Archaeological notebooks are sloppy. They just are. Take elevations, for instance. You need to use the level or total station when it is ready not when you are ready. This makes for some creative record keeping to store the elevations: the corner of your SU sheet, inside cover of your notebook, your hand, whatever is nearby. The data will often get transferred to its proper place later. This happens with a surprising amount of archaeological data. Ideas can creep up on you at any time: while walking home, just before you fall asleep, while having dinner with your trenchmates. These thoughts can get recorded in a bunch of odd places and sometimes they lie forgotten there, with no place to call home.

Most of the trench supervisors that I know compensate for this by spending a large amount of outside-the-trench-time working on their notebooks and forms. They have to gather these pieces of odd information and put them into the database, a drawing, or in a place in their notebook where they will have a context and can be useful for someone else later on.

But where to store these odd snippets until then? My best suggestion is to use a task manager on the iPads. There are hundreds of them to choose from. I am an early adopter of Things and I like some aspects of the program but lately I have been trying to get people to adopt some of the free software: Sorted, Wunderlist, or even Epic Win. You don’t have to use all of the features of any of these programs, but simply using it as a list of action items that can be checked off when completed can save an enormous amount of time when you have some time to focus and get some things done.

I have a hard time getting people to adopt to-do lists. I use them extensively, as does Steven Ellis, our director. But the trench supervisors are hesitant. I attribute this to the graduate student lifestyle. Grad students are notoriously bad at time management and almost all trench supervisors on excavations are grad students. So, in addition to any other changes we make to this year’s workflow, I am going to push for the adoption of any task manager for everyone on the project. I hope to wipe the task manager from the list of most unused features.

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