Home Articles The power of using checklists and frameworks in your business

The power of using checklists and frameworks in your business [PODCAST]


PreneurCast is a marketing + business podcast. Each week, author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.

In the first episode of 2012, Pete and Dom discuss the power of using Checklists and Frameworks in your business, and how you can use high-tech or low-tech solutions to make them work for you, whatever your business

Pete and Dom discusses about tech solutions that can work for any business

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Episode 036:
Checklists, Frameworks and Action Plans

Pete Williams: Happy New Year, Mr. Dom.

Dom Goucher: Happy New Year, Mr. Pete. And welcome, everyone, to the first episode of PreneurCast in 2012 with me, Dom Goucher, and you, Mr. Peter Williams.

Pete: Should we call this Season 2, Episode 1 or just keep moving forward?

Dom: Don’t get me started on naming things; we could be here all day.

Pete: Yeah, I don’t know if this is your pet hate or your pet love.

Dom: It’s my weakness; so we’ll just stay away from it, shall we? Let’s keep with the numbering. I’m happy with the numbering, Episode 36.

Pete: We’ve got big things planned for this year, 2012. We’ve got a lot of things in the pipe for listeners and for other people around the Preneur Community.

Dom: Yes, we dropped a few hints and a couple of announcement in the end-of-year show. I’m absolutely excited myself about the plans that we’ve got it moving forward and we’re going to go for it in a big way.

Pete: Before we get into this week’s topic, I want to mention, as you just did, the last show for 2011. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s called Dom and Pete’s Favorite Things. It covers some of the very cool tools that we love, and embrace, and use on a regular basis. We did an Oprah-styled show where we gave away some of these tools and books and applications.

It is not too late to try and get a copy. Go back and check out that episode. And sometime in January 2012, you still have an opportunity. We’re giving away a whole bunch of cool stuff, so check that out. But today, a brand new year, brand new episode, brand new topic which is, this week, checklists. For those of you who happen to be following me on Twitter or on Facebook, you would have seen a tweet I put out recently that got a lot of flack flung my way.

I was sitting on the couch a week or so ago with my iPad on my lap, reading Kindle. Fleur, my beautiful fiancée, said to me, “What are you reading?” I replied, “The Checklist Manifesto,” to which she replied, “What’s it about?” My answer was, obviously, “Checklists.” She slung back my way a very sarcastic, “Thrilling.” Let’s extend that and make this a very, very thrilling episode all about checklists.

Dom: Hey, at least it is not about New Year’s resolutions.

Pete: True. Everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions. So, if you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, make it a checklist.

Dom: Nice one. I’m agog; someone has written an entire book about checklists.

Pete: Realistically, and like a lot of books- I won’t mention Seth Godin’s name too loudly, but it could actually be summarized in a blog post. He makes a very strong case over 240-odd pages, or whatever the size of the book is, that checklists are something that we should all have and use. I think the key word in that sentence is ‘use.’ He’s a surgeon and he uses a lot of big words in his book, a lot of medical terms, which made it very interesting for me to read.

He uses a lot of case studies around fighter pilots, airplane pilot s and surgeons as well. His argument is very well-articulated that no matter what you are and no matter what you do, no matter how much training you have; whether you’re a 15-year trained surgeon with 20 years experience at the end, or an airline pilot who has flown 20,000 hours, checklists are still things that these professions rely very heavily on.

In the airline industry, it’s something I really didn’t realize, everything is about checklists. They have a checklist before they leave the gate at the airports. But the in-flight controls and the manuals these guys use when they’re flying a plane, any little warning light goes on, they refer to a checklist every single time and walk through that checklist, which makes you feel a little bit more confident when you’re sitting in a Boeing 747 or and 8380, something like that.

It’s interesting to see, learn and get reinforced that no matter what you’re doing, that we can’t rely on our memory to pick up everything. It’s very rare that if you sat down and wrote a checklist for a particular procedure, that when you go and do that again in six weeks’ time, your brain will remember every single step. Ninety-nine times out of 100, you’ll miss one or two critical points of that checklist.

