Did you get it done today? What about last week, did you finish all that you were piling on? How about last year? How did you fare in 2013? If your year were a song, how would it sound?
If you are like most people, you wandered in the swamp a bit, got some things done, and have a long list of projects that you’re now re-prioritizing. Your 2013 song probably lacked harmony.
We all tend to be overconfident in accomplishing too much in too little time. After all, our ambitions will always exceed our ability to execute, given the available level of resources. It doesn’t matter if we are acting alone or with a large group; smart creative people can simply think of stuff faster than that same stuff can be done. Our priorities change and our lives and workflow are often interrupted by unplanned activities and people. We may even interrupt ourselves as we generate ideas that come at times inconvenient. If our lives in such a state were put to music, that music would be full of staccato notes or might even resemble a cat randomly dancing on a piano keyboard.
I prefer my music and life more harmonious so I created a tool for myself to help stay on top of my changing priorities. I call it my Daily Flight Plan. I print and use this daily. You should use it, or something like it, too.
I periodically update the calendar on this Daily Flight Plan productivity tool and always make it available for FREE. This version has a Q1 2014 calendar along with week numbers. Print one and use it daily to keep track of what you are doing. If you want to learn more about the visual cues at the top then read the original blog post or read my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT. If you want to compliment this with a larger format sticky note based wall planner, then check out the PlayBook from the Big Idea Toolkit.
I hope your 2014 is more fun, more impactful, and more meaningful than your 2013 was. If your 2013 rocked then maybe you can lend an ear, hand, brain, or whatever to someone that struggled. While GDP and the stock market are up in the U.S, most people’s personal economies are still fragments of their former selves and not improving rapidly. There are plenty of people that need help. Reach out. For ideas on what to do check out Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT.
Good luck, have fun, and make more meaning. I hope your 2014 song is easy on the ears.
Mobile technology is a great lifter, providing people of most any means the ability to learn, share, communicate and even publish. But, sometimes technology needs to be augmented with objects of a nontechnical nature, like the pencil, the pen, a calendar, ordinary paper, or the movable sticky note.
We’ve all been talking on the phone while at the same time had the need to see a future date, write down what we are hearing on the phone or capture an idea. Of course, if we are really bored on the phone (or in a meeting), we’ll also need a place to doodle. Few reading this may remember the Pee Chee folder, a staple of yesteryear, where students could doodle or otherwise fashion their paper folder treasure with names of rock bands, their best friends, or the like.
Yes, technology might give us the ability to entertain our time away playing games, send messages, or access information, but it doesn’t help in the situations mentioned. For those you still need paper, pencil, a calendar, etc. That is why I created and use the daily flight plan.
I’ve also made it free and available to you. It is good for all of those things already mentioned but it also gives me the ability to list my dozen or so priorities for the day. I’m guessing you have some too, unless you are a cat. If you are a cat, please turn your reading device over to the person who feeds you. After all, they need your feeding to be a priority.
The Daily Flight Plan is:
The daily flight plan helps me to stay focused on the things I’ve committed to. It also helps me to understand the trade-offs when I get interrupted and need to shuffle my priorities. It can help you, too.
When you set priorities and make them visible, there is more likelihood you’ll complete them. Having this visibility helps you to prevent committing to things unseen. You can set a task, and know where it falls on the calendar so that you can prevent disappointing yourself or others. You can also see how many weeks away something is. This is especially useful for planning out activities across time rather than leaving everything to be completed at the last minute. The daily flight plan uses week numbers, a universal concept that you can also enable in your electronic calendars.
Fun fact: If you used the daily flight plan M-F for every week of the year, you’d have methodically and predictably completed 3120 tasks that might otherwise be left undone, undeveloped, incomplete or completely forgotten.
On the daily flight plan there are mental reminders for the 3 legged stool, 3 funnels, touchpoints and some guiding principles that can help you stay on top of your game. By doing so, you’ll be much more productive, reduce your stress, and still make time to play those games or actually talk on the phone.
