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Published: 21/02/2024

Effective Planning for Unmatched Team Productivity: Tech Excellence Podcast with Stoyan Yankov

Tech Excellence podcast with Stoyan Yankov

Finding the balance between good planning and chasing goals is more challenging than it may seem. Our Tech Excellence podcast guest, Stoyan Yankov, is an expert on effective planning in business. In his book “Perform – The Unsexy Truth About (Startup) Success,” he emphasizes the importance of a strong team, culture, and productivity. However, good productivity is hard to achieve without equally effective planning.

Key takeaways

It starts with finding the time to plan

  • Stoyan strongly emphasizes that planning is essential and that leaders should always find time to plan out the work in the company and direct their teams toward shared and individual goals.

Focus on ambitious vision and practical steps

  • Have a clear, ambitious vision for your business, but ensure it is grounded in practicality. Break down this vision into actionable steps and strategies.

Roles and responsibilities

  • It’s vital to define roles and responsibilities within the team clearly. Using frameworks like RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) helps to assign tasks and responsibilities effectively.

Prioritizing Tasks

  • Find the three most important tasks or goals and focus on them individually. Focus only on these three items. After finishing those three tasks, return to everything else and prioritize accordingly.

Time management and multitasking

  • Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is counterproductive.  Instead, focus on one task at a time and block specific times for different tasks.

Team communication and alignment

  • Ensure regular and effective communication within the team to ensure everyone is aligned with the company’s goals and priorities. Meet your team frequently to discuss progress and next steps.

Decision-making and focus

  • Learning to say ