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24 Feb

Five ways to smoothly capture progress in a project

Datum: 2010-02-24 14:22

Do you find it hard to com­pile tasks that were com­plet­ed in a project or an assign­ment with the pur­pose of writ­ing a report or cre­ate an invoice from the hours you spend on the project?

Is the result of this that you work until late at night try­ing to fin­ish the report in time or that you send the invoice much lat­er than you would like to? 

Could these dif­fi­cul­ties be due to that it’s hard to remem­ber what you did and for how long when try­ing to remem­ber it long after it was completed?

Here are five sim­ple tips on how to make this process easy as pie. 

It’s always eas­i­est to know exact­ly what you did and when you did it, so through­out these tips, you will learn how to con­sis­tent­ly note com­plet­ed and fin­ished activities.

Notepad, Notes or some oth­er note taking-software

Put a txt file (cre­at­ed in Win­dows’ Notepad, Mac’s TextE­d­it or the mar­vel­lous OmmWriter) in a fold­er on your desk in which you write a sin­gle line con­tain­ing the date, what you did and pos­si­bly how long it took as soon as you have com­plet­ed an activ­i­ty. Let this txt file rep­re­sent the cur­rent project. 

When it’s time to com­pile and sum­ma­rize what you did, open the txt file, read and then emp­ty it of its con­tents, so that you always have an emp­ty txt file when a new peri­od begins. 
An advan­tage with sim­ple pro­grams like these is that they can be opened quick­ly and that they don’t have any extra fea­tures which can be distracting.


Cre­ate a doc­u­ment in Excel or Num­bers with one sheet con­tain­ing the columns Date, Activ­i­ty, Project, Time spent, pos­si­bly the rate, as well as the Month. 

Write the recent­ly com­plet­ed activ­i­ties in every row and let a for­mu­la cal­cu­late the total amount earned for each activ­i­ty, using an hourly rate as a vari­able, if you are going to cre­ate an invoice from this infor­ma­tion. Use the Piv­ot-chart fea­ture to com­pile the total amount of hours worked, for instance, per project or month. After you are done com­pil­ing, hide the processed rows so that you always have a fresh chart to work with when a new peri­od begins. 

The advan­tage of using an excel sheet is that it’s easy to sort, cal­cu­late and sum­ma­rize all your posts.

Web ser­vices

If you’re always con­nect­ed to the inter­net when you’re work­ing with your com­put­er, a web ser­vice could be just the right thing for you. Base­camp from 37Signals is a pop­u­lar choice and I also have busi­ness friends who speak warm­ly of Har­vest. The lat­ter ser­vice has a wid­get”, which can float” eas­i­ly acces­si­ble on your desk­top and in which you record how much time you spend on dif­fer­ent project activities.

Both these ser­vices com­pile mate­r­i­al for invoic­es more or less automatically.

Notes and boxes

If you pre­fer to work with phys­i­cal sheets of paper, get your­self a notepad where you write down what you do when you do some­thing. Get one suit­ably sized box per project or client and place them on your desk.

If you’re often on the move, get your­self a plas­tic case with sev­er­al fold­ers instead, and let each one of the fold­ers rep­re­sent a cus­tomer or a project. Once you’ve writ­ten down an activ­i­ty on a note, put it in one of your clien­t/pro­ject-box­es on your desk or in the right plas­tic fold­er. When it’s time to invoice or report, emp­ty the box and com­pile all the activ­i­ties. Get rid of the notes and start it all over again next month.

Time-report­ing system

If you in your com­pa­ny use some sort of time report­ing or task-man­age­ment sys­tem, make sure it’s pos­si­ble for you to reg­is­ter an activ­i­ty instant­ly, either when you are doing it or right after you have com­plet­ed it. If you can’t have the sys­tem opened on the com­put­er all the time, use any of the oth­er meth­ods men­tioned above. Enter the col­lect­ed data into the sys­tem at suit­able intervals.

Option­al homework

If you want, think about what projects or clients you would be able to doc­u­ment at reg­u­lar inter­vals and what method would suit you best.

How do you do it?

Do you have some oth­er, smart way of cap­tur­ing progress in a project? Tell me about it in a com­ment below.