Making Things Happen: To-Do Lists/Timelines

This is the second in a 3-part series. See part one here.

In the first part of Making Things Happen, we talked about setting goals. We ended up with this as the final goal: “I want my team to share development tips and tricks monthly via professionally designed marketing eblasts with my customers.” We’ve clearly defined what the goal is; now it is time to execute it.

Without a to do list with deadlines (read: timeline), this goal would never be achieved and we all know it. It would just sit there as a dream rather than an executable goal. So, how do you build a timeline? Well, start with the end goal – “monthly eblast.”

If we want to send our monthly eblasts starting September 1, we need to start with that date as the last step and work backward. We need to take into account staff availability (scheduling around vacations, meetings, etc.).  In  Part 1, we also discussed having a professional design it, so we need to make sure that the person we are contracting with can deliver the initial template in time as well.

At MightyData, we use an awesome tool, MightyTask, developed by our own Martha Zink in FileMaker to manage our timelines, but you can use any task builder that lets you assign dates – or even Excel. The point is to make sure you know who is doing what and when they are doing it by.

We’ll start at the end, with me being assigned to publish the eblast on 9/1. Prior to that, we’ll need a proofread and an approval from Visionary of Value, Kirk Bowman. So, we need to put that on the list for the morning before in order to allow time to make any needed revisions – due date, 8/31 by noon. (Yes, adding times is often necessary!) And I’ll put on my plate to complete the edits by 5pm on the same day.

From there we just step backward through the process: layout by me in Campaign Monitor, final edits to development tips & tricks copy, proofread/approval of tricks/tip copy by Kirk, tips/tricks copy written by awesome team members, ideas for tips/tricks brainstormed by team, etc. Make sure you look at the calendar as you back out the dates, taking into account team workloads, other deadlines, vacations, weekends, holidays, etc. It can be a tedious process. You might have to make minor adjustments due to unforseen circumstances once you get started as well. So, make sure that you leave some wiggle room in your initial timeline.

After the timeline is built, you want to get buy-in from the team that they will work to make those goals, and also to alert you to any conflicts you might not have realized (you know… that 3-day meeting they forgot to put on the schedule…).

Next step is to contract with your designer on the template. You need an approved template before 8/25 (the day on the timeline that I will be laying out the eblast). So, move backwards through all the little tasks – approval, revisions, template review, revisions, design ideas, meeting with designer, getting an estimate from the designer, even sending the email to alert her that you want to contract her services. You can schedule these steps on top of the others, making sure no one is overloaded on a specific day.

Oh… and has anyone bothered to find out if you actually have a Campaign Monitor account set up to do this in? You best add that to your timeline as well.

After you sort through all that, you should readily be able to see if your 9/1 date is realistic. If it isn’t, you should modify your target to be 9/15 or 10/1 – whatever works. Do not be misled – if your initial timeline isn’t realistic, you will not be able to achieve it.

The next part is to actively monitor your schedule and drive the project forward with your team, making sure everyone is getting things turned in and turned around on time, reminding them in advance and then prodding them if they are late.

The last step? Repeat all the necessary steps (no designer and Campaign Monitor set up this time!) for the next month. And now, guess what? You’re sharing development tips and tricks monthly via professionally designed marketing eblasts with your customers! Congratulations!

In my next post, we’ll discuss how to prioritize, which will be based on your task list. Until then, keep your to-do lists up to date.

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