One of the best lessons we learned while growing from subject-matter experts to running and scaling a business was how important it is to stay focused, and not become overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks.
A couple of years ago, we asked a start-up experienced colleague to put together a “Business Bootcamp” class tailored to our needs. We will never forget the yellow, pink, green, and blue Post-It notes. We began to see tasks in color!
We based our low-tech (read: cheap) Post-It Note system on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, below:
In our Post-It system, we decided that yellow was “urgent and important”; green was “not urgent, but important”; blue was “urgent, but not important”; and pink was “not urgent and not important.”
Comparing Startup Priorities
My co-founder and I pulled out our multiple pages of “to do” lists, wrote each task on an individual sticky note, then placed these Post-It’s on the whiteboard in color groups.
It was amazing to visually see how many tasks we were busy with that were actually blue or pink. It was also an opportunity to check in with one another as co-founders about what tasks we valued and which ones needed to be put on the back burner to help the other accomplish those “important” tasks. We realized the pink stickies were “rabbit holes” that were draining us of energy and taking us off course.
We graduated to a more high-tech version of prioritizing once we had learned this lesson.
We tried several tools, but settled on Trello, a digital organizer. This has significantly increased our productivity and focus as well. In the past, my co-founder and I used to exchange 25 to 75 emails or texts daily. We now have all of our activities and updates on Trello, significantly increasing our ability to focus on tasks without interruption.