20 Things I've Learned...    #4 Get Stuff Done

Pippa Adams, CEO
Pippa Adams, CEO
14 / 06 / 2018 | Prodo Insights

 

tree frog on handBlog #4 in the 2o Things I've Learned series is all about those perennial bugbears – time management and productivity. Good productivity – getting stuff done, in other words – sounds like a really obvious essential for any growing business. But there's a subtle and critical difference between being busy, being efficient and being effective. The bigger Prodo's grown, the more important it's become to make sure that the whole team's focused on which actions add the most value. So it's not just about getting stuff done, the key is to get the right stuff done. These are my top tips, read on for more detail...

1. Get organised: whether you use lists, project management software or a kanban board, set your direction of travel each day.
2. Don't procrastinate: the tasks you least want to do are probably the most important. Delegate where you can.
3. Make sure you understand the difference between what's urgent and what's important and use the 80/20 rule when you're prioritising your workload.
4. Support your team: look out for signs that anyone's struggling to stay afloat and jump in to help when you need to.
5. Make Getting Stuff Done easier by using tools to help prioritise and schedule your to-do list.

Get organised

I've always loved a list, and getting into the routine of capturing what needs doing each day first thing is a fantastic way to give the day some structure and set myself some objectives, especially when things are hectic. Getting the list right doesn't always come as second nature, though...

Human nature dictates that we're all inclined to put off the tricky jobs – but these are the ones that can make the most difference. It's relatively easy to recognise this tendency in ourselves; as a boss, it's important to be able to spot it in team members too, who may be extremely busy but skipping the tough tasks at the same time. That comes with experience – there's a brilliant book called Eat That Frog which presents some easy tactics to prevent procrastination and foster good time management habits, which is well worth a read. Btw, the book's title is borrowed from author Mark Twain, who famously said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll go through knowing that's probably the worse point of the day – very liberating, if not to be taken literally!

Not being able to see the wood for the trees can make people feel unduly pressurised, so I've learned to keep an eye out for signs of burn-out. Sometimes, making team members understand that they have the autonomy to prioritise their own tasks can go a good way to resolving the issue, combined with some practical training to develop their skills.

The Important/Urgent Principle

How to spot the difference between what's important and what's urgent? This is known as the Eisenhower Principle, and we've all been there. The US president said: 

"I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent."

It's so easy to get distracted by urgent tasks that need immediate attention, but they're often to someone else's benefit rather than our own. Of course, if a client has urgent issues, it's our job to jump on them ASAP and sort them out – that's our job – but I've got much better at homing on the important tasks that'll help us to achieve our own goals as a business. Being critical about which category each item on my to-do list falls into has definitely helped me to keep the end goal front of mind, and become more trusting in delegating the tasks that other people can fulfil just as well (if not better!).

The 80/20 rule

Here's where the 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle) comes into play – the premise is that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results, so prioritising your tasks is the key to getting the most value out of what you do. Using automated project software to remind the team what needs doing when is part and parcel of our everyday activity at Prodo – but the human element comes in when each individual has to decide what's most essential right now. This is another good reason to make sure that the team feels empowered to take decisions – our philosophy is that it's fine to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them and don't repeat them, and we've actually built this into our company values.

Get a good toolkit

The obvious solution, once an agency gets to a certain size, is to get hold of some tools to get the 80/20 Rule working in your favour. For me, that meant setting the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) in motion, starting at board level. You've probably heard the metaphor about fitting more into the jar by putting the rocks in first, so that the gravel and then the sand can fit in around them. Using a tried-and-tested system to identify our 'rocks' has made it much easier to get the most important tasks – those that add the most value – done first.

There's a lot of theory surrounding time management, but ultimately my approach is very simple. With thanks to all of the experts who've helped me through the woods over the years, here's a recap of my tips:

1. Get organised: whether you use lists, project management software or a kanban board, set your direction of travel each day.
2. Don't procrastinate: the tasks you least want to do are probably the most important. Delegate where you can.
3. Make sure you understand the difference between what's urgent and what's important and use the 80/20 rule when you're prioritising your workload.
4. Support your team: look out for signs that anyone's struggling to stay afloat and jump in to help when you need to.
5. Make Getting Stuff Done easier by using tools to help prioritise and schedule your to-do list.

If you've joined my blog series for Prodo's 20th birthday partway through, you can find 20 Things I've Learned... #1 Have Fun, Do Good here.