Creativity in Processes: Tools & Tactics

Creativity in Processes: Tools & Tactics

I am not an artist. I can’t draw, paint, or even write as well as I envision in my mind. But that hasn't left me out of the marketing world- because it turns out even in developing processes you can be creative. Some of us (me) use our creativity not in a typical artistic manner but in the development of efficient processes and operational SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).  

Hang in there. I promise it’s not as boring as it sounds. Having a standard process in all aspects of your business helps you run more efficiently and effectively and believe it or not, keeps your team happy and proactive.  Who couldn't use more of that?! 

So, what are some ways you can be creative in your process management? First and foremost, you need to work through what type of project management philosophy works for you and your team. 

Creative Project Management Styles:

There are several styles of project management - including Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, and Six Sigma to name a few. Many project managers have a style they prefer, and tend to stick to that as a primary means of managing a team. However, taking into account the different personalities, learning styles and array of job functions on a team- sometimes it works best to be a little more creative. For example, we use a combination of Waterfall and Agile in our systems. 

 

To simplify: Waterfall project management involves working in calculated waves, with each step being dependent on the one before it, and a centralized Project Manager (PM)  taking care of the steps behind the scenes. Sometimes this can slow a process down over time so, combining this system with another alleviates a lot of headaches.  In our case we have combined Agile as a PM ethos, meaning we are flexible in how the processes can change and then update our SOPs as needed. While there is still a centralized PM leading the overall project, there is a strong sense of collaboration and ownership within the project team. Combining these has changed the way we work. Our systems are proven and step and repeat but we have flexibility and collaboration along the way- which is how we are able to get so much done so quickly. 

The best tool we have discovered to manage our processes is Teamwork. This tool was specifically designed with the concept that project management can be creative and therefore is adaptable to any of the project management styles you prefer.. Teamwork allows us to create overall workflows and task templates that apply to our specific SOPs, but also allows processes to be augmented or adjusted based on the realities and needs of real life execution. Everyone in the system has the capability to see what tasks are dependent on other tasks and team members, and it allows us to work more efficiently and collaboratively. 

Once you have chosen a style or combination of styles that work for you and your team, you are ready to move forward into making sure all of this theory works in real life. The first step is to evaluate your overall time management and what tools will work best. 

Time Management

Whenever I think of creative time management I envision the white rabbit running around like crazy insisting that he is late for a very important date. And, let’s be honest, we all have moments (days, weeks- months- 2020?!) like that. The key is to be prepared and flexible in your time management and build in time for fire fighting. 

The key to effective and disciplined time management is that you have to get a little creative in how you prepare and you have to develop a routine to keep you engaged and focused, not to mention motivated. 

We use a routine based approach to preparing our days, weeks and months of work, including daily stand up meetings to discuss the day's key initiatives, and regular check in meetings for small groups and the company as a whole. Communication and collaboration is important when establishing a time management system. Keeping everyone on the same page helps dictate appropriate deadlines and helps every individual plan out their work life. 

As for planning out our work lives, we “practice what we teach” by following the time management techniques discussed in our workshops.  These include intention and goal setting, and the combination of digital and paper tools to help you declutter your brain and overcome the stress. 

Yes, I did just say digital AND paper tools. Because believe it or not, writing stuff down helps you remember more than typing. As it happens a big piece of the time management puzzle is actually being able to remember all the things you need to do. (extra hint: it also helps make those goals a reality.) 

Our team uses the Franklin Covey system and personally, I love it. It allows me to prioritize my big tasks based on my larger goals, and I get a clear vision of the day's work, the needs for the next week and beyond and it allows me to create blocked time for when the fire drills happen. 

Blocked time? Yes. These are often flexible periods of your day when you can tackle a specific task or set a general time aside to cover multiple smaller tasks.  Blocking time helps overcome the stress of feeling like you just don't have enough time to get everything done. It also allows for you to see where in your day you can move things around if and when a fire drill occurs. Extra hint: nothing is so important that it needs to be resolved in less than 30 mins. Breathe and take your time to resolve issues as they arise.

 

By being creative in your processes and sharing the successful processes with your entire team, you will notice everyone becomes less stressed and more willing to be proactive in their roles and beyond- which- let’s face it- isn’t that the ultimate goal? A proactive and happy team? 

 

 

 


Productivity Tips for #EntrepreneurLife in 2020: Eat the Frog

If we could sum up 2020 in one quote, it might be this one by Herbert Hoover: “About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends.” This feeling of endlessly chasing a moving target, treading water or running in place was already a familiar part of the entrepreneurial experience. As a marketing and sales agency that works primarily with small businesses, we’ve picked up some tricks over the years to create structure out of chaos and forge ahead into productivity. 

2020 has taught us some new things about doing business in uncertain times, but when it comes to productivity, some of our tried-and-true basic principles have come through with the best results. Our answer to Herbert Hoover’s pithy proverb is this one by Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” This is our classic antidote to procrastination at the @revenue office, and we pride ourselves on being adept and graceful frog-eaters. But in the time of big pivots bringing a deluge of new and daunting tasks, sometimes we find a few more frogs hanging around on our to-do lists than usual. Can you relate?

We’ve seen many successful entrepreneurs and business owners adapt this frog-eating concept into a philosophy that keeps them on track and focused. So how does it work? For me, it gets broken down into these simple steps:

Step 1: Create a list of to-dos. I am a major list creator, so much so that I sometimes have lists of what lists I have. Each morning, as I set out to start my work day, I create an all-encompassing list of things to do. This list is primarily focused on the goals for that day, but often includes larger projects that I can complete in stages. The key is to make your list as comprehensive as possible first.

Step 2: Prioritize your list. Once your list has been created, you want to take a few moments and prioritize it. I generally categorize my list into things I can complete today, those that are deadline focused, those that are in stages and those that arenʼt deadline focused but would be great to accomplish as soon as possible. Once you have a priority in mind, you know where you need to spend your time.

Step 3: Read your list. Read it, and as you do so, mark the items that make you groan vs the items that are relatively simple to complete and donʼt bother you much.

Step 4: Biggest Groan = Frog. Inevitably, there will be one item on your list that you simply do not want to do. Perhaps when you were reading your list you were trying to imagine ways to procrastinate it. You will know what that one thing on your list is. For me, it’s often something to do with cash flow. I just simply hate reviewing accounting and financials. Iʼd much rather spend my time on fun marketing projects and writing.

Step 5: Eat the Frog. As Twain said, the key to having a positive day is to eat a frog first. That biggest groan on your list—do it first. Get it out of the way and the rest of your list will be no big deal.

Mark Twain knew what he was talking about! We use the frog-eating method every day to stay on task. The feeling when you accomplish that thing you were dreading is a natural high that keeps you going all day. Just take a few minutes every morning to prioritize your task list, and when the frogs come to call, you’ll know what to do.