy Mother’s Day present’, ‘dinner with in-laws next Thursday – buy drinks’ and so on. I then set an alarm to go off at a suitable time before the event in order to keep myself on track. We can do the same at work. Most office calendar systems will give you the option to add reminders to events. If you are on the phone with a customer and they mention that it is their birthday next month, add it you your calendar with an e-mail reminder for a few days before to give you enough time to buy and post a card to them. Whereas a backburner list covers off tasks that have an unknown or indefinite date, reminders are great when you know exactly when the task needs to happen.

Keep All Your Notes in One Place.

You have searched through your in tray, your notebook, your desk draw and the pile of post-its next to the phone and you just can’t find that project critical note you took down. This has happened to us all at some point or other. The answer is simple. Force yourself to just have one place where you record notes. Keep a notebook (or word doc) to hand and do not be tempted to reach for anything else to scribble on. Make sure you use each page in order and stick a date at the top of each. Once you have suitably actioned your notes draw a line through the page and rest assured that everything written there has been taken care of. Anything that doesn’t have a line struck through it will indicate that it still requires your attention.

None of the above will work unless you make them part of your routine until they become a habit. Having a backburner list is only useful if it is regularly checked and updated, reminders will only remind if they have been set and the notes you take down will only be easy to locate if they are in one place that is regularly monitored!