THE JOY OF MAKING A LIST
It's the beginning of the new year and it's soon time to start easing ourselves back into business mindset. The freshness of the year empowers us to make policy decisions with more certainty, to approach challenges with a clear perspective and to think about our dance studios in a quiet moment of reflection before the season kicks off and the day-to-day chaos begins.
You know I love a list.
And my favourite list, is the one I make at the beginning of the year. For me personally as a studio owner, I know that I have exactly one month from today to get everything ready for my students and their families to walk into the studio in 2020 for their first lesson of the year. 30 days to work my way through a to-do list, filled with problems to solve, challenges to overcome and impossible dreams to make reality. There's peace of mind knowing I have time to manage this list and that I can work my way through it one thing at a time.
But first... I need to write it.
It's the list of all lists, and so it deserves a bit of ceremony. For me to really to it justice I need to be in the right state of mind, and WHERE I write the list is surprisingly important. I like to write it on my computer, in notes. But I have to make the document full screen. And my computer screen needs to be clean. And my laptop needs to be on a desk - even though I usually work on my lounge. And the room I'm in has to be the right temperature. And I need to know that I've got ONE THING and only ONE THING to do that day, and it is to simply WRITE THE LIST. I need hours of uninterrupted time to do it. Some food and drink that I really enjoy, maybe even something special. I have been known to book a hotel or disappear to a resort for a couple of days to do it (of course that isn't always viable).
BEFORE I write the list, I like to d a walk-through of the studio and spend about an hour there jotting down notes, standing and pondering in each room, taking photos to trigger thoughts later on, and looking in drawers, cupboards etc.
Other ways I can get into the mood for writing my big January list is to listen to some songs for routines I want to create for the year - that gets me back into "studio brain". Or meeting with some staff and getting them to throw ideas at me quickly and ask me lots of questions. Or even just looking at some old photos of students, events at the studio, old notebooks I've written in and dreamed on paper etc.
It's time to write.
I prefer to work within subheadings: PREMISES POLICIES ADMIN & PAPERWORK STAFF PLANNING ADVERTISING DOCUMENTS NEW IDEAS
Each year there are different categories, but sorting it into groups helps me organise my thoughts.
One tip I'd like to share is to try and work backwards. Visualise the students and parents walking into the studio, the questions they'll be asking. Visualise the whole year, map it out. Think of what specifically needs to be published/ finished/ established/ communicated for that to happen.
Delegate as you go. As dance studio owners, most of us don't hire staff over the "holiday break" and so all of this prep work and planning tends to fall on our shoulders alone. Certainly it can be a goal for next year to end the year with enough budget to afford some support staff hours over January - but right now we all have to work with what we've got. BUT, as you write your list try to get into an automatic behavioural habit to think "who could take this on?". If it's at all possible to delegate, then write the persons name in brackets next to the item on the list. Lists within lists. It's listception. Some things on lists are small and simple, like "call the bin company and change the pick up day to Wednesdays". Easy to tick off, and perfectly self-instructional. (You could still make it even easier for your future self by writing in the actual phone number on the list too.) But other things on your to-do list will be entire projects, like "clean out the store room". Daunting giant tasks that might take a couple of days unto themselves. My suggestion is to break these down into smaller dot points about HOW you plan to attack this beast, and WHAT needs to be done to do so. Continuing the above example, it would be...
- Post on Senior group chat asking for some helpers - Go to Bunnings ahead of time and buy 20 new boxes - Pick up garbage bags from Coles - Pull everything out and sort into KEEP or THROW - Sweep, mop and scrub the room and shelves - Label the boxes and put everything in them - Order pizza for the helpers - Borrow Dad's trailer - Take the rubbish to the tip
OR for a different example that's less physical and more mental... like "write the Troupe info pack and contract" - Open last year's document - Research on FB the eisteddfod dates - Choose which performances to do for this year - Think about what problems there were last year in Troupe, with attendance and expectations not being met and jot down some ideas for how to fix them - Dream of the perfect way you'll like for this to work, then put that through a reality filter - Research some other studio's Troupe info packs and see if there's some ideas worth borrowing - Set aside some uninterrupted time to write it from beginning to end - Proof read it and check that it sounds exciting and enticing... think back to WHY the document exists and WHAT you need it to achieve - Send to some fellow staff or colleagues to proof read and give feedback - Make it pretty with branding - Publish as a PDF or on website as a page - Get it out to the relevant customers - Put the performance dates in your own calendar - Contact the eisteddfod coordinators by email to let them know you intend to enter so that they'll hopefully hold a spot for you - Put the closing dates for entries into your calendar EXHAUSTED YET?
I don't blame you. Even writing this I feel overwhelmed. But think how incredible it will feel when it's all done and each micro-task is ticked off the list, setting you up for the year .SET AND FORGET Most of the things on our January list should be once-a-year type of things, and some of them maybe even once only ever. That's sort of exciting, because each task achieved is one step closer to a successful thriving EASY year. The hardest work goes in now, so that the rest of the year is better for you, better for your staff and better for your customers. IN SUMMARY - Enjoy the process of writing THE BIG LIST
- Try to take the time to think wide and in areas you haven't thought about before
- Get into the heads of the PEOPLE in your business, your teachers, staff, parents and students and picture the entire experience of the whole year from their point of view
- Write recipes for the big projects
- If anything on the list has a specific deadline, write it in bold right next to the thing
- If it's delegatable then write the person you plan to delegate it to, and also write anything that YOU will need to do before THEY can do it effectively
- Don't let the list overwhelm you, it WILL be long
- In reality you won't actually get to finish doing everything on the list - but if you prioritise the tasks and projects (maybe with a colour system) then at least the most important things will be done first
- Keep the list accessible and add to it every time you think of something else - especially if something comes up in conversation - it's a great way to keep track of little thoughts, tying up loose ends, and feeling confident you won't forget something
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR LIST