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This may be way too simple for what you're looking to do, but something that I and some others in my department have started using with good success is the Tasks function in Outlook. We used to try tracking our status on projects with all sorts of spreadsheets, and none of those worked as well as this simple tool that we already had.
- You can customize the task list for each person
- You can set up reminders to pop up at appropriate times
- You can send task requests to others through Outlook and track their progress via automatic e-mail messages
- You can view other people's task lists
- You can include files in individual tasks
- You can drag an e-mail message to the task list to create a new task
- You can export reports to Excel and other programs (this is how I generate my weekly status report for my boss)
My task list is set to display a subject line, categories for my different projects, due dates, and a notes section. I have the items sorted first by category, then by importance (anything marked important floats to the top), and then by due date. I break down the things I need to do to whatever level I need to for each task. Some things to do may have only one task listed. Others can include a lot of smaller tasks (create drawings, meet with so-and-so for information, write first draft, have so-and-so review draft, insert changes from so-and-so, create final version, do new part paperwork, make old part number obsolete...).
As I finish tasks, I check them off, which crosses them out in the list. When the list gets too cluttered with completed tasks or when I go to generate my weekly status report, I move them off to a different task list called (appropriately enough) "Completed Tasks." This also lets me look back at what I was working on at different times.
I sometimes find myself working on six or seven things at once. Spelling out the tasks related to each helps me track exactly what I should be working on and when.
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