In the last 12 months, we doubled our revenue and tripled the size of our consulting firm. It was awesome, and grueling, and terrifying.
Let me explain...
Awesome: More people meant we could do more things, faster, better, stronger than before. I was pumped that I didn't have to work 60-80 hour weeks anymore :)
Grueling: But oddly, my work time wasn't shrinking. More people meant more channels of communication, more things to think about... growth meant new and different -- not less -- parts of the business needing my time. :/
I was being pulled in so many different directions that I felt like I was reacting to everything, and being proactive and purposeful about nothing.
Terrifying: I had a hard time figuring out, and balancing, where to spend my time and I knew that if I didn't make a change, all of the growth we experienced would come to a screeching halt. I was working insanely long hours and I knew I couldn't last at that pace for much longer. I feared that I would be so mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted that I'd just want to call it quits. :(
There were many things that I changed to ensure we could continue our growth, but this one change had a huge impact on my day to day productivity.
And the change was really simple.
I decided to plan what a Perfect Week looked like.
I knew that if I was purposeful about spending the majority of my time on the highest impact activities for the business, I would get outsized results.
So I made a change.
Here are the exact steps I used, including the excel template I built, to plan my perfect week. View template
1. Make a list of all the things you do or need to do each week
I started by making a list of all of the activities that I was currently responsible for. I started with work tasks but then I included things that weren't work related, like eating and working out, because those things are incredibly important to my physical and mental health. I knew if I didn't add those things I wouldn't be purposeful about doing them, so I felt it better to plan time for them.
I also tried to think of things that I thought I should be doing as the cofounder of a growing business, which proved to be a little harder than anticipated since I've never lead a team this large before.
To get some perspective, my cofounder and I met with a couple of CEOs with companies slightly larger in size and stage to get an understanding of how they spent their time. This helped us make sure we were doing the things that we should be doing and delegating what we shouldn't.
I added a few more items I hadn't been doing to this list as a result.
2. Give a priority score to each daily task
At the beginning of the year, we spent time as a team to set goals for the company and each employee. We implemented the OKR system (it's a really effective goal setting system, check it out if you've never heard of it).
OKRs have been a tremendous addition to our entire team's productivity because everyone has clear objectives they're focused on.
I copied my personal OKRs and the company's overall goals into the spreadsheet so they were top of mind.
I made sure that I also had all activities that helped accomplish my goals.
I then began scoring activities with a 1, 3 or 8 -- 1 being low priority and 8 being high priority. By giving the higher priorities a significantly higher score (8 vs. 1) I made sure my time reflected activities with highest impact.
Activities with a score of 8 were usually given to those that lead to achieving my goals.
Then, I calculated the weighted percentage each activity had and then multiplied it by 40 (for a 40 hour work week) to see how many hours I should block off for each type of activity in a week.
Now, I knew how much time I should block off during the week for each activity.
3. Build your week
In excel, I laid out a week starting at 8am going until 7pm. I started populating the week with when I wanted to work on tasks.
My mind is usually sharpest in the morning so I put tasks that required a lot of thought and creativity in the mornings, and left tasks that were more meeting related in the afternoon.
As I populated my week, I had a column add up each instance of that task so I could see whether I had allotted enough time to a task.
I added a conditional format to the spreadsheet so I could see a little better when an activity had enough time added.
4. Create a calendar and put your new week to use
With my new perfect week planned, I created a new calendar in Google Calendar called "Yaw's Perfect Week" and started creating events on the calendar that matched the one I created in excel.
I made each task recur each week forever.
I use this in conjunction with my normal calendar which my team has access to. They overlay on top of each other, and I use it as a guide to plan things like when I should have sales meeting, versus an teammate 1 on 1, versus an interview for a new hire.
This made it really easy to see and be purposeful about where I spent my time.
5. Completing tasks using Asana
I use Asana as my to-do list. One of the best features I use with this Perfect Week system is the tagging feature. Whenever I have a new task I need to get done, I tag it with the activity type it is.
This did something really interesting for me that I had not anticipated.
The power of batching
I have a tendency to be reactive and complete a task as it comes to me, which is one of the main problems why I was so unproductive because I was constantly task switching and context switching all day long.
For those of you that practice Getting Things Done (GTD), you'll know the power of batching. When you batch tasks together you set the right context for all activities you need to work on and you can actually complete them all faster.
By tagging features as I create them in Asana, I could quickly just click on a tag to see a list of only those items I need to get done. For example, when its time to do my content marketing activities, I could just click that tag and see all the things I need to get done.
I can click on a tag...
And see all tasks I've tagged content creation:
This is SUPER useful because I don't have to spend any time thinking about what I should be working on, I can just filter my to do list and execute.
As promised: you can download the spreadsheet I used here.
If it helps you, I'd love for you to do one of two things:
- Send me an email about how you're using it and how it's helped. I'd love feedback about what's working and what isn't: yaw [at] sticksnleaves.com
- Share it with others!
This has dramatically improved my daily productivity and I've become less of a bottleneck for my team because I'm able to give my team the time they need, get things done, and focus on what matters most.
Hope it helps you, too!