The Printable CEO

The Printable CEO

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I love the freedom of being a freelancer, but sometimes I wish someone with vision and drive whispered encouragement in my ear: “Good work, Dave! This Flash project you’re working on is a key part of our interactive marketing strategy! All the pieces are falling into place!” But since I work alone, it’s my job to keep myself motivated and away from the dozens of daily distractions that suck productivity out of the day:

  • You should backup and defrag the server, Dave, it’s making funny noises…
  • The time to investigate AJAX is now, Dave, before your skills completely rust into obsolesence…
  • It’s time to recatalog your MP3 collection, Dave, for maximum listening efficiency…

All of which are fine things to do, but do they move me forward in my career? NO! What I need is executive focus from a leader that understands how to grow my business, a manager that knows how to motivate me. I once read that the most effective executives ask themselves a simple question: What can I do to add value to the company? If the task at hand doesn’t add value, then screw it! Do something else that does!

Hiring my own personal CEO would be great, but who has the time and money to do an executive search? I’ve got MP3s to sort! So I did the next best thing: I designed a printable form to motivate my business development activities.

Dave's Work ListFirst, I made this list of tasks that I’ve decided contribute to my business growth, with points assigned that reflect their relative power factor. Although they’re all important, I gave lower weights to tasks that I already do frequently; I don’t need the extra motivation for those tasks. If an activity is not on the list, it isn’t worth any points. You’ll see that the tasks here are primarily oriented toward getting money, landing new revenue, making contacts, and creating tangible assets.

In case you’re wondering, the list is based on conversations I had with various business people I know; I’m sure the items will change as my focus shifts in the future.

There’s a little video game theory at work here too: while the big points are earned by the big tasks, there are enough small tasks that guarantee that you’ll do one or two of them every day. That feels good, and feeling good is an important part of maintaining a high level of engagement.

Dave's Tracking TableNext, I made this weekly progress chart that has nifty fill-in bubbles for use with a No.2 pencil. Whenever you do something on the list, you get to fill in the appropriate bubble(s) for the day. I can set an arbitrary minimum level for the day, like “I will make 5 points”. When I meet or exceed that level, I know I’ve done a good day’s work.

As stupid as this system may sound, it’s actually working. When I get to fill in a bubble, I feel a little surge of pleasure…I’ve been conditioned by standardized testing, apparently. I also get visual confirmation that I’ve done something to move my business forward. This is an interesting example of feedback in a game design sense; over the course of a week, it’s easy to evaluate your progress at any given time. It’s also easy to pick something to do, based on what you’ve done before. The bubble chart becomes a kind of game board in itself. Instead of feeling guilty for not getting to all your tasks on your ToDo list, feel good that you did make progress. Look upon your worksheet for the proof, and feel the sense of accomplishment in your gut!

I deliberately did not make this a detailed tracking form, because that just slows things down. This isn’t a tool for keeping track of how “efficient” you are every week so management can bust your ass. It’s for keeping focused, and as a reward you get to fill out a lot of bubbles with a No.2 pencil. However, since maintaining task continuity is important, the bottom of the form (not shown) is for keeping notes on what you are doing.

Anyway, you keep this sheet of paper out for the week and log what you’re doing, and hopefully it keeps you focused on things that will pay off in the long run. So far, it’s been fun.

Give it a try, enjoy the pretty colors, and let me know what happens!

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For a look at how to create your own list of tasks, check out the article Creating New Years Resolutions with the Concrete Goals Tracker. For more forms, formats, and editable versions, visit The Printable CEO™ Series page.