I recently wrote a blog post called “Get your s*@! together.” The post offers up some of the techniques that guide my own personal process for managing projects and tasks. Assuming you have your s*@! together, how does your boss know you have your s*@! together? Easy. Send to-the-point weekly updates. Once you’ve built your detailed list for the week, edit it down to eight or ten snappy bullet points and fire it off. It will take you all of two minutes and save you and your boss two or three hours of discussion throughout the week. Another benefit of this approach is that your boss never has to wonder, “What’s Bob focusing on this week?”
Plus, communicating what you’re going to do is a lot more empowering than waiting to be told what to do. Ideally, your list should line up with project, unit and company goals. If they don’t or you think that you might be off the mark, that’s a really good reason to send an update. At the end of the week, leverage the same list from the beginning of the week and communicate your accomplishments. These eight to ten little bullet points and two minutes of your time will massively impact the way your boss thinks about your work discipline and potential to lead.
We have a number of people on the Marxent team who have modeled this strategy for new employees. For instance, our Director of Marketing, Sonia, is a master ninja of self organization and management updates. She regularly checks for understanding against unit and company goals and then *BOOM* – she is managing me. In the three years that we’ve worked together, I can’t remember a single instance where I asked her for an update or I didn’t feel current on a project. Every time I get an update from her, I feel warm and fuzzy inside and I say to myself, “Sonia’s got it under control. I can put my attention elsewhere.” If you can get your boss to think this about you consistently, the world will be your oyster as you embody the organization’s ability to grow and scale.
So that’s it. Weekly updates. You can read hundreds of books about how to get ahead in business but I promise you this tiny, two minute discipline will tell your boss that you have your s*@! together and will change your career. Curious about how to get started? Here’s one proven method for keeping your manager updated and tracking your contributions against company goals over time.
The weekly 5×5: Using proactive communication to manage your tasks
A weekly 5×5 is one excellent method for communicating your tasks, goals and objectives to management and co-workers while ensuring that your work plan aligns with their expectations. At the end of every week, just jot down the five most important things that you worked on over the past week and the five items that you intend to focus on in the week to come. It’s quick, simple and helps you to track progress over time. It also provides a great written record of how you’ve spent your time and what you’ve accomplished over a given month, quarter or year and can serve as an excellent reference when you’re up for a performance review.
What does a weekly 5×5 look like?
While it definitely varies by job, responsibilities and where you are in a project cycle, a 5×5 usually spans a collection of specific action items and broader initiatives. Sometimes it’s helpful to throw in a bit of data or limited relevant details to keep your manager or co-workers in the loop. Here’s an example of what a weekly 5×5 might look like:
Top 5 accomplishments this week:
- Sent out email newsletter. Saw a 52 percent open rate and 10 percent CTR. Solid engagement, especially for a growing list.
- Delivered monthly marketing metrics. We’re on track for Q3. See report for the happy details.
- Updated homepage creative
- Started 2H2014 content calendar
- Collaborated on app promotional planning. Clarified task ownership and confirmed with partner. Everything is a go for next week.
Top 5 action items for next week:
- AdWords campaign management and optimization
- Adding new site section as discussed
- Social media initiatives
- Finalize 2H2014 content calendar
- Research 2H2014 event participation
Owning and communicating tasks in writing builds confidence and focus
The best part of tracking and owning your tasks using the 5×5 method is that you can always feel confident that your manager knows where you stand, what you’re working on and why it was important. If any questions arise, they can be addressed immediately instead of snowballing major miscommunications. Finally, it gives you some personal space to check your activity against the bigger picture of what’s going on in the company. Spending the time to organize and communicate about your work in writing builds confidence in your performance and helps you know that you’re on the right track.
Beck Besecker is the CEO of Marxent.