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Thoughts to ponder

Occasionally we find something potentially useful to share with others, especially regarding integrity, transparency, and accountability in the field of services. Health care, elder care, child care, pet care, home maintenance, lawn care, property management. The common theme is that people do things for other people millions of times every day. And today more than ever, we need to share what we learn with each other.

Five no-cost ways to keep informed while tasks are being performed for you

Five no-cost ways to keep informed while tasks are being performed for you

Oct 10 2014

Through our interaction with users, we often hear great ideas that people are trying to keep informed about services they have arranged, when they won't be there to watch. As you know, that's a problem that TaskAssure solves (very well, we think!). In this brief article, I will share five no-cost ideas we have seen people use. (Of course, there's no absolutely free way to do most anything. In this article, these techniques assume that you and your helper may have various common items such as phones or computers.)

  1. Call your helper during the task. Perhaps this is the obvious first idea and may be beneath mention. Find a way to remind yourself to call your helper during the task to learn if they have started and how they are progressing. Since this approach interrupts the helper, perhaps use it only on occasions such as getting to know a new helper. And make it worth their time by asking if they have discovered any problems, or need information from you. If you have a calendar for your computer or mobile phone, set a reminder for yourself to call them.
  2. Use a Calendar tool to share task assignments. Computer calendar tools such as Microsoft™ Outlook or Google™ Calendar are widely used by millions of people to remind themselves of scheduled meetings, appointments and "to do's". Find out if your helper uses a computer calendar, and if so, ask which product they are using. Most of the common tools support the ability to share appointments. So for example, you schedule a task on your calendar and then share it with your helper. By doing so, you have greater confidence that your task has not been lost on their end. The helper can also mark the assignment so that it reminds him before the task is scheduled. This is a great technique to coordinate schedules, but doesn't help inform you that the helper is actually paying attention to their calendar or reminders. 
  3. Ask a friend to visit the task location. In some cases, you may really want confirmation by someone you trust that the helper is at the location and doing what you asked. If it is that important, and you don't have time or are not near, ask a neighbor, friend or family member to visit the task location for you at the scheduled time. This is rather intrusive on them, so its not the option you want to choose too often. And don't forget to arrange for a nice gift for your friend for helping out!
  4. Ask your helper to send a text message when they start and finish. Since mobile phones are widely used, and most models include a text messaging service, this technique can be an easy way to keep informed. Find out if your helper has a mobile phone, and ask if they would mind text you as a standard protocol. Let them know that it will ease your mind, and you will not need to "bother" them with a phone call. Keep in mind that some people's mobile phone service plans charge them for text messages, or limit the number of text messages they can send without additional charges. (However, these days many people have unlimited text message plans.) Perhaps the biggest weakness of this method is that you don't know if the person is being honest when they text you. That is, you have no proof that they are even at your location, let alone doing what they say they are. 
  5. Ask your helper to send photos of work. You may be paying for a service by the hour, or it may be a complicated task, and you can benefit by receiving photos of work in progress. This is a great practical application for mobile phones, nearly all of which have cameras. And most mobile phones allow your helper to either text or email photos. Think of how meaningful "before" and "after" photos can be for services such as house cleaning or landscaping. The downside of this approach is that you will have all this "stuff" cluttering your inbox or text message stream. Consider storing those messages into separate folders on your computer on a periodic basis. Also, not to be too cynical, but just keep in mind that you won't have proof positive that the photo was taken when the task was performed. It could for example, be a photo from last month, etc. 

Try one or more of the above techniques and they may give you that extra assurance you want when you rely on others. When the time comes to simplify your life even further, please try TaskAssure, even if just for a few critical services. (TaskAssure is free for occasional use.)

Have you developed your own "no cost" technique? Share it with us!

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