Monday, 21 June 2010

The Big and the Baby Step – My “TNS” and “NBT”

To be productive, I think people are finally starting to catch on that doing less is actually the best way to do more. Doing less enables you to:

  • Focus on getting the job done right first time.
  • Not stress about how much you have to do. There are only one or two things to worry about.
  • Spend time on actually getting tasks related to this “one thing” done since rather than managing several lists telling us everything needs to be done.

So, focus on less, do more.

TNS - “The Next Step”

“The next step” is something that is “the minimum required to add value”. However, “minimum” doesn’t mean compromise quality.

Adding Value – Make A Statement

The first thing you should do is establish what the step will give you:

  • “This step will allow our users to upload content to the site”
  • “This step will have all my household utilities set up for my new home”
  • “This step will have me packed and prepared for my vacation”

Write this down on the top of your kanban board/list (whatever task management tool you prefer). This is important and helps you remember why you were doing it.

What About Small & Simple Tasks with “Little” Value?

Just do them. Take advantage of the quick win and reap the rewards. Fold them in your daily “ToDo” and get them done.

For example:

  • Call Chip to discuss plans for cosmic spangbobulator.
  • Do grocery shopping.
  • Wash pants.

The key thing here is: if you can defer the task, do so. If the cupboards are full of food, don’t go shopping! Always leave work until the last responsible moment.

If however, they form something that will add value to your life, but needs a bit more work than loading a washing machine, then get it onto your “Next Step”.

Every day, make your daily ToDo and review this board. Try to do at least one item each day. If people are blocking you, chase them. By the way, when I say “do”  I mean “do” as in DONE – there is no “50% complete”. An “action” should always either be done and removed, or done and replaced with another action.

NBT – The “Next Big Thing”

Now, these are big tasks, normally spanning weeks or months. These relate more to goals. We are talking things like:

  • Actual projects (new website, whatever you do).
  • Physical training plans.
  • Big holidays (read “Vegas Baby”) :)
  • Achieving financial guys.
  • Looking for a new job.

Yes, if you are reading these and talk to me, you will realise that several of these are, or have been recent NBT’s for me.

As with TNS – make a list/board for the things that need to be completed. Now the difference here – update this as you update your next steps but only review once a week.

The idea being here is that your next step will be contributing in some way to your next big thing.

Yes, I know what you are thinking – “well, I need to do more than prep for a party in Vegas!”. I know, me too (sadly). So yes, you can have more than one TNS, by that, I mean two, and only TWO.

Why Two Baby Steps But Only One Big Thing?

Put simply, big things tend to be stressful in some way (tasks aside). So we force ourselves to break down the big thing into a constant stream of baby steps. IF (yes, IF) we need a second baby step in parallel, then we limit it to only one to force us to truly assess the value of what we are doing.

If you can’t express why you are doing something and what difference it will make to your life, why the hell are you doing it?

For me, I have found “the next step” and “the next big thing” to be a natural evolution of “personal kanban”. These allow me to focus on just the right amount of work to keep a steady pace up. How do you make sure you limit how much you do? How do you find the value?

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