I also affectionately refer to this post as: “How to get s*&t done.”
What are the big takeaways from today’s post?:
Esther, pictured here (with our original business partner), and I have been religiously and regularly deploying the “F-word”: FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS. We have been very focused on results, and – unfortunately – not fun stuff like blogs.
What is the Hot Mommas Project: In case you are lost, the Hot Mommas Project (www.HotMommas.org) is an award-winning research and curriculum endeavor on how successful professional women balance it all. Click here for main blog. Our goal this year is to build and launch a global case study competition in which women write their own case, tell their story, help others in doing so, and might get just get in one of the nation’s top textbooks by Prentice Hall! (Let’s not forget the cash and prizes). Click here if you would like to nominate someone you know, or be notified when the competition is live. Now, onto our post:
Focus - What has NOT been happening. I started this post about a month ago and am only finishing it now. Why? I’ve been focusing. Two of my three team members bailed on me. A set back, yes, but it forced a high level of prioritization. Here are some keys and tips that are working:
1. PRIORITIES AND FOCUS: KEYS TO THE UNIVERSE. The Hot Mommas Project survey research (data from highly successful professional women who also want to have a life) indicates that PRIORITZATION AND FOCUS are the keys to the universe. More on this in the future, just trust me.
2. SAY NO. SAYING NO IS A PART OF PRIORITIZATION AND FOCUSING. Newsflash to some of us overachiever “oh…I’ll just do it myself” types. Men focus this naturally because of the way their brains work.Toilet paper roll not changed? Bed not made? It’s focus ladies. The beauty of what’s NOT getting done COULD be – gasp – FOCUS. Not on the top three list, not getting done.
Note 1: See brain book which I’ve mentioned before.
Note 2: This of course does not allow frat boys doing beer bongs to claim they are “focusing.”
TIP: HAVING TROUBLE? Develop a DO NOT DO LIST.Works wonders. Did it when I was pregnant/post-preggo, hormonal, and nuts.
3. DELEGATE: THIS MEANS GOOD PEOPLE. Esther is like having 2 staffpeople. And I don’t mean multiple personality disorders. I mean, she is on top of it. So, the lesson here is GOOD PEOPLE ALLOW YOU TO FOCUS. Here is my time triage with a bad person/staffer:
TYPICAL DAY WITH BAD STAFFER:
2 hours – meeting and download with staffperson.
4 hours – staffperson works independently on project, I do my stuff.
2 hours – clean up of staffperson’s crap work. Assign staffperson some other less meaningful task I feel they can’t mess up.
2 hours – staff person works on their menial task, I get some work done.
After work: 1-5 hours – worrying about what crap work I’m going to see tomorrow.
-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 6 hours
-Total time spent worrying: 1-5 hours
-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 2?
TYPICAL DAY WITH ESTHER:
2 hours – meeting and download with Esther.
4 hours - Esther works independently on project.
.5 hours – Approve and press “send” on project with Esther.
3.5 hours – Esther moves onto her next thing, I move onto my next thing.
1-5 hours – thinkng how awesome Esther is and how I am looking forward to tomorrow
-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 7.5 hours
-Total time spent being positive and happy: 1-5 hours
-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 7.5 hrs
GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE. Can’t say it enough. I finally get when the business books/business experts say “get good people.”
4. HAVE A PROCESS/FORUM FOR TOUCHING BASE ON PRIORITIES. Esther and I are really, really, really focused on results. We are constantly in touch about the big picture (where we are heading) and what steps we need to be taking NOW to get there. In addition, I want to make sure to this is a rewarding experience for Esther so that we are in a mututally beneficial situation. Here is how we accomplish the above:
4a. Bi-Monthly Culture Check Ins.We sit down every other week at the beginning of the week. I ask her, “How is it going? Poor, Good, Great, Really Great?” Esther told me in our first meeting that things were going “Great.” I said, “What would get it to ‘Really Great’?” She said, “Talking with more contacts and coming to more meetings.” So…that is what we did. When there was a meeting, I included her. When there was an opportunity to speak with a partner or the media, I assigned it to her. By our next meeting two weeks later, Esther was giving the experience a “Really Great” rating. It has to be a two-way street, however. Employers working with Generation Y may be tempted to make it all about what the employee wants. However, this does not allow for growth or mentoring. During that same meeting, I rated the experience a “Great” also. I told her that when we started producing actual deliverables, I would probably lean more toward a “Really Great” rating. So…that is what we have been FOCUSED on: Actual Results. Not a lot of chasing your tail.
Tip: Think – if I could only do 3 things today, what would they be?Then FOCUS! Screen/test your answer by following up with this question: “Will these three things get me closer to my major goal MORE than other tasks?” If not – time to REPRIORITIZE. Tim Ferriss is a real hard a*& about this stuff in The Four Hour Work Week.
4b. Daily Check Ins. Esther and I check in daily. We work off a list of priorities. The list is shaped based on:
a. Our goal (in this case launching a case study competition) and
b. Meetings with experts (please, don’t try to reinvent the wheel…such a time drain). For example, we met with a PR expert who told us NOT to lead with information about the Hot Mommas Project survey research. Susan Matthews Apgood, owner of News Generation, told us, “The case study competition is much more interactive. There is something in it for people. They can participate, tell their own case study, help others, and be honored by winning prizes and getting their case published in a text book. LEAD with the story about the case study competition.” Well, this conversation changed everything for us. We had to be able to quickly adjust, and re-assign tasks based on the readjusted priorities.
5. RE-PRIORITIZE, RE-FOCUS. If you have a regular process for meeting to discuss goals and steps for achieving those goals, it allows for quick correction and re-prioritization. Catch as catch can meetings don’t always allow for this. It’s part of the criticism about virtual workplaces. Thus, a formal structure needs to be created for communicating – even if it’s just a “call staff” note in Outlook. I would say that at every other meeting, Esther and I slightly bump up or down an item on the list.
PARTING THOUGHT: Ted Leonsis talked about the relentless drive to execute in a Cool Daddies case we did on him. He checked in with staff regularly. He was basically seeing if they were getting the job done, and what they needed to get it done. He had a saying, “No bad days.” A bad day would lead to a bad week, a bad week would lead to a bad quarter, etc. It is about having processes for early correction. I think he was probably effective in building AOL, and achieving his other successes, because of this trait…but also because people wanted to do well for him. Thus, steps 4a and 4b – and this post as a whole – is my attempt to model these behaviors.