A lot of people don’t like referring to checklists because it makes them feel they are inadequate or insufficient, or one of the bigger words he used in the book. But it got me thinking; it was already something I was playing with to a certain extent, particularly with my outsourcers to tie in a previous episode, to give a granular level of how I’m applying this now. We’ll go into this some more later on in the show.

One thing I’ve started to do now, particularly with some new staff members, is we’ve got our Work Wiki and procedural documentation that I think we’ve spoken about a couple of times in the show, in past episodes, that walk people through the actual steps of doing a process. That’s all fine and well, and good; but what I’m developing now is a simple checklist, which is the last step of that process. What they can do, once they have walked through those processes, they then go through the checklist and tick off the boxes to make sure that none of the steps were missed.

They also use the checklist to go through when they rinse and repeat, go through these tasks on a regular basis. Rather than saying, “Hey, go do this process. Send out the Noise Reduction newsletter for this week,” for example; instead of relying on memory even though they may have done this so many times, they use the checklist to ensure they haven’t missed a single step and make sure the process we have outlined is correct.

That’s a very granular-level checklist, but is a framework for this episode. The Checklist Manifesto is a very interesting read if you have a bit of spare time. I think that summary is enough if you haven’t gone and implemented based on that kind of summary. But realistically, it’s worth reading because he makes a very good argument to really internalize the need for checklists.

Dom: Cool. It’s interesting, I made a little bit of a humorous aside at the beginning, but I am a great believer in checklists. In fact, as I mentioned before, we talked about Evernote. For years and years and years, before I was ever involved in what I’m doing now, I’ve been writing both the equivalent of your Work Wiki and checklists, and I stored them originally in a thing that we used to call the Green Book, which was a loose-leaf binder with those plastic sleeves that you insert sheets into.

Everything we did in my very first job, because it was a technical job with lots of high-tech wizardry going on, but most of it was process-based, we used to record everything. One of the reasons was, some things take a long time to work out. For example, I’m going to give a very good example which is very topical: producing the podcast. I use Evernote to store all these things, and I use it because week on week, I’ll go through 100 different jobs and the settings in different software will change.

And all the people rely on the fact that software remembers settings. Settings get changed, and then you’re in trouble. So everything that I do I has one of these checklists, including publishing the podcast. For example, if I’m going to publish the tweet when I’ve published a podcast, there’s the URL, which is the iTunes Store URL. I have that stored. In fact, I have a little snippet of text stored.

I’m sure you might go over this, but I’ll bring it out later. Anything that has those snippets of text stored, we have ways of improving that workflow. Just to be clear, just about everything that I do, down to the specific client, I have a checklist already before I’ve even read this book. You’re kind of preaching to the choir with me on this one. Do you have some generic stuff that you want to talk about on this so people can get something from it as they’re going forward in 2012?

Pete: I’d say there’s definitely some generic stuff that will probably come out of this. But what I’d love to talk about is a way of implementing this as a workflow. We can use an example of this, and then we can give some generic, high-level areas where you can have checklists as a marketer or a business owner. I thought a good way to start this off and tie it all in, is Pitch Anything, a great book by Oren Klaff. I have been speaking to Oren recently. We’re looking at doing a couple of things together, which kind of ties back into checklists, funnily enough.

I found that book really good in that it talks about how to structure a pitch. And if you listen to the Dominiche podcast by Ed Dale and Danny, you’d know that they’re big believers and have spoken at length about the book. So we won’t rehash anything that they’ve spoken about because they have also included an interview with Oren on their podcast. I highly recommend that people take some time and not only listen to that podcast regularly, but check out the particular episode on Pitch Anything. One of the core elements of the book is a structure or a checklist on how to go about doing a pitch.

