By Steve Yankee
Back when I was young, I had a boss who had lists of lists. While I thought nothing about hiring a crew of studio musicians and walking into a sound studio with only a vague idea of what music theme we’d produce for an industrial video soundtrack, Al (not his real name) would have a list for each day of the week, including Saturdays. Which invariably started with “shower and shave.”
While I’m not suggesting that you develop all the qualities of an anal-retentive person such as my former boss, being organized definitely helps life run smoother; particularly if you’re a typical entrepreneur with a hundred projects running all at once.
Enter The Work Wall: Life At A Glance.
Most of writing and consulting work is done at a large table, facing a wall in my office. (Windows distract me). Mounted on the wall is a large (4′ x 5′) cloth-covered bulletin board. I refer to this space as “my life at a glance.”
Stretched across the top of the thing are a row of file cards titled as follows:
Projects Projects Projects Projects in in in in Development Scripting Production Marketing
Underneath are separate 4″ x 6″ file cards on each project that I’m currently dealing with; the latest issue of Success Ideas, my quarterly resource guide; a card on my upcoming Small Business Promotional Seminar; another card on an article I’m drafting for a national magazine; cards on two ideas for new books; a dozen cards on writing and promotional assignments for my clients that are currently in the works; and a couple of other cards for marketing tools (a newsletter, new direct mail package, audiotape) that I want to finish up before this coming fall.
Each of these cards –containing the name of the project, its job number, and the target date for completion –is pinned under the appropriate category card. The new Corporate Profile I’m writing for a client is, for example, pinned under Projects in Scripting. When it’s finished and is ready for release, I’ll move the card to the Projects in Production category.
I can also write down specific information on job cards. If it’s a video script, I can jot down the date it’s due at the client, the date revisions must be finished…that sort of thing. In the case of a brochure I’m preparing for another client, I can write down the printer’s name, the date it’s due to the printer and the date it’s due to be delivered to the client.
With this system, at a glance, I can look up at the board and see where I’m at with the couple of dozen projects that are “in the shop” at any given moment. And so can anyone else who needs to know.
That’s a big chunk of the Work Wall, but there’s more.
Like you, I need a daily dose of motivation. I need to know why I’m working, and what I’m working towards. My main goal is on a separate card at eye level. It reads: To become the best source of copywriting and business training materials in the country; and then to leave the country. I see this every morning. It’s my reminder that in a few years, I want to be able to move this business to Tahiti, or Cancun, or the Virgin Islands; somewhere where the palm trees sway and the ocean breezes blow, and…well, you get the picture. Whether or not I actually move out of the U.S. of A. at some point or other is fairly irrelevant; I simply want the option to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ in the near future. And, just like you, I need to be reminded –on a daily basis –why I’m doing what I’m doing.
(Besides the more mundane reasons of paying the rent and buying gas for the car, that is…)
Also on the Work Wall, I’ve pinned up pictures of my children, my grandchild, my mother and my fiancee. I want to be able to help these loved ones both financially and emotionally; because I see their pictures several times a day, they are a constant and silent source of motivation and inspiration.
You might be surprised to learn that your picture might well be on my work wall, too; several photos of my friends, fans, role models and best clients adorn one corner of the wall; as does a list of all my clients and prospects. Even as I write this, these names and pictures serve to remind me that I’m working for you, and have your best interests at heart.
There’s more, too. One eye-level card reads “The Task At Hand.” This is where the list of this week’s activities goes. And a card next to it lists the month’s goals (sales volumes, that sort of thing) and weekly activities –like when ads are due at various magazines, when a meeting is scheduled with a client, interview dates/times and the like.
One thing the Work Wall lacks is a calendar, and let me discuss this briefly. YOU SHOULD ONLY HAVE ONE –REPEAT, ONE –CALENDAR. AND YOU SHOULD CARRY IT WITH YOU. I use a Day Runner “Time Management System” planning book with separate timesheets for every day of the week, and a separate section with two pages for every month of the year. EVERY meeting, every edit session, every meeting, every follow-up phone call, every birthday or anniversary that I have to know about is in that calendar. You don’t need a calendar at your desk, another one in your briefcase, another one on the kitchen wall, another one in your study. You need ONE calendar that has everything combined, and you need it with you most every place you go!
As I sit here typing away, my own personal, portable “life-at-a-glance” sits just to the left of my keyboard, open to today’s date. Glancing down and to the left, I know exactly who I have to call today and what I have to do today. Glancing up, I know why I’m sitting here working, I know whom I’m working for today, and I know exactly what has to be done next after this article is finished.
If you’re a typical businessperson, you have a dozen projects –all in various stages of completion or disarray –going on at any given time. You are working on a client project or ten; you’re attempting to prepare a news release; you’re writing up a proposal for a big prospect; you’ve got a seminar booked for the end of the month and you’ve got a dinner meeting to host this weekend. A Work Wall is an eminently simple, cheap and effective way to organize your work AND your life in one fell swoop. Get yourself down to the local office discount store tomorrow morning and pick up a large bulletin board, a box of art tacks and a pack of 4″ x 6″ index cards. It doesn’t have to be fancy, although you can cover a piece of thick foamcore in a hopsack fabric to match your office decor, of course. All it has to do is facilitate your own individual work flow.
You may feel that you don’t need a Work Wall or a carry-around calendar system right now but face it! –as a motivated businessperson looking to succeed, you’re well on your way to prosperity and success, and you’re going to start implementing some of the tricks and techniques that we’re sharing with you, and your business is going to grow and grow and grow…and one of the best tricks I can tell you is to get prepared NOW to manage your growth and success.