How a pie chart can help you succeed

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” - Aristotle

Towards the end of last year things got busy at  Distributed, we were growing a little too fast for comfort and everyone on the team was doing their best to wear multiple hats every day (sometimes more than one hat at a time) which led to us delivering some excellent work, but also led to me taking my eye off of our long term mission for a little longer than I’m comfortable with.

The problem I had was multi-layered, and to put it succinctly, I wasn’t spending enough time doing anything.

I was spending 10 minutes catching up with project leads, 30 minutes going over our finances, 5 minutes looking for content that our Twitter followers would find engaging, 10 minutes looking at wireframes…you get the point.

I had started to live, think, and deliver in, ‘the now’.

There’s nothing wrong with living, thinking and delivering in, ‘the now’, if that’s your job. There are many critical team members that MUST work in, ‘the now’, from data analysts to members of the QA team, there are specialisms that need to make decisions in today’s reality to ensure they’re making an impact, my role, however, and my delivery should not be based in, ‘the now’.

As a founder it’s my job to work to ensure that our company continues to improve, and grow, and in my role leading operations it’s important that the work I do is laying the groundwork for where we want to be six months from now, so I desperately needed to stop thinking I was required to be in every meeting and make every decision. As a team we reassessed what was required of my role, and how my days were spent.

And then I made a pie chart.

As you can see it’s not that complicated, it’s literally a list of what my team is relying on me to deliver on, broken up into chunks of time, and as I’m pretty regimented on when my day starts and ends, it’s very easy to stick to these focused blocks consistently every day.

“But what happens when you’re interrupted!?”, I can hear you saying as I type this, well I have found (so far) that the easiest way to deal with interruptions is to lose the time scheduled from whenever an interruption takes me away from what channel I’m supposed to be focusing on. Over a long enough time frame all interruptions should aggregate to a pretty uniform time loss across all of my time slots.

Using this, ‘pie chart method’, (please don’t let this be the thing that I’m remembered for) I’m able to consistently focus on the tasks that will allow me to lay the road ahead for the rest of the team and for Distributed as a company.

So if you find yourself jumping from task to task or find yourself watching your effectiveness being spread thinly over too many, ‘today’, priorities, it might be time for you to make a pie chart too, or, it might be time to get a little help with your growth and  speak to someone at Distributed about how modular teams enable faster, safer and cheaper growth for businesses.

If you have any tips of your own that would be helpful please tweet me  @callumadamson


When breath becomes air — by  Paul Kalanithi

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of becoming a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He wrote this book after his diagnosis. It’s one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read.

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