Productivity / Business plans

Is it time to crack the WIP?

A mate of mine kicked off this year by escaping the office to develop new plans, products and growth strategies for his business. What happened was unexpected.

14 March 2011 by

Rather than return with a to-do list full of new actions and exciting plans, he came back with a to-do list shorter than when he left. After careful consideration over a few surfs and solo café meetings, he decided that this was to be a year of ruthless ‘focus and consolidation’.

Relieved of the burden of taking on more, he found he was inspired and energised by the simple idea of delivering his core service profitably to his ideal clients. And my bet is that his business, balance and bank account will benefit as a result.

At Flying Solo, staying focused is something we are, well, focused on. For several years Robert, Sam and I have had a Monday morning Skype call to talk shop. We’ve always followed an agenda, but until recently we had no real system for collating or tracking each of our to-do lists.

Working in separate offices and on different clocks left too much room for uncertainty and a lack of accountability to one another, and the business. Shortly after realising the impact this was having, we developed a centralised work in progress (WIP) list that we update on our call.

It’s an extremely simple document with the following columns: Project name | Status/next steps | Who | When. At the bottom is a ‘future ideas list’ for things we want to get to, but that don’t yet justify a place on the to-do list. Each individual’s ideas are considered, and we collectively decide what deserves a place on the list.

"Working in separate offices and on different clocks left too much room for uncertainty and a lack of accountability to one another, and the business."

With Sam in charge of overseeing it each week, it’s become known affectionately as ‘The Whip’. At the end of each call, the updated Whip gets circulated so we each know precisely what we’re up to that week.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business plans section.

While it was designed to track things to do, it is now equally important for identifying things ‘not-to-do’. By definition, increasing focus on important areas means less focus on other opportunities. Just like my friend, we have a renewed energy for all things Flying Solo, which is good for business, not to mention mojo.

Business owners can be easily distracted by shiny new opportunities and as a result are often spread too thin.

With competing priorities and limited time and resources, how do you focus your actions? Perhaps it’s time to crack the whip.

PS: If this topic is resonating with you, read more about offsite planning or soloists away days.

Peter Crocker

is a director of Flying Solo responsible for marketing and advertising. As a business copywriter he partners with digital agencies and corporate clients on websites and digital content. He’s the co-author of Flying Solo Revisited – How to go it alone in business.


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