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HomeVenture CapitalDitch Your To-Do Record and Use These Docs To Make Extra Influence

Ditch Your To-Do Record and Use These Docs To Make Extra Influence

This text is  written by Brie Wolfson, who has labored for tech corporations of all sizes and shapes, most just lately Figma (Figma for Schooling) and Stripe (BizOps, Stripe Press). Now, she’s engaged on The Kool-Assist Manufacturing unit (half analysis venture, half consultancy on the subject of firm tradition) and writing Founder Fodder, a e-newsletter concerning the quirks and quandaries dealing with startup founders.

Doing an excellent job in startup land requires taking possession over your work irrespective of what number of hats you’re sporting, plates you’re spinning, or balls you’re juggling…and it doesn’t matter what nook or degree of the group you’re doing it from. Meaning choosing the right stuff to give attention to, after which working your tail off to get it finished. 

Everyone knows that’s simpler stated than finished. These tantalizing unread counts on our Slack apps and inboxes are excellent at grabbing our consideration and pulling us into the reactive swirl the place it’s all too straightforward to confuse movement for progress. And once we’re caught up within the day by day realities of conferences, messages, emails, docs, asks from colleagues, reviews, priorities, new priorities, tickets, decks, memos, and our private lives (sure, that too), together with the emotional swings that include using the startup rollercoaster (sure, positively that too!), it may be straightforward to succumb to the chaos and lose forest for the timber. 

On the finish of the day, although, the one factor that truly issues is the impression our work has on our firm, our prospects, our colleagues, and our skilled growth. And the one option to keep on prime of that is to carry ourselves accountable to our higher-order objectives with as a lot enthusiasm as we’ve for the dopamine rush of reaching inbox zero. 

I can say from expertise working at some incredible organizations like Stripe and Figma, and with many others by way of my work on The Kool-Assist Manufacturing unit, that one of the best leaders and operators I do know are pretty much as good upholding the 30,000-foot perspective as they’re getting the 3-inch-level work finished. The tug-of-war between the 2 is actual, however it’s manageable — with the correct processes in place to assist preserve focus.

So, listed below are the docs I’ve honed in on over time that assist me try this. Having this assortment of non-public templates in place helps me keep extra centered, balanced, self-aware, context-aware, and in-control of my workflow each day. They’ve additionally helped me make actual, sustained, progress in direction of my broader objectives on that longer-term horizon. And I’m not solely speaking about internalizing and supporting my firm’s objectives. I’m speaking about understanding and appearing by myself profession objectives, too.

I’ve damaged them down into classes to present you a greater sense of which one to make use of when, together with some voiceover on how all of them match collectively. All through, I’ve included particular examples from my very own profession in addition to template docs so that you can copy and put your individual spin on. As you’ll see, they’re designed primarily for private use, however I share bits and items with others if and when it is smart. 

I hope you attempt them and I hope they’re helpful. Most of all, I hope they enable you to make extra environment friendly progress in direction of your objectives and make the expertise of getting there extra satisfying. 

Black and white photo of Brie Wolfson in front of stairs
Brie Wolfson, previously of Stripe & Figma, at the moment working with founders by way of The Kool-Assist Manufacturing unit

1. Ongoing Stack Rank (OSR)

An OSR is successfully an inventory of issues I’m engaged on or might be engaged on over a given time interval. An OSR is nice for representing a world view of non-public priorities and the continued standing of every, and it’s essentially the most tactically helpful day-to-day. 

There are three important options of a very good OSR:

1. Present outputs solely. On this context, outputs are outlined as shippable models work. Phrasing them as such may also assist remind you that you could solely verify it off as soon as it’s accomplished. For instance, “hosted dinner for startups” can present up in your record, whereas “booked restaurant for startup dinner” shouldn’t. Inputs like this, in fact, contribute and ladder as much as your outputs, however you need to orient every little thing in your OSR in direction of outputs as a result of that’s the stuff that’s finally going to drive your outcomes. In case your work is just one piece of a cross-functional puzzle, it is best to nonetheless add your piece (particularly in case your piece would block the puzzle’s completion)! 

