The Printable CEO Revisited

Printable CEO It’s been about a month since I made my Concrete Goals Tracking worksheet, aka The Printable CEO. In that month, about 8000 people have visited the original page, and about 1700 have actually downloaded it. Another 500 enterprising folks have downloaded the editable Excel version. Cool!

But does it work? I’ve been using it for the past four weeks; here’s my report.

What was The Printable CEO Again?

Dave's Work ListIn case you missed it before, The Printable CEO is just a tracking form I made to keep my focused on growing my freelance business. It’s a paper-based, using a carefully chosen list of of tasks coupled with a motivational point-based tracking grid. My past interest in game design and development–and acknowledgement of my slacker-perfectionist tendencies–led me to structure it as reward bonus system as opposed to a completion tracking system. In other words: it’s good feedback when it has relevance in the game system; in my case, that’s “making money”, “maintaining connections that lead to opportunities” and “making assets that will make money later”. Whenever I do something on the list, I know it’s one of these things, and that those things contribute directly to the growth of my practice.

Dave's Tracking TableI think To Do lists are fine tools for managing tasks, but they’re somewhat cumbersome when it comes to motivating personal or business development. If anything, they are demotivators, because things that aren’t on the To Do List still have to get done. I am a company of one, and I have to deal with unexpected client interruptions, computer issues, fleeting business opportunities and other small fires every day. The Printable CEO is my reminder that yes, I must develop assets that pay off in the form of new creative business opportunities. And money–crass as that sounds, I need to make sure I’m making enough money so I maintain creative independence.

So How Has It Been?

I’ve been, as they say, eating my own dogfood by using the Printable CEO for the past four weeks. My personal experience has been pretty positive; observations follow:

  • Filling in the bubbles is still strangely satisfying, even after four weeks. The experience isn’t as spiritual as it used to be, but I just like using the No. 2 pencil to fill in that bubble. There’s a fun doodling feel to it; perhaps it triggers a similar reflective frame of mind, activating the right side of the brain?

  • I found the Notes Area quickly became a kind of pseudo-todo list, because the form was generally handy. Put important information where your eyeballs can find it easily! I tended to list things that I wanted to do for the day, and then add the points with a “+5” or “+2” modifier as they got done. I also wrote some phone numbers on it. Developing this into a full task tracking system on the side is a new project I’m undertaking to extend the concepts.

  • If I didn’t write down the tasks I did right away, I would forget them. So it was very important that I wrote down tasks as they happened.

  • The weighted list of goals was absolutely critical in making this work. I found that there were days that I looked over the list to find something to do that would bump up my point count for the week. I also found myself looking at every task to see whether or not it was worth points. The beauty of this is that this is exactly the mentality I want to inculcate: thinking about business development activity all the time! Ordinarily, one might think of “spinning” every activities to be worth points as being a form of cheating, but in this case it’s not. It’s resourcefulness and adaptability instead. Choosing the right goals, of course, is the tricky part. Your goals should all have concrete results; if the fruits of your labor can not be counted like money or shown to someone else, then your goals are not concrete.

  • Counting weekly points at the end of the week gave me a feel for what a “productive” week should be. A good week runs about 50 points, which includes talking with people and posting a few blog articles. That works out to about 7 points a day (including weekends). Add billable work to the mix, then the points double. I add +10 points for each project performed as billable work, so if I do two projects in a day, that’s a +20. However, if the billable work was under an hour, I would score it as a +5. My best week was 107 points, which included about 3 days of billable work.

  • The original ten goals covered every situation except for one: measuring qualitative return on investment. Following the original list, I got points only when I made something, counted something, or did billable work. However, I realized I should also record when an asset pays off again without requiring further work on my part. I had forgotten to account for this in the system; proof of an asset bringing in revenue is cause for celebration, because it means it’s out there working for me. For example, say that someone wants to hire me because they read an article on my blog. Although I had already earned +2 points for the article writing, I give myself another +2 points because someone actually noticed it. Likewise, if someone wants to hire me because of some artwork I did, I would give myself another +5 points. Every time that artwork works for me, it should give me another 5 points. This reinforces the importance of creating good assets; they are worth way more points in the long run, and I believe this is important to the long-term viability of my business.

  • Now what to do with these points. They’re useful for getting a quick qualitative measure of how busy one is, but I also have the desire to redeem them somehow. Like, for every 1000 points, I get to do something fun or buy something cool. This could work well in a school setting. Choosing the reward, of course, should follow the principle of good asset purchasing; if you buy something, make sure it can help you make MORE assets. I think that’s called a “capital investment”.

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p>##Summing Up So is it working? Yeah, it is.

I know I’m making progress because I can see the numbers every day. The overhead of tracking these tasks is very low because it’s bubble-based, and the concrete goals list makes it easy to focus on something productive to do. What’s really cool is that these forms help maintain continuity in my daily goal-directed actions; that’s another prerequisite for good feedback in a game system.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been more busy with billable work, and have found I’ve had to go back and make some To Do lists after all; like I said, they’re great for managing tasks. I found myself starting to use the Printable CEO Notes area for keeping a small To Do list since I was always looking at it. I will probably incorporate this into Version 2.0 of the Printable CEO in the weeks to come.

I was also talking to some friends over lunch, and it occured to me that The Printable CEO has a strange appeal to procrastinators. One of my friends is the Anti-Procrastinator. She just gets things done, and a To Do list is a great tool for her. Another friend is a procrastinator-perfectionist; he doesn’t start those big personal projects because he doesn’t have the time to do them right. I can identify with that myself; I have no trouble planning out a project in terms of hours, resources, and manpower, but I just would rather not do it for something I love to do. I want it to flow more naturally. As I type that out it seems a little silly, but that’s the way things are for me. The Printable CEO is not a To Do list. It’s an I DID list, rewarding productive behavior when it happens to happen. That’s an important distinction to note. And because it only rewards the correct actions, it is also a kind of conditioning tool.

So that’s how it’s going for me. How’s it going for you? You might find The Making Of The Printable CEO useful if you’re adapting it to your own purposes.

Update: Task Tracking

The Printable CEO Part II Now that you have your task direction established, check out Part II of The Printable CEO for Task Progress Tracking!