Given the hectic, fast-paced environment of a club, most club managers struggle to complete all of the things they would like to do, during the day, week or month. With cluttered desks and full email inboxes, it seems that things keep ‘piling up’. In addressing the problem of ‘so much to do, so little time’, there are two primary areas of consideration.
Firstly, it’s working out what actually has to be or should be done. Without a considered plan, we can be like a Bowerbird – attracted to the next shiny object they see.
The second part is determining what are the most important things to be done and the order they should be done in. The reality is you can never “get everything done”, so the focus should be on completing the tasks that will reap the best rewards.
The time-honoured and seemingly simple to-do-list, in theory, is the answer. Psychologists maintain that our brains are suited to to-do-lists because they: -
reduce stress caused by our hectic lives;
provide a plan and structure to guide us;
provide proof of our achievements
Some club managers resist the structure a to-do-list can provide them, citing they need to be flexible, reactive and creative in their roles. However, the experts disagree. David Allen author of the book ‘Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity’ states that anyone in a full-time managerial position will struggle to cope without structure. Working ‘off the cuff’ is no recipe for success.
The good news is that even the most basic of to-do-lists is of tremendous benefit. Just writing down a task to be completed is more tangible and real than a concept or thought. For example, schedule a marketing think tank is much more effective than thinking about the high-level objective of attracting more members. And, having written it down there is less of a chance it is forgotten and that steps will be enacted towards achieving the overarching goal.
Whilst these are great starting points, creating an effective to-do-list is the ultimate aim. Even those managers who are advocates and perennial users of to-do-lists can be more precise in utilising this powerful management tool.
Making a to-do-list is an individual and personal exercise. The following tips and pointers can assist in enhancing basic to-do-lists and maximising the results they provide.
Digital or Paper?
The first step is to decide what is going to work best for you. Modern technology provides us with a number of digital options that make the creation of a to-do-list fast and easy. Whether they sit in Microsoft/Mac Outlook or in one of the numerous apps, digital to-do-lists are readily usable and portable.
However, scientific and neurology research strongly suggests that the physical act of writing has a cognitive link to recognition and memory. When we write something down it is more meaningful and it is more likely it will sit higher in our priorities. And, if you haven’t picked up a pen this millennium, don’t worry, it’s your personal to-do-list and none else has to read it.
One or Many?
A natural tendency is to think of a to-do-list as an all-encompassing comprehensive list. An evolving document with every task, you want or need to complete, on it. This can be quite daunting and unwieldy. The alternative is multiple connected lists.
A master list can concentrate on the longer-term items. Whilst, a weekly list narrows it down, focussing on the tasks to be done during the next five to seven working days. And the third part is the daily to-do-list – tasks that must be done today! The important thing here is that the lists must work together. Each day refer to your master and weekly lists and decide which items should move to the daily list.
When working with daily to-do-lists be realistic and try to avoid the overload, stress and ineffectiveness of having too many things on the list and trying to do too much at the expense of doing it right the first time. Set a limit on the number of tasks that you allow on your daily to-do-list. If you set your limit at twelve, the tasks that don’t make your daily list can go on your weekly or master list. And if you get through all twelve, refer back to your weekly/master lists and knock a task or two off them.
Even though you have limited your daily to-do-list to a realistic and manageable limit, it is important to prioritise your tasks, ensuring the important tasks get your full attention. These important two or three tasks should be towards the top of the list. This doesn’t mean they need to be tackled first, there may be more appropriate times during the day to work on them, but they must get done. If the other tasks on your list aren’t completed, at least you know you’ve completed the most important and meaningful ones.
A Running Start
A colleague of mine used to start their daily to-do-list with the entry “complete to-do-list”. I thought this was a bit silly until they explained the psychology and positive impact of crossing something off the list quickly and giving your day a running start. There may be some simple or quick tasks that you may not consider worthy of your to-do-list, but put them down, do them and cross them off, it doesn’t hurt and it’s quite empowering.
Some tasks, especially those that filter down from strategic plans and club-based goals are worthwhile and big-picture yet a bit vague. The technique here is to break them down into manageable constituent parts and specific tasks. For example, if the big-picture task is to conduct a competitor analysis for the board, the daily task may be to select three competitor clubs to analyse.
