Staying organized when you're juggling your child's education, health care, therapy, behavior, and six million other little details can seem like an impossible task. One easy way to feel more organized is to set up a system for keeping track of the conversations you've had with case managers, teachers, therapists, specialists and administrators. Here's how to have all those details, recommendations, promises and proposals right at your fingertips.
Create a contact log form.You can lay it out on a word processor and keep a stack of blank forms on hand, use this PDF contact log form contributed by a helpful parent, or print out the list below and use it as a guide when you make notes on a plain piece of paper. However you manage it, each log entry will need to include the following items:
- Date of conversation
- Type of conversation: Phone, meeting, informal encounter
- Who the conversation was with: Name and title. If the person you want to speak with is not available and you have to leave a message, make sure to write the name of the receptionist or secretary with whom you spoke.
- Who initiated the conversation: Did you contact them or did they contact you?
- Reason for contact: What did the person who initiated the contact hope to accomplish?
- Items discussed: Take notes on any important information discussed, as well as any personal or non-relevant information that might be useful.
- Actions initiated: If something was asked for or planned on, write what it was, who is responsible and when you expect it to be completed.
- Follow-up required: Write down anything you need to do as a result of the conversation -- including checking that the other person does what they're supposed to do -- and when you'll be doing it and/or contacting them again.
Make an entry for every conversation.Have whatever version of the form you choose at hand every time you initiate contact with someone who works with your child. If the other party initiates the contact and you aren't prepared to take notes at that time, write them as soon as possible afterward, while the information is still fresh in your head.
Find a way to organize the log that works for you.Some folks like things to be super-neat and aesthetically pleasing, others know they'll never get anything put together if they fuss too much with the format. Try one of these suggestions, or develop one of your own. Remember, though, that taking notes doesn't help if you can't find them when you need them.
- Keep completed forms in a notebook. Use tabs to keep contacts with particular individuals or agencies together for quick reference.
- Keep completed forms in an accordion file. Label the different pockets with the name of the individual or agency contacted.
- Keep completed forms in file folders. If you have a file cabinet, an individual folder for each person or group may work well.
- Keep the log in a bound journal. Keep a desk calendar with a daily or weekly format specifically for this purpose, and write log information in the space provided for the day the call was made. Use post-it notes or flags to color-code the pages by person or organization contacted so you don't have to flip through every page looking for your notes.
- Keep the log on index cards. Keep them organized in a file box, with tabs dividing different contacts. Or use different-color index cards for each different person or group, and throw them loose into a shoebox.
Use the log information for follow-up contacts and conversations.
- Write a letter after any contact that is supposed to result in action by you or the other party, and use the information from your notes to remind him or her of your conversation and spell out your understanding of the responsibilities assigned and the timetable for their completion.
- Have the log of previous conversations on hand when you call again, so you can specifically reference what was discussed, with whom, and when.
- Bring your log or a summary of it to any meetings with the people involved. You may want to pull pages out of your notebook and put them in a file folder or portfolio, or use a copy machine to combine groups of index cards onto sheets of paper. You probably don't want to just dump your shoebox out on the table -- although if you've had to make an extraordinary number of calls to get anything done, that wouldn't be a bad way to show it.
Wondering if you really need a contact log? Here are five reasons why you absolutely, positively do.