How to Keep Track of Things to Remember
I’m a freelance magazine writer. Often a source will e-mail me a bit of information for an article after the interview, and I’ll think, “Oh, I’ll remember it’s here” and file it away in my assignment e-mail folder. But when I’m writing the article, do I actually remember that so-and-so sent me some extra details three weeks ago? No, I do not. So why is it that each time this situation comes up, I’m certain I’ll remember the information later? The smart thing to do would be to add the info right away to the interview transcript or article assignment sheet so I’ll see it when I start to write.
I think that many of us try to rely on our memories, and then they let us down. Sometimes we just get lazy. It’s easier to say “I’ll remember this when I need to” than to set up systems to make sure we’ll remember it. And since we freelancers are always juggling lots of work at various stages of completion, it’s understandable that some things would slip through the cracks. (At least that’s what I tell myself.)
I learned my lesson. Today, when a source sends me a couple of important bits of additional information, I immediately paste the info into the interview transcript. Here are some other tips keep track of things to remember–with emphasis on information and tasks freelancers need to manage.
How many times have you gotten a brilliant business idea in the middle of the night, but instead of turning on the light, trekking over to the home office, and writing it down, you tell yourself you’ll remember it in the morning? And how often do you actually remember your great idea in the morning? I thought so. So keep some kind of recording device on your nightstand, whether it’s a notebook and pen, smart phone, iPad, laptop, or digital recorder. I keep my iPhone there, so if I come up with an idea I can record it in the Notes app. (Next on the agenda: Remember to check the Notes app later.)
Meetings and interviews
Once you start juggling multiple clients, you won’t be able to track your meetings in your head or even very well on paper (because they’re often rescheduled, which makes paper tracking a pain). I use iCal, and other calendars like Google Calendar would work as well. When I enter the source’s name into the calendar, I also paste in their phone number or other important information so I don’t have to look it up come interview time. You can also have the calendar send you a notification when it’s close to time for the meeting, just to be sure you don’t forget.
My trick is to invoice immediately after sending in a completed assignment. It’s the only way for me to not forget all about it, and then wonder three months later why I haven’t received a check from Magazine X. Don’t delay — you need to get paid! Don’t worry about seeming like you’re hounding a client; I’ve never had anyone say, “Hey, you invoiced too soon!”
You do follow-up on proposals, quotes, and queries, right? I have to admit I slack a bit on this one: I toss all queries I need to follow up on into a Gmail folder labeled “Follow Up,” and I go through this folder every few weeks when I have spare time. But one thing I never do it forget to follow up; every query that doesn’t get a response gets followed up on within a few weeks, so this system works for me. But if you want to be more organized about it, you can schedule the follow-ups in your calendar right when you send them, and even set an alarm so you’ll be reminded to e-mail a follow up on a proposal you sent a potential client three weeks ago. Following up is important, so don’t leave it to chance!
Random bits of info
You need to put these where you’ll be looking for them in the future! That’s what tripped me up with the extra details from sources, and it’s the whole point of the “put your dry cleaning by the front door so you’ll see it on your way out” tip you read in the women’s magazines every month. Don’t expect to remember the information when you need to; make it easy for yourself. Put yourslef into your future shoes and ask yourself where you’ll look for the information then.
Photo credit: Bérenger ZYLA on Flickr