In a brilliant, thoughtful piece added as a comment to Your Chance to Contribute, Kaca looks at the problem of one person wearing six hats. Her description of both the problem and possible solutions inspired me to finally pull up a chair and take a closer look.
To give due where due is due, my special guru Pat Wiklund insists that some hats truly need to be outsourced. As an example (one which, by the way, went like an arrow straight to my greatest weakness) she praises her webmaster, who can do in the blink of an eye what she would love to spend a week doing. "I'm really a techno-geek, you know," she confesses in a whisper to a roomful of people. "The thing is, he does it so very cheaply, and what I would spend 40 hours doing he can do in two."
On the same note, Kristy Rogers, the dynamo Managing Executive Director of San Jose's eWomenNetwork chapter, says it's impossible to compose a perfect 30-second pitch for one's own business. The detachment, objectivity and perspective simply isn't there. This is a good thing, of course, hey, which of us want to be dispassionate about our business. Hiring somebody for the pitch is essential, says Kristy.
Then again, as Kaca says, sometimes that is not possible. Her swiss-cheesing method takes into account the time-constraints of only having 24 hours a day (every Christmas I ask for 48, but it hasn't happened yet).
I would argue here that the discipline problem she points out is rather a problem of focus. It's difficult, and in fact exhausting, to shift to different "personalities" without a formal process of letting go of the current one. Not to mention that some tasks simply require such deep immersion, that switching in and out would make quality results iffy at best. What to do?
In the March monthly contest, Compass Life Designs asked:
What strategies do you use to stay focused on important tasks?
I loved Adrianne's answer:
Post Posted: Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:42 pm
Post subject: March Contest
Lists, lists, and more lists!
Whether using Outlook at work, Palm at home, or index cards and journal for brainstorming, everything ends up on a list "a la" David Allen's GTD. I sit down, clean up, and reconcile all the lists with each other twice during the week.
On Thursdays at work, I focus on activities related to my public life, both professional and volunteer. This may include anything from planning for continuing education or decorating my office to travel for a national conference of one of my affiliate groups.
Saturday afternoon or Sunday evenings, I go through the same process with an emphasis on my private life in all its facets - when to visit my broker and when to reconcile my checkbook; when to buy new clothes and when to drop off dirty ones at the laundry; whether to invite my parents to dinner or visit them at my aunt's house; when to block out time for a bath and book and a bottle of wine. . . Smile
When I'm done, I've updated my calendar, revisited and reviewed my priorities for the next week and the next few weeks or months, updated to-do lists with target dates, and most importantly, decided what gets moved from an action list to a someday/maybe or "wish" list.
There are several things I like about this:
- Adrienne is very honest with herself. Thinking that she can be organized by having one list and one list only, is worse than playing entirely out of her hip pocket. I have six Hats on my team, I'd better have at least six lists!
- As she points out, a Palm Pilot isn't the most appropriate brainstorming tool for capturing and refining the ideas I might work out as I ride a bus to a networking event across town.
- She suggests that the lists need to be reconciled twice a week in order to incorporate two very different perspectives - professional and personal (hey, who'd a thunk it? I'd have assumed once a week would do it, would have conscientiously included all my business needs, and then felt frazzled and insufficient when it didn't work out!).
- There are scheduled days and times for both reviews, making them more automatic, less needful of discipline (and I love the timing she's come up with, every Monday she's perfectly set up for the week, with confidence in the setup, and a rested spirit).
- Now look at the last paragraph - Hat of Manager signs off, Hat of Administrator knows what needs to happen, and all the other Hats know what they're doing and what resources they're going to have at their disposal.
Hello, my name is Lauren and I'm a notebookoholic. I've been a stationary store junkie for more years than I can remember. I'm pretty sure it's a genetic predisposition, caused by a little-understood DNA segment over which I have no control. Each new idea, each new project, and off I would go to buy a brand new notebook. Composition notebooks, spiral notepads, legal pads, hard-cover journals, blank books of hand-made paper, hoping against hope that this time the inspiration would actually turn into reality.
(In case you're not similarly afflicted, the end result is abandoned projects and stacks upon stacks of half-filled, fallow notebooks moved from spot to spot as I re-organize my office yet one more time)
Until the day when I got an email that a prospective client would be phoning me in 10 minutes regarding a new kind of project and I'd better be ready for an in-depth interview. Following that interview, I had another call to a second client, one I really couldn't afford to lose.
Hocus-pocus, where's my focus?
Nightmare images of the sheets of paper containing a long list of questions and pitches, the uhm and ahms as I frantically scan my eyes for the next item to address, trying to tie it to an answer already given, well you can imagine my panic.
Then, in a flash of inspiration, I grabbed a stack of 4 x 6 index cards, scribbled one question per card, and with high-lighter pens drew a colored line across the top of the cards. It worked brilliantly. Plenty of room for answers, freedom to resequence cards depending on the customer's direction, and much easier to do follow-up with than a page inside a notebook.
Yep, and as Adrianne says, also works really well for brainstorming and for cribsheets for trying out new pitches. Let me know your ideas for using index cards.
Shannon Kelly of Kelley Crafts is a talented brainstomer. I hope she follows up on her dream to begin a second business, this one as Muse to entrepreneurs. She told me how she uses index cards to organize her networking contacts and follow-ups. Each new business card gets taped to a 3 x 5 index card, with comments about who the person is and why they're interesting. Follow-up calls get documented, as well as any other relevant information.
I tried it and it's saving my sanity. I am able to file them by date, making it easier to retrieve a card for a person that I met "about 2 months ago - had to be because it was not long after the New Year." I could never do this with MS Outlook. MS Outlook pressumes I remember their name. Not a chance. I do remember occasions though.
Furthermore, I use the highlighter strip idea to identify people with whom I want to initiate a strategic alliance. These will, of course, always float to the front of any follow-up queues.
Pulling it together
Adrianne's idea of lists, lists and more lists, maintained and reconciled at predetermined times, makes Kaca's ideas of swiss-cheesing easier since there's no need to keep making the same decisions again and again. Hat of Management has already done all the homework. Shannon's use of index cards makes swiss-cheesing a lot easier for Hat of Administration's contacts' filing and periodic base-touching.
Let me know your own Hocus-pocus-focus tricks!
Whew. I think we're actually making progress here! Huge hugs to Kaca and all my other Stars & Angels!!!