A few months ago I made a post about my Key Spouse folio and how I used it to organize my sensitive data. Now that I’ve had it for a few months I have better identified what I need to stay involved and organized.
Just like last time – I am sharing because I couldn’t find any detailed examples of how other Air Force Key Spouses organize their information. But I am also sharing to show how easy it is to adopt more efficient ways of organizing. This is proof that “your first idea isn’t your best idea;” a notion that I learned in art classes and have gotten very comfortable with when writing a million college essays. My first idea is never my best idea – sometimes it’s an informed choice, and sometimes it’s just a place to start so I can dare to improve. My Key Spouse Folio is the evolving latter.
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So my original folio was a system of post-it notes in a blank journal. Since that first iteration
- All social events were cancelled for public safety
- My co-volunteer got us a better contact roster to work with
With normal social engagements cancelled, it became more important to reach out to our squadron spouses because I don’t know what they know – and that’s okay. My job as a volunteer isn’t to share scuttlebutt, it’s to make sure that important info is shared (both up and down the chain of command), and to help guide other spouses to resources if they need them.
☞ Related: My Key Spouse Folio (Version one)
But when social events got cancelled I needed to shift my focus to basic contact to make sure that my spouses didn’t feel abandoned, while trying my very best to not annoy them. A casual twice-monthly one-on-one check-in seems to be the best for now, so I set aside my post-it notes and worked to make myself a single sheet to record information.
Why single sheet? Because if I am texting ten people in one day I need to glance at my sheet and see who has and has not responded. If I go to bed seeing four blank spaces I know that I need to focus on those four people the next day (I always give at least 24 hours for people to respond in any way).
I tried post-its on printer paper, but it wasn’t very glance-friendly. Then I tried recording info on a mini legal pad – definitely got closer, but not quite there. Finally I made a basic Google Sheet and started working with that. Even with a single page I still tried different recording methods to see what worked best for my brain.
Now I have an improved information organizer that ticks a lot of boxes for me – example below. The single sheet contains contact tracking for one month (that I specify in the upper left). Then I have ten columns for ten different spouses, several un-dated rows to use as I see fit, and a note section at the bottom for little notes like travel plans or important dates coming up. Here’s a pretend example – don’t worry, these alphabetical names were randomly chosen and do not reflect upon the squadron.
This works for me because I can see my check-ins at a glance, and especially see trends (regarding people who are likely to only respond after several attempts to contact – like Gigi). I record the date as I text (or FB Message, or call – whichever is their preferred contact method) then later simply note if we texted back and forth a bit, if they simply responded without any attempt at conversation, or no response – meaning that I will simply try again the next day. I only worry when I get to three attempts without response – I usually ask if texting twice a month is too much, or if there is an emergency and I need to get involved. So far the eventual responses have been apologies for forgetting to text back.
Regardless, I love when the month ticks over and it’s time for a fresh Contact Tracker to be printed, and I can tape the used sheet into my beloved Moleskine. I fix the left-most edge near the binding on one page using washi tape, then fold the sheet so it easily fits in the book. This way the Moleskine clearly is stuffed with more paper than originally made, but the contents are secure. Once my pages are unfolded they lay in chronological order (each contact month taped to a different journal page) so I can still glance, and only need to turn a page to compare data.
- Ready to download the PDF? Here it is – no annoying email signup or paywall to grab my Freebie Spouse Contact Tracker (opens in a new tab).
This isn’t a complete project though – I still have data to organize that falls outside of the monthly contact cycle. My Key Spouse volunteership is with a small school, so the students are expected to change frequently, but the instructors also change regularly. I may just print a similar sheet for the “permanent” party members – one plain as a baseline, then subsequent pages will specify incoming and outgoing families? That’ll do.
I think I’ll start there – and change as I need. Chances are likely that in the future I will volunteer with a squadron with established protocols for Key Spouses – but in the meanwhile I do enjoy flexing my Professional and Technical Writing degree because it’s definitely a missing piece, but only hindsight will show me what I could be doing right now.
Here’s my Freebie Spouse Contact Tracker PDF again – this is what I made and use. If you’re personally tracking 10 or fewer contacts, one page each month will do for a start. Save the PDF and print as many as you need. Simple spreadsheets are surprisingly robust – tell me how you changed yours to fit your organizational needs!
☞ Related: Military Spouse Appreciation Day