In order to create social impact, you need to be able to get stuff done.
I have a question I'd like to ask you: What are you working on right now?
No, really. Take a moment to list your projects.
How does that list make you feel? Are you full of excitement and anticipation? Or fear, dread, even loathing?
In order to create social impact, you need to be able to get stuff done. Sometimes it feels easy. You feel driven, and every moment working on the project feels easy.
But other times, you just can't get the motivation. You know that by completing the project you'll get closer to reaching an important goal, but you keep putting off the work you need to do.
Then there's the guilt.
I've been there. I held the position of Executive Assistant in a nonprofit and I was terrible at planning for and executing tasks and projects. But I had the chance to attend a Franklin Covey training, and eventually, I started getting consulting clients specifically because of my experience and knowledge with both social impact and in planning and executing on projects.
Of course, there was a lot I had to learn along the way that built on my understanding of the "Eisenhower Decision Matrix" to ensure that both I and the teams I work with are able to complete important projects.
I often talk with social entrepreneurs who don't have full-time staff dedicated to learning about social impact but are creating data collection plans to learn about their social impact.
In order for this to work, you will likely have to get more efficient in executing on your projects now to take some pressure off your staff so they can then work on important projects to learn about your social impact.
If you follow these 8 tips for planning and executing important projects for social impact, you will save time on your current projects, and create more room for additional, important projects.
1. Align your project with a specific goal.
If you're spending time on a project without connecting it with a specific goal, you may be wasting time and money.
So write it out. What outcome or result do you expect from the project, and how is that going to get you to your goal?
If you're working with a team, involve your team in this process. They need to actually believe that this project is going to reach a goal they care about. Allow them to provide their own input into the project to ensure that it truly will help you reach your goal. If it won't get you there, save it for another time.
2. Name your project by the expected result.
Do you need to create a prototype for a new product? Name the project:
Product prototype completion.
Do you need to get 500 subscribers to your service to make it financially viable? Name the project:
Gain 500 new subscribers.
Write out this project name in full whenever you refer to it to help your mind focus on the important result, not the (sometimes painful) tasks in between.
3. Break it up.
If your big project is "Gain 500 new subscribers," that may be a big project. But there are lots of mini-projects before you get there.
Break your project up into manageable chunks based on your workload and that of your team. These should all be named by their result, not by their task (see above).
4. Plan together.
If you are working on this as a team, it is essential that you plan the project as a team. I have seen many projects fail because a timeline and major project deliverables and deadlines have been created without the input of the people who would be doing the work.
We each understand our own work style and how long it takes us to do things. Assuming you have a top-notch team, you need to trust their own self-knowledge and help them do their best work based on that knowledge.
5. Make it visual.
I'm a project management tool nerd. I've tried them all. But the best way I've found to plan my own projects and to help other teams plan theirs is to make it visual.
Here's what I mean: Buy a sticky flip chart pad. Get your team together if you have one. Post the sticky charts across a wall and write out the dates on top of each one.
Start with deadlines. Write them out under the appropriate date. Then work backward. What task has to happen right before the deadline? What happens before that? Keep going until you name the very first tasks you need to complete to begin the project.
Here's a sample of one I've made digitally:
Once you have the tasks and deadlines you can load them into your preferred project management tool.
6. Write actionable tasks.
Whether you're working by yourself or your team, you have to know what you're doing today.
Write out your tasks using this formula:
[Name] will [verb] [noun] by [date]
If you look at the task and it's vague in any way, fix it. Your ability to complete the project relies on you or your team to know specifically what they need to do.
7. Schedule recurring weekly check-ins on your calendar.
Schedule a recurring meeting on your calendar for a 5-15 minute "weekly review" with yourself or your team. This should involve:
1. Checking in on the status of tasks from last week and
2. Assigning new tasks based on your project timeline.
By making a recurring meeting you will ensure that even if you need to move it, that you'll have it on the calendar to be moved.
8. Review it.
Projects offer you a chance to learn about how you work, either on your own or as a team. There are things you do that are ineffective or inefficient, or help one person but make life difficult for everyone else.
You also might have completed a project that you'll complete again. Instead of reinventing the wheel, do an After Action Review and document your process.
By reviewing each project, if only for 15 minutes, you can save money and time, which you can then "reinvest" in other important projects.
Once you've gotten down these important practices, you still have to decide: should we attempt internal or external project implementation?