To Do List Fail

I don’t know about you, but I feel busy: all of the time. I can’t recall the last time I looked around at work and thought, wow, I’m done, I’ll have a Kit Kat. Mostly it’s all right, that’s okay for now, next please.  While I like staying busy, there’s a serious danger in this constant engagement: if you move too quickly, and think about too much, you’ll forget what you’ve done. Maybe you have a superhuman internal organizer, but I don’t. Often I can’t recall the clients I’ve worked on since 8 when 5 shows up, let alone the details of what I’ve done for them. Not a big deal, since I can consult my to-do list, or Basecamp, or the emails I’ve sent documenting what I’ve done, and make recommendations or further changes based on that evidence of the past.

But really, it can be tempting when you’re busy to make a quick change and move on. Who’s gonna know!  One tiny change! What does it matter! It can become a bad habit quickly, and there will come a time when your lack of information organization damages your ability to affect useful change for your clients. This danger only multiplies if you work with other parties on one PPC account. If you’re disorganized by yourself, you may be able to make educated guesstimates as to when you did this, or by how much you changed that, because your actions are based in your own PPC theory, but anyone else is going to be completely in the dark as to your reasonings and consequent actions. Working without recordkeeping on your own in a PPC account can be inconvenient, and can certainly hinder management, but working while disorganized with others is just downright dangerous. With that in mind, here are a few tools you can use to help organize your own activities and those of your team, so you can complement each others’ work rather than hindering.

AdWords Change History:

Google will help you out a bit and give you your change history. This is a fabulous tool, but it has its weaknesses: I deleted an ad? Good to know. Um…which ad? There is some info that it just doesn’t provide, and you can’t rely on it completely. It is however handy if you have multiple logins to the same account, as it will indicate which username created a change, allowing you to track activity of your coworkers and clients as they modify the account.


It’s great. You should probably use it, if you have any joint projects at all. You can create shared timelines, to-do lists, upload files, send public or private messages to a selection of team members or all of them, and just generally communicate what you need to on a joint project with ease. A few tips about I have about Basecamp: you do have to use it. It’s tempting to send a one-off email to Amanda about the project, but if anyone else ever might need to reference the information in that email it’s smarter to send it via Basecamp. And once again, it might be tempting not to document a tiny change, but you kind of owe it to your coworkers not to keep them in the dark. Just write a note.  Finally, it might make me sound kind of obsessive, but Basecamp can get really messy if you don’t have a standard naming convention for your posts and files. Dates and descriptions of file or message contents can make everything so much easier to find later, and make it easier to quickly scan Basecamp posts to see what’s been going on recently. Decide on a naming convention with your team and stick with it.

Google docs:

Free! It can be helpful to use a service like Google docs to allow you to modify your record-keeping documents simultaneously and share them without emailing back and forth a million times a day. It makes documenting and sharing easier, and that makes everyone more likely to actually do it.


Excel is your friend. It’s easy to keep track of all kinds of changes in a spreadsheet, from keyword research and ad group structure to bid changes and ad reviews. You can paste pretty much anything into a spreadsheet and make it make sense, send that file either via email or a service like Basecamp and it’ll still make sense when it gets to your coworker. Word docs are terrible for this, and getting accustomed to documenting data and changes in Excel will make it so much easier for you to identify what you need and manipulate data later. And remember, there are search engines outside of Google, surprisingly, and they don’t have the handy change history. You’ll have to document your changes somewhere for these search engines, and finding a way to do it via Excel (see how we set this up for bid changes?) and standardizing the method will make everything easy to keep up with, once you’re accustomed to it.

With a little work up front and prioritizing information sharing while you’re in the midst of your day, you can make a project run more smoothly both for your own tired brain and the rest of the people you work with. Set your team up for success: let them know what you’ve done, why you’ve done it, what you expect the result to be, and how you’ll be following up. It sounds easy, but sometimes we all get so busy that we forget to use the simple tools we have available to us to improve our effectiveness.