This week’s Praxis Monday guest was our own Director of Operations Sara Morrison — a master of organization and efficiency.
Have you ever heard people talking about becoming the CEO of the Startup of You? In this session, Sara talked about how to become the Director of Operations of your own career.
Sara talked about:
- What operations is, anyway (and why it’s important)
- How to keep yourself organized
- How to block and manage your time
- How to improve your efficiency and establish personal KPIs
- How to build an unshakable reputation of reliability.
Here’s the full rundown:
So What is Operations, Anyway, and Why is it Important in Your Career?
Operations: organizing and optimizing things so you can be more reliable and efficient.
No matter what role type you’re working in, you need to make sure you’re organized and efficient — just like any company, no matter what their product, needs an operations department.
The more organized you are, the more you can get done, and the stronger your reputation of reliability is.
The first step to being organized is to implement an organization system.
“It doesn’t matter how good your memory is — you need a system for organizing your projects and tasks.”
— Sara Morrison
Think of your system as an absolute, and specific tasks and projects you take on as variables. The specific tasks will change over time, but no matter what they are, they can get plugged into your system.
Anything new you take on can get added to your system, whether it’s a new project or a new area of responsibility.
You can use:
- Paper list
All that matters is that you use it and implement it.
“But I have a good memory and I’m not Type A. I don’t need a system!”
No matter how good your memory, things will always fall through the cracks. If it’s an area of responsibility, you can’t assume it’s going to be remembered and completed unless you write it down.
Once you have a system, make it part of your daily habits.
Use your system all the time, until it’s entirely habituated.
In meetings, take notes. Write down your action items. As soon as you leave each meeting, plug your action items into your system. That’s how you keep things from falling through the cracks.
It’s also important to establish a schedule.
System: tells you what you need to do.
Schedule: tells you when you need to do it.
Without a schedule, it’s hard to manage your time. You can miss deadlines or run out of time, which in turn makes it easy to lose social capital.
Google Calendar is the best system to use. Sync your calendar to your phone, and your schedule will be with you all the time.
When you’re building a schedule, the first thing you need to do is set up recurring events. Plug in anything that happens on a consistent basis. Then add in your week-by-week tasks.
Whenever you have an important task to finish, block time to get it done. Having an empty calendar can feel deceptively open, and it’s easy to leave things to the last minute. It’s much better to block out specific times to work over the course of the week. Sara recommends working in 90-minute blocks of deep work, and using the Pomodoro Method within those time blocks (20-30 minutes of work followed by a short break).
“A river without bounds is just a swamp. Projects without bounds just expand and expand.”
— Sara Morrison
Finishing projects is also really important. Lots of half-finished projects give the illusion of being productive, but you never get anything done.
Measure your personal KPIs.
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. It’s a way of measuring your effectiveness and your output over a period of time.
Think about your deadlines from a pass/fail mentality. Did I hit them or not? Then more specifically — “I’m already doing what’s expected of me. I’m clearing the bar. But what can I do to go above that?”
Measuring progress over time means comparing how much you used to be able to take on vs. how much you can finish now.
Keep and measure your personal KPIs. What metrics are you using to track your progress and growth?