There are some time constraints up front, there’s frame control, there’s takeaways, there’s the three factors element. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that he covers in the book as a way to structure a pitch. One thing that the book really didn’t have, although it had a fantastic summary at the end on how to start applying the Pitch Anything approach to your life, there’s no real, clear, specific checklist that you can use when you’re scheduling out, structuring out, planning out a pitch.

One thing I’m working out with Oren is around that, and there will be more details once that becomes available. I’ve been trying to do some pitching of some different projects recently, some sales videos and things like that, and have developed my own Pitch Anything checklist which I’m refining with Oren as we go. What I’ve done is taken those four, five or six elements that he talks about and encourages you to have in your pitch, and made it a checklist.

I guess, I’ve done a bit of a workflow hack around this and this will become evident very quickly. I’ve started using TextExpander to create my checklist, particularly if it is a checklist I’m going to reuse when I do stuff. A lot of people who write sales letters or structure a video pitch if they’re doing video or even a marketing piece—if you’re just doing a marketing piece, not a solid pitch, but a sales or general marketing pitch, there should be some elements that you always have. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

What I’ve done is I’ve created some TextExpander snippets around each of these different checklists. What I’ve got is //pa, is the shortcut. So, every time I type in my text editor or Notational Velocity ‘//pa ‘, it pops up automatically with all the key elements in order of a Pitch Anything approach. Then, I can take that structure, that framework, and fill in the gaps as I write my plan out. If I try to just ride it out off the top of my head, the sales pitch, out of my memory, there will be some key elements that I’ve missed.

Having that checklist or framework is a great starting point, but hacking it a little bit by using TextExpander has made it really easy for me to make this part of a workflow and not make it feel like it’s a hindrance or a negative about me. The checklist makes it easier for me to produce a pitch. Does that make sense? Does that workflow give it a bit more context as well?

Dom: Absolutely. And TextExpander is what I was alluding to earlier, just to clarify in case someone has just dropped in and this is their first episode. TextExpander is an awesome tool that’s available on the Mac and also on iOS platforms like the iPhone and iPad, where you can store whole reams of text and call them back and have them inserted wherever you’re typing just by typing a few special characters that you defined. Pete’s ‘//pa’ is a great example.

You pick an unusual string of characters that you wouldn’t otherwise type, and then TextExpander can see that when you type it, and it replaces those characters with stuff that you may want to use. A lot of people use TextExpander to do things like insert today’s date, for example, with dashes in between the day, month and year. Also, without them, if I’m using it in a file name, you can really go to town with a TextExpander. And Pete, your example is brilliant. It’s something I started doing recently as well where you can store anything you want to make reference to, or anything you use regularly as a template.

You don’t just have to store little words; you can store anything at all, using it to keep your checklist for things like Pitch Anything. I noticed as you did that, there isn’t one page you could go to that summarized it. If there’s anything like that that you’ve got—and again, I started doing this myself, any steps or processes that you’ve got, you could literally just drop them all into TextExpander. Other people have them filed in Evernote, they have them in Notational Velocity; whatever their text editors are.

But storing them in TextExpander is brilliant. Wherever you are, if you use one machine regularly or if you have your iPad with you, you can synchronize your text snippets, by the way. You literally just type in any text area, ‘//pa’, as you say, and you’ve got the steps to the Pitch Anything process, which is a great framework to start when you’re outsourcing staff.

I used to use John Carlton’s four-step guide before I read Pitch Anything. Now, I’m starting to work with the Pitch Anything one. Again, if you’re into that kind of thing, John Carlton has lot of guideline in his various products. You can store those in your TextExpander or just write them down as something useful to refer to. It’s a great ‘real-world’ example of a checklist.

Pete: I think the way we should look at this is, rather than using the term checklist, think of it as a framework. Another framework that Frank Kern talks about in his Video Black Box product when he comes to teaching you how to structure a video, he says there are four steps, which is introduction and then pattern interrupt. He suggests we try, at the start of the video, to interrupt someone’s patterns so they don’t sit there expecting to get sold. They get shaken up a little bit.

