All I need to do is get these three things done. OK item one: Send that package. OK to do that I need to gather everything up. OK to do that I need print that out. OK well, that really needs to be edited. OK to really edit it I need to re-read it and get out my red pen. OK I need to print it. OK I need to get more ink for the printer. OK I need to get on Amazon to get the ink, OK Hey, that looks neat I’ll get one of those while I’m on here and save time. OK but I better check reviews on this 2nd item. OK and on and on and on… then 2 hours later… Hey, what was I working on? Oh, crap I missed sending that package!
Ever have this happen? This is going “Down the rabbit hole.”
The Task Dominos. I find a good way to think of things is in a hierarchy of Vision, MIssion, Objective, Project, Task.
Here’s a VERY basic example:
Vision: To make the agriculture entertainment world so fun people would rather visit farms than theme parks.
Mission: Build up our attraction clients into profitable, fun destinations.
Objective: Create incredibly fun attractions.
Project: Develop & perfect the Barnyard Board Game attraction.
Task: Choose the best paint colors for the blocks.
Mostly we find ourselves in realm of tasks because, quite frankly, things need to get done. Tasks are the lowest level of operating, however, which can create those days in which you do a loot of things and never get anything done. You actually did get tasks done, but you feel frustrated because you didn’t move any of your Objectives or Missions forward. You wake up dreaming about your vision, but the task dominos start falling and you struggle to keep your head above water. You struggle to stay out of the rabbit hole.
Projects. The next layer we often reach is the project level. You want to install a new attraction. You want to renovate your web site. You want to serve fried food. This is a very useful, practical level. My trick is to organize my projects by file folders. I do this to keep things off my desk, collect a to-do list of tasks, and especially to allow me to collect information in a safe place and keep myself from working on the project until I have time for it. I find a new web site or brochure that I need for the fried food project, but I’m working on our marketing plan – throw it in the folder for later.
Technology aside: I also use Evernote to scan and store information I might need in the future, but don’t want to clutter up amy desk with a hard copy. It’s free at Evernote.com. The scanner is about $400. The key is that I’m clearing my mind and desk, because I know I can get it instantly with a search in Evernote. I don’t need to remember the details.
Target your Objectives. We’re only going as high as Objectives today, because if you can master this level, you’ll have plenty of time to work on the next two, Mission and Vision. You Objective level is: Increase the food & beverage revenue and enjoyment at our farm. OR Decrease marketing costs by 10% while growing social media engagement by 50%.
You can see how each of these would have multiple projects, large and small, beneath it. Each project would then have a series of tasks. You can also see how keeping all of this straight is nearly impossible. It’s probably becoming obvious that you could run down the rabbit hole on any of these objectives, projects or task lists.
What to do about it.
Name your nemesis. In Harry Potter, the nemesis of our hero Harry is Voldemort. He inspires such incredible fear in the land that people call him “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” because saying his name, eventually (spoiler alert) reveals the location of rebellious people. Harry persists in using Voldemort’s name throughout the series as a direct form of rebellion. Naming the problem reduces it’s power over you.
Writing is better than thinking. Not only should you write and name your tasks and problems and challenges and opportunities, you must take it a step further. You must write down every single task, activity, process, script, video, brochure, person, action necessary to wipe this project off you list.
Writing it all down is giving the project or problem a “Name” so it’s not floating around in your mind. It becomes concrete and workable. It’s just hard to get in the habit of writing things down.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Don’t Write Things Down:
- It’s all in my head. I know what I’m doing. Bulls**t. I’m just calling b******t on this one and you can’t dispute it. At one time or another “it’s all in your head”, but it isn’t right now or you’d be done with the project and laughing at me instead of desperately reading this for a solution. Did you know that cognitive research has determined that humans can barely capture, contain and control seven individual directives or channels in our minds at once? How many of you have more than seven projects underway right now? How many of those projects have more than seven tasks yet to complete? Right. It physiologically can’t be all in your head, so don’t put it there. Write it down. All of it.
- If I sat down and wrote it all out, I’d never get anything done! Picture in your mind one of those days when you ran at full speed all day only to realize that you got nothing accomplished. You and I waste so much time each and everyday putting out fires, checking email, starting and stopping projects and racing down the rabbit hole that we actually HAVE the time to do the planning!
- Reacting feels like action. The biggest problem in my work world is that reacting feels like action. You know the feeling: An email comes in with a guest or customer order or complaint. You jump in as the hero and solve the problem! Great! Then, you check you other email and off you go down the rabbit hole until another emergency arises! You swoop in to save the day! By the end of the day, you’ve moved NONE of your projects forward and you wonder why you feel lousy.
- Someone might hold you accountable, maybe even you. Let’s be honest: You don’t want to be criticized. If you write an objective down and you don’t achieve it on time, someone could call you on it and you certainly will know you didn’t do it. Even the fear of self-criticism prevents us from writing things down.
- Writing things down makes them real and stifles my creative thinking. I must be free! Sometimes I have to writing the stuff that goes through my head down just to laugh at how stupid it really is. I used to say this to myself! I’m an idea guy I can’t be constrained by lists, man. What a bunch of crap. Writing things down keeps you from believing this stuff your brain makes up to try to avoid accountability. I routinely have to pull myself back from the land of make-believe, because we live in the real world. One of my favorite quotes is: “You’ll deal with reality sooner or later, so you might as well deal with it now on your own terms.” – Todd Bieler.
How to try it out, the easy way.
I know this sounds like a big deal and huge time drain, so to make it accessible for you to try out, to sample. I suggest you do these 3 Steps for just ONE Project. If you like it, repeat the process for your other projects, just do it ONE AT A TIME to keep it light and easy.
- Get a file folder and label it for your project. (Ex: Build a Corn Box).
- Place all the pictures, brochures, web sites and information you’ve ever collected on Corn Boxes into the folder.
- Use a BLANK sheet of paper to brainstorm for 5-10 minutes all the tasks, items, materials, costs, procedures, people, other operators to call, EVERYTHING you can think of that you might have to do to build this box – just write in down in any order as fast and free as you can. (This is a good time to involve your staff in the process if they will be a part of it.
- Use a 2nd BLANK sheet and organize the tasks neatly by kind (i.e. Construction, Staffing, Equipment, Financial, Location etc.)
- Type (preferred) or use a BLANK a lined pice of paper to organize the tasks by the order you THINK they should be done or MUST be done down to the most minute detail. (NOT “order materials”, BUT “draw plans, count 2x4s, count 4x4s, measure cubic ft for concrete, estimate shingles, choose paint color, etc.)
Sound like a lot of work? It’s not because once you do this for maybe 1 hour, you NEVER HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT AGAIN. You just have to do the things on the list and you’ll have a Corn Box.
That’s the magic. That’s why it works. Your brain is free to think about the next project because this one is off the table. It’s planned. It’s done. No longer will you chase this project down the rabbit hole because you’ll know exactly what to do.
I want so desperately for you to be successful that I took my time to share this with you. Let me know if you do this on just one project and it helps. Let me know how it feels when your first folder is done. Try it. I dare you. You’re brain will thank you 🙂
Have a great week,
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