Profitability: a Game of Inches

I finally broke down (thanks to my partner Jimbo’s pressuring), and took a bit of time to sort out my company’s to-do list. (“Small business productivity”) While I’ll miss seeing the snazzy Notepad interface smiling up at me, the gains of using Ta-da list are already impressing me.

The thing about me is, I’ve never ever had a “great idea”. All I ever have is little 2 minute ‘slight improvement’ ideas. You know, those quick chores you think of when you’re surfing (and hopefully get around to later). These are the details that make a decent Web site good, and over time make a good Web site great. And they also make a mildly profitable business much more profitable (if you commit to doing them over a long period of time).

The problem being, during the course of a day I think of a dozen of these things that need to be done, and I either:

a) email it to myself or Jimbo to be done (and half the time we never get around to it because there’s no follow through), or
b) just plain forget about it.

Recently Jimbo made the jump to fulltime blog overlord, and he has a lot more hours in the day to actually do all the things we want to do. So rather than continuing to half-a** it, we finally got (semi) serious, and setup an account at Ta-Da list. (Neat little app by the way, but I’m not ready to name 37Signals the ‘next big thing’ quite yet).

Our productivity gains have been staggering. I finally have a clear overview of what work’s being done by whom, how long it takes, and where our strengths and weaknesses are. Which, if I’m getting real about building a business, is a necessity.

There. I did it. I made a post about productivity. See that transparent haze floating away? That’s my soul ;-)

Comments

  1. Ahmed Bilal says:

    It’s the little things that count. Or as they say, good ideas are nothing without good execution.

    Ta-Da List is a pretty decent app, although they should allow for backups or full account exports as well because if I ever need to get my lists out of there, it would be a pain to email each list to myself manually.

    Nick mentioned using Basecamp to manage the PFF plugin project. It would be great to hear about it in more detail, as long as we’re on the productivity/project management theme…

  2. Tada lists are a great idea. The only problem that didn’t allow me to take the stuff into use is the lack of integration. As Joel wrote in his brilliant Strategy Letter III one of the most important things for a new product is always to make the customer sure that he is “able to go back to the old way”.

    Unfortunately AFAIK Tada lists have import/export/integration neither with MindManager, nor Google Desktop, nor even with the Windows Notepad. I like the idea of having my to-do lists available from anywhere, but I want to be able to use my old good tools and use the Tada as a backup solution only. At least for the beginning. I might switch to the web interface completely if I like it, but I don’t won’t to throw away my old tools just after seing the 5 minute demo.

    P.S.
    Actually after this Andy’s post I might eventually try the Tada lists

  3. Markus Merz says:

    That’s my reflex on that subject for this year so far :-) a good paper notebook and my Filofax schedule for EVERYTHING.

    As Andy is talking collaboration I want to throw in one of my earlier tips: Check out AirSet. It’s a fully featured calendar application for personal and group(s) …

    • one personal calendar
    • multiple group calendars
    • import, subscribe and export iCal calendars
    • private and group(s) contacts – shareable
    • multiple private and group(s) lists (like to-do)
    • private and group(s) blogs
    • private and group(s) bookmarks

    Addresses and calendars are syncable with Palm and Outlook! I sync it very easy every hour with a nice little software in the background with my (free) Palm Desktop addresses and calendar. That said, you don’t even need a Palm device the free desktop application is enough!

    Everything is RSS and iCal … very easy to integrate it in ready-made webpages (i.e. Google start page, SuprGlue, tribe.net) … too much to comment on in a small comment :-)

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