Project Design: Outsourcing your memory ’“ the conclusion (part III)

The final part of my outsourcing series explores how you can ensure your day-to-day tasks are meaningful by organising them into projects that move you towards your long-term goals.

In the previous parts of this series we looked at how writing down all your to-dos can help focus the mind and free it from constantly working to try and not forget menial tasks. We also looked at how these to-dos can then be organised into categories and arranged into lists to help us achieve more with our time.

Have you ever spent a whole day taking care of all manner of little tasks, only to look back on them and realise that they didn’t add up to anything meaningful?

If you want to stay true to your professional and personal priorities, you need to avoid this and ensure what you do each day is important. To achieve this, you must do three things.

Firstly, you should identify all the responsibilities you have to ensure that you live up to them. Then, map out all your duties to yourself and to others into a mind-map that branches out into more detailed areas.

A great example of a personal area of responsibility that is often neglected is health. You might mark this on your map and branch it out into sub points, such as diet, dental care, annual medical checkups & exercise. You don’t necessarily need to be more specific than this – it is enough that you are aware of them.

Secondly, to ensure your daily actions are meaningful, group the individual tasks into manageable projects. These projects should move you on towards a tangible goal (…we’ll discuss goals shortly, and they should be attainable in a year or less).

On a personal level, these could be to learn the basics of Spanish in order to pursue the goal of eventually becoming fluent in the language.

On a professional level, a project could be to hire a marketing person or to set up a new online shop, both of these would be aimed at attaining a bigger goal – e.g. a 10% growth in sales.

Finally, you need to be able to assess your goals.

Goals are different from projects in that they are long term & strategic: goals should be achievable in around 1-3 years. For example, your long-term goal could be to get out of debt, and this could demand a number of projects, like transferring your credit to a 0% account, curbing your spending, or even relocating.

So far we’ve mainly looked at how you can achieve your personal ambitions, but companies should also define their vision for where they want to go and the principles they’ll maintain en route.

So how can you get your company moving towards where it should be?

The first task is to identify its destination, think about where you see your company going to achieve its greatest success. This will make your direction crystal clear.

Here’s an example: your company might decide that it wants to be the most popular grocery store in the area by selling the highest quality produce.

This vision provides a clear path to follow: Procuring the best produce around. Once we have the vision then we need to get more specific: management should define the guiding principles or values that the business will work by.

Typically a company can have anywhere from 3-30 values like “helping the local community” or “providing amazing customer service.”

These values as defined by the management team, are then implemented at all levels. Some companies have a full-time staff to ensure that people adhere to the company’s values.

Let’s look at an example: if one of your company’s values is to “develop employees,” you might implement this by instituting reviews of all staff members and then offering training and development to bolster any weak spots.

Once a company defines where it wants to go (its vision) and how it should behave along the way (its values) then almost any question can be resolved easily. Even tricky questions like “Should we acquire that company?,” “Should we invest more in research?” or “Should we expand into this market?” can be answered easily because any answer must take the company closer to its vision and adhere to its values.

This brings us nicely back to our personal achievements, as for a company, if you define your own path and your personal values, you can then boldly answer the big questions life has to throws at us.

Ask yourself questions about the future and your ambitions.

Start collect all these ideal futures into a list: include all the things you’d like to see happen.

This view of the future, though totally speculative, will make clear the path you want to be on. You should focus all your efforts on getting there, and review this goal every year so you know if you are still on the right one.

Just as we said for companies earlier, as well as knowing what you want to achieve you should also know what your personal values are.  For most people, their values are very identifiable because as long as they live by them, they don’t mind where they are or who they’re with. Write down your own values so you can refer back to them when you review your goal each year.

You should also boldly consider the big questions in life. Things like, how do you want to be remembered? Is your career inspiring? Only by answering these will you be able to truly focus on what’s important.

Previous parts of this series:
Project Design : Outsourcing… your memory!
Project Design: Outsourcing your memory - part II

Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. Since then he worked in numerous high end audio outlets, culminating in owning and running his own successful AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break he started Jones designs in August 2009 which morphed into a Ltd. company called designflow, in 2015. designflow aims to increase awareness of design in AV and help installers win more jobs and create proper documentation for them.