Running a team isn’t like it used to be. You have your personal schedule to manage while communicating with multiple team members — on and off-site. Everything’s important and nothing waits its turn to grab your attention.
Note: This post is the spiritual sequel to last year’s post detailing our favourite process tools. Like the Man with No Name trilogy there are some similarities between the two, some things have changed, and they are completely different. But it’s just like Heraclitus said, “No [user] ever steps in the same [information superhighway] twice, for it’s not the same [internet] and [they’re] not the same [user].” Just consider this post a different river.
Keep it offline.
There is a host of to-do apps and record-keeping platforms. Keep it simple — look for something that’s private, won’t die on you, and keeps you concise. A paper journal or offline text editor combo is ideal.
This is where habit > tools. It always does, but no one’s going to make you write in your notebook so if you don’t do it, it’s on you.
Pick your paper poison.
To give you an idea of the innumerable options out there:
– A pack of index cards held together by bulldog clips
– Exercise book (I’m not linking to that since you should know what that is)
– Field Notes
– LEUCHTTURM 1917
Usually people agonize over every type of notebook before settling on the most expensive one. This is backwards. The average paper journal varies very little and the quality between best and worst is difficult to notice for most people. Especially beginners.
When it comes to pens, there is a huge correlation between dollars and quality. Do you want one pen, two pens, black pens, or blue pens? Some are skinny and some are fat. Really depends on where you’re at.
One of my favourite tool review blogs is the Wirecutter and they tested dozens of pens to determine the best one. For those who don’t have time to read the entire article here’s their pick, the Uni-ball Jetstream
An affordable pen that writes incredibly smoothly on any paper, is just as good in right or left hands, and is available in a variety of [colours] and thicknesses.
Reliable and sturdy — these are the qualities of the most desired writing implements at Agency Media. They’re closely-guarded and withstand the most aggressive office writers.
The real power of a blank page is in how you organize it. For every notebook, I listed above there are a dozen writing and organizational systems. Whether you choose something simple or complicated depends on your personality and how much you’re willing to invest. Just remember, it might seem as though organizing your time is (ironically) a waste of time, but you’re eliminating unnecessary tasks and events. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You, puts it this way:
Sometimes people ask why I bother with such a detailed level of planning. My answer is simple: it generates a massive amount of productivity. A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.
That’s a 50% increase! Since time is the only resource we can’t make more of, the next best thing is to increase your productivity. Extrapolate that to the rest of your life and you’re the next POTUS (or something).
If your team isn’t communicating well, it’s ineffective. You’ll miss action items and deal with disorganized projects. Your and your team members’ time will evaporate in the pursuit of inefficient goals and morale will drop like a brick.
That’s why we recommend Slack. Since adopting the simple (Canadian-founded) communications platform last year in March, our company’s teams have been able to scale efficiently and without the growing pains that often come when you double your workforce. We’ve built everything around Slack — it seamlessly integrates with pretty much every time tracking, project management, documentation, you-name-it platform.
“Oh, another app,” you say. Technically yes, but there’s a reason why Slack is the fastest-growing business in the world. It works. With a multitude of guides on how to get started, it walks the line between freeform and structured. You can set it up based on how your business works — not the other way around.
When we first adopted Slack, there were a few false starts. (Too many #channels and @private messages.) Slowly our habits adjusted and we drafted up some best practices. Depending on how your business is structured, we recommend having a few team channels like accounting, design, marketing, management, and sales. This keeps conversations that don’t fit into a specific project in public which is important for transparency. Next, set up channels for specific projects and encourage team members to keep all communication related to each project in that channel. As new people join and others leave, it creates a record of decisions and document revisions. At the moment it might not seem important, but in a month when you’re trying to identify when and why something occurred, it will be invaluable.
Of course, these tools are only as good as the habits and intentions driving them. Follow the links scattered throughout this piece as they’ll provide a solid background for each principle and tool covered and if you have any questions, or comments, feel free to message me on Twitter, comment below, or send me an email.