UPDATED: Getting Organized

A while back, I wrote about how I found a project management software called ASANA and something we were going to start using called ‘Start Sheets’. You can read about how we got started with ASANA here: Getting Myself and My Team Organized

As I stated in my original post, the challenge we were having was we couldn’t stay on top of what was being requested. The bigger challenge was the requests were coming in from so many different ways and people, to anyone on my team, so it was difficult to know where to start attempting to try and manage it all. Here is what we had:

ConfusionConfusion

Requests were coming in from everywhere and to everyone. On top of that, my team didn’t have a good way of managing what was being asked of them, so even if the requests were manageable, there wasn’t a good way to look at all of them in a high level to know what was really going on.

The other item I discussed in the previous blog post was Start Sheets. The idea here was to ask the questions that needed to be asked, so we could get to work on what needed to be done. This seemed to be a good idea, but the problem here was having this ‘sheet’ with you at all times or the questions readily available to be asked.  So, we had software that seemed to be easily useable and understandable, but now the challenge was getting the info into ASANA.

After doing a bit more reasearch I found that I could connect Wufoo, an online form builder, and ASANA. Once the online form was filled out on Wufoo, the form would simply load into ASANA, and it was ready to be processed. We call it the Media Request Form. I’d be more than happy to show it to you if you like, so just ask.

Here is how our new system works. When a request comes in, it gets entered into our Media Request Form or MRF. When the form is submitted it get’s emailed to the person that requested it and to an email list for my department. It also loads directly into ASANA into a project called “New Media Request”. At this point, everyone in my department can see the request. The requested then gets assigned to the appropriate person for the project to be completed.

This system is much like a funnel. When you pour a liquid from a container with a large opening into another container with a small opening, you’ll end up with a mess. When you add a funnel, now that liquid is channeled into the smaller container and nothing is spilled. This is much like how our system works. When all of these requests come from the larger container (all the other departments in the organization) and get submitted to the smaller container (our department) there’s no mess.

Order

Order

Now, obviously there is always an exception to the rule, but here’s the nice thing about ASANA. If something comes in last minute or something gets requested without using the request form, no problem, we add it into ASANA and it’s now a part of the system. We really try our best to enter everything we can into ASANA using the Wufoo form for consistency sake. Because, you know, there’s power in consistency.

What are the ways you are managing the things you, your department, or organization are involved in? I’d love to know. If you’d like to know more about the details of ASANA or our request form, I’d love to share.

The Freeing Power of the Deadline

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been involved with music. I’ve been in concert band in school. I’ve been in marching band. I’ve been in jazz band. I’ve been in garage bands. I’ve been in bands at church. I’ve even been a one man band. Throughout all that time and all of those various bands, I had never played with a click until a got into college. In fact, I’d really never heard of the idea.

I would argue being a musician and playing with a click track is much like having a deadline. Now you might think I’m crazy, but first let me explain. Being a musician and playing with a click allows everyone to stop guessing where the beat is. It allows you to focus on the music, rather than trying to keep time. I will say at first it’s somewhat annoying and difficult, but once you get used to it, it becomes a necessity.

This is much like a deadline. With a deadline, everyone knows where to end without question. And if you’re smart, you’ll create deadlines along the way. You could call these soft deadlines. I’ll talk more about soft deadlines in a later post. These are deadlines that no-one but you and your team knows about. This will help accomplish the big goal at the end. In the beginning, deadlines will be annoying and possibly stressful. Some deadlines will probably always be stressful, but hopefully they’ll get easier to meet once you’ve set a few.

|with a deadline, everyone knows where the end is without question|

via @allenwfarr

So what exactly is a deadline good for?

  1. Everyone knows where the end is.
  2. It sets clear expectations for what needs to be accomplished.
  3. It helps everyone work toward the common goal.

If a deadline is never created, then chances are whatever you are trying to accomplish won’t be accomplished. It’s also probably safe to say that you will be met with many assumptions and much frustration.

I’ve heard it said that dreams are goals without deadlines and the things that are important to you will always have deadlines. So, are there some deadlines that you need to set?

Organization Hack: note taking

There seems to be a new wave of task organization that uses pen and paper. You open your notebook, write your tasks down, and then you complete them. Maybe I’m out of the loop but there are tasks that I create today that I won’t complete for weeks and maybe even months. These tasks could be meetings or things I need to do, but they each belong to a point on my calendar that need my attention. For me, when it comes to note taking and task management, I use pen, paper, and digitial to stay organized. Here is how I do it.

First of all, I take my notes in a journal or a note book. I personally like the Cahier journal from Moleskine and the 8″ x 5″ is the perfect size for me. When I get a new journal, the first thing I do is number the pages. This will help when transferring your notes from your journal to your computer. You might only have one meeting today and you end up not taking up the whole page. Because of this I add the date and the meeting title to the top of each note section. You might even think about using a new page when going into a different meeting, because those Cahier journals are really pretty cheap and the pages aren’t that big so you really aren’t wasting much paper.