2. Embody workstream standing: I’ll use a full spectrum of choices from scoping, to in-progress, to able to go, to shipped, to deprioritized for now (with dates). Displaying what’s in-scope and above the precedence line is usually as useful as displaying what’s out-of-scope or beneath the precedence line. It’ll additionally enable you to keep on prime of the numerous, many workstreams you’re contributing to. Over time, this may flip into an inventory of belongings you’ve shipped. 

3. Order by precedence: This fashion, you should utilize the OSR as your guiding mild for what try to be engaged on at any given second in time. It additionally makes it very easy to select your subsequent workstream. 

What you’ll produce will, in some ways, be an oversimplification of how work really will get finished — all of us work on many, many issues directly, every with their very own set of dependencies and quirks. Issues may transfer up and down on this record or get added to or faraway from it. That’s okay! Report all of it. This simplified record will present readability when issues get particularly messy and maintain these higher-order objectives top-of thoughts. 

I additionally monitor lots of these messy particulars within the OSR. For instance, I’d embody dates, workstream dimension (I like t-shirt sizing, XS-XL), what firm precedence one thing ladders as much as, or what broader workstream my work contributes to (and who personal it), impression and success measurement standards for every enter (qualitative or quantitative), the viewers or key stakeholders for my work (inner or exterior). 

Right here’s a template for what yours might seem like (and a screenshot for a fast look):

Screenshot of Excel spreadsheet template

Over time, my OSR has helped me reply questions that beforehand confounded me like: 

How a lot work do I’ve in flight proper now? Is it an excessive amount of or too little? 

Am I getting stuff to completion or simply inching an countless variety of issues ahead?

Am I proudly owning a variety of work or contributing to the work others personal?

Ought to I say sure or no to this factor somebody is requesting of me? If I’m saying no, how can I present others why?

What flavors of labor am I over or under-rotated on proper now?

How proactive vs. reactive is my work?

Who am I blocking proper now? Who’s blocking me?

Who am I working with quite a bit currently?Is the work coming from me or them? Are there any patterns there? 

What firm precedence does this ladder as much as? Uh oh, this doesn’t apparently ladder as much as any firm precedence — ought to I even be engaged on it?

What ought to I work on subsequent? 

If issues are feeling  particularly chaotic or I haven’t marked something accomplished shortly, I’ll additionally begin a brand new column to trace how a lot time one thing is taking each week and/or what’s stopping me from transport or slowing issues down in order that I can paint a extra data-driven image of what’s occurring. 

It’s additionally been an excellent device to make use of with my managers or stakeholders as a option to not solely present visibility into what I’m engaged on, but in addition to make sure we’re aligned on priorities. I bear in mind counting on my OSR throughout one significantly overwhelming interval of labor. Every Monday morning, my supervisor and I might open my OSR, have a look at what was in flight and what different groups have been asking from me (together with new requests coming in) after which order and re-order my OSR collectively. This fashion, I had a transparent (and manager-approved) punch record of labor.

Having clear path for the week helped me keep calm and centered, after I suppose I in any other case might need felt extra frantic and chaotic. It additionally helped my supervisor perceive my bandwidth, converse intelligently to my priorities, and advocate for me accordingly. I’ve additionally relied on my OSR’s in durations of terribly excessive or low work satisfaction to supply an goal account of what I’ve been engaged on. 

2. “It’s Solely The Weekend When” Submit-It

Everybody’s bought their very own option to handle their to-do record, however one factor that has meaningfully modified the best way I work and helped me really prioritize the large stuff is to write down 3 (and not more than 3!) issues I might be very upset to enter the weekend with out finishing. I prefer to put this on an precise post-it as a result of it’s a pleasant Monday morning ritual and having this brief record on a brightly-colored piece of precise paper makes it stand out from the opposite to-do lists, notifications, and trackers. Plus, it’s actually satisfying to have the ability to cross it off after I end one thing! 

All through the week, I’ll transfer it round and stick it varied locations — in my pocket book alongside my day by day to-do record, on the duvet of my pocket book, within the nook of my monitor, on the backside of the keyboard, and even on my toilet mirror if I’m getting actually determined because the weekend nears! 