Then, it’s content delivery, which is the key element of the video. Then, there’s the call to action at the end. That’s his three-step framework for creating a video. There’s a whole bunch of different frameworks available to you like in sales copywriting. Maybe you’re writing an e-mail that becomes an attachment to a proposal or a quote that you’re giving it out for your roof tiling business. Maybe you are a running coach or a triathlon coach or a marketing coach, and you want to sit down and speak to someone for the very first consultation with them.

You should have a checklist to work through. Our 7 Levers Mastermind calls, particularly moving forward as we grow and re-release that to a new group of members to help grow in double their profits, we are going to have a lot more checklists in place not only for them but also for Dom and I as we conduct the weekly calls. There will be a lot more structure and checklist in there so everyone clearly knows what they’re getting so they don’t miss a key element.

With the calls we had last year, not only did we have a great response from everybody, but I think certain weeks we skipped over some stuff we would have liked to include, to just have given some extra value which we missed out on. I think everyone loved it; but by having that structure, it would have been very helpful to go through. I think it’s really key for people to look at their business and work out all the different elements and processes that they’re working through and create some frameworks and checklists around everything they do.

This is what we do in the telco business, and have done so for a while. Whenever someone’s out there installing a phone system, there’s actually a checklist, a list of things that need to be done and/or are trying to do for the client. Before the technician is able to leave the site, there’s a checklist they must check off regarding all of these elements and get the client to sign it as well, just to confirm that nothing has been missed.

It looks more professional and it ensures the client gets the same service every single time. So, when we have a client questioning or wanting additional support, our internal office staff knows exactly what has been given the very first time they were there on site. The consistency, which is really important too, and that’s the real key they talk about in The Checklist Manifesto; that what a checklist does is ensures consistency. Consistency is such a powerful tool when used on a regular, disciplined basis in a business.

Dom: There is a degree of negativity, I think, in certain places with the word ‘checklist.’ Certainly, if you’ve worked in a service industry, you might have come across checklists before. I’ve been on the receiving end of them, and you might have a bit of a downer on them. But it is important that you look at this from a perspective of, as you said, it can be a framework. There are lots of different ways you can use this concept. One is as a framework.

So the example of, as you said, Pitch Anything or Frank Kern’s Video Black Box. When you’re sitting down to do a job, say a creative job or a job that needs to follow a certain pattern, having that pattern available for reference as a framework will guide you and give you inspiration and focus you on the steps you need to take. As a repetitive task assistance, the example, as you put with your installations, it’s important to have these physical, actual checklists, things that people tick off and say, “Yes, I’ve done that.”

You then have consistency and you also have that thing where one part of your business can rely on another part of your business without physical communication having to happen. If your support team knows that your engineers go through a checklist, then they can know your clients are least aware of these aspects of the product. So, it’s incredibly valuable from an efficiency and productivity workflow point of view.

But also, it can work well as a reminder. For example, if you have a telephone operator or salesperson, this is something we talk to people about on the mastermind calls. We suggested that people who wanted to increase the number of subscribers to their mailing list. Because the dominant communication was actually on telephone, we suggested that they have a telephone operator checklist and part of that checklist was, “How do you ask the client if they are on your mailing list?” It is just something to have in front of people, to remind them to check something.

It is as important to that business that someone makes that check, as it is to somebody making sure that the overhead light on the dashboard is off on the plane before it takes off. Whatever is critical to your business, whether it is highly repetitive and needs to be done right every time or whether it is something that you don’t do very often, but when you do it, you need to follow a sequence of steps. Both of those things are applicable and I think this is a great thing to start the year with, for that reason.

If you start 2012 looking at your business, you can make notes of these frameworks, these steps and processes that you go through and use it. Again Pete, a brilliant example that you used with the outsourcing. A lot of people have taken onboard our point about Work Wikis or my idea of the Green Book, storing your step-by-step processes in Evernote or the online Wikis, however it works for you. But the extra step of then summarizing that as a checklist at the end is a fantastic plus to that process.

