I just posted about how I manage projects and next actions with my Palm. This post is about how I manage my next actions that require followups, but don’t have associated projects.
First of all, I keep a "followup" list in ShadowPlan. I frequently have oddball one-off action items that I need to track, which don’t have any other actions following them, and which don’t have an associated project. I keep all of these oddball bits in my followup list and I assign some kind of context to them so I don’t forget what they’re about.
For instance, I’m currently trying to find the source of a software glitch at work. I’m not the guy that can actually find the source of the glitch, but I’m the guy that needs to know why it’s happening. Once I know, I won’t take any further actions, I’ll just file that knowledge away (probably on our office wiki).
I sent an email message to our helpdesk, asking for someone to investigate. I was assigned a person and now I need to not drop the ball. I want to ask about it every day until it’s resolved (aka, "next action them to death"). I printed the original email and wrote "AF-J" on it. The "AF" stands for "action file" and the "J" is just the first letter of the name of the person with whom I’m working on the item. I file the email in my "action file", which is an accordian file with all the letters of the alphabet, in the "J" slot. The action file sits on top of my desk, ready for action. Correspondingly, I stuck an entry into the "followup" list in ShadowPlan. I just made a brief note and added "AF-J." That tells me where to find more context.
It may seem silly to actually write AF-J on the printed email, since I just file it right away. But I’ve found that if I don’t write something on it and, for whatever reason, it ends up laying around on my desk, I won’t know what to do with it later. I’ll have to start thinking about it all over again. The "AF-J" is enough to tell me that it’s actionable, where it belongs and that I’ve got more info in the Palm.