So, once I’ve been to a meeting, dated and titled the section in my journal, and taken the notes from the meeting, I go back to my office to transfer my notes. The reason I add the details when I label the page is I might not be able to transfer these notes for a few days, so when I have time to transfer the notes everything is neat and organized.

The other reason for the labeling system is sometimes I’ll go back through my journal and see everything that needs to be transferred to digital, and I make some notes that look like the following:

  • pg 27 west campus
  • pg 29 east property signage
  • pg 33 west campus video

It makes it easy to know what notes or tasks need to be transferred and where they’re located. It takes minutes to make the notes on what needs to be transferred, so this usually happens when I’m waiting on a meeting to start or when I have a free moment.

Once I’ve transferred my notes from my journal to my computer, I put an “X” on that page or section with a marker. I don’t want to mark it out completely, because I might need to go back and reference it. When my journal is full it goes on a shelf in my office, and I start on numbering the pages of a new journal.

Get your journal > number the pages > date and title that page or note section > transfer your notes to your computer > put an ‘X’ over that page or note section

And that’s it! Obviously this method won’t work for everyone, but if you are having trouble keeping track of what you need to do, this might be something that helps you.

The Power of Consistency

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I know in my personal life, consistency is a big thing. For me, when I return to the routine after a vacation it’s honestly a refreshing thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love vacation and I wish I could take it more often but there is something about the routine that feels good.

I believe this is something we can also apply to church media as well. Over the last few years I have tried really hard to get our equipment around our campus more consistent. I’d like to think I’m looking at the campus as a whole rather than each room individually. So what has consistency done for me?

It creates redundancy. 

Let’s say you have a piece of equipment fail in one room where you have an event that is happening in the near future. If you have that same piece of gear in another room, well grab it and put it back in the failed gears place. Even better, once you have the broken gear fixed, it doesn’t have to go back to its original home. It can go back to where you pulled the gear from to get you by.

It allows your volunteers to be cross trained.

Everything we do in all of the different areas of our church are not the same, however if you have the same gear in all of your different rooms it’s much easier for a person to walk into a room and recognize that the equipment is the same as the room they came from. And at that same time they feel more comfortable and now they only need to know what’s going on in that room and not how to use the gear in that room.

It makes purchasing equipment easier.

There are a lot of times you can get better pricing when purchasing things in quantity. Also, if you’re trying to find some obscure part for that particular room, it makes it easier not having to look for many different obscure parts or solutions because all of the equipment is the same.

It makes upkeep of equipment easier. 

Storing files, repairing parts, replacing batteries, buying spares parts. All of this is now the same for every room.

dictionary.com defines consistency as follows:

steadfastadherencetothesameprinciples,course,form,etc.

OR

agreement,harmony,orcompatibility,especiallycorrespondenceor uniformityamongthepartsofacomplexthing

Please understand this doesn’t happen overnight AND not every piece of equipment I have throughout our campus is exactly the same. However, where it’s feasible and where I can I try to make things consistent when it comes to the gear we use.

Do you have consistency issues? Do you need to try and make your campus more consistent? What are your struggles? What are you waiting for?

Getting Myself and My Team Organized

So something my team and myself are really struggling with is keeping on track with the tasks at hand. It’s not because we don’t want to or even because we aren’t trying to. The problem is we always feel like we’re playing defense. There are tasks that are always coming at us and we never feel as though we can get on top of them. We always feel like we’re barely keeping afloat.

I had always known and heard about project management software but for some reason it didn’t make since to me. It was one more task that you had to add to your ToDo list. It seemed as though it was more work.

Enter Asana. Asana is project management software. I’m sure you’ve all heard of something similar. Asana for us is a perfect fit. It’s structure is 4 primary layers. Organization > Team > Projects > Tasks. I love it because my team is made up of other smaller teams but at times we are all working together on the same project. With this layout you can organize all of that very easily.

While this seems to be solving the problem of keeping tasks organized, it’s not helping us start a project when we’re trying to get all of the information we need. I noticed that each time a new task or project came to us, we’re asking the same questions. When? What? How big? What color? How many? So, my team and I have started something else that we’re calling Start Sheets. These are the questions to be asked at the start of a project, event, or task.

I work in a church and in our church we have a master calendar. When someone adds something to that master calendar there are a series of questions that they have to answer about their event. These questions range from, “when will your event happen?” and, “how many people will attend your event?” to “who is in charge of your event?”. It even has a section that my department added about the technical needs of the event. For some reason though, most of the answers on my section were, “see me later” or “more info to come at a later date.” And let’s be honest, a lot of the time that later date was the day of the event.

Over the years I’ve learned that getting out of my seat, walking to someone else’s office, and having a face to face conversation is the best form of communication. So, with these start sheets we will do just that. And in return they will do more than get some information about an event or a project, they will allow us to really understand what the person is trying to communicate. We will be able to see the expressions on their face when they are describing the project. It will give us significantly more clarity than an email or a calendared event.

I really believe Asana and Start Sheets will give us an advantage in our work that we haven’t had in the past and I can’t to see all of the possibilities. I hope to come back to you in the future and tell you about all of the things we’ve been able to accomplish because we’re organized.