As a kid, I stayed at a Howard Johnson’s Motel with my family. I was fascinated with the entire operation and started asking the Manager tons of questions and eventually followed him around. One thing that stuck with me after all these years was how he would “walk the grounds” of the motel at least twice per day. With his own eyes and ears, he was able to keep tabs on a large operation and it has been a lesson I have taken to heart in how I approach work.
It is easy to start a To-Do list or let your imagination go wild when you are trying to get stuff done, but to really be effective, you need an active knowledge of your operation to help you make better decisions. So no matter what job I have had, I have included my own version of “walking the grounds” to my day.
How do you walk the grounds when you have no grounds to walk?
I start to figure out what I need to look at daily by asking myself a very simple question, “what might I need to know today?” This was something I was doing as part of my daily morning journaling, so I just folded this into that practice.
If I know the answer, I write that down, but if I don’t, I go and get the answer. That is my first stop on my tour.
Once I have hit that stop, I ask the next question, “How often does this info change?” Is it daily? Monthly? Never?
Once I establish that, I note the frequency on my list and then proceed to the next thing I need to know.
After doing this for a few weeks you will start to develop a list of several items and the walk could be starting to get long. If it is exceeding 20 minutes, you either need to trim the list or you need to start thinking of how you can get through items on that list more quickly.
Why 20 minutes?
This is something I like to do two times a day when possible. Anything more than 20 minutes and it starts to get onerous. It becomes less a component of your day and more of the basis of your day. Plus an artificial limit will challenge you to get through it faster and more efficiently.
Example of things I check at my current job while walking the grounds
- (Daily) Check Website Publication – Frontpage updated? Any weirdness? When was the last post written?
- (Daily) Our Daily Newsletter – What time did it go out that day?
- (Weekly) User Count – How many people are using our products?
- (Monthly) Blog Count – How many active and how many Memberships?
These are just four items of a current list of about twenty. Which is about average. When I first started the number of list items topped out at about thirty-seven. Of my current list items about six of them are daily and I can get through most of those in under ten minutes.
Why would I want to know these things, when I can just look them up whenever?
These things are the lifeblood of the company, they are what makes it tick. They need to inform my decisions and if something is wrong, I need to take immediate action to fix them. Only by being knowledgable and understanding how these systems depend on each other can you make better choices. It does add to my day, but in the longterm, it has made me more comfortable in my position and taught me many new things.