Keeping track of work in progress - at-a-glance

Memory works on visual cues. It's why people leave objects at the foot of the stairs as a reminder to take them up next time they go, or by the front door so they don't forget them when they go out. So you may find it useful to use an at-a-glance progress chart to keep track of multiple jobs and ensure you don't forget anything.

Preparation

Get a whiteboard or piece of flipchart paper and stick it on the office wall where you can't help but see it.
Divide it into six columns and mark them with the following headings*:
* Approached: Ready for brief
* Briefed: Ready to quote
* Quoted: Awaiting 50% advance
* Approved: Ready to start
* In progress: Awaiting signoff
* Invoiced: Awaiting payment

Write all your client or project names on different Post-It Notes and stick them in the appropriate columns. For cashflow tracking, you could add the overall value of each job too.

As each project runs, you simply move Post-It Notes along the grid from left to right.

Note that columns two and four are 'action by you' while the other columns are 'action by your client'.

* Obviously, you can adapt the headings to suit your own requirements

Daily

When running a business, it's important to keep the money flowing in. So, first thing each day, look at the final column to see if there are any overdue invoices that you need to chase.
Next, check whether there are any followups you need to do for items in the 'in progress' column (in my experience, some jobs stay there for a while).

Then, look at the 'Ready to start' and 'Ready to quote' columns to prioritise your tasks for the day. Depending on your cashflow situation, you may decide to do your quotes before you start doing any actual work, or the other way around.

Finally, you may wish to contact your prospects in the first and third columns to see if they're ready to take the next step.

Why it works
You can see instantly whether there are any gaps in your pipeline. For example, if there are no Post-Its in the first column, you urgently need to do some prospecting (networking, marketing, advertising - whatever works for you).

The most important piece of business advice I ever heard is 'don't run out of money'. Using the chart keeps your focus on where the money is and how best to spend your time.

This post was kindly contributed by speaker, trainer, copywriter and author, Jackie Barrie

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Jackie Barrie
Jackie Barrie