8 October 2007

Using a Bring-Forward System

The Bring-Forward System (or sometimes referred to as a BF system) might be an old term for the younger assistant, but the principle is similar to using your Tasks in Outlook: You need to have some sort of system to bring forward items that need to be handled at a future date. I have already spoken about using Tasks in Outlook, but on a recent job interview I was specifically asked if I knew how to use a bring-forward system so I thought I would write about it here.

Using Tasks in Outlook is great if what you are bringing forward is in electronic form. If I send an email that has a date I need it by, I just drag and drop the sent email into my Tasks and assign it a reminder date and then it will pop up to remind me that I asked for something.  I can then email the person asking them for it or it may be something I promised someone so I can then send it to them.  That works great for electronic items, but what if you have a hard copy and need to bring that forward?

My preferred method is using hanging folders and arranging them by month.  When you want something later you just put it in your hanging folder for the month you need it.  I write the day I want it in the corner of the item or put it on a sticky note (i.e. bf for May 13).  Every evening before I leave for home I check my bring-forward folders to see what I need for the next day.  This is an excellent method when you are bringing things forward for your boss.  I then put them in a folder for my boss and leave it on his desk so he has everything he needs for that day.

For my own bring forwards, I use a combination of my Tasks in Outlook and a Wait Bin (or Holding Tray) to bring forward items that need my attention later. Anything I put in my Wait Bin, I put a corresponding Task in Outlook with a reminder referring myself to the Wait Bin. For instance if I need to register my boss for a conference by a certain date and I have a hard copy registration form that needs to be faxed I would it in my Wait Bin and set a Task reminder for the day before I need to send it.  My Task would read something like "WAITBIN: Register Mr. Brown for Australia Conference."  Then when the reminder pops up I will know the registration form is in the Wait bin. It is really a catch-all system and can be used for anything.
An assistant in my office uses index cards in a card box (separated by month) to remind herself of things to do. She writes on the index card what she needs to do that day or a file she needs to bring-forward and she checks the box each day.

Please see my earlier article on Getting organized and staying that way (August) for more tips on organizing your desk.

Here is an article with some ideas about the bring-forward system that might be helpful to you: http://www.advice4businesses.co.uk/business_task_lists.shtml, (accessed October 8, 2007).


Anonymous said...


I actually use the reminder feature for the tasks in my Outlook. I find this simpler, since it just pops up a message stating what needs to be done. I time this so that it pops it up X numebr of minutes or days before it needs to be completed, depending on the task.



Patricia Robb said...

Yes in some cases I find just using Tasks with reminders is sufficient. But in other cases where I am waiting for information to be able to complete a letter or email, I need somewhere to put the information while I am waiting and that is why I have a waitbin. That seems to be the case most of the time, waiting for something from someone. :)
Thanks for your comments Richard, they are always appreciated.

Patricia Robb said...

Some of us older assistants are very reluctant to only rely on the new technology, as in the case of the woman in my office using the index cards. It actually happened a few year's ago at a place I worked that Outlook crashed for the whole day and everyone lost all their calendar and task information from that day forward. At that time I wasn't using Tasks, but was using a manual system so I wasn't affected, but now I do use Tasks and I'm always a little worried that the same thing might happen.

Anonymous said...

For that, you need a regular backup system!

You should be able to set Outlook to export to an open format, either text, HTML or something like that, at the end of every day, to an external drive, CD or similar. If you have IT people in the office they can help with this. I'd make a backup of your Outlook info on your PC's hard disk then copy it to a flash drive (a.k.a. memory stick) and take it home every night. Then you have 3 copies: the Outlook files on your PC, the Outlook backup on your PC and the Outlook backup on your flash drive.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea that there are still some (like myself) who still use paper formats. My boss likes to have paper in his briefcase when he travels.

Funny how one little word can do so much. I'm talking about the word "Open" in a calendar entry, to let the boss know that there is more information inside.

I intend to use that one. Yes, we also use Outlook features, but paper will never die!