While I was always a dependable, organized, intitiave-takin’, goal-oriented task manager, list-maker and note-taker, I never really had a formula for it until Kion. I mostly stumbled through work weeks that felt, in the words of John Rodosky, like “herding cats in a hurricane.”
I had to confront this once I started working at Kion, which had a culture that promoted productive collaboration on a higher level than I had experienced before. Committing to Kion’s habits required overcoming some internal bias and being open-minded. Ultimately it was a transformative experience that made me a more organized thinker, helped me communicate better, helped me better track mine and other’s progress, and generally reduced work-overwhelm. Here’s a glimpse of some of the tools I picked up while working at Kion, that I would recommend to anyone trying to unlock more sanity in their day-to-day.
1. I Fully Committed to the “5-15” Report
The first practice I resisted adopting was Kion’s SOP for high-level tracking of top objectives, top accomplishments, and measuring goal completion: the 30-year-old “5-15 Report” (we called it 15-5, or “15Five”). This was a regular fixture in our weekly routine. And it’s rumored that Yvon Chouinard is the mastermind behind it.
Here’s how it goes: at the beginning of each week, you look back at your top 5 accomplishments from the previous week, and look ahead at your top 5 objectives for the coming week, while noting challenges and lessons learned. This is meant to be completed in 15 minutes. We usually dedicated our Monday team check-ins to reviewing our 15-5’s.
Completing your 5-15 – while it should only take 15 minutes, requires focus. The structure can feel mentally taxing – sort of like updating your resume or preparing for a performance review. It can take some time to mentally index everything you’ve been working on, but once you start doing it, it gets easier and easier, and more and more useful.
Once I got into the routine of doing my 5-15 at the beginning each week…I really got into it. I began updating my top accomplishments every Friday, which gave me closure. I updated my top objectives each Monday morning, carrying over ongoing projects and incomplete tasks from the previous week. I also enjoyed tagging my teammates in Slack where we posted our 15-5 on the tasks and projects on which we were collaborating. I also added a new section to my 15-5, which a few other people on the marketing team also adopted: ROCKS progress (That’s EOS speak for quarterly goals / priorities). Here’s how my 15-5 looked each week:
TOP ACCOMPLISHMENTS (to complete on Fridays)
- e.g. Compiled data for report
TOP OBJECTIVES (to complete on Mondays)
- e.g. Complete report
e.g. I’m waiting on access to a partner’s results before I can submit the report for review.
e.g. don’t leave your computer charger in the office when you are planning to work remotely. (Or something more meaning, ideally! I rarely completed this section!)
What progress did I make on my ROCKS this week?
- e.g. ROCK 1 [no progress because…]
- e.g. ROCK 2 [progress because…]
The 5-15 isn’t rocket science. It’s just a solution for prioritizing tasks related to greater objectives, and tracking progress. If you’re looking for a system that will keep you on track and bring more transparency to what you’re working on that’s useful to others, I recommend it. Kion didn’t take it quite this seriously, but the template can be a solution for checking in with direct reports and keeping managers all the way up the chain in the loop on what’s going on at every level of an organization:
Do you use the 5-15 or have a different system for focusing objectives like this built into your organization or even personal life? How do you like it? Leave a comment below and let me know!
2. I Leaned Into Asana
Somewhere around the back half of 2018 I fully embraced the Asana Work Management tool. But it took me awhile.
Just. Could. Not.
(Turns out, they complement each other very well.)
Just barely dipping my toes in at first, doing the bare minimum necessary to demonstrate that I was using it, I initially wrote Asana off. Too complicated. But at some point, I realized I was being left behind. The marketing team was beginning to accept Asana into their lives a little more every day, even though I suspected everyone was using it differently and somewhat superficially.
It’s hard for me to commit to doing or using things I don’t understand, so I set about looking into how it’s really meant to be used. After doing a deep dive one night, I sent our COO an email about how awesome it is. I began to obsess. New ideas for implementation were born. Eventually, people were coming to me with their Asana questions! When people asked me where something was or followed up with me verbally on projects, my mantra became “it’s in Asana.” I was a broken record. Asana became the humble servant of our small but somewhat complex marketing team. Soon enough, we had teams that made sense, projects that made sense, tasks, sub-tasks, task dependencies, and more – oh my! What a delight.
