A clipboard as my work-from-home supervisor

As a telecommuter, I don’t have the benefit of a boss keeping tabs on me and making sure I do what I need to do. You might think that freedom sounds nice, and it is, but it also means I must be the worker and the supervisor. Ultimately, it’s up to me to sit down and do what needs to be done. My best trick in that regard happens at night. I think of what must be completed the following day and write it down. That way, I’m ready to go when I hit my desk the next morning. Recently, I’ve added a clipboard and some special forms to the mix.

Each night, I list the tasks I must complete the following morning on an Emergent Task Planner (EPT). Persnickety? Yes. But it works. I’ve also taken to keeping my EPT on a clipboard. Behind the EPT are several other forms that let me track what’s going on throughout the day and the week. An inexpensive clipboard keeps everything tidy and portable. Here’s what I’ve got clipped together on my desk every day.

Top sheet — the Emergent Task Planner

On the left hand side, I list what will happen from hour to hour, in 15-minute increments. On the upper right, I list the tasks that must be completed before the day’s end. There’s no particular order to this list. The only important thing is that each item be completed. There’s a notes section on the lower right that I tweak a bit. Specifically, I divide it in half. On top I list what I consider “minor” tasks. These could be completed by day’s end, but the world won’t end of they’re delayed. Below that is the “running commentary.”

The running commentary contains anything: thoughts on the day, ideas, accomplishments, what I did during scheduled breaks (“strawberry patch looks great”), etc. Anything can go there. I created the running commentary section to give my wandering mind an outlet and to give myself an empirical list of the day’s accomplishments. It sure feels good to review the major and minor achievements from the day.

Center sheet — Resource Tracker

This two-parter is fantastic. It lists the major deliverables that will represent progress on a major task, as well as the smaller steps that lead to each deliverable’s completion. I staple both forms together (one lays over the top 1/4 of the other in a clever way) as well as any support files (for instance, I’m using the Fast Book Outliner to prep my next book project). Now, I can flip to each major project and see what needs to be done, my estimate for completion time (as well as actual time spent working), tasks to complete, as well as outstanding (and completed) milestones. Fantastic in a hugely nerdy, paper-centric way.

Last page — Concrete Goals Tracker

Here’s an important one. The Concrete Goals Tracker lets me “score” the tasks I’ve completed on a scale that reflects my working toward goals. For example, “signing a new sponsor” is worth 10 points, “published an article” is worth five points, “new social development” is worth two and “maintaining a relationship” is worth one. At the end of each day, I score anything that meets these criteria, and tally the grand total at the week’s end. If I score higher than I did during the previous week, I know it’s going well. It sounds a bit silly, but the CGT also provides empirical, measurable evidence of progress toward life-sustaining goals.

In this way, my clipboard functions as the manager. It’s pretty handy. Try this: write down the three tasks that must get done by the end of work tomorrow before you go to bed tonight. After 7 days, let me know how it goes.

10 Comments for “A clipboard as my work-from-home supervisor”

  1. posted by Caroline on

    Hi. Thanks for the tip. I just had a quick question — is the Resource Tracker a part of the Task Planner pad or a different doc?

  2. posted by dtj on

    As an added tip, put magnets on the back of the clipboard so that they can be stuck in strategic places. You can get biz card sized magnets with sticky backs on them, which work great. I use a similar technique for my workout clipboard, which nicely sticks to exercise equipment.

  3. posted by David Caolo on

    Caroline: Oops! I forgot to add a link to the Resource Tracker in my post. It is indeed a separate file. The link is there now, and I’ve provided it below, too. Sorry about that.


  4. posted by Emily on

    As a grad student, I’ve found writing down at the end of the day tasks I need to do in the lab the next day to be invaluable. Otherwise, I was wasting a lot of time in the morning figuring out what to do. Also it helps me ‘turn off’ so I can enjoy my time at home.

    I’ll have to check out some of these forms. I don’t really have a system in place for more long term tasks, and I love checking boxes and being a little fussy about lists.

  5. posted by di on

    I don’t use forms, because the categories change daily. I just use scrap paper from the mail. I write one word for each task and everything easily fits on a piece of paper smaller than an index card. I just erase when things are complete and rewrite on a clean piece of paper when needed.

    At times, I may categorize according to errands, indoor chores for a rainy day, outdoor chores for a sunny day or reminders, but that is usually all there is to do.

  6. posted by Carol C on

    Love the Concrete Goals Tracker! I can see it will be effective for getting tasks done. Thanks for sharing.

  7. posted by M Linda Hopp on

    This post is great. I love seeing how you organize your day. As a retiree who does some contract work this is very helpful. Every day is different and this takes that into account.

  8. posted by Lexi on

    This is a really great idea! I write down my daily tasks as well, (I’m a full-time Web content writer,) but this could really help me stay on task, especially when I feel like I’m dragging.

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