Notes on Notes

In this “Back to the Basics” series, I address one of the most common questions I receive from new users: “Where is the best place to write Notes about partners… In the Notes tab or on the Notes box on an individual task?”

The answer is easy: BOTH.

So the real question then is, “What are some best practices related to writing Notes?”

These are my thoughts on this, which in this case are “super low value” because really, you should do whatever you want with the Notes fields!

First, let me say that there are three different ways (or 2-1/2 as you will see) to record notes about interactions with partners. Look at this from a really big picture, and as you read below, think about how you might review this information years down the road. The crucial concept about recording anything about a partner is the ability to retrieve/review that information in the future. And that’s why there are three different ways.

  1. On the Notes tab in the Contacts View, viewable in two places as described below (same text, displayed in two spots)
  2. In the Description box of any individual task
  3. In the Notes box of any individual task

(I say 2-1/2 because both #2 and #3 are on the history entry, but in different places.)

Notes Tab

The Notes tab is a free-form notepad that is effectively limitless. Besides those pros of both ‘free-form’ and ‘limitless’, the main virute of the Notes tab is that a small window of the Notes tab appears always at the top of every Contact’s main screen. Type in one and it updates the other. Therefore, put the most important 3 lines at the top.

2018-02-22-NotesTab1

Here are some examples of how I take advantage of this “in my face” portion of the Notes tab:

  • If the contact has a deceased spouse—especially if you knew the spouse (e.g., they were a partner while alive)—then I put that information: “Husband (Fred) / Passed away 5/15/21”. I do this because I do not want to accidentally ask her about her husband!
  • If their name has an unusual pronunciation that you want to remember: “Pronounced Flynnstun, not Flint-stone” or “Her name is AHN-Dray-Uh not An-dree-uh“.
  • If there is some current event in their lives that I want to ask them about first thing when I next talk to them, such as [notice that I include the year on each of these future notes; not doing that has tripped me up in the past!]:
    • Daughter Judy going to Genovia on mission trip, July 2022
    • Elroy playing in marching band at City Park Spring Fling in April 2022
    • Calvin is engaged to Susie; wedding April 15, 2022
    • Planning Grand Canyon vacation summer 2022
    • “Granddaughter Sarah is expecting first child in May 2022
    • Lucy (wife) just started Master’s program in Counseling, September 2022; expects to graduate 2025
  • If they or I made a future commitment, I would of course schedule a task reminder, but it is good for me to see it in the Notes too because of the potentially long time frame and that I would see/talk to them before that time occurs:
    • Would consider increasing support after last daughter graduates from college in 2024
    • Asked me to stop by next time I’m in town” (too vague to have a real task assigned)
  • If they have a spouse who is not a Christ-follower and I need to adapt my conversation if I am talking to them. (I’m not making that up; I actually had a ministry partner whose spouse was not interested in our work; when I called them and the spouse answered, I wanted to be able to have a conversation with them but not about spiritual things.)
  • Some people like to record the details from their past appointments here instead of using the individual History items. They do this for two reasons: (1) they can then scroll through all of that history on one screen instead of scrolling through a lot of non-appointment activity (see pics below) and (2) they can export this Notes tab to a Getting to Know You form (links at bottom) or some other export. [If you do this, I personally recommend putting the most current info at the top, so that the further you go down, the older the data is.]
2018-02-28-NotesTab2.jpg

Description box on an individual task

When I complete any task with a partner, logging that task includes the task type (call, appointment, etc.), the date/time, and a brief description (max 100 characters). Only the task Type, Result, Contact name, and Date are required fields; all others are optional (including the Description and the Notes).

When I first started using TntConnect, I wrote very short descriptions, and sometimes none at all (such as when I attempted a call and did not reach them). This proved to be unwise for me, because years later when I would try to look back on my activity history with them, a blank Description was not helpful.

I have a separate post (coming soon) on “Writing Good Descriptions” that will go into great detail on the way to maximize these 100 characters. The primary benefit of this field is that it super-charges TNT’s powerful History Engine.

Because I can easily filter, search, sort, and export these descriptions, the benefit of describing something in these 100 characters overpowers all other places to take notes (in my opinion).

Notes tab on an individual task

As seen in the picture above, the individual Log History also has its own Notes tab. This is great for recording more information about this specific history entry. For example, if I click on a partner’s phone number in the Name & Address Bar, TNT will pop up a Log History box and automatically put that phone number in the Notes tab. I love that! (I can then fill in the Description box at that moment.)

