How to Stop Being the Bottleneck in Your Team’s Progress

Ev Chapman
October 24, 2023

A few months ago I saved a tweet from Ronit Newmark that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about…

“Good things happen when you release work that’s waiting on you. Set someone free by completing something that unlocks other’s work.”

And if I’m honest, I’m really bad at this.

There’s always someone in my team who is waiting on me for something. And it stops them from being able to move their work forward.

And that bothers me…. a lot.

It’s not that I didn’t want to get back to people, I just didn’t have a good system for collecting & managing all the things that were requested of me.

So I Created A ‘Release Work That Is Waiting On Me’ System:

If you’re relying on willpower alone (like I was) then you are going to run out of it really quickly.

Especially on those busy days, when you have very little headspace left for anything other than sitting with a glass of wine on the couch and a spinning head at the end of the day.

No. If you really want to make something happen consistently, you need a system. Here’s how mine works:

1. Collect Everything Into A List — That is not your task list.

I really hated keeping all of these things on my task list. My task list is usually reserved for anywhere between 3–5 big tasks that I need to do on any one day.

When I added all these little tasks it made me feel overwhelmed. Plus it was hard to schedule a lot of little things into my calendar.

So I created one list called 🗣️Feedback & Follow-Ups that lives on my day page next to my agenda. It doesn’t sound very revolutionary, but it’s completely revolutionised how I work.

It consists of three sub-lists:

📞 My Call List.

I add anyone to this list who I need to call. Along with their phone number. Because I have their details right in front of me I can make calls whenever I have a moment throughout the day (rather than scrambling around looking for their number in our CRM).

🗣️ The Feedback List.

I add any requests for feedback to this list. If someone needs me to look a landing page, or design or some copy it goes on this list. I try to also add a link to the Slack message or email where the request came through. That way I can jump straight into it from the list.

🔁 The Follow-Up List.

This last list is anyone that I need to follow up. This could be both an internal team member or clients that I need to reach out to for specific things.

I also add things to the follow-up list when I request things from others. Whether I’ve delegated something to a team member or sent an email to someone that I need to close the loop on.

There’s always work that you feel like you’ve done because you’ve handed it off to someone else. But you’re still responsible for it. But it often goes off my radar because I didn’t have anywhere to track it.

What a typical Feedback & Follow Up lists looks like each day

I use Tana, so I can add things to each of these lists really quickly by just writing a quick note and adding a tag. That’s it — I know it will be waiting for me next time I open my list to review.

If you use another note-taking or task app. Find a way to get things in quick and then a view to find them again.

2. Schedule A Time To Work On The List

Now that my task list is clear of these things. I just schedule a block of time each day on my agenda to work my way through the list.

I try to schedule two time blocks throughout the day to review the list.

First thing in the morning I’ll do my feedback list. Mostly because I’m at my best & brightest first thing. Feedback is usually a heavy lift task for me that requires creativity. So I like to make sure I do it first thing.

The second block I schedule in the afternoon for anywhere between 2–4pm. This is my least productive time of the day. So it’s actually perfect for my call list and follow-up list. Because those kind of tasks require the least amount of creative energy from me.

3. Clear The List Daily or schedule for later

The aim of the game is to clear the list by the end of the day. That way I’m achieving my goal of releasing work that is waiting on me. And let me tell you the rush of checking things off that list is intoxicating.

And my team are much happier. They know they can expect me to give feedback or get back to them within a 24-hour period, so they aren’t constantly following up or wondering when I’ll get back to them.

What about things that don’t need immediate attention?

There are always going to be things that you don’t need to follow up on right away. It might be an email request I need to wait a few days for a reply. Or I might speak to a coaching client that I need to follow up on in a few weeks.

For those, I use a Tickler date. I just set a date I want to follow up on and my live search in Tana brings up those things on the day I need.

How I Setup My Follow Up List To Hide Anything I need to follow up in the future

This means things I can’t do today aren’t cluttering up my list (& my headspace). But I have peace of mind that they will show up when they need to.

This is what creating a trusted system looks like. It brings you things when you need them, and keeps them out of sight at all other times. It allows you to release your own headspace, rather than feeling overwhelmed with all the things you have to get back to.

And It’s been phenomenal 🤩

My head is clear. Because I know everything is organised and waiting for me on the list.

I can focus on my big tasks each day without having a lot of small things cluttering up my agenda.

And my team are actually much happier with me as well. They are finally able to have confidence that I won’t ignore them for days. And we are all moving work forward again.

I highly recommend setting something like this up if your work requires a lot of moving tasks to manage.

If you like this article and you want to level up your everyday work even more. Check out my Focus Hub Template: the productivity tool I custom build that helps you get More Of Your Best Work Done Everyday.

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