In case your OSR paints the general image of what’s in flight or might be quickly, the weekend post-it tells you (extra like screams at you!) what try to be doing proper now. 

If I feel I’ll be crunched for time or my schedule isn’t trying significantly conducive to getting this stuff finished, I’ll usually block time to give attention to them. I attempt not to do that too usually, however I’d even postpone lower-priority work or conferences to make the time if I actually need it.  

Right here’s an image of some of mine from the final 12 months:

Image of notebook with four example Post-It notes on the pages

3. “What I’m Proud Of” Scrapbook

That is precisely what it seems like; a set of issues I’m happy with. It’s a operating record and hodgepodge of codecs (screenshots, emails, pings, suggestions, and so on.) with no actual organizational construction, however over time, it’ll flip right into a incredible uncooked knowledge set for the issues that provide you with vitality and make you tick. I dump issues on this doc as they arrive. It’s a lot much less structured than the OSR.

I’ve discovered two essential issues about myself by way of sustaining this doc over time. The primary is that the connection to work I’ve shipped and work I’m happy with is not 1:1. Lining my Issues I’m Pleased with Scrapbook with my OSR side-by-side helps me work out what work really satisfies me. The second is that there are issues I suppose I like doing, however by no means seem on this doc. And, conversely, issues I didn’t suppose I cared about, however actually, actually do. 

For instance, I believed I’d desire a profession with an analytics focus. Seems, not a single one among my analyses ended up within the “What I’m happy with” scrapbook. And, others weren’t giving me any shining suggestions on my contributions. Conversely, I didn’t suppose that I used to be motivated by direct, constructive suggestions (and moderately by way of hole-poking). However, screenshots of sort pings from colleagues and completely satisfied recipients of my work find yourself filling my doc. 

My scrapbook of issues I’m happy with assessments the tales I inform myself about what I care about by matching them to actuality. 

It helps me transfer by way of my profession with true knowledge and perception into what makes me completely satisfied and, subsequently, what I need to do extra of. Right here’s a snapshot from a web page in mine:

collage of screenshots, tweets, text messages in Brie's "scrapbook"

4. Snag Log

A snag log has related properties of the Scrapbook of Issues I’m Proud Of, however the snag log covers the issues that bogged me down as an alternative of the issues that lifted me up. Or, as a colleague as soon as phrased it, “the issues that give me the ickies.” what this stuff are — the issues that made your tummy flip or possibly made you need to throw your laptop computer out the window or scream right into a pillow. 

Be trustworthy with your self when this occurs. And, the diploma of the “ickies” you bought whenever you bought them! Issues which have appeared in my “ickies” record embody: “nonetheless can’t get this question to run (10!!)” and “weekly standup bores me to tears,” and “welp, that launch was completely lackluster. Waste of time?” It would really feel embarrassing or foolish in the intervening time it’s occurring, however it’s knowledge you should utilize to get extra productive or discover extra pleasure in your work.

Filling out this doc jogs my memory of a ritual my school soccer staff practiced — should you made a mistake or a nasty play, you’d pull up a number of blades of grass after which toss them into the wind. Within the work setting, sustaining this doc offers me with a extra productive outlet to precise my annoyance, frustration, or disappointment. Getting these huge emotions out of my head and right into a doc has helped scale back some in-the-moment anxiousness and made me quite a bit much less prone to inadvertently unfold any of my negativity to others — in my work {and professional} life, alike. 

Extra broadly, this doc has helped me determine broader patterns in my angle in direction of work. One very useful studying is that I’m fairly delicate — a lot of issues really feel like little snags on the time. One associated and refreshing studying is that I’ve a brief reminiscence for these snags. Whew! Many instances after I learn this doc again, I barely bear in mind the incident. 

On the flip facet, this doc has additionally helped me acknowledge and get forward of paper cuts which can be beginning to fester into greater, extra painful, wounds. Generally, I’ll see the identical identify or the identical taste of labor pop up again and again. That’s a very good time to intervene or swap issues up indirectly. Generally which means enlisting the assist of another person that will help you try this, and if that’s the case, you’ll have loads of examples on the prepared so you will discover the correct path ahead.

