Intermittent Task Tracking

Intermittent Task Tracking

Job Ticket I’ve been using the various Task Order Up! variations for the past week, and in general I like the idea and the card format. I’m particularly liking the 4×6 card version 5: they’re small enough to keep handy and fit in my back pocket, yet big enough to be noticed on my desk; the 3×5 cards tend to get a little lost.

What’s interesting: a different kind of job tracking methodology is starting to fall out of this, which is great because I’ve hit a wall with intermittent projects. I have about 5 or 6 client projects of constantly shifting priorities. Sometimes these projects go dormant for a week or two; one has actually entered deep hibernation due to an internal reorganization.

As I’m not particularly adept at juggling, I’ve adapted the Task Order Up into something that retains the check-rail compatible qualities, but is more suitable for tasks that are spread over a longer period of time.

Enter the Intermittent Task Tracker.

The Basic Idea

The basic idea behind all the card-based things I’ve been doing (other than I love cards) is the maintaining of continuity. Compared to tools like the Task Progress Tracker, the Intermittent Task Tracker focuses on maintaining a collection of cards instead of an overall project list. If you like coming at your projects from a top down perspective, you’ll probably like the Task Progress Tracker format. If you like thinking more on the details of a task level, then the Intermittent Task Tracker (and the various forms of Task Order Up!) may appeal to you more.

Another way of looking at it: The Task Progress Tracker is great if you like one piece of paper, and maintain a folder of your projects as your continuity-maintaining device. The Intermittent Task Tracker is great if you like multiple cards, and have a recipe box, thumbtack, or check rail system. That’s my theory, anyway.

Compared to the Task Order Up: The ITT is designed for use over a period spanning more than a week, when you have projects that don’t have hard deadlines. Another project category would be hourly-rate type jobs like maintenance contracts, retained hours, and other “open billed” projects.

Of course, you can use the Intermittent Task Tracker as a regular Task Order Up card…nothing’s stopping ya!

Changes from the Task Order Up!

Example I’ve dropped the “total hours used” area though because it’s not as necessary; while this is useful if you’re in a timecard environment and need to sum up your project hours on a weekly basis, that’s not the use I need for these.

On the right you can see a scan of an example card; this is pretty much how I’m expecting to use it this week:

  • There are triangles on the left side of the 15-min bubbles. These mark a new dated entry, so you can separate what hours go with what day with a bit of counting.

  • Each card can handle up to 20 hours. If you run out of bubbles, just grab a new card and assign a new CARD# at the bottom. This allows you to keep the cards in sequence, and maintain the history of the project in an index card box.

  • You’ll note the use of | marks between bubbles. They’re unfortunately a little too close together to easily use (a different color pen would be useful here). These correspond to the / marks in the descriptions; for example, the 5/9 entry shows a “kickoff meeting” and a “first draft”. The | mark in the bubbles for the first entry show the split of time: 1hr 15min for the kickoff, and another 30 min for the design draft.

  • Each description has a dated entry. This is new; the Task Order Up, by comparison, doesn’t need these because the tasks are supposed to be short and doable within the span of a week. For intermittent tasks spread over weeks, the date is necessary.

  • The very last entry shows an example of estimated time. I traced empty circles indicating how much time I thought this task might take to complete, and filled them in as I went. As it so happened, it took less time, and noted this.

  • Since the job is complete, I wrote closed job at the bottom of the card, just so it’s clear it’s terminated. This is also indicated by the “1 / 1” at the bottom of the card; you would add the “/ 1” when you know the job is complete. If you run out of space on the card, file it away and make new cards with an incremented card number.

  • The jobcode is a system I use internally; I assign every incoming prospect a jobcode number, and create a corresponding folder on my production computer’s _local_projects folder. This folder is periodically backed up to my main fileserver, or whenever I feel nervous. That number is also used for invoicing, naming BaseCamp projects, and for my SVN repository. One of these days I’ll have to automate the whole thing, but I’ve been too lazy to do it.

  • As others have noted, you can always write notes on the back of the card!

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p>So that’s it! I’ll be using this format this week as I close out some lingering projects.

Download the Intermittent Task Tracker

» Download the Intermittent Task Tracker 4×6 » PrintableCEO-ITT01-4X6.pdf

Enjoy!

I feel I must apologize for the sheer number of Task Order Up variations that are cropping up. I have no idea which ones are the most popular…if you have a favorite format or size, let me know so I can keep it alive.

