How a Professional Keeps Track of Things

Everyone knows that the military has a language of its own.  I am not walking decks on a ship anymore but I still use a great deal of the terms that I learned just because it works.  It helps that my husband is a veteran also so that gives me reason to continue.  Sometimes he has to remind me that I am not in the military service anymore.

During my second tour of duty as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, I was assigned to one of the most coveted jobs to have as a junior officer.  I remember when my orders came through, many of my fellow, officer friends told me how lucky I was to be assigned as the Navigator / Admin Officer onboard the USS STOUT (DDG 55).  The truth is I didn’t feel so lucky.  I was scared to death.  The Navigator is one of the most visible jobs of operational duties on a sea-going vessel.  Let’s just say that at that point in my career, I was not looking to be a standout.  In the beginning, I was scared to death of the job.  Yet, when I look back over my military career, I can say that job was my most favorite of all.  Why?  I grew the most as a career professional in that position than I have of any other.  My executive officer at the time was a great mentor to me.  Commander Mary Jackson taught me so much in that tour of duty.  She left her imprint on my life and my recognition of my calling.  Some years ago a ministry leader commented to me about my gift of administration.  I replied, “Well, I learned all of this as a junior officer under a great Executive Officer.”  His response to me stays with me to this day.  He said, “Sis Nikki, this gift was always in you but the Lord used your Executive Officer to bring it out so that you would see you were called to do it.”  I never thought about it like that until I heard Pastor Brown’s words.  But I definitely knew that Commander Jackson was a blessing to my professional development.

One thing Commander Jackson was adamant about was keeping track of your tasks.  Whenever I met with her, I better have a notebook in hand because she would have a list of things to do and when I reported back to her she was going to make sure that I addressed each of the items she asked about previously.  My reward would be a new list of tasks.  It is the norm to see military officers walking around with steno pads in hand.   Commander Jackson used steno pads too but she was most fond of her own tickler on a clipboard.  I never heard of a tickler before meeting Commander Jackson.

The tickler was basically a created spreadsheet with items of importance, dates they were due, the current status of those items and her personal notes about the item.  Although it was her method of keeping track, it soon became the whole unit’s method of keeping track. Sometimes the tickler took on a monster from, especially when preparing to get underway and for major inspections. Although that was only the year 2002, that system archaic today.

While I no longer have major inspections to get ready for, I still use a tickler from time to time with my nonprofit work and also for tasks around the house.  I actually accompany my daily checklist with a tickler if I have work ongoing.  This helps me plan for my days.  Right now, my husband and I are renovating our townhome in preparation for a new tenant to lease.  As soon as I began to feel overwhelmed with the list of things piling up in my head, I sat down at the computer and created, yes a tickler.  And it helps.

What I love about the tickler is that it keeps you from having to remember things.  If you have it written down, then you have that visual reminder.  When you keep the tickler up to date then you have that sense of accomplishment.  Commander Jackson wouldn’t always delete completed tasks on the tickler right away because they were there to reference if a follow-on item was still on the tickler.  She would remind me by looking at the completion of the previous tasks how many days had passed since I last reported on the other item.  I learned that ticklers are not just for documenting the completion of a task, ticklers help you to monitor timely progress.

There is a lot of talk in the business world about productivity.  Someone is trying to sell you productivity software and someone else has a free webinar about productivity.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a need for empowering people to be more effective in getting things done.  I would advise that you don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed with the need to be so results-oriented.  I removed that jargon from my resume a long time ago.

Progress is a means to productivity.  So I advise that you figure out what works for you to help you stay in motion.  I absolutely love checking things off my checklist and the tickler helps me plan and look forward.  Calendars are helpful also.  As I learned from Commander Jackson, your personal task tickler can and may influence more than just you.  In fact, for those of us who lead others, your keeping track of things helps other people stay on top of their game.  Now that is productivity!  Thank you, Rear Admiral Mary M. Jackson, you molded the producer in me.

Am I an expert in productivity?  No.  I am sharing this because it is something that I work to improve at every single day.  Jotting things down in a checklist fashion grooms success.  I see the impact my progress has on my family, the organizations I work with and my own personal development.  Keep your eyes on your progress.  I promise you, it is refueling to see how far you have come.  Ticklers are motivators to keep going.  You have work to do!  Write that on a Post-it® note.

What form of keeping tracking of things do you use?  How has it helped your productivity?