Managing Projects - Idea Capture and Radical Transparency
So, now, let's talk about what it looks like to manage projects, slash have to-do lists the right way. Most people have learned to do to-do lists in a way that is completely incongruent with the way that we think. Vertical lists, writing things down, crossing them off as we get them done. It awakens something called the Zeigarnik Effect, which I don't need to go into necessarily right now. It's kind of interesting psychology history, but, essentially, the Zeigarnik Effect is the voice in our heads that pushes us to complete the uncompleted. The problem in most to-do lists is that they're being used sideways. So, when we have a vertical list and we're looking down this list, we're seeing a lot of things on that list, whether they're crossed out or not that we can't do right now. And we can't do them right now because they're either, we're waiting on somebody else, or they're too big of a project, haven't been broken down, but the voice in our heads is saying, you have to do those things...
, but you can't do them. But the voice wants you to do them, which creates something called cognitive dissonance, where basically our brains can't make a right out of two wrongs, and it puts the brakes on your ability to be productive because when you look at that list, all that you are seeing, is all the stuff you're not getting done. We need to flip it on its side. And what that looks like is what's known as a KanBan format. It's Japanese word that means billboard. Not sure why that's the word, but it is. There's a lot of tools that allow you to organize things in a KanBan method. Trello is my favorite, but lots of tools allow you to do this. And at a very minimum, what you need to have is three lists 'cause lists represent phases in this case, and it's to do, doing, done. Now, that could in actuality be 20 phases. It could be if, you know, if I've worked with real estate developers and brokers before that could be prospective house, you know, first visit, second visit, purchase, closed, whatever it might be, but at the end of the day, that arc is to do, doing, done. Things you have to do, things you're doing now, front and center and things that are done. So, this is the basic way that we like to set up a Kanban board. Again, you can do this in Trello, and you can definitely do this with a whiteboard with post-it notes. The key things for this is that it has to have dynamism. It has to be able to move. We need to be able to actually move tasks from one to another. And as you can see, I can move from, to do, to doing. I can move that over to this and go back and forth. That sense of movement is really important. I'm not crossing things off on a list and moving my way down. Additionally, you want to make sure that the tasks that are in here are actually broken down into smaller tasks. So, you might have big projects and then you can start to break out individual tasks that you actually can work on. You need to be able to look at this to-do list and whether you do that the morning of, or every night, or every week, whatever, and decide these are gonna be the things that I'm gonna do tomorrow, or today and there, I'm gonna move it right over to doing, so that when I'm ready to actually get to work and get things done, I can look just at the doing list and be focused just on that. Now, you see that I have a waiting on third party list here. So, let's say I am waiting on somebody else to get me something. A vendor has to answer me. A customer service rep has to get back to me. Rather than having that on doing list because I can't do anything right now, I'm gonna put that all on the waiting on third party. And then I can decide for myself, hey, at three o'clock today, I'm gonna follow up with all the people that I need to follow up with. And when something is actually done, we move it to done and it stays there. It doesn't leave. It's gonna always be in that list because odds are, you may have to refer to it again at some point. Very few tasks in our lives are really truly one off tasks. So, it's nice to have that, sort of, history there that you can actually search through if it is a digital thing. Now, you'll notice that I have an ideas list here, which is before the to-dos. So, earlier on, we talked about the idea capture system, and for me, those ideas that get captured go into Trello. So, one of my favorite things to do at the end of the night, it's part of my nightly routine, is I'll look at that idea list and say, hey, this is something that I need to give to my COO, so I can move that over to do, and I could even, if that person's here on the board, I could assign it to them, so that they know it's theirs. The other thing is that these cards, several of them have due dates. And I think that that's really important that tasks have due dates on them. The due date doesn't necessarily have to be when it's gonna be completely done, but it should be when you expect there to be some sort of movement on it. Now, again, if you're using Trello, it has a nice feature where that if you're approaching the deadline within 24 hours, that due date will turn yellow. And once you hit it and go over the deadline, it turns red. So, I can very quickly look at this list, and say, like, these are three things that I was waiting on and I haven't gotten an update on them yet, and I'm gonna follow up and look into it. And this whole thing is done horizontally. Without me telling you any of the things I've just told you in this lesson, I'm pretty sure that if any of you looked at this list, you would know that we're trying to get from the left side over to the right side. That is the goal. That sense of movement gives us a sense of accomplishment. That little bit of a dopamine hit that keeps us motivated and keeps us going. And this is the right way to do project management and to do lists. Now, let's say that you have an idea in your little idea list that is a big idea. What we wanna avoid is something that we often refer to as Pigeon Leadership, which is where the boss swoops in, defecates all over the team, and then flies away. Happens all the time, and it drives teams nuts. A lot of the work that I've had to do over the years has been about protecting the entrepreneur's team from the entrepreneur's mind. And that certainly is something that we see when it comes to big ideas. Entrepreneurs love to go to conferences, come back and completely change the entire business until they go to the next conference two weeks later and do it again. Doesn't mean that you don't have good ideas in there, but they get obfuscated. You lose the message in the mess. So, I have a form for this called the three Ws, very simple idea. There's six boxes, we have what and why, we have who and why, and then we have when and why. And unlike most worksheets, this one is meant to be filled out by two people, not one. The entrepreneur fills out the first two boxes, the what and the why. So, I have this amazing new idea where we're gonna give away free water to everybody that comes in front of our business. Why? Well, I think it's a great marketing thing. It's good for the planet. Okay, this is a great idea. Amazing, game changer. Now, we take that three W form and we give that to somebody who's actually going to make the idea happen. Now, if it's you, you can look at the same thing tomorrow. The ancient Greeks used to say that you should make every decision twice, once while drunk and the next day while sober, and if they match up, then you're good to go. So, you can do this if you don't have a team, but if you do, give it over to the operation side of the team, someone who's actually gonna put this into place and let them look at it, and then they fill out the when and the why. So, when could be like, hey, this is a really amazing idea, and we need to get on this tomorrow, or it's a great idea, but it's really not in line with our Q2 goals. This works better for Q3. That's when we're gonna do with then. And then, we get down to the who and the why. The who is not necessarily a person, it's really the resource. So, it's like, well for this, we need a graphic designer. We don't have one in house, so we're gonna have to hire one and bring them in, and this is the person I think we should get, blah, blah blah. Now, you've essentially come to a meeting of the minds between the idea generator and the idea executor. You can then put that away somewhere and revisit it when you're actually ready to act upon it. Or if it's something you're gonna go into right away you can do it right away, but it's helping to communicate effectively the idea in a way that can be received by somebody without overwhelming and stressing them, and the terms of what it's gonna take to get it done have been made very, very clear at a high level.