Last issue, I wrote about basic note taking and how important it is to the mobile tool dealer to have an organized system to capture information about tools that are needed, price checks, account questions and more.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE THAT INFORMATION CAPTURED?
You should have a system that works better than just having Post-it Notes stuck all over your tool truck. While you can use a notebook for this, there are some better ways that, with just a bit of effort, you can apply to everyday use in your business.
One of the most basic of the high-tech approaches is to use a Notepad document. Notepad is the simple note-taking program that comes with Microsoft Windows. It is not a full-fledged word processing program. It is made to write quick notes in an easy-to-save format. The advantages are that it is cheap (read: free) and easy to use. If you are good about setting up a system of folders on your computer, it is fairly organized.
One disadvantage to Notepad is that there is no way to add reminders. When you type information into Notepad, and save the file, you still have to remember to look at it. Another disadvantage is that it can take more effort to backup all of the notes that you take. You will have to backup each file and folder individually.
LOTS OF PROGRAMS TO TRY
You can use a word processor program (Word, Open Office, etc.) to take notes in a similar manner, with the same advantages and disadvantages, except that with a word processor, you can apply better formatting to your notes. That means that you can use different type accents or colors to highlight the information that you want to see or categorize differently.
Many people use the note-taking function in Outlook as well. Notes in Outlook have many of the same advantages and disadvantages of using Notepad or a word processor. The only real advantage is that all of the notes are stored neatly within the program. I’m not convinced that Outlook Notes is the best method for note taking, but if you have Outlook on your computer, why not try it out?
Microsoft makes another product, OneNote, for note taking. I bought a copy of it once and thought that I had found the answer. (It sure said so on the package!) However, I found that it had way too many features that I really didn’t need. It really didn’t work for what I needed it to do.
WhizNote is a free note editor available online at http://helpingthings.com/whiznote/. It is similar to Notepad, but it allows you to keep all of your notes in one folder on your computer, for easier organization. It seems to have some nice features to it, and I love the price. However, it doesn’t have any way to pop up reminders at a certain time, such as just before you are in a shop the next week, or when you are arriving home for the night. I consider these to be necessary features for use on the tool truck.
NotesPP is a better solution (www.notesplusplus.com). NotesPP allows you to create virtual sticky notes on your computer screen, as well as save them in separate folders that are all contained within one folder that the program creates. This is great because it allows for an easy backup of all your data. In fact, the program has a way to backup the notes automatically. It also has a feature that allows for notes that you create to expire. You can even “roll up” the notes on the screen, to show just a series of notes by title only.
NotesPP also stores all of the notes right on your Windows desktop. It is always very easy to find just what you need. It is easy to attach files or web pages to the notes — especially handy if a customer asks for information on a product. Say you find the information online, with a web page or PDF file product flyer. You simply attach that file to your original note, set up a reminder for the next time that you are in the shop and then save it. Done! The customer’s information is taken care of, and you don’t have to think about it again until you need it.
To create a note, you just use a hot key on your keyboard. NotesPP also has a powerful search function so that you can find notes with just a keyword. The program includes a free 30-day trial, and will cost about $20, which is very reasonable for what it does.
Finally, every good note-taking system has to have a method that you use to delete notes that are no longer needed, or to store notes that you might need again in a way that you can find them. If you don’t do this, you will quickly find yourself so overrun by notes that are not relevant to your daily work that you will not want to look at your note file. That defeats the purpose of good note taking, low- or high-tech.
When you use a note, make a decision right then. Am I done with this note? If yes, delete it or throw it away immediately. If no, decide if you need to keep the note where you have quick access to it, or is it just something that has information you might need again someday? Making sure that you take care of the old notes will keep your system current, and make it a great tool for operating your business.
So, whether you’re taking notes by hand or keystroke, there are plenty of options to help keep you, and your truck work center, organized.
Woodman is an IT consultant and former mobile distributor based in Maine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.