Because people who do this regularly, they don’t really read those instructions time and time again, because they are quite long-winded and detailed because they were written for the person doing it the first time. What you want is the essence of the process, a checklist, to make sure you have done all the steps. And that, as a pair, the original Work Wiki, and that checklist is a very powerful addition to any business.

Pete: Absolutely. And to take that into a more of an analog sense as well is, in a similar way to how we use it with our technicians on site. If you are a contractor and you are doing some sort of labor-intensive work, whether it’s roof tiling or building for someone; if you went out as part of that pre-sales process with an actual checklist and you’re doing a four-point safety check or something like that, it just reinforces to your prospect that you know what you’re doing.

You are also covering your own butt to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. How many times have you gone and quoted on a job and have forgotten an element, and you’re stuck taking a bit of a loss or even some of your margin because you missed a key step when you were doing the quoting? Not actually does it save your own butt, but it really reinforces the professionalism you give to a client, which helps increase your conversion as well.

There are so many ways to use checklists in business; not to just help you remember, but to also help you increase the value you give and value you will lose because you miss steps and things like that. That’s the thing that I took away from The Checklist Manifesto book; the very solid argument that he made time and time again through case studies and examples that we can’t rely on our memory and it’s not a shot to our ego or anything like that to start to rely on checklists.

The smartest and richest people in the world do this. If you look at Warren Buffett and any sort of stock market investor, or even real estate investing; I remember when I look back when I worked with Steve McKnight doing real estate. The best thing was that he was very much about checklists.

He had a four or five-point checklist. Every property, you had to tick the boxes or otherwise, he would move on. It helped him eliminate stuff very quickly, which was another really key distinction that he speaks about checklists; particularly, from an investing perspective that having a checklist actually helps you eliminate the losers even faster. You just go through it; and if it doesn’t match all five key elements that you need, move to the next one and start assessing another particular deal.

Warren Buffet does this and all key stock traders; they get their emotion out of the way by using checklists. It really helps them become better at what they’re doing because they’re doing it. It’s a little counterintuitive; but there are so many different reasons and arguments that can be backed up by lots of data reinforcing why we should be using checklists for everything we do.

Dom: A really good example, there are two things in that that I really like. One of them is about this idea of removing the emotion is really important. It’s something that Ed Dale and The Challenge team talked about year on year when you go through The Challenge. The idea behind The Challenge is to identify a business or marketing opportunity online.

The thing that they stress is to not get emotional, not get involved in the topic before you have evaluated it and make sure that it is worth the effort. That is another great example, just like the real estate or the investment market of having a checklist; where, if the opportunity doesn’t meet these requirements, it just gets rid of it and use your checklist as an anchor, and say, “No, I’m not going to follow that one down.

It doesn’t meet these requirements, I’m getting rid of it. I’m not using this energy.” That’s a great way to do it, and really useful as long as you have identified those criteria first, which is something that needs a bit of time-spending. The other thing is this idea of, as you said, don’t be ashamed that you’re enhancing or backing up your memory. Your memory only really works by repetition. If you don’t do something all day, every day, it really doesn’t matter what it is, you won’t remember it.

You’ll be a very unusual person if you do. The various books I’ve read on memory, including Moonwalking with Einstein, that great book that you recommended talks very much about this process. You just don’t have a hope of remembering everything that has to do with your job. And, by the way, if you ever do get to the point where you are outsourcing then you should be remembering it anyway, somebody else should be doing it for you.

You should just have a checklist to make sure they’ve done it. I use checklists all the time, people think that I’m some great mind of information and that I remember all these great facts and details about various things. There will come a day when we’re doing this process; and video and media production is one of those industries that require a lot of numbers and processes and settings and bits of software and places to put files.

