When was the last time you or anyone in your business was able to say, “I’ve got it under control,” and mean it? With so many projects that need attention and so many details to keep track of, no wonder it’s so difficult to stay on top of things!
Ask any group of managers how they plan and track their work and you’ll discover a world of to-do lists, day planners, computer software, and a lot of reliance on memory. But there is another option; it’s called a controlling calendar.
The controlling calendar is just one of the many tools available in the E-Myth Mastery Program®, and there’s a lot more to it than we have time to go over in this article, but at its core it’s an easy thing to create. It provides a way to plan and track your work and results, and the results that you have delegated. Unlike other calendars, it gives you a wide angle view that shows you what happened in the past, gives you an overview of the present, and allows you to plan for the future.
Creating your controlling calendar
Your controlling calendar is easy to create. You will customize it to suit your needs as you use it, and that’s the beauty of it: it is very simple in design, but can be a powerful tool if used correctly.
The basic structure is a simple grid with three main components: 1) a column to list your work accountabilities; 2) a time line; and 3) specific steps in the process
- Item Column The Item column is for the names of work accountabilities; things you might usually refer to as your activities, results, projects, responsibilities, and so forth. Most people in your company, including you, have a variety of accountabilities. But when you get right down to it, all work generally falls into two categories – routine work and projects. Work that is performed regularly in a well-developed sequence is routine. Tasks that are performed once – or infrequently – are projects. The beauty of your controlling calendar is that it tracks both kinds of work.
- Time Line Row The time line could be any length of time: a week, a month, a year, a five-day week, or a seven-day week. The most common format is the five-week, month-at-a-glance version shown here. Use the time line that best reflects the work patterns of your business.
- Step Boxes In the boxes of the grid, you plan your work by writing the specific steps you must do to get the overall result. Then you track the work by marking steps that are done on-time and rescheduling steps that arenʼt.
Putting the calendar to work
The key to planning work effectively is to break the overall result down into a series of smaller and smaller steps, or benchmarks. There’s no need for lengthy descriptions of what to do, this isn’t the place for that kind of detail. These are just quick reminders. And remember, this is your controlling calendar, it contains tasks that you’re responsible for doing and the results that others have committed to do for you. Each person should have their own controlling calendar that tracks their own work.
Once you have the steps documented for each item, you and your staff should agree on a set of consistent notations to mark and update your calendars. These can be circles, check marks, arrows; whatever notation you all agree on that expresses whether a step is on track, delayed, completed, etc. Experiment with different formats and notations until they feel right. Consistent abbreviations and symbols will help everyone use their calendars easily.
And that’s all there is to setting up a basic controlling calendar. Activities down the left side, dates across the top, and benchmarks in the boxes. Planning project work is not really different from planning your routine work, except that you’ll probably have to put more thought into what each benchmark should be and when each should be due. Record all your routine and project accountabilities, use abbreviations, symbols, and descriptive item names that make sense to you, and there you have it!
The controlling calendar helps you regulate work in two very important ways. First, both you and your employees have the same understanding of when they owe you work, so they know exactly when they should be reporting results to you. Second, managers can have their team copy and turn in their controlling calendars periodically, allowing them to see at a glance how work is progressing, if it’s being planned effectively, and if there are any trouble spots that need further attention. It’s one way to gain control over the work of your business, and when people are more in control of their efforts, your business produces better results.