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Tech thought

Almost every client meeting generates a slew of new activities. But having staff to assist in transactions doesn’t automatically mean these things get done more quickly, accurately, or even efficiently.

That’s why I was so pleased to discover the web-based app Workflowy. It’s a simple list maker that’s feature-rich, shareable, searchable, archivable and taggable.

The basics

To use Workflowy, all you have to do is open a page and start typing your list. Each to-do task appears as a bullet.

Each bullet you type can also have a sub-bullet and each of those can also have unlimited sub-bullets, and so on. Further, all sub-bullets can be collapsed or expanded as needed, letting you toggle between a broad overview and a detailed list. We’ll call each bullet a project and each sub-bullet an action.

Here are other features I love:

  1. Each project or action can have unlimited notes attached
  2. You can tag any item with specific, sortable @ or # symbols (you’ll see why you want to do that later)
  3. Workflowy includes a fast, detailed search engine
  4. Items can be marked “Completed”
  5. You can choose to share any projects or actions by emailing a link. Once shared, other users can update them
  6. Lists can be exported as text documents for archiving in your database

Taken together, the service creates a robust, elegant task manager to run your day, and to organize and communicate with staff.

How I use it

After each client meeting, I draft a list of everything that must happen to follow up. (This could be done on a computer, phone or tablet.) Then, I add thoughts or details around each project or action, tag the actions to show who will execute them, and then prioritize the actions.

Here’s how. I tag all actions I must do personally with @K. Then, I tag actions I must do first with @KP (which stands for Kevin Priority). Staff actions are tagged the same way with either an @S or an @SP, for example. The @ symbol can be searched for or clicked on each morning to generate a list of tasks that need to be done first.

Once an action is complete, the person executing the task types a response as a sub-action, and includes a # tag with his or her initial (for example #K, #B or #S). This allows us to quickly search through the dozens of line items to find the newest responses.

As a project is completed, any new information or strategy changes are incorporated into the ever-expanding list. Text can be copied from emails, documents and websites, and dropped into a Note under each action. Once the whole project’s complete, we export the list and archive it in our client database.

Day-to-day

Each morning, I search for the @KP tag. As I work through each item, I mark it as complete and then remove the @KP tag so it doesn’t come up the next time I search for priorities.

If I have a question for staff about a priority, I open up a sub-action, type in the question and assign it to one of the staff using the @ symbol. This saves me from stopping what I am doing to find or email the staff member. He or she responds with the information, removes the @ tag, completes the action and signs the response with #Initial.

If I have to communicate new information or strategies back to clients, I tag that action with @WFC, which means I’m Waiting For the Client to respond. I can later do a search for all the @WFCs to find who I need to nag.

Workflowy is free, but it’s also worth upgrading for $50 per year, which gives you extra privacy and unlimited notes.

client friendly

Kevin Cork, CFP, is President of TheAbsoluteGroup.com and a best-selling author.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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