As an entrepreneur who works with fellow entrepreneurs, I see a lot of shared challenges.
When it comes to the services Tricycle Creative offers, our wheelhouse is with entrepreneurs who have limited Marketing resources, expertise, and/or budget.
But there’s a universal thing that I see all entrepreneurs struggle with – productivity.
Let me be clear about one thing – being productive is not easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things to do. It’s not some happy accident. Its difficulty is amplified because it’s something that you have to repeat every single day.
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
-Paul J. Meyer
Early in my career, I recognized that there were two options when it came to how I approached work:
1. Have no system or process for how I approached my day-to-day and be at the mercy of colleagues and supervisors for when and how things got done.
2. Take the time to create a system and process that I can implement to ensure that I am on top of deadlines and deliverables.
For me, option #1 was chaotic, unpredictable, and a recipe for career stagnation. Option #2, however, wasn’t an easy path. Where to start? There are a million productivity books, tips, tools, and hacks – how the hell do you know where to start?
What I’ve put together here is a culmination of years of tinkering with productivity methods. It combines (and I think simplifies) concepts from Bullet Journal and Getting Things Done along with online tools to help keep you productive.
My mantra for my company and for my clients is to “Keep Pedaling”. I believe this system will help you do just that.
There are several parts to being a productive entrepreneur and all of them need to work together. Think about like this – you have a pristine tricycle. Wheels are all shiny and inflated, it’s got a fresh coat of red paint, hell, it even has a brand-spankin’ new bell. BUT, it’s handlebars are busted.
No matter how great the tricycle is, if you can’t control the steering you’re going to end up in the wrong place or at the bottom of a ditch (hope you had your helmet on).
So at the very beginning it’s important to outline and understand the vital parts to being productive.
Capture: How will you record information and tasks that are necessary to keep you productive and others informed and accountable?
Convert: How will you differentiate and record tasks and information?
Recall: How will you reference information and tasks at a later date?
Are you ready? Then...
CAPTURE: It Starts With Paper
There are no shortage of digital notetaking options available. BUT there are a bunch of reasons why I recommend doing the old-school analog way:
- Engagement: Whether I’m in a meeting with 1 person or 10 people, I want my attention on the people I’m meeting with and the topic(s) we’re discussing. Showing the people you meet with that they are the priority will not only be giving them the proper respect but it can also keep a meeting on task and on-time.
- Reliable: I don’t want to worrying about having to plug in or connect to wifi or opening a file. We live in a world of constant distraction – even cracking open a laptop or turning on a iPad opens up a Pandora’s box of notifications and distractions that are not productive.
- Science: In a study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles compared note-taking by hand versus using a laptop. They found that “the students who were taking longhand notes were forced to be more selective – because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.” Furthermore, in citing researching why note-taking is beneficial they cited the encoding hypothesis which says when a person is taking notes, “the processing that occurs” will improve “learning and retention.”
My paper of choice? Moleskine notebooks. And to take it up a nerd-notch, I even have a pen of choice – Pilot Precise V5 RT. Call me old fashioned, but I think if you don’t have a pen preference in life, you’re doing something wrong. This particular pen is super fine point so I can maximize the notes I take on every page.
Bullet Journal Method (tweaked)
I utilize an extremely stripped down and not pretty version of the Bullet Journal system. Take a quick scan of #BulletJournal on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean.
This can be the meeting title or subject. If it’s a meeting, I recommend also adding the date. I put this in all caps, align to one side of the page, and put a box around it.
In this example, I use the same style and formatting whether it’s notes from a meeting or if I’m just brainstorming on something.
While taking notes, I record them using a hierarchical system. It looks something like this:
I use bullet points for main or high-level topics/ideas (Topic 1), dashes for details/information related to “Topic 1” (1a), and arrows for details/information related to “1a”.
So, if at this time you are thinking, “I’m already lost” – don’t worry. You don’t have to do it exactly like this. You can create your own system OR simply use bullet points for everything. That will simplify it down to its core and IS STILL BETTER than doing nothing or having no system. You’ll still be able to CONVERT and RECALL at a later date.
Ahhh, the ever-important tasks. To ensure these don’t get lost, I use a different coding system for recording them – a box.
Depending on your role, you may need to capture Tasks for yourself or for everyone in the meeting. Even when I’ve been in a senior-level position, I CAPTURE tasks for others when in meetings. This can not only be a CYA (cover your ass) exercise (you have it writing!) it’s also helpful because you can review all tasks and owners before the meeting ends and send out in a summary email so that everyone’s on the same page.
In my example above, the “Pick up milk” task is for me while the “Pick up eggs” is for Steve. Last time Steve didn’t pick up eggs. He ruined Frittata Friday. Don’t be a Steve.