Lists every entrepreneur should create
BEING a startup founder who is obsessed with my own personal growth, I frequently get sucked into blog posts with titles like “The top 5 traits of all successful entrepreneurs.” These articles tend to cite characteristics such as passion, persistence, inspiration, an eye for talent, a data-driven mindset, great communication skills, and the ability to galvanize team members toward a common longterm vision.
Yet there’s one extremely critical skill that I never seem to hear anyone talking about: list management.
This skill may not sound sexy, but there is absolutely no way an entrepreneur can succeed without obsessively maintaining updated lists of all resources and projects that will contribute to his or her endeavor’s success. Such lists may be in the form of spreadsheets, Evernote files, contact lists, Salesforce files, Dropbox folders, Trello boards, paper to-do lists or any number of other accessible formats. Whatever the preferred style of list management, leaders of all types must constantly be able to recognize three things:
conversation agendas Talking points for your upcoming weekly team and/or individual meetings. I like to have at least two to three bullets ready for all my scheduled discussions. I tend to just keep these talking points on a written notepad by my desk. Your email inbox Correspondence that requires action. The most successful entrepreneurs are obsessive about archiving emails that have already been addressed, so that anything still in the Inbox is essentially a form of short-term “todo list.”
Any emails representing longer-term projects should either be immediately transmitted to another form of to-do list, or should be “snoozed” to come back to later (by using a tool such as Boomerang, Mailbox or Google Inbox). My personal goal is to reach inbox zero at the end of each day (although that rarely happens). Blog posts to write Ideas for articles you’d like to write, either for your blog, Linkedin and/or for a major publication as a guest author. You should add to this list whenever a good blog post idea pops into your head. You can chip away at this list either by scheduling some regular weekly writing time or by just saving the list for whenever you have some “down time.” Marketing ideas Ideas for slogans, ad campaigns, giveaways, contests, promotional videos, email blasts, brand ambassador activities and any other marketing initiatives that you might want to explore at some point.
Brainscape maintains a shared Google spreadsheet where everyone on the marketing team can add their ideas and review priorities at our weekly meetings.
to read Novels or nonfiction books that will somehow make you a better entrepreneur. This list often tends to grow faster than you can attack it. One useful tool is to record the person who recommended the book to you, so you can remember to thank them once you do read it (even if it is years later). I keep this list in the standard Notes app on my iphone. See this link for other tips on how entrepreneurs should read business books. Future business ideas Ideas for companies that you might want to start one day, when or if you ever exit your current company. As James Altucher writes, your “idea muscle” can get weak when you’re in a groove, so be sure to write down the ideas when they come to you! My own list currently has several dozen business ideas (most of them pretty dumb, but still worth recording).
Having spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs over the past few years, I have found that the most successful founders tend to be those who are most obsessed with keeping such lists for everything in their lives.
Even founders who have suffered from ADHD (which actually tends to be a common entrepreneurial trait) are typically very good at maintaining organized lists -- possibly because they once had to compensate for forgetfulness as a student.
If you don’t think you are good at lists yourself, feel free to copy some of my list ideas as a starting point, and you’ll find that it gets easier and easier over time.
Have an entrepreneurial list type of your own? Feel free to share it in the comments section below!
Pew respondents say organization (67 percent) and compassion (57 percent) are important, and Zenger and Folkman believe in strategic vision.
And each of these are components of conscientiousness. Conscientiousness is a measure of how organized, thoughtful and forwardthinking an individual is.
Good leaders are highly organized, both individually and when it pertains to their teams; they sympathize with their employees and provide thoughtful feedback and support; and they have both short-term and long-term goals for the team that drive the team’s everyday projects.
Bill Gates, commenting on leadership in the 21st century, once said,
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Good leaders do more than just inspire others through action, they empower the people they work with by building trust, encouraging and being open to creative solutions, making confident decisions that reflect the best interests of their employees and organization, and being thoughtful, organized strategic planners who think about the bigger picture and how all their employees contribute to that success.
Maintain updated lists of all resources and projects that will contribute toyour endeavor’s success.