Again, distinguishing between, and using your master list and weekly/daily lists can be part of breaking tasks down into bite-sized chunks.
Some club managers fall into the trap of thinking their to-do-list is the list of everyone’s tasks. After all, they are the manager and need to oversee all the functions of the club or their department. The three rules to remember about to-do-lists are:
They are actions items, not ideas – they are to be physically done
They can be completed within a day – if not break them down into bite sizes
Only you can do them – they’re not tasks that sit on other team members to-do-lists
Taking ownership means you are the one to get the task done. It is a specific task on your to-do-list that you will do. This doesn’t mean you can’t use your to-do-list to delegate tasks/pass ownership to others. It just means your task is quite specific – meet with Jenny to task her with doing the bottle shop inventory.
Your to-do-lists tasks don’t need to be brief notations. They can include information you need to complete the job and help you remember the purpose behind them. For example, instead of Email Jim, provide a reminder on what it’s about and include Jim’s email address. Email Jim about attending the zone meeting – firstname.lastname@example.org
Allocating time estimates and even locations to your to-do-list can help with the flow of your day and prioritising your to-do-list. If an important task on your list is going to take a few hours and you need to travel to do it, you will be able to consider how the other things on your to-do-lists will fit in. It may be that other things on your daily list have to move to the weekly list or you only schedule three or four items on today’s list.
Also, remember to allow for contingencies and when scheduling, be flexible, giving yourself a buffer between tasks. If you’re on track or ahead of schedule you may be able to squeeze in a small task that wasn’t on today’s radar.
Some items on to-do-lists, especially master lists, remain untouched for prolonged periods of time. It’s a good idea to regularly review your master list and, in particular, analyse those items that seem to be ‘stuck in limbo’ – ask yourself why haven’t they been done and be honest! For ‘stuck’ items there are a few possibilities and options.
Re-define the task – tackle it from another angle. Sometimes even a simple re-wording of a task can help
Break it Down – as mentioned bite-size chunks are the way to go
Dump It – Maybe it wasn’t appropriate in the first place or is now obsolete – don’t do it just because it’s on the list
Allowing your to-do-list to be visible to others can help keep you accountable to your list. The more out in the open it is the harder it is to avoid. Another colleague of mine kept his to-do-list on a big whiteboard in his office, visible to anyone inside or walking past. This served two purposes
It meant the physical action of getting up and writing down tasks
Created a sense of potential embarrassment for not completing what was ‘announced’ to be done.
Sometimes we don’t get around to spending the time to write down or review and re-write our to-do-lists. This defeats the whole purpose, so making it a routine every day is critical. Whether it’s the first thing you do to start the workday or you get into the habit of it being your sign-off exercise each night, ensuring you have a current daily to-do-list is ‘half the battle’.
Once you’ve completed a list you throw it away, right? NO. Keeping your completed lists shows your accomplishments and reminds you how productive you have been. Keeping a to-do-list book is a good way to record your tasks and looking back through the book may even provide thoughts and ideas for new tasks.
New Day New List
It can be easy to continue your daily list, crossing off what’s been done and adding new items to the list. However, it is cleaner and more powerful to take the time and re-assess each day. Things change and what may have seemed a high priority early in the week may now have been surpassed. Making a new list each day poses the question of what is really important to focus on today.
The Club Managers Association of Australia (CMAA) has been supporting and developing club managers to achieve high levels of leadership and management ability for many years. The training and development of knowledgeable and motivated leaders that are capable of achieving greatness on behalf of their clubs is a passion of the CMAA. To this end, they offer the professional certification - the Active Certified Club Managers Award (ACCM).
Individuals who hold the ACCM, have demonstrated that they possess the skills, have the range of knowledge and can model behaviours that drive premium results for their club.
The foundation stone of the ACCM is the Club Managers Leadership and Management program, an online, training course, delivered by elevateB (a specialist training company) and independently endorsed by Australis College (a Registered Training Organisation)
The Club Managers Leadership and Management program has been modelled on the Diploma of Leadership and Management, ensuring it covers a full gambit of management and leadership topics. Importantly, it has been tailored and contextualised for club environments and day to day club management situations. To successfully complete the program, participants are required to demonstrate required knowledge, skills and abilities through application and activity submissions.
For more information on the Club Managers Leadership and Management program, click here.