At FP Advance we’ve worked very hard on our effectiveness over the last few years with some pleasing results. One key step was Debbie taking the reins as CEO. Not only has she built a great team around us, but she’s sought out new tools that allow us to plan and execute better than we’ve ever done before.
This week I asked Deb to share some of the strategies we use so you can see if they might fit your business too.
Over to you Deb.
Mastering your weekly planning
Alongside my involvement in FP Advance, I am an artist. Believe it or not, creativity and business go hand in hand. I started young (a professional performer at 13 years old) and learnt quickly that art involves a great deal of hustle. An old adage among actors is that ‘finding the work is the vocation, and performing the work is the vacation’. I’m not sure I’d take it quite that far, but I definitely agree with the sentiment. And in order to keep all the plates spinning, one has to be super-organised.
Professional creatives are, in essence, their own small business. An artistic one-wo/man-band so to speak, often on a limited budget in terms of time, money and resources, flitting back and forth between left- and right-braining.
A couple of transferable skills that life as a jobbing actor has provided me with is planning and organisation. It’s something I’m known for. My thing. Friends jibe that if I was on a plummeting aeroplane everyone else would be fitting their oxygen masks and I’d be sat with a notebook and pen making a list. Some people know me too well.
I’ve tried many systems over the years; during the ’90s I was the owner of a Franklin Filofax that never left my side and if you rummage through my belongings you will find a Pomodoro Technique tomato timer that I still use.
At FP Advance we’ve settled on:
Wrike – for task management
EOS Worldwide – for three-yearly, annual and quarterly business planning
Angela Jia Kim’s Manifest Method – for weekly and daily planning in line with our business and personal 90-day visions.
Day to day, it looks something like this:
Reassess where I am
Once a week (usually a Sunday afternoon for me, but it can be Friday afternoon if it’s not too hectic or early Monday morning) I sit down and revisit my 90-day vision, which states how I want to feel in three months time, what I want to manifest and what I’m focusing on to make it all happen. I also have a visual representation (this can be a vision board, a photograph, an image ripped from a magazine).
Then first up, I do a brain dump of all the things that need to get done this week. I usually have a running master list on the go that I add to as soon as something pops into my head. I take a look at this long list and pick the to-dos. Then, if my email inbox isn’t empty (which it usually is, as I work to a ‘zero inbox system’ that I can talk more about at a later date if you’re interested) I check through it to make sure no tasks are lurking there.
Weekly to-do list
Once I have my weekly to-do list on the page (I tend to use Evernote for my planning now due to travelling full-time, but before that I was a pen and notebook person), I go back to my 90-day vision to make sure all my tasks are in line with what I am trying to achieve this quarter. Anything that isn’t either gets crossed off completely (it’s astounding how many non-essential ‘fake busy’ tasks make it onto my list in the first place) or relegated to the ‘if I have time and still want to do it’ list.
I have to admit, this part is tricky. Sometimes, it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees and everything can feel too important, even when it’s not. Our life coach, Kerri Richardson, once said to me, “You have to say no to good, to be able to say yes to great” and I keep that in mind when deleting things off of my to-do list. I’m pleased to report that as time has gone on I’ve got much better at this, and I can now spot a fake busy task from 50 paces.
Next up, is delegating the tasks. I can’t do everything myself, nor do I want to. FP Advance is a team effort. We’re all virtual, working remotely from all over the world, and we all play our part. So, I delegate everything that I can’t and shouldn’t do to the folks who can and should. For this I use Wrike, which allows me to assign the task to the team member/s and keep an eye on its progress. I can also attach documents (at FP Advance we’re big fans of Google Docs), any additional notes and a deadline. We can also invite anyone else into the task, if we realise more resource is needed further down the track.
Prioritising is also important, so once I’ve delegated everything that can be delegated, I highlight the three tasks on my own list that, when achieved, will make the biggest impact on my quarterly goals being met. These tasks become my top three. Out of these three tasks, I circle the game-changer: the one task that would make the biggest difference once accomplished. This is my priority.
I tell Brett my game-changer. And he tells me his. We announce our intent to each other, and we hold each other accountable. I call it a healthy competitive spirit, but once the game-changer has been announced it’s like the gauntlet has been thrown down. Game on, Aussie Boy!
Savouring The Success
Angela Jia Kim’s The Manifest Method is built around Savouring the Success…and so, as instructed, I factor in a treat for a mission accomplished. This step is easy for me to miss, and it is always a sad week when the Savour is not honoured. It’s like a firework display with no finale. As an example of a Savour (and my favourite Savour to date), a few weeks ago whilst in Seville, I spent an evening at the Arab baths (Aire) in acknowledgement for the work I had done getting our new marketing team on board and up to speed. It was a special moment. I felt like it was all worth it, and I felt worthy.
So, that is the weekly planning session, in a nutshell. It takes me around half an hour tops and always consists of a quiet space (that’s where I work best) and good coffee (non-negotiable). Sometimes, if I’m feeling romantic, I might light a candle.
Rules For The Road
One important element to this planning, before I move on to the daily steps, is that every task that gets written down on my weekly list gets actioned one way or another. As Angela Jia Kim states, I do one of five things with each task:-
1. Check it off when it gets done 2. Re-write it until it gets done 3. Break it down into smaller steps 4. Address the bigger issue of why it’s not getting done 5. Cross it off if I don’t intend to do it
So, nothing sits dormant on that weekly list. It’s always up to date and active.
This weekly discipline ensures I get maximum results from the time I allow for work each week.
In part 2 next week, I’ll take a look at how I plan my days for maximum effectiveness. It’s all about ‘pulling my three weeds and planting my three seeds’ to get the right mix of short and long term focus into each day.