If you’re on the fence about Asana or another work management tool, I understand. Change is hard. But I completely endorse it for team collaboration, task management, workflows, calendaring, and bringing way more transparency to what’s going on across an organization. While Asana works for certain types of projects – like marketing campaigns for example – it’s not a true project management took. It’s not as robust as say, GanttPro, which is a better solution when you need to track time, expenses, resources and deeper layers of complexity.
After Kion, I later went on to work at Roam. We hired an Asana goddess to help us plan an important event, and she blew my mind with her Asana wizardry, further cementing my love for this tool.
Do you use Asana? What tips or techniques do you suggest? Tell me in the comments below!
3. I Used Proper Slack Etiquette
I’m lucky that Kion, where I first encountered Slack, already had really good Slack etiquette (thank you, Angelo!) and I didn’t need to upgrade my behavior. I actually didn’t know Slack etiquette could even be so bad until I went elsewhere. I didn’t realize that people Don’t. Even. Use. Threads. Don’t set channel purposes. Or even line break (can I get a Ctrl + Enter, please?).
Even though there are valid (and amusing) arguments against workplace chat altogether… for better or worse, Slack / workplace chat seems to be here to stay and has become a fixture for workplace communication the world over. Here are my top suggestions (which are hardly “mine” at all) that can make Slack a better place for everyone.
- Do channel audits as a group. So the team understands each channel’s purpose, can retire the least active channels and introduce new ones.
- Set up a #creative-resources channel. Raise your hand if you’ve worked somewhere where no one has a clue where anything is, especially as it relates to creative. Kion solved this by getting team buy-in for Google Team Drive. I then started to use the existing #creative-resources channel to notify when I added new images to a folder, added a new folder, etc. I would write something like “Hi-res photos from Ben’s speaking event in ____ are now in Team Drive > Creative Resources > Ben > Ben Events > Speaking > ________” I’d mention who to credit, give other needed context, and usually @mention whomever I thought would most likely want to use the photos.
- @mention people. This is the girl who cc’s the world, so maybe this advice is just for the over-communicators, but I truly don’t know why someone would write in a discussion, for instance, “Can we see the newest version of the article?” without mentioning at all anyone who may have the answer to the Q. If you’re addressing something, if you don’t tag an individual or the whole channel, unless people are really paying attention, especially in bigger organizations where Slack is an even more active place, what makes you think the right people are going to be alerted your question?
- Reply in existing threads instead of starting new threads. I guess I’m particularly obsessed with this one, having many times searched for and revived months-old threads when new information / ideas come to light. I find a particular satisfaction in this. If you’ve spent any time in internet forums, you understand threads. If your team doesn’t use threads, you’re in the dark ages, and you’re killing me. Just use threads. Please. Seriously.
- Use line breaks. Well-formatted messages do make a difference – they are easier to read and easier to scan. (It’s simply Ctrl + Enter or Cmd + Enter)
- Break all the rules in direct messages (DMs). Tbh in my dm’s my typing genrally looks like this but I’m not too worried bout it bc i just need answers k!!
What do you think of Slack? Do you also think the search function is terrible or am I missing something? Let me know in the comments below!
I Started Eating Lunch Like A Civilized Person
A mega perk from working at Kion is that I got to work remotely from Mexico City for a month last January. One thing I noticed was how Mexicans have preserved their custom of breaking from work to eat lunch, I mean like for an hour, like with your friends or family or colleagues. Not “shoving food down my gaping maw” as Ben would say in front of a screen. I still don’t always have time or make time for long lunch dates or elaborate meals, but I promise you, I’m at least giving myself a chance to enjoy the subtle flavor of my food away from the screen. Provecho!
What do you do to take care of yourself at work? Lmk in the comments below!
The 5-15 Report, committing to Asana, setting ground rules for Slack and taking real breaks are 4 pretty basic ways you can set yourself up for success in 2020. I owe all of this beta to my friends at Kion, particularly Angelo Keely, the co-founder and CEO. Kion, a company that promotes whole health, you get a gold star for being healthy on the inside and the outside. Go Kion!