Imagine you are moving along in your project and planning your next campaign when five other projects are dumped on your desk. A few minutes later, somebody peeks around the corner and says “Hey, that one there is a rush, can you get it to me ASAP?”
Sure. You set down your stuff and move it aside. You pick up the ASAP project and find out it’s not in a state that should be sent to you quite yet. So you send it back to the service rep. It’ll come back to you within the hour, so you think you should work on some other stuff for a bit so you don’t get interrupted again. An hour later the ASAP project comes back and so do 3 other projects. Now you have 7 projects plus the ASAP and the campaign. But you haven’t counted them yet; you just see lots and lots of paperwork. Emails, phone calls, special requests, break time. You come back from break and all projects you sent out have come back with changes. You work on those, put out some theoretical fires in the office, and before you know it, you have to go home.
What have you even done today? Are you feeling a little lost and overwhelmed?
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in regards to campaign or project organization is what I call the Have, Need, How method. This was a little something I gleaned from Gwen Amos at CSUS while she prepared us for the onslaught of projects we encountered. In addition to getting analytical people to think creatively, she was tasked with getting a bunch of creative people to use their analytical side even if for a short time, and she did both quite well. Could you have asked her a question if you hadn’t considered the things on your Have, Need, How list? Yes, but you might just be told to make one such list as her answer.
I file her advice on this list with other gems like: “Get it out of your head and on paper or it doesn’t exist,” “Don’t vomit on paper, you would all be fired if this were a job,” “Even if you don’t have everything I asked for, at least have something new,” “This is good paper, it makes colors pop; everyone look at this paper,” and “I’m going to show you all something, but only once.” It was tough making the Have, Need, How list at first, but not as tough as complete writer’s block. This method at least asks you a question you can most likely answer about what you have done, helps you list what needs to get done, and start thinking about how you are going to accomplish those needed items. If you need to make your list specific to each project that is OK, but you can go broader if you want, and go over your schedule for the day or week. Keep this list where you can see it.
You need 3 sections: Have, Need, and How.
What do you have? In this section write down all the things/pieces of the project(s) you have available or have done already. You will feel a little better about yourself as you write this because it forces you to acknowledge that you actually did do something.
What do you need? You’re not done with your project yet, and you’ve got to address the missing pieces at some point. So write down all the things you need to accomplish or need to acquire for the project.
How will you accomplish the items on your need list? This is perhaps one of the most important steps for people who need a little help to get moving. Let’s say you need a new Facebook banner but you don’t know the size. In order to get the correct size you can find the specs on Facebook’s website. Then of course it’s design time. So your action item, or your “how”, on “make new Facebook Banner” will be “1. look up size for Facebook Banner on their website. Here is the size___________. 2. Using our current campaign theme, current fonts, colors and images from style guide (on the book shelf), make banner.” This can go on for some time depending on your position in the company, but it’s usually 1-5 tasks.
This method basically gives you a sense of where you are in a project, and no excuse to not start working on something. Plus you get a handy list that you can check off as you go. Now that you know exactly where you are in a project all day long, you can at least know where you left off if you get distracted.
It’s a good idea to start one of these lists at the beginning or end of the day so that you can get a fresh start. But if you are ever feeling overwhelmed and you don’t have one of these lists to go by, I can almost guarantee that if you take a few minutes to make one, you’ll be more productive (and feel more productive!).
Join me next time for Are You Sure You Read That?—3 ways to make sure you comprehend what you just read.