5. “Right now, I Realized”

This doc can be comparatively easy. It’s an inventory of issues I discovered, normally in bullet kind. Learnings, for me, vary from technical particulars (“the API works this specific manner”), to storing issues that I’d need to discover later (“use this question whenever you need to calculate that”, “hyperlink to assist’s canned responses”), to observations about working kinds (“Alice is sharper within the morning (self-proclaimed)”, “Doris reads emails intently, even when she doesn’t reply,”), to private particulars I need to bear in mind about colleagues (“Deep has a 3-year-old son named Leo”), to private insights (“Jordan gave me suggestions that I’m normally essentially the most optimistic voice within the room”, “look like slower than colleagues at studying SQL”).  Date them or batch them by month so you possibly can look again and perceive the timing and context.

I discover myself returning to this doc and looking out in it on a regular basis. I discover that I usually keep in mind that I put one thing associated to the factor within the doc, however can’t bear in mind the main points round it. Having this doc helps me return to them with only a few seconds of looking out. 

It’s helpful in my day-to-day work as a result of it makes me quite a bit much less prone to ask the identical query twice, and helps me unblock myself as an alternative of counting on others. I’ve additionally discovered that I’m extra prone to bear in mind one thing if I take the ten seconds required so as to add it to the record. (And, the analysis is with me on this one — re-writing one thing helps our brains encode the knowledge. It additionally says that writing is healthier than typing it, however that may make the doc much less searchable which, for me, is extra necessary). 

Relating to self-reflection, this doc has helped me get a extra nuanced perspective on what and the way I’m studying, in addition to the slope and charge of that studying. For instance, I’ve discovered that there are durations which may be low-learning on technical subjects, however is likely to be high-learning in organizational or staff dynamics. 

Numerous profession recommendation circles across the concept of “go away whenever you cease studying.” I feel that’s directionally good recommendation — as long as you may have an open thoughts about what studying seems like. 

Having a doc may help you perceive, with comparatively high-fidelity, the place you might be in your studying journey. And kind there, whether or not you need one thing to alter because of this. 

6. Influence Monitoring (in your OSR)

Utilizing your OSR as your information, check out all of the belongings you shipped and jot down some notes about their impression. Do your greatest to give attention to observable outcomes — what metrics moved, how metrics moved, what customers stated or did because of this, what colleagues stated or did because of this, and so on.

This won’t solely come in useful throughout efficiency assessment season, however it’ll additionally begin to practice and tune your mannequin about what work really generates impression. And, it’ll enable you to converse intelligently about that with others (particularly after they come knocking in your door asking to your assist with one thing). 

7. Me-Sat

Many people will likely be conversant in C-Sat, brief for buyer satisfaction, as a metric for the way glad prospects are with a services or products. Many people may also have crammed out an organization satisfaction survey (also called an worker voice survey) that contributes to a broad firm satisfaction rating and accompanying read-out about how glad staff are with their corporations. I say it’s time all of us get within the behavior of turning this query on ourselves, and evaluating our personal satisfaction, or “Me-sat.” 

There are many methods to take your individual pulse, and I’ll share a few of my favourite examples and workout routines beneath. Irrespective of which train you go along with, essentially the most impactful issues for me have been getting within the behavior of taking a while and area for self-reflection (i.e. really doing one among these workout routines with some regularity) and looking out backwards to determine patterns in a manner that helps inform future habits. 

Satisfaction Litmus Check: A easy construction for a check-in, taken from my favourite planner, designed (and offered!) by David Singleton, Stripe’s Head of Engineering. All this train requires is that you just rating your self between 1-4 on 4 core drivers of satisfaction: loved it, bought stuff finished, progressed objectives, studying. Common them collectively (or use a weighted common should you’re feeling further thorough), to generate an total “Me Sat.”

Blood Kool-Assist Content material: One option to describe “Me Sat” may also be your present Blood Kool-Assist Content material. As in, how a lot of the corporate’s Kool-Assist do I’ve pulsing by way of my veins? Or, how into the corporate’s mission, management, coworkers, function, and working norms am I at a given second? This single-prong rating might be prone to bias by your present temper, however it by no means hurts to trace it. (Or, ask your self the place you’re at on this scale whenever you’re feeling further charged up about one thing as a option to construct extra self-awareness and take extra measured motion). 

