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Popsicle Stick Time Management

I recently read the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull (President of Pixar).  The book’s tagline is to overcome the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration.  Chapter by chapter, Catmull unlocks creative leadership ideas by effective (and vulnerable) story telling.  He shares his own journey in detail – through the lens of job transitions as well as different projects (like various Pixar movies).  The book reads more like a page-turning biographical novel, with the added bonus that it has golden content on leadership.  David Slocum, writer for Forbes magazine, says “it’s one of the half-dozen best books that have been written about creative business and creative leadership. Ever” (source).

One key takeaway that I had from the book was on time management.  I’m a organized+creative+visual person, so I loved this idea that was sparked by a producer on the Pixar team.  The idea was simple: popsicle sticks stuck to a wall of Velcro.  Each stick represented a person-week (which equals the amount of work one animator could accomplish in a week’s time).  The sticks, in various amounts, would get placed next to a particular project (in Pixar’s case, a character from the movie The Incredibles).  The popsicle system gave the team a visual representation of their resources.  Here’s how Catmull described it working: “A bunch of sticks would be lined up next to a particular character for easy reference.  A glance at the wall would tell you: If you use that many popsicle sticks on Elastigirl, you’ll have less time to spend on Jack-Jack.  And so on.” When a manager would approach the team and say “This needs to be done today” the team would reference the Velcro wall and explain that they would then need another “stick” or ask where they’d like to take a stick from.  Catmull called it “a great example of the positive creative impact of limits.”

pixarI was so drawn to this example of time management and resources, that I made my own popsicle stick Velcro wall (see picture).  For my own work purposes, each colored Velcro line equals a key goal in my job (e.g. project management, 1:1’s with direct reports, etc).  And the popsicle sticks equal 1 hour of work.  So by glancing at my mini-wall, I can see where my week’s resources are being placed, and if I need to adjust in any way.  An added bonus is that the color-coded key goals correspond to the different category colors represented on my Outlook calendar (yes, I’m a bit of a nerd).

What time management tools do you use?  I’ll look forward to connecting with you in the comments section.

Perks & Benefits Partner Spotlight | inDinero

Partner Spotlight is a weekly series introducing a company which provides unique offers for thinkspace members via our Perks and Benefits program. Every Monday, we shed light on their mission, showcase their passion for startups and small entrepreneurs, and present the value of their service.

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Tell me about inDinero’s an it’s mission.

Darren Carter, Senior Finance Consultant: inDinero helps entrepreneurs build bigger and better businesses. We didn’t just want to build accounting software: we wanted to completely change the way that business owners think about their operations, and taking care of all of their back-office affairs is our way of doing that.

Today, inDinero supports hundreds of businesses across the United States, and we’re on a mission to support them as they grow.

What is the value that you provide for entrepreneurs and startups that can’t be found anywhere else?

We’re the only solution that combines powerful accounting software with live support from our financial consultants. We don’t hand off a product to you, for you to figure out how to use it or hire someone to do so. Our team helps hundreds of businesses in the United States who grow and scale while still remaining lean.

What is the best part of your work as inDinero team?

Seeing our clients succeed is the most valuable and rewarding experience – helping other businesses run smoother and grow quicker is deeply embedded in our mission and core values.  The goals our clients set for themselves and their companies become our goals, and hardly anything makes us happier than seeing them move mountains and stir up the business landscape. It’s truly rewarding to be a part of that process.

3 qualities that make entrepreneurs/startups successful?
  • Work ethic. If you’re not prepared to work preposterously hard, don’t be surprised if success always seems unattainable.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t try to do everything yourself, even if you’re smart enough. Hire talent or outsource to services that free up your time and energy to focus on the things that you’re really, really (really) good at.
  • Learn from your (and others) failures. Every entrepreneur and startup makes mistakes. The key is being able to learn more and faster from your failures (and the failures of those around you) than anyone else.

To learn how your company can benefit from working with inDinero, or more information about the special offer for thinkspace members – contact us!