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Are there techniques or software tools that can help me record a series of steps involved in performing a task that I will have to repeat in the future?

This would be useful at work (I am a software engineer), doing home improvements, vehicle repair, or preparing for a trip. Having a set of steps would help my productivity because it helps, when performing step N, to know what step N+1 entails.

I use Evernote to remember things and store lists, so would be particularly interested in a solution that used Evernote. But most importantly would be a way to record the steps while performing the task the first time because by the time I am done, I have forgotten the steps. In other words a mental pattern that would help me record the steps as they are unwinding in the "figure out" stage so that I can later replay them.

Are there such techniques or even software tools that can help me do that? But it seems that taking a note of every attempt (which can be many before you ascertain it is the right one) would be too time consuming.

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3 Answers

As a system engineer I am basically in the same situation, and use Google Services or Onenote as my exobrain.

As far as I can tell, it is very difficult to log a task as you do it. However, this seems necessary in the case where you only anticipate doing a task once, but want to record the steps involved in it.

The only answer I can think of is:

  • Do the task
  • Describe list of steps from memory
  • attempt to do the task again following the steps, while filling in anything you missed

Now, this is if you are working on your own. If you have an assistant, you can have them scribe for you while you do the task. For now this will be a human, but hopefully soon we will have an A.I. system to record for us.

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I make heavy use of checklists (in Evernote) for a lot of processes, especially ones I do periodically, but not quite often enough to make them routine actions. The best way I've found to make good ones is to attempt to log every step as I perform it, then edit on reuse. Yes, that's time consuming the first time, and prone to missing things. Expecting to edit the checklist every time I use it helps to make it accurate. Each time I find a process improvement, the checklist gets updated to include it. After a few rounds, the checklist is pretty reliable.

One alternate technique I sometimes use for processes that are entirely on the computer is to use a keyboard macro recorder to log activities. I use AutoHotKey, there are others available. Reading the recorded actions then helps me extract what's needed to a checklist. Or convert the actions to an actual macro, if that's a more suitable result.

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A voice recorder(with a usb/equivalent connector), use it while you do the task will help you record what you're doing and you can keep your hands free doing that, and it's mobile too. You can transfer the mp3 to computer and you can transcribe it. You can put the voice recorder in your shirt pocket or strap it to your wrist. You could try an app on your phone like my nexus 4 android phone "smart voice recorder" by smartmob, though i've always used a voice recorder thus far.

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You could perhaps feed the mp3 to a voice recognition program –  barlop Dec 5 '13 at 12:10
    
for note taking I use fastnote which has voice recognition is ideal for quick note taking as it stops when you stop talking, but if recording doing a task you need something that keeps recording until you hit stop. –  barlop Dec 5 '13 at 12:11
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