In the History View, the list of completed tasks displays a notepad next to any item with a Note. If I hover over that little notepad, the note will pop up:

Pros and Cons of these methods

Writing long free-form notes can be very helpful, for two reasons:

  1. Being able to view all of the notes quickly, in one place.
  2. To mail merge and print Getting to Know You forms to review before you go on appointments (links below). These are particularly helpful for couples where one person does a lot of the partnership development effort, and the other spouse is less familiar with the partners.

But recording all of your history this way has some drawbacks…

  1. You cannot search/filter/export the Appointment history
  2. You don’t capture the appointment on the “Last Visit” field
  3. When you do export your contact lists (Current Group>Export Current Group), the Notes field export could be enormous.

If you want to include your Notes in the Getting to Know You forms, re-read these blog posts:

Blog post: Getting to Know You (July 25, 2016)

Blog post: Getting to Know You More (Oct. 31, 2017)

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Blast that Task List

One word: OUCH.

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“How many of those 2,000 tasks do you intend to complete?” I asked the staff member I had just stopped by to help with a TNT question. This was a few years back, TntConnect had just had a major upgrade, and this person was trying to figure out a new feature.

Although I was not there about tasks, their overwhelming task list caught my attention as something they might want to look at.

“Well, I only do the thank yous and I just ignore everything else.”

The overwhelming task list complicates life too because the most urgent tasks (like thank yous she was following up on) appear at the bottom of the list, while the oldest, still unfinished tasks, were the only ones that appeared on her screen.

In our perfect world, we always do all of the tasks we need to do, at just the right time, and our task list is always in the zen-spot of “Task List Zero”. That’s not my real life, of course. Some of my tasks I just put off because I don’t want to do them, such as the “Call to check on status of financial commitment” is a tough one for me.

But as this person indicated, their task list was long because they were not relying on TNT to manage their tasks. So the list was growing, but it wasn’t really a “task list” for them.

So two things:

  1. If you find TNT is creating tasks you simply will not check off or use, then turn off those notifications in Tools > Options > Automatic Actions. For example, you may want to keep the “Send thank you for extra gift” or “…special gift”, but turn off some of the other, more passive items.
  2. Do something about the task list. Blast it, I say.

You can easily delete ALL of the items in your task list by following these steps:

  1. Click once to “select” any task in the list (but not the checkbox).
    1157-Delete1
  2. Press Ctrl+A to Select All
    1157-Delete2
  3. Press the Delete key.
    1157-Delete4

You could also delete only one kind of task instead of the whole list. For example, let’s say you wanted to delete only the “Call to check on status of financial commitment” but leave the rest.

To do this:

  1. Click on the Description header to sort by description.
  2. Click once on the first one you want to delete.
  3. Scroll down to the last one.
  4. Press the Shift key, then click on the last one. Now you have one block of tasks selected, but not all of them.
  5. Press the Delete key.

Congraduations!

It’s that time of year… graduations abound!

Graduations are a great time to connect with our ministry partners because for those who have teens graduating, it is usually a festive time. There are four common areas with our partners’ children where we try to exert ourselves:

  • Birth of the child (for younger partners)
  • High School Graduations
  • Mission Trip appeals
  • Marriage

As we and our partners walk through life, these tend to come in waves. We don’t see as many births nowadays as we do graduations, for example.

There are other events too, of course, such as college graduation or when a partner’s child has their own child. But I view those as stemming out the relationship I am building with that child. By the time they are graduating from college or having their own children, I need to have a personal relationship with them to consider giving a gift or card.

TntConnect offers a broad range of Dealing With Gifts, including gifts we give to our partners. I use the Present task type to record sending these gifts. If it is for a mission trip, I just write the amount of the gift. If it is for a graduation or marriage we often send a gift card.

The Present task type:

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Recording a graduation gift:

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Recording a gift for a child’s mission trip:

2018-06-01-PresentTask2.jpg

When we do a graduation gift card, it is usually a token gift of $10 or $15 to a restaurant near them, such as Dairy Queen or Chick-fil-A, or occasionally a retailer like Walmart. And as a general rule, I try to send it as soon as possible after receiving the graduation announcement… to do this I plan ahead with a supply of Congratulations cards and the gift cards I want to use.

Here’s one other thought: When you receive a graduation announcement, you may want to send a separate happy note to the parents too… they got them there! I just thought of that this year. 🙂