You can multiply that by orders of magnitude as soon as you start working for the client. I have to remember all of this stuff. Years ago ,I just stop trying. I just remember the important stuff and I think it was Einstein who said, “I don’t need to remember that, I have books.” So yes, I write it down; I have reams of these things stored in Evernote. Every time I get a new client and they want me to put a file in a particular place or it requires a certain title sequence or I got their music from a certain place, it all goes in a file somewhere.

A memory aid, and they are everywhere for me. So, it’s not something to be ashamed of. I’d like to bring this down to basics, I’d like to talk a little bit about how people can implement these checklists from, first of all by getting technology out-of-the-way and then let’s scale it up and come up with some kind of technology and aid. Is that all right?

Pete: Let’s do it.

Dom: My first point is people going on site for a client and the professionalism that brings, I love that. I think that’s a great thing to do. Whoever you are, whether a roofer, a plumber, any kind of tradesman, if you turn up with a checklist, I think that would look awesome. You could do that so, so easily. You don’t need to go to the local printers or anything; you literally just start Microsoft Word, put a big bold heading at the top of the page, put some new blank lines, and put some more headings with the different things you want to make sure you cover. That’s it, cover a sheet of A4 with that.

If you want to get clever, you can drop boxes in Microsoft Word. Give it a sensible name that will remind you that it’s a worksheet or a checklist or a framework, and store it somewhere in a safe, dedicated folder somewhere on your computer. Then, when you’re going to see a client, just hit Print. That’s it, just hit Print. Just one at a time, print them out, put them in your clipboard and set off for the client. Here’s a really big hint; if you really have something that needs a diagram or that you need to draw something on a page, some people overlook this and it is a really, really big one.

Use PowerPoint, or my favorite because it’s more flexible on the Mac, Keynote. Anything that requires actual layout, positioning things precisely on a page for a one-page document. Keynote is awesome, you can draw on it, you have all the text controls and formatting that you’ve got in Word that it doesn’t argue with you about where you put it on the page.

Pete: I’m going to interrupt for two seconds. This is my prediction for 2012: Keynote is going to be your new The E-Myth.

Dom: There was a slight meowing noise as the cat got out of the bag there. Well-spotted, sir. Well-spotted. Keynote is going to be mentioned quite a few times this year. You can get a really good-looking checklist to go out to clients just by using Microsoft Word. If you want it to look a little bit more elaborate and have a better presentation to it, drawing boxes and things, try using something like PowerPoint or Keynote to get that layout. That’s the first thing. But the extra step there, and probably the more important one, and I think, ironically, it fails most people…

This is kind of going back to one of our podcasts about learning to use the tools you’ve got. I really encourage anybody this year to learn to use the tools you’ve got. Specifically, learn to file things properly on your computer. A lot of what we will talk about, in terms of implementing checklists and frameworks, is going to be about recording this information. Putting it somewhere where you know where it is, and being able to retrieve it quickly and efficiently so it’s actually of use to you.

The real tip there is to not just use Microsoft Word, but to name the document with something that the actual filename, when you look at it in the Windows Explorer, or Finder, or whatever computer or system you are using; make sure you can find it again. Put it in a folder with a sensible name, but make sure you can actually get to find it. You could write a thousand checklists; but if you can’t get them back or you can’t remember where you put them, then you may as well not bother.

Pete: I’m going to take this to the nth degree and give someone on the other end of the scale how you can make this work. One way you could really reinforce this to make sure you don’t forget your clipboard and you don’t forget to print them out is, when you’re going to create the entry on your digital calendar of the appointment you have next Thursday afternoon at 3 o’clock, as well as putting in the client and the location; if you have a TextExpander snippet with you on-site pitch or on-site consultation checklist, as you’re putting in that diary entry, that will be very helpful.

You’ll just hit a couple of keys that you’ve made up that automatically pops in the three or four things you need to have before you leave your office to go and do that consultation. It might be the clipboard, the printout, flyers, and your texture board if you have different material, whatever it might be. As you go and create that entry in your calendar, put in that snippet to give you that checklist. And as you’re walking out the door and as your phone or computer goes beep, beep, beep with that meeting, you can quickly click on that and drill into the actual notes associated with that entry to give you the things you need to take.

