How To Be Super Effective Using Daily Personal Notes

The majority of my time spent in Support, I was one of two people on a team. The software we supported had a fairly large suite of tools, covering a wide range of business cases, each with unique and specific logic behind them. If something wasn’t working correctly, it often wasn’t a clear-cut problem. Was it broken completely, or just off a little bit? Were we missing data? Was the design wrong?

Chances were, if we couldn’t resolve the issue right then and there on the phone, then it would turn into a research project. It involved collaborating with the customer’s business team (and, often, the IT team), our own developers, and each other.

Being a small team, we often had a great many open tickets at once that required us to spend time researching, following up, and writing documentation. Even so, I was able to always deliver on time. Partially, this was done by managing expectations (something I will be writing a couple of posts on, most likely). But what helped me the most in succeeding was my notes.

Taking an extensive and detailed set of notes every day helped me keep on top of my tasks more than any other software tool I could use. It helped me stay on time. I was able to keep anything from ever falling through the cracks. I always made sure my tickets — both bug reports and enhancement requests — were thoroughly detailed. Even today, having been away from Support for years, I still do this.

The best part of all was it required almost zero effort to maintain. How? I’ll show you.

Put your notes in a safe space

Use a network drive, or Dropbox, and create a new folder where your notes and only your notes will live. My folder is named, simply, “Daily Notes.”

Create a new file every day

Make a new file every day and make the filename that day’s date. It doesn’t matter how you format it, but I prefer YYYY-MM-DD, because it sorts better and it’s the right way to format your dates.

You can go further and put each month in its own folder; how granular you sort these files is up to you. I only have a folder for each year.

Open your notes as soon as the phone rings

You don’t want to miss a beat. When the phone rings, open up your notepad, and type down:

  • The customer account
  • The person calling
  • The time
  • The ticket number

Some ticketing systems integrate into your phone so a new call automatically creates a new ticket. If it doesn’t do this automatically, then you need to do it manually. Every interaction should be logged.

Type as you talk

Write out the customer’s questions or comments as they give them. If you can’t type fast enough, develop a shorthand, or summarize — but try not to leave any details out.

Our memories are terrible witnesses. We will subconsciously alter words, subtext, or even entire conversations as time passes. It’s best to get an accurate account of what is said and how it’s said at the time it’s said. Don’t rely on your memory.

Pay attention to “I wish” and “I wonder”

In the course of a normal conversation, or while troubleshooting something, a customer may say “I wish we could do X,” or “I wonder what happens if I try Y.” These are problems they don’t know they want solved.

Often these statements are said as an aside, not related to whatever problem or question the customer is actually calling about. You’ll learn to use your discretion to discern between what needs to be answered now and a true I wish.

I wishes may not have a home in a proper ticket, and they may be low priority. But writing them down and then providing them if you can — giving somebody something they didn’t even know they wanted — will turn you into a superstar.

Put the relevant bits into tickets

If the customer is calling about something for which a ticket already exists, then find that ticket and put your notes in that ticket. Or put your notes in the new ticket you just made for this call. Reword your notes as you write them. You don’t want to put stream-of-consciousness notes into your internal ticket system.

It may seem redundant to have these notes exist in two places; trust me, it isn’t. Find in Files with Notepad++ can sometimes be more effective than the built-in search in Salesforce.

Every day, review yesterday’s notes

Make this the first thing you do every day. Open up yesterday’s notes and, as you’re sipping your coffee, read everything you wrote. In today’s notes, write down what you need to follow up on. This is your To Do list for the morning.

Always set aside time every day to follow up on yesterday’s tasks.

Every Friday, review the week’s notes

Things will still fall to the wayside. Low priority problems, I wishes, etc. Friday is your time to go through this queue and figure out what can be solved right now, and what needs to be done first thing Monday morning.

Fridays are the time I would research the I wishes. If they can be solved by an existing feature, I’ll fire off an email or call the customer and let them know.

Monday mornings are for picking low-hanging fruit. If you ever said the phrase, “I don’t know right now, but I’ll get back to you on that,” and didn’t manage to do this during the week — it’s Monday’s task.

It all pays off

As with most things in life, you may not see immediate progress. It takes some time to stretch the muscles, to get into the groove. But in the end it is always worth it.

You will get more work done with less effort.

You will stretch and strengthen your memory.

You will be able to stop anything from falling through the cracks, and make sure no customer request is ever forgotten.

I know these are true, because they happened to me.

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