True Grid


The humble MS Word table has been there for me so many times.  Sure, you might like a spreadsheet, but the table is so forgiving, so flexible and just easy.  I’ve used it for specific tasks, big plans and everything in between.  If you want to keep it simple, stay on the grid!

Side-by-Side Comparisons

I read a LOT of state legislation.  When I see several versions of a bill over a period of months, or several bills on the same topic, I just line that language up in a grid like a bunch of tombstones, highlight differences and add comments.  It’s a continuing reference tool.

Event Plans

This is one of my favorite uses.  Just a simple two-column table allows me to list all the moving parts of an event and bring them to order.  Plug the different aspects of your event on the left.  Use the right column to list questions, delegate responsibilities and track status.  This is extremely helpful for persons who have not planned events and, when you pass this tip on to your colleagues, they will think you are very adept.

Events can include news conferences, celebrations, announcements, open houses…anything that gathers people to receive your message.  You may be concerned with location, scheduling, supporting materials, news media relations, logistics, set-up, tear-down, remarks…any maybe food.  The point is to visualize the whole task in manageable pieces and avoid panic.

Communication Plans

Using the same principle as the event grid, you can lay out a weeks- or months-long campaign.  Timing is a key factor here, so you will want to make sure your milestone dates run across the top of your table and your tasks run on the vertical axis.  You may be concerned with news releases, advertising, meetings, social media, etc. and you will want to attach each of those factors to a date or time frame.

Publication Planning

I coordinate production of a City Council orientation handbook which was produced for the first time last year.  I just had to attack it with a grid…subject matter in one column and production notes in the other.  The grid is at my service again this year as we update the material.  I have shared the grid with my collaborator, and he understands it.

Despite my professional regard for the Word table, I have not used it to organize or track my domestic life.  No doubt I would be a better person, but that would be too much like work.


Toni Messina is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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