Contribute to Your “4 Lists”:  This one’s coined by Molly Graham (Google, Fb, Quip, Lambda College, Chan Zuckerberg) and suggests you contribute to 4 lists; issues I really like doing, issues I’m distinctive at, issues I hate doing, issues I’m dangerous at. I like to make use of these as operating lists versus making a brand new one each month. Be aware of what adjustments — possibly even monitor them in a changelog. 

Vitality Evaluation: Just like Molly’s 4 lists, and launched to me by Stephanie Zou (Zendesk, Figma) this train helps you articulate how the belongings you work on impression your vitality, and what you desire to extra and fewer publicity to over time. 

Cease, Begin, Proceed Retrospective: This basic retrospective framework asks you to think about what you need to begin, cease, and proceed doing. It’s usually used to mirror on collaborative or cross purposeful work, however there’s no motive you possibly can’t use it for your self! Right here’s a template if you wish to attempt it your self. 

Cherish / Change Retrospective: One other retrospective framework I’ve been taking part in round with is the Change / Cherish Scale. On one facet of the spectrum, I’ve issues I need to maintain on to. From there, I ask myself if I need or must nurture this factor (as in, focus some consideration on gardening/watering it) or let it move (as in, don’t intervene and let issues occur.) On the opposite facet are the issues I need to change. From there, I’ll ask myself if I need extra of it or much less of it. Right here’s a template if you wish to give this one a attempt. 

A spectrum of cherish to change, with nurture and let flow on one axis, and more and less on the right axis.
An instance of what the Cherish / Change Retrospective template seems like

I’ve used every of those workout routines at various factors. The truth is, I like to change up the framework for my reflections to maintain them contemporary. Finally, all of them reply the identical questions — what issues ought to I lean into at work? Your day by day docs may help inform all of those, and constructing a daily observe of placing all of the items collectively, by way of focused self-reflection, may also enable you to hone in on the story you inform about your self about the place you’re at and the place you need to go (with actual examples!) to others who may help you alongside the best way. 

8. Private Press Launch

Think about you might be writing a press launch about all of the belongings you shipped and the impression they’re having. You’ll seemingly need to rely closely in your OSR (together with impression) and possibly embody a sprinkling of particulars out of your Scrapbook of Issues I’m Proud Of, Right now I Realized, and Snag Log docs. 

Some belongings you may need to embody in your press launch are:

Headline/Lede: the eye grabber

One-line abstract: think about how somebody would describe this to a colleague

Prime 3-5 belongings you shipped

The place your time went

Key insights or learnings 

Progress on metrics

Qualitative impacts

Contributions to the broader staff/firm

Suggestions you acquired from stakeholders/customers (inner or exterior)

One piece of artwork (graph, image, screenshot, and so on.)

General temper/sentiment

Something the broader group did that you just want you can have been part of

What you’re actually happy with

Something you’re not so happy with

A glance forward on: What you’re transport subsequent, what you’re enthusiastic about, huge alternatives for you, your staff, or your organization, and any foreseen blockers, dangers, or issues that you just’re fearful about.

Right here they’re in a template so you may get to work by yourself press launch sooner. I love to do these on a weekend or night when issues are a bit quieter and I can provide it my full focus. I additionally time-box these to three hours max so I don’t get too carried away. 

Do your self a favor and write this in prose. You don’t have to indicate anybody, however it’ll be exceedingly cool to look again on the catalog of those over time, and also you’ll be extra seemingly to try this in the event that they’ve bought a little bit of a punch to them. If you do, you’ll inevitably get to say to your self, “dang, I actually did all that?!” And that’s the sort of feeling that retains you going by way of all of the vicissitudes of startup life.

It’s price acknowledging that corporations will usually immediate some model of this for efficiency assessment functions, however I feel it’s price doing one with out the perf pressure-cooker timer ticking, to your eyes solely, that covers not solely your impression, but in addition how glad you might be. 

9. Job Description

The most effective and worst factor about working at dynamic corporations is that every little thing is at all times altering — the panorama, the product roadmap, what customers need, your staff composition, your supervisor. Meaning, what the corporate wants from you is at all times altering, which implies your job is at all times altering. Since you reside it day-after-day, it may be arduous to detect even very materials adjustments in your function and duties over time. 

