Weaving Conversations

TLT Knowledge Log

Keeping track

Posted by C Elizabeth Thomas on September 3, 2006

As a doctoral student, full-time CIO, consultant and adjunct faculty member I find myself losing track of stuff often! I lose track of paper, of electronic files (oh my… did I save it on the desktop a work, the desktop at home, the Macbook for school, the tablet for consulting, this blog, that blog… is it on paper? Oh my… in my office at the school, in my office at the corporate office, in my office at home, in my office at the other home… in my briefcase? which one? the one with the tablet? the one with the Macbook? in my car? which car… the Jeep or the clamshell… did I mention I despise cell phones but yet the file might actually be on my treo?)


Now, I’m really not as disorganized as all of this sounds. I manage to be quite productive and generally to keep track of things as long as they are digital. But, I do travel an enormous amount, I’m always juggling my corporate consulting activities with my teaching with my personal consulting activities and my schoolwork (Oh, I didn’t mention helping my 22 year old son get on his feet).

People who know me know I have a lot of energy. Most things I keep track of in my head (along with lots of soy protein it’s my hedge against alzheimers I hope)… but as web-based tools have evolved I find myself happier than ever because some of them actually accomodate the patchwork lifestyle I lead.

Some people use email for everything. Doesn’t work for me. My mind needs me to separate personal from work. And, each layer of personal and work has it’s own stratifications. For one work situation I might have 6 or 7 layers depending upon the clients. Each might want me to use the corporate email system for a communication tool. So, things like a Blackberry or Treo just don’t work for me for email communication (which I really find a time suck anyway). So what do I do for email? I have it down to TWO email accounts. I’m so happy. One for school and one for my professional work. Within the professional account I have identities established for each of the corporate or educational email accounts I’m required to use. If I can get those accounts to autoforward to this one account then everything is perfect. If I can’t, then I have to remember to copy myself on mail sent from the corporate system… but either way GMail gives me the types of options I need to be able to manage (either work with or ignore, frankly) the volumes of email I receive.

Keeping track of my calendar has been another adventure. I despise client side calendars and paper just doesn’t work for me. I move around too much. And, synching just never worked for me as I was trying to synch 4 and often more different calendars. The Franklin Planner… either digital or paper… just took too much work to get going (I tried, believe me I tried… went to seminars and everything…) The marvelous… absolutely marvelous… solution for me (other than printing, which is terrible) is the Google Calendar. I know, there are issues with privacy of information in the Google megalopolis, but it works for me. I have a calendar for each client, for each class, for each organization… everyone in a different color. They are all shared between my work and school google accounts so I can make a change from whatever account I’m on. I invite myself to meetings scheduled in an outlook setting and Voila it’s on my calendar. In some environments (particularly one highly managed corporate setting) I have to export the Exchange calendar and import it into Google (which I do every morning based on a reminder I give myself) but other than that it works great! I LOVE the colors… I can see at a glance what my travel needs to be, I can easily track my what my week’s priorities need to be. (Not to mention, I can autodial a number via Skype if I need to… that’s another topic!)

What GMail and Google calendar haven’t given me is an adequate online to do list. I’m still looking for the perfect one… which would be a take on the Google calendar… separate to do lists that merge into one overall view… of everything (dated or not). The closest I’ve found, so far, is REMEMBERTHEMILK.com. I spent last week working with it and found that other than a few annoying clicking quirks and a rather jerky screen at times… that I got the functionality I needed. I actually will take the time to give some suggestions to the folks who developed this, as with a few refinements it will do everything I need!

Best thing about all of this (which I know is no surprise to anyone) from where ever I am, I can get to everything I need. Especially since I use Firefox with the Morning Coffee extension I can, IN ONE CLICK, have everything I need at my fingertips… without worring about which desk, which car, which briefcase, which computer… something is on.

Now, if I could just figure out a way to keep track of expense receipts so well!

To come… admin tool… Writely, Google Spreadsheets and a world free of lost digital files!

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