Hold on, stay with me for a second.
I know what you’re thinking: the only thing more boring than status reports is reading a BLOG about status reports.
My weekly status reports are different. They’re just a few short, simple lines in a Monday morning email like this:
Last week I:
- Did task A
- Did task B
- Did task C
This week I plan to:
- Do task D
- Do task E
- Do task F
The end. Each task takes at least 4 hours, preferably a day or more.
Managers don’t expect to see 40 hours worth of work in three bullet points, but they do expect to see your highlight reel. Every employee, not just telecommuters, has all kinds of small things that suck up productivity time. Your status report needs to show successful forward momentum that proves you’re getting big things done every week.
How I Write It
When I sit down Monday morning, I pull my status email from last week and copy/paste it in to give me a jump start on what I’d planned to do. I then go back through my calendar to see if anybody sucked me into a last-minute meeting, and I go back through my Sent Items folder in Outlook to see if I’d forgotten anything else I was working on. As a telecommuter, hot projects tend to show up in your Sent Items because you interact so much over email.
I’ve worked with other people who started a new draft every Monday morning, and then entered their big tasks through the week in preparation for sending that email the following Monday. That doesn’t work for me, but I applaud their dedication.
How to Handle Meetings and Recurring Tasks
In the section for the coming week, I don’t include recurring tasks or meetings. When I was a DBA, I didn’t include lines for tasks like checking servers for failures or problems, making sure backups made it offsite, or taking support calls as they came in. These things were assumed to be in my job every single week.
On the other hand, in the section for last week, I include anything that popped up out of the ordinary. While I may have been expected to take any support calls that came in, I would note any calls that took more than 4 hours to resolve. This kept my manager in the loop about support issues and surprises.
I did include recurring meetings, though, because I wanted my manager to understand how many meetings I got forced into. It helped them realize when I was getting bottlenecked in terms of time. I list all meetings in a single task. Example: “Attend meetings on project A, project B. Plan & host meeting on project C.”
When Managers Ask Questions
90% of the time, my manager never even replies. Managers are overwhelmed just like the rest of us.
If they do reply and ask me why I’m doing something, or ask why something is more urgent than another task they want me to do, I take their feedback and start asking questions. If they’re even the least bit nervous about my priorities or what I’m taking on, I want to make sure I make them completely comfortable. I want to do what THEY want me to do, not what I think is important, so I talk to them about their concerns in a way that puts them in the driver’s seat.
As a DBA, sure, I wanted my servers to all match best practices. I’d love to have spent weeks configuring my servers to be Just Right. However, my manager might have wanted four new reporting queries, or to help me train the developers on how to write faster queries. I can’t take that personally – I’m on their payroll to do the business tasks, not the Microsoft best-practices tasks.
One line I use over and over in discussions with my managers is, “I totally don’t care what I do next. I’m going to be busy the rest of my career here. You tell me what you want me to do next, and I’m on it.” This complete comfort with an overwhelming to-do list, and a simultaneous complete control over that list, is a key part of David Allen’s Getting Things Done philosophy. Tomorrow in the last post in the series, I’ll talk about why that book is central to my telecommuting work.