It’s a checklist for your checklist, and it’s how you take it to the nth degree and be very granular with it using something like TextExpander to make all of that automated. A lot of people do this with their OmniFocus. So, as they’re putting in particular tasks into OmniFocus, no matter what it is, they’ve got these little snippet checklists that they’re adding to the notes automatically that gives them the reminder of the checklist they need to do when they’re doing that particular activity. That’s really key.

Dom: Yeah. To just low-tech that one before I really high-tech it, that checklist of things to take on a client visit is easily created in a Word document, print it out and stuck in your briefcase or your work bag, or whatever. Those things, by the way, it might be worth even laminating. Make sure you’ve got these things to go on a client visit. Print it out, get it laminated at the local copy or even a cheap laminator from the local supermarket because you can get them there now.

Stick it in your bag. And then before you leave, pull it out, look at and see if you have a business card, a quote form, and the other samples like swatch boards, that kind of thing. Yes, we can go super high-tech and I love that idea of putting all the information you need, including the checklist in the reminder of your calendar. But we can low-tech it too. Going super high-tech and going back to another episode; remember the book Creating Flow with OmniFocus by Kourosh Dini?

Pete: Absolutely.

Dom: Hi, Kourosh. Thanks for the emails. Great to chat to you. We talked about that book. In that book, he actually chose a method for storing checklists in OmniFocus that appear that you can use and reuse, and copy back in as a task, as a project and series of steps to perform a task, which is really powerful. Now Pete talks about TextExpander, I’m talking about OmniFocus. These are very specific tools.

What I’m trying to get across by keep going back to the low tech is you can implement what we’re talking about with pieces of paper, with everyday tools that everybody’s got. You can find tools on your computer or on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device that will help you do this. We have specific examples that work for us, like OmniFocus. I use this, by the way, this idea of templated projects, because OmniFocus is, for those people just joining us in, it is a task-management tool based around the Getting Things Done methodology.

Pete: It’s a checklist and a framework within its own right.

Dom: Which is another checklist in another framework and is definitely something you could summarize and have in a book, or online stored somewhere to remind you to follow the steps on different days. OmniFocus is a very powerful project and task manager, reminder and all kinds of things. It’s very powerful, but it’s actually made more powerful with tips like the ones in Kourosh’s book. We’re talking about TextExpander where when we make a calendar entry, we’re very quickly adding that checklists.

If you can’t quickly or easily do something, if you can’t quickly or easily find your checklist, then you stop using it. If there isn’t a flow, if it isn’t easy to do, you stop doing it. A lot of this is about making sure you can do it easily, making sure you can find these checklists, making sure they’re easy to follow. Kourosh’s tip really enhanced my use of OmniFocus. Every time I do a podcast episode, there are a certain number of things I need to do. I don’t do them all at once; I don’t even do them the same day sometimes. So, it’s easy to forget. I use OmniFocus to remind me of the steps.

There’s something like 12 steps to publishing an episode. If I had to make an entry called ‘Podcast Episode 36,’ and then followed up by individually writing out the 12 steps to follow just so that something reminded me tomorrow and I could tick a box, I really wouldn’t do it and I would lose out for that. But by having these copy-able projects, these templated projects with the tasks and steps already written in, I just copy-paste, and I’ve got a PreneurCast 36 is ready to go as a task in OmniFocus, it’s been managed and tracked.

That’s using the more advanced technologies to enhance this. But just don’t lose track of the principle. This is my 2012; my 2012 is the idea of really trying to help people understand the principle and then the application. A lot of people go out there and say, “Hey, you can use this technology, go use that.” It’s great to be told what to use sometimes when there are so many options. But if you don’t really understand the basic principles of what you are doing, I think you lack something in the implementation.

