The Power of Numbers

By , June 9, 2009

If only every project and every client were as memorable as when you start your business with a new manila folder, proudly bearing the first client’s name!

Over the years you rely as much on your memory as your filing system for the details: client names serve well until Mr. Smith has a second project and another manila file with his name on. Heaven forbid a new Mr. Smith comes to you! As the papers and old projects pile up, your project management system becomes clumsy.

The use of a year number and – “one up” project numbering system (e.g. 09-123 ) can make project management run more smoothly. The year gives you a range to tie into, especially useful for a large number of projects ( saving you from the grand search of every piece of paper you ever wrote on ! ), and the number gives each project a precise, unique and logical place in your filing system.

The all important “Project Reference list” should always be handy.

It can show as much or as little additional information as you may need, but your project list should at least show who you worked for, and probably what the project was. This list allows you to add new projects and can highlight projects “in progress”. Once a project is completed and filed away, the number system make it  snap to find again. This list, if you keep it properly, can be used for quick reference of : current workload, jobs on hold, jobs of a similar type, jobs from the same client, payments outstanding, billing details, even market trends. In fact you can tag the reference list with columns for any criteria you find significant. Make the reference list a spreadsheet – this lets you sort he information however you want. Your computer will love you for using numbers instead of characters! Create reports of projects in a size range, client range or billing range. Once the data is input, the need to retype it for every report is eliminated.

Every filing system has its drawbacks. The anonymity of the project number, while giving added security if you need it, is also impersonal. Always remember to use the client’s name and or company name on all correspondence. It is also a good cross-reference check of your system..

In a numbering system, the numbers are FREE.

Use them as often as you want – it is better to assign a free, unused number than to lose information because you didn’t file it properly. A change in project number can be used to signify the end of a project phase. This information can be used in billing, especially if many people work on a single project.

Mr. Smith expects you to know him immediately!  If you make revisions to an existing project but intend to keep the previous version, use a new number. A client can pinpoint the version he is looking at when you are on the phone by referencing your project number. “Project 93-456, on the front” is a lot easier to look up than “On the front of that job you did for me a couple of years back.”

The use of a number system requires some commitment

It is important to write the appropriate number at the top of EVERY item of paper in your files, check that the correct number is referenced on your papers and especially on contracts; use it in naming associated computer files for graphics, videos, research notes – everything that goes with the product. One thing to watch for carefully – Use of an incorrect number or no number used will quickly cause chaos; overwriting computer files or copies of documents not where they were expected.

Don’t be tempted to spend more time managing your system than working!

If you start a new numbering system and intend to incorporate existing data and plans, make sure you leave enough numbers before the one you start with – but don’t be tempted to stop work to catalogue. Assign numbers to the old files only if you use their information. This system is designed to increase efficiency, not create extra work for you.

In our digital age, everything is becoming numerically based. Alphabetical filing systems are limiting. The numerical system grows as fast and as far as you do.

Make the Power of Numbers work for you!


© 2009 Jackie Barnaby All Rights Reserved

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