Thomas Edison maintained that “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Scott Belsky, CEO of Behance and contributor to the “Managing” topic at the Idea Hub, has taken that quote to heart. Scott believes creative thinkers struggle most with productivity and organization, so he and his team develop products and services to organize the creative world and help make ideas happen. For example, Behance sponsors The 99% Conference and offers the free Action Method online project management application.
The Action Method helps you break your project down into the basic elements of action steps, references, backburners, discussions and events. Everyone understands action steps. References are notes, links, files…anything related to a project that gives context to your action steps. Backburners are your 1% “parking lot”—ideas that you want to revisit later but are not yet actionable. Discussions are all the important project communications and conversations in one place. Events are the key occasions, meetings and milestones you’re working on to complete.
I’ve been testing it with a couple of projects, primarily using the iPhone version. Here’s how it helps me.
- It keeps actions separate from email. Email can kill my productivity because the actions I have to take are buried in regular communication. An inbox full of email, even well-filed ones, still forces me to dig through every communication to find the hidden task.
- It helps me track what I really need to know. I don’t think people should share whole projects, just relevant items within projects. Why? Because the way people really think about their work is more personal. We define our projects in our own terms, and it is rare that 100% of any project is relevant to all involved.
- The design keeps me tied to the app. A simple, intuitive design helps me be more productive and effective. Bottom line: if a system functions properly and is attractive, I’m more likely to stay with it.
- It builds accountability. In the Action Method, actions are only truly “delegated” when they are accepted. If you use social media, you know that control over what we accept from others preserves the system’s integrity. Same concept here: true accountability isn’t achieved unless the person to whom you delegate a task chooses to accept it.
- It creates transparency. I can see when others complete (or delay) tasks! A degree of voyeurism and transparency keeps everyone engaged. Twitter and other online “activity feeds” prove that the future of communication is passive as well as active. Being able to tune in and search everything that happens around you is more valuable than getting emails or holding “status” meetings.
- It works the way I do in real life. Let’s face it, when it comes to taking action, work and personal life collide. I happen to think that’s okay, because even though we tend to separate professional and personal “to-do” lists, the reality is that action steps are action steps, regardless of their context. Priorities may change, but having everything actionable in one system may be your best bet for anxiety-free living.
- It propels the “do” and subordinates the backstory. I spend a great deal of time with creative teams. I find that the most productive creative teams eliminate a lot of the overview and “fluff” of a project—the static whys and wherefores, roles and responsibilities—and start right away with what needs to get done and who is going to do it. They prioritize their action steps before anything else.
You can take a tour of the Action Method iPhone application here.
Matthew E. May is the author of In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, and blogs here. You can follow him on Twitter here.