For me, checklists and frameworks are an incredibly powerful tool in any business, whether it’s a tradesperson with their checklist of getting information from a client, all the way up to the summary checklist at the end to match up with your work entry for your outsourcing team to make sure they’ve done their job properly. There’s a place for checklists and frameworks in every business, and they’re so powerful and they can free up so much space in your head.

You no longer have to remember all these facts and figures, and go through the stress and having to remember and dredge them up from your memory. You know they’re in your Work Wiki, you know they’re in your workbook, you know they’re in Evernote, you know they’re in a text file somewhere, you know they’re in your Word document somewhere, customer contacts folder. And all you have to do is press ‘Print.’ I think this is a great start to 2012.

Pete: I couldn’t agree more. I’m going to leave everybody with a medium tech idea and then I’ll give you an action point to work on, something I really want to implement in our checklist for the podcast episodes moving forward. That gives you guys clear action steps to take at the end of every episode to make sure you not only just listen and enjoy the episode, you actually implement it and take some sort of step forward. The medium tech idea is actually applying a couple of things we’ve spoken about when it comes to checklists.

Maybe you’ve got PowerPoint or Keynote, and you’ve got a number of different frameworks and checklists in your business. If you’re an online marketer, it might be ‘how to upload and promote a new blog post,’ or maybe it’s a framework or a checklist for creating a sales video. Maybe it’s the checklist you follow before leaving the office to go on a consulting visit. Maybe it’s a checklist of a new product that comes into inventory. Whatever it might be, go into Keynote or PowerPoint and create a desktop wallpaper out of all these checklists.

You might have four or five mini-checklists created graphically, very basic. You don’t have to spend money doing it. But a very graphically clear wallpaper that you can upload on the back of your laptop or your desktop computer that has all of your checklists right there. So, all you have to do is minimize your window to see that checklist and get that reference straightaway. It will be front of mind because it will be before your eyes. That’s a medium tech idea. Before we leave, I want to give you this action point.

The action point for this episode is, when it comes to checklists, just pick one thing in your business that you do on a regular basis, be it blog posts and marketing Maybe it’s doing pitches and writing sales letters, and you’ve got to actually review a checklist. Grab some book, course or system that you actually use and write that checklist out. Use a TextExpander snippet about it if you want to go to the nth degree, or write it out and stick to your desk.

Just see what happens over the next seven to 10 working days when you refer to this checklist. See how much more productive you are. See how much further you get and how much confidence you feel in the process because you’ve given yourself freedom to be creative and not remember the structure around that. That’s your action point for this week. A Part B of that is to go back into the episode of 2011, the Pete and Dom’s Favorite Things episode and invest three or four minutes.

Take some action around that particular episode and have a chance to win some cool prizes from mine and Dom’s favorite things list. That’s it. Thank you for joining us throughout 2011 and more importantly, thanks for taking the journey with us for the rest of the year this year. We look forward to speaking to you on a weekly basis as we have last year, and make the second year of PreneurCast bigger and better.

Dom: Absolutely. I’d like to say thank you, everybody, for a great 2011. We really enjoyed all your feedback and input into the program, and we’ve taken a lot of that onboard and are changing what we’re doing to help support you and your business. We want to continue doing that in 2012. So, if you found this episode useful or have found any of the episodes useful, please do pop onto iTunes and leave us some feedback.

As Pete pointed out in Episode 35, that’s part of one of the ways you can enter to win our favorite things from 2011. But do pop us some feedback, either on iTunes or on PreneurMedia.tv, the online website, home of this podcast. Or drop us an email at support [at] preneurgroup [dot] com. Just get in touch, drop us a line and let us know what you want to hear, if you like this new format of the action point and the medium tech solution there at the end. But for now, I think that will do us for the first show of 2012. See you next week.

Pete: Ciao!


The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande
Pitch Anything – Oren Klaff
Moonwalking with Einstein – Joshua Foer

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