Most of us didn’t get to where we are without the ability to plan, focus, and manage. However, our normal list of things to do might seem infeasible when an unexpected goal or task gets added to our lists and we can lose focus. For those times when we need a little extra clarity, we can take the following three steps to power through a huge load of tasks while staying sane and actually getting it all done.
1 stack of 3×3 Sticky Notes
1 stack of 2×2 Sticky Notes
1 – 3 whiteboards (or any other surface)
Step 1: The Classic Brainstorm – with a Twist
In this step, we’re getting all those thoughts that are bouncing around our heads onto the white board with sticky notes – you’ll be able to reorganize the notes later while only having to write out ideas once. Use the 3×3 regular sized notes for main ideas and the smaller 2×2 notes for sub-tasks. Once you’ve got all those ideas out on the board, organize them according to their main goals and sub-tasks.
The Key: Atomize tasks – really break multi-step tasks apart so that each sticky note consists of either one idea (for the 3×3 notes) or one task (for the 2×2 notes). For example, “Conduct Consideration of Others Training” could be a main goal. Atomizing it might look like this:
• determine 3 possible dates
• get a date approved by mgmt
• get a date approved by associates
• notify mgmt
• notify associates
• call training presenter to confirm
• order 5 doz cupcakes for everyone
• order thank you gift for presenter
Don’t worry if this seems tedious – the benefit here is that you can visualize the list once it’s complete. Knowing that a particular task is ‘accounted for’ will free up some of your mental space later.
Step 2: Organizing the Workcycle
In this step, we are leveraging scrum methodology (a software development process) to keep our individual goals organized as they move through our work cycle. Move all of those organized sticky notes and place them in the table shown below by listing goals on the left side and the sub-tasks into three main columns: To Do, In Progress, and Complete. Put everything in the To Do column to start.
The key – You can include as many columns as you need, but 3 columns are optimal. Keeping tasks in the To Do, In Progress, and Complete states helps keep you from BSing yourself or overthinking when you get tired, but still gives you enough control over the process to know where things stand with a quick glance.
Step 3: Scheduling
Putting goals and milestones on the calendar helps us to step away once in awhile and look at what else is going on. Only mark critical tasks, milestones, and/or goals on the scheduler – and try to avoid longer-term goals (more than a month). The point here is to achieve a healthy focus and synchronize the bigger picture and the element of time.
The Key: Plan for life by adding white space into the schedule. While the ‘math’ says that you can complete a set of tasks in two days, try to stretch it out into four. You can always go faster than that, but you won’t have to stress about missing a goal if something else comes up.
Once you’re able to master this process yourself, remember that it works for teams as well at any scale you want to implement. You can even take this process online with collaborative whiteboard applications (some are multiplatform and even free) when coming together isn’t possible. Enjoy!
Dan is an entrepreneur in the Sacramento, CA region. He’s in love with technology and B2B.