How I Stay Productive: I Make Myself Accountable
There was a point over the winter where every germ in New York City seemed to find its way to my doorstep and I was alternating between playing nurse and patient for from mid-February to the end of March. No problem. One of the perks of being an entrepreneur is that you’re the boss. You can decide to put your business on the back burner for a few days or weeks when necessary.
But if you aren’t careful, the other stuff—be it a sick kid, the side work that’s funding your start-up, or easy but unimportant work within the start-up—can take over. Since you’re the boss, no one is going to complain, but before you know it the important, but time-consuming, challenging stuff has been at the bottom of your priority list for way too long.
I've learned that the best way to keep the essential stuff at the top of my list, even while I tend to those other things, is to find ways to make myself answerable to other people for them.
In January I sent a note to nearly everyone in my email address book and personal Facebook and LinkedIn universe. I briefly explained the FamiliesGo! concept and asked them all to follow the company on Facebook or Twitter. Sending that note was one of the scariest things I've ever done; Once I announced to everyone I knew that I was launching a business, I really had to go and do it.
For that same reason, it was one of the best things I’ve done. My friends and family—not to mention the growing following on Facebook and Twitter that they jumpstarted for me—would be looking for updates on how the project was going. And I wanted to have news to tell them when they asked. So I started to think in terms of small chunks of work that would yield real milestones for me to point to. These became a useful to-do list for things I most needed to get done.
Here are some of the items on my list:
- Launch a survey about parents’ travel habits on SurveyMonkey
- Get 100 people to answer the survey
- Start the search for a web designer
- Hire a web designer
- Agree on a look and organization of the website
- Develop content for various pages of the website
- Get 100 Facebook followers
- Start the search for a partner
- Find a partner
- Formalize the partnership
- Write a business plan
- Get GoogleAds to approve the site
- Launch the site
One of the hardest tasks to manage on that list has been developing the content. Some of it, like building a hotel directory filled with the hard-to-find details parents need, is, exactly the kind of essential but tedious work that's easy to put off in favor of just about anything else. To make sure it gets done I've made myself accountable to someone else for it by lining up a web designer.
I knew that once I signed a web developer, she would get to work and would need content from me to keep going. I wouldn’t want to be the one holding up work I was paying for. So I use her schedule to maintain my own momentum in getting the hardest part of the content finished.
That decision came in handy over the winter when my house became germ central. During that month and a half my very healthy web developer kept working and emailing with questions or asking me to try out and approve new features on the site. My productivity dwindled and things were still delayed, but having her there kept FamiliesGo! moving forward and helped me get back on track as soon as I could.
I've done nine of the 14 things on that list, and I'm well onto the rest. This has given me news to report to my Twitter and Facebook base (note to mention stuff to talk about at family get-togethers). But more important it's progress I know I've made toward getting FamiliesGo! off the ground. I hope to complete the 10th item on the list—formalizing a partnership—soon. That will give me a person I'm answerable to every day. I look forward to it.