Of all the tools we have at our disposal as managers, list making is probably the single most important tool for improving the productivity of your associates, as well as yourself. I encourage not only managers, but all associates to become disciplined list makers. There is usually so much work to be done it is impossible to rely on our memory to keep track of what needs done. That’s when things start to fall through the cracks and get overlooked. Making a list of things to do for each associate and ourselves must become part of our daily routine. So where do we start?
We start by making a master list – an all-encompassing list of tasks to be done. Anything we see or think of should be recorded on our master list – even the smallest of details. Routinely walk your lot, your facility, inspect the offices and work areas of your associates and list all items you see needing attention.
From that master list, we can prioritize our tasks. What needs to be done today? What must be accomplished within the next week, the next month, the next quarter, etc. The next step is to determine who is to perform the task, as well as when and where the work should be done. Keep in mind that list making requires more than just writing down things to do. The art of list making is methodically planning the day’s workload to encourage the associate to work at a quicker pace therefore accomplishing more, without overloading them with unreasonable expectations of what can be accomplished in a certain period. Too few items on the list doesn’t usually challenge our associate to improve their performance while too many items can create a sense of defeat before they ever get started. There are many benefits to good list making techniques.
- The master list is a comprehensive never-ending list of things to do. I’m a bit old school – give me a pen and a legal pad, and then turn me loose. Some folks choose to maintain their master list electronically on their phone or tablet. The point is not the means, but the results. Ultimately, I want to make a daily work list that will challenge my associate but can be accomplished in one day.
- Prioritize what needs done now and what can wait. Decide who needs to do what and then make a list for each associate.
- Meet with each associate, review their daily work list and communicate expectations. Make sure my associate clearly understands what is expected of them.
- Make sure he or she has the training and the tools needed to complete their daily list.
- Periodically follow up and communicate with each associate throughout the day assessing their performance, helping them overcome obstacles, praising their good work and providing feedback on the areas where they have struggled or failed to meet expectations.
- At that time also discuss what could have been done differently to influence the outcome.
- Require them to mark off each item when completed and return the list to you at the end of the day. Take time to acknowledge their accomplishments and question the unfinished tasks. Let them tell you the challenges they encountered that prevented them from completing the list.
- Usually any unfinished items carry over to the following day and at the top of the list, so the associate knows the priority is to finish what didn’t get done the previous day before starting on the new list of things to do.
- As items are completed, mark them off your master list. As you are marking things off the list, you are also adding new tasks to your list.
- Once a week (I chose Saturday morning), tear out all pages and start a fresh list, carrying over the unfinished items.
- List making provides opportunities for associates to show what they know and can do, while at the same time identify opportunities for improvement, which also identifies areas where we as managers can improve our training and development of our associates.
- There is an art to list making and my experience is that few managers really maximize the value of making a work list for their associates, as well as themselves.
Make no mistake, there are managers out there who do well despite being poor list makers. But realize that they probably work harder and longer hours than needed, and their associates probably are not as well trained, and the entire lot may be lacking in discipline. But also understand that those managers who have the discipline to make good, thoughtful work lists day after day will have more success, less turnover, and better trained associates who can be promoted.
The choice is yours – you can become proficient at planning and writing good work lists and enjoy increased success, or you can choose to ignore this incredibly simple but effective tool and make your job and that of your associates more difficult than needed.
Make the commitment to become an effective list maker. Do the things it takes to make sure your associates are productive every minute they are on the clock. Do these things now so that you are better equipped to manage more staff, more customers and more profit as your business grows.
Finally, know undoubtedly the habits you are developing today will have a tremendous impact on your future and that of your associates.
-Eddie Hight, November 16th, 2018