In your time as a manager, did you ever feel like your job title role would be better described by the word “firefighter?”
Unless you’re an actual firefighter, I’m guessing you’d probably say “no,” but let me paint a picture for you before I ask that question again:
Let’s say you have a client who is tasked with you and your team with a project. You sit at the beginning and do your best to plan the project. You try to think of all the tasks that the project consists of, try to figure out which tasks are dependent on each other, who in your group can do each task, and in the end, after a lot of hard work, you have a deadline date that you will do your best to reach.
You collect your team, give them an overview of the project, and assign tasks to each of them. Your team agrees, and you’re ready to start.
Fast forward a week – the materials the clients were supposed to send you still have not arrived. As a professional, you still do what you can to reach the deadline.
Fast forward another week – one of your employees is out with the flu. They will not be back for a week, but you can not move forward with the project until their task is completed. Since everything has been brought to almost a standstill, you can begrudgingly admit you and the client that you have to move the deadline.
You spend hours going back to the drawing board to try to rearrange all the other tasks, like so many pieces of a puzzle, so that you can get the tasks to line up and get the project completion date as close to the deadline as you can. You shift some functions to other reliable people, but they often start to feel overloaded.
Fast forward another week – one of your team members completely forgot about a task. This task was incredibly important, and other tasks were dependent on it. There are essential materials associated with that task, but finding them is going to take a while. Back to the drawing board with you, this is going to take a while.
Fast forward yet another week – the team’s lead worst fears just became true, the client changed something big on the project. You once again have to start the planning process all over again.
But that’s not all; your team has a few projects from a few clients, so all of the struggles you encounter from just one project will likely be happening in all your other projects too.
Every time, you spend countless hours trying to make up lost time. You feel like you’re just running around … putting out fires.
So let me ask you again, have you ever felt like a firefighter?
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What if I told you that there was an easier, more natural way that would make your planning more effective so you can spend less time working and more time relaxing? With this solution, you will have more time to create value instead of spending it on fixing messes, and your confidence in your team will soar.
We went through the same issues when we ran our own digital marketing agency. As with most agencies, we weren’t able to make dedicated teams for each client. When planning out projects, we had to figure out how to plan out all our tasks from all our different projects so that all the puzzle pieces would fit together. And, like most agencies, we struggled with overloading team members and meeting deadlines.
“Think about it – if this system saved you at least five minutes a day … you could potentially save 210 work hours a year.”
After some time, we grew tired of feeling like firefighters. We worked long hours every day trying to make sure tasks got done and dreaded calls from clients that would inevitably want to change something.
We grew so tired that we developed a three-step system that helped us finally start planning more efficiently:
Step One: Use Visual Timelines with Dependencies
The ability to see all your team’s tasks from all their projects, with all their task dependencies, is a great way to start. You probably already have a way to keep track of tasks already, but you still need a way to easily and quickly figure out what needs to be done now, which tasks are dependent on one another, and which tasks can be pushed back until later.
When tasks are arranged on visual timelines, they can be arranged according to project or client. Once they’re all laid out, you can see all the dependencies within the project, and you can have a better idea as to when you’ll hit your project’s deadline.
Step Two: Keep an Eye on your Team’s Workload
Once your tasks are on an easy-to-use visual timeline, you can then visualize your team’s workload. The easiest way to do this is to take the same timeline you used earlier and sort the tasks according to the person who’s responsible.
Since all the tasks you’ve planned out are on this timeline, you’ll easily be able to see if any of your team members are overloaded or not. For example, if you planned out two tasks on different projects at the same time for one person, you’ll be able to see it right away and correct the mistake. Congrats, you’ve just saved you and your team some time and spared you all the stress of having to scramble to put out a fire.
Step Three: Create A “Single Source of Truth”
Team members often inevitably end up wasting a lot of time working with outdated or incorrect information or spending a lot of time trying to sort through emails looking for an essential piece of information. This setback could easily be avoided if a team just created one central place for information.
If you can store all of your communications, attachments, tasks, and deadlines in one place and arrange them according to client, project, and task, you’ll save a substantial amount of time.
Think about it – if this system saved you at least five minutes a day, that’s 25 minutes a week, or almost 21 hours a year. Now imagine everyone in your team used this system – if you had a team of 10, you’d collectively save 210 work hours a year. Multiply 210 hours by your team’s hourly rate, and that’s how much a little planning can increase your revenue.
It’s essential for businesses to solve these common issues as soon as possible, especially since poor management and lack of planning are two of the most common reasons that so many small businesses fail.
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If you want to stop feeling like a fireman, and you want to have more time to relax and actually create value, remember to do three things: use visual timelines that show task dependencies, make sure you are mindful of your team’s workload, and create one central area for information so your team can stay on the same page.
This may sound pretty hard to do, but it does not have to be. We believe that life should be easy, which is why we created LogicalPlan – a tool to address all these problems, and more!