What, why do I need a flight plan you say? Because more than half of the pilots involved in mishaps did not file a flight plan before the accident flight. You might not fly a small aircraft but, if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, you need the equivalent of a flight plan too. Otherwise you may be an accident waiting to happen.
Flight plans for small craft pilots are filed with the FAA so there is a record of where the pilot intends to go. If the pilot doesn’t arrive within a window of time then a search is initiated. The lack of a flight plan has led pilots and their craft to go missing for days. If you want the benefits of a search and rescue party, you’ll need to file a flight plan.
So what does this have to do with running a small business? Well, you too, should be prepared and know where you are going each and every day. How long will you fritter about before you get down to business? Will you be distracted by social media, the next phone call, the insurmountable email inbox? If you are an emergency room doctor or a first responder your plan might be to respond and react. But, if you are an entrepreneur or small business owner wanting to grow your business, you’ll need to cut through the noise and be more proactive. You’ll also want to identify the people that can help you – your small business search and rescue; these might be customers, partners, or vendors.
Like most entrepreneurs and small business owners, you likely have a long list of things that get shoved off to the back burner waiting for another day when there is more time. But more time never actually does come right?
Today is no different than yesterday and tomorrow will look much the same. You only have 24 hours in a day. When it comes to time, there is no aristocracy of wealth. Genius or laziness is not rewarded or punished with any more time.
So, to make the most of what little time you have you must make a daily plan. At Delightability, I use the daily flight plan. It’s a free download; you can use it too.
The 3 Legged Stool
There are a few visual indicators at the top of the flight plan that serve as reminders. The first is the 3 legged stool. Any small business owner struggles with balancing between running a smooth operation, delivering on whatever their product or service is, and performing the sales/marketing/business development function. Even if you are good at all three, you’ll struggle with the limited time available in a day. With the 3 legs being all consuming there isn’t much time for personal life – that should be you sitting atop the well balanced 3 legged stool. But, get out of balance and you and your personal life topple to the floor.
The 3 Funnels
The 3 funnels visual is a reminder that no matter what business we’re in we have customers to serve. Those customers didn’t start out as customers, they started out as prospects. And hopefully, they’ll move beyond being customers to become loyal advocates. So, the 3 funnels are the exposure funnel where you turn suspects into prospects, the adoption funnel where you turn prospects into customers that are using your product or service, and the retention funnel where you turn customers into loyal advocates. For a bit more read this previous post.
The other visual reminder are touchpoints reminding us that we can affect the quality of the interactions that our customers have with us. Exceed the customer expectation at a touchpoint and you have the recipe for delight. Check out the previous issue of the What’s Next newsletter to learn more about the Delight-O-Meter model and see a couple of examples.
Other items on the daily flight plan that can help you get about your business are the weekly calendar that goes 3 months at a time and the Guiding Principles. You don’t want your business to end up like the small craft pilot that landed with his gear up. So, download your flight plan, use it daily, and check it frequently. Use it to note the people you’ll reach out to whether they are customers or consultants. You might not get any more time in the day but you’ll make the most of the time you have available and make a bigger impact along the way.
My Book out in September is Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Sign up to be notified of its release. With it, you’ll be better equipped to design more remarkable customer experiences and then make those experiences come to life in your organization and the business landscape. Sign Up to be notified of its release and please share with others.
Book Project Update
The Experience Design BLUEPRINT is now available. The first section of the book is about making the invisible visible. You’ll learn about the experience honeycomb, experience hoop and halo, and how to model experiences, whether those are for customers, employees, voters, members, investors, patients, clients, etc. You will build a rich experience vocabulary that is relevant to your audience and to your organization’s health. You’ll learn from everyday consumer examples and then learn how to apply filters, lenses, and levers to improve experiences of any type.
In the second section of the book, you’ll learn to visualize your promise delivery system, better navigate change, and improve your skills in overcoming the barriers that plague innovations and customer experience improvement initiatives. Click here or the image to download the one page book summary along with author contact information. Please reach out if you’d like some help.