» This article is part of The Printable CEO Series

13 Comments

  1. Doug 14 years ago

    I love the pCEO series! Could you make a B&W version of each document, though… I have to output on my laserjet and the greys are very muddy. I realize this will change the “weight” of the document but I think the increased clarity is more important (maybe reduce the stroke to compensate?)

    Thanks again for you great work!
    doug.

  2. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Hi Doug! If you can send me photos of the muddy documents (or even actual printous) that will help me adjust the grays. Otherwise, it’s a shot in the dark! I could imagine that the grays would look terrible on a 300DPI printer.

    Would there be any interest in pre-printed forms?

  3. Chris 14 years ago

      Would there be any interest in pre-printed forms?

    You coudt market the whole thing to productivity consultants.  They get comissions for selling the cards to their clients (when apropriate) and you cash in when those order more cards from you. And, well, maybe some design work too.

  4. Doug 14 years ago

    No scanner. Maybe this is enough?
    I’ve got a 1200dpi Xerox Phaser 3450 that does a great job with black (text readable at <4pt) but greys are screened/dithered and therefore aren’t crisp. I should think any B&W laserjet would produce similar results. I could print on my inkjet for flawless results but that is very slow.

    I would think that changing all text and strokes to 100% black would do the trick. If you want to send me a sample PDF I could check it before you put too much effort into it.

    Thanks.

  5. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Chris: interesting idea…maybe I should contact some of them and see what they say. Talking to some people about printing tomorrow.

    Doug: Cool, I’ll check it out and see what I can do. B&W design is challenging! But on the other hand, I can explore lineweights and b&w patterns.

  6. Chriztian Steinmeier 14 years ago

    Ha – I read the last sentence as “…as I close out some lingerie projects.” :-)

  7. Sally 13 years ago

    Hiya David….

    I’m back to exploring paper alternatives after getting totally disgusted with attempts at using ACT (their latest version really sucks) … I even bought a PC just for using ACT (I have more appreciation for Mac).  Sold the PC today and I’m going back to paper for my contact / project management.

    While I love all the “toys” (Mac & Palm), I find I really hate entering stuff into the palm beyond keeping addresses & phone numbers in there.

    I have several hundred contacts at any given time for prospective work that I need to manage.  I LOVE the idea of treating each prospect as an “order” in your “order up” concept.  When each one of my prospects’ tickets is finally “closed”, it usually means a $600 or better chunk o’ change for me.  So having a good stack of these order tickets in the works (treating each prospect as a project) has some real tangible value.  I love the idea.

    I printed out a few dozen of your 3×5 and 4×6 versions of the the order ticket – and I already can see tweaking this for my purposes – given each successful “event” that I book for my business pretty much goes through the same sales process.

    I just want to tell you how much I appreciate seeing someone else who gets motivated by “playing” the tasks of work by implementing a little “game” to it – I’ve played games on my desk for years.  From my experience of being a waitress a few centuries ago, I got a big kick out of your analogy to short order cooking.  You’re RIGHT!  Some little places schlepp a massive amount of productivity out of handling all of those little paper orders.  The whole system would go to hell if they tried to computerize their work.  (which seems where I’m at now – trying to deal with my work via the computer and PDA just isn’t working)

    I know for me, I need to have tangible stuff in front of me to feel progress – so I’m off now to try your order up tickets and then tweak them for my business.

    THANKS so much for taking the time to share your work – it’s appreciated from this corner of the planet!

    Sally

  8. supamanu 13 years ago

    David – been a while since I visited, snowed under with unexciting but put-food-on-the-table work, and I have to say I always get energised with the work you’re doing. I’m actually taking a career break at the end of the year to re-organise my life and work, and I will become an avid reader and I hope contributor to this space full of creative and real world ideas. Bla bla, had too much caffeine this morning ;)

    Manu

  9. Ashley 13 years ago

    Hey Dave I really dig your templates! Is it possible to format this style of ITT into a 3X5 format? I try doing so myself, but the rotation to fit the page minimizes the table too much…

    :)

  10. Ian Stanley 10 years ago

    David

    could you issue a update (prob best changing date to 20xx to change the form to a generic form) as I understand that you are not looking to maintain this form

    thanks

    [ed note: fixed inadvertent HTML markup in comment]

  11. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Ian: I completely forgot about this form! I’ll create an update.

  12. Ashley 9 years ago

    I was simply wondering about the use of the bubbles and numbers at the top of this page? The 1,2,5 and 10, are they for totalling something?

  13. Andy McGrath 9 years ago

    I’d love to see this in a 4-up format too for less waste printing (or maybe a 2-up).