It’s like getting old — arduous to detect on the day-to-day scale, straightforward to detect on the last decade scale, and fuzzy-ish in between. To assist me get extra crisp on how issues are altering, I re-write my very own job description each six months. 

A typical job description has three parts and you should utilize these identical parts whenever you craft yours: 

1. total description of the connection between the function and the broader firm and its objectives (normally 1-2 paragraphs of prose) 

2. record of duties (normally bullets), and 

3. abilities which can be required to do an excellent job. 

I’ve discovered that 1 usually stays comparatively secure, 2 adjustments on a regular basis, and three evolves steadily. Ideally, the duties development more and more strategic and fascinating to you over time and that 2 by no means outpaces 3. 

If you put pen to paper on yours, I might counsel that the primary paragraph has a really memorable one-liner mission assertion. Take into consideration what you’d need your supervisor to say if somebody requested her, “what’s $NAME engaged on as of late?” Why? As a result of they in all probability do! And, it is best to in all probability have some language that you could constantly use to speak about your function with others.

Right here’s a template you should utilize to assemble yours.

When you see significant adjustments model to model, it’s in all probability a good suggestion to verify in along with your supervisor. Relying on how you’re feeling about your function and duties, you should utilize this to gut-check and information a dialog in your areas of focus along with your supervisor. 

One other factor I’ve been experimenting with is creating an aspirational job description for ~1-2 years out. This creates a transparent, tangible articulation of the place you need to go sooner or later. What you write doesn’t need to have any conception of your present abilities or what the corporate wants. It’s all about you and the place you need to go. Chances are you’ll discover that this function exists, and that you could have it!

Just a few years in the past, a number of colleagues and I bought collectively on a Saturday afternoon and wrote them. It was a fairly enjoyable train — particularly as a result of it mixed our hopes and goals for our personal careers together with the strategic path or greatest we wished our firm to take.

10. Working with Me

Jay Desai first conceived of this idea (although he referred to as it a ‘person information’) and I first discovered about it after I learn Claire Hughes Johnson’s, former COO of Stripe. It’s a option to categorical and scale your most popular working type and preferences. 

For leaders creating one, take heed to the implicit energy dynamics at play — particularly, whether or not you expect those that work with you to adapt their working type to yours to accommodate your preferences. For particular person contributors, I’ve discovered that this doc is a extremely useful type of self-expression that results in higher, more healthy, extra environment friendly working relationships. When finished nicely, in addition they present an excessive amount of self-awareness that assist colleagues perceive one another quite a bit higher. 

I’ve additionally leaned on ‘working with me’ paperwork in conditions when one thing’s not fairly clicking with a colleague and also you’re unsure why. Creating after which evaluating paperwork has been immensely useful in recognizing surprising factors of alignment or misalignment that may result in moments of deeper connection and teasing out root causes of labor friction. 

I additionally like to take care of a changelog on the backside of the doc. The speed of change will seemingly lower over the course of your profession. When you really feel like your type or preferences are evolving sufficient to alter this canonical doc on the way you prefer to work, it’s necessary you register this with your self and anybody else who works intently with you formally. (They’ve in all probability observed anyway, and it’s a very good alternative to speak about that evolution and be taught extra about it and its impression on others). 

Right here’s a hyperlink to mine! And a preview screenshot:

When you’d prefer to attempt incorporating these into your workflow, right here’s a calendar you possibly can subscribe to that’ll maintain them top-of thoughts. It’s the identical one I’ve been utilizing for years, and I’m excited to carry much more folks alongside within the means of self-reflection, private growth, and higher organizational consciousness. 

It takes a little bit of a psychological shift and a few self-discipline to work this manner, however it’s price it. Even when worklife is feeling its most chaotic, there are clues hiding in plain sight and patterns ready to disclose themselves. As a result of once we do what it takes to uncover them, the work we produce will get an entire lot higher and the journey feels much more rewarding. 

And, we don’t have to attend for anybody else to assist get us there. We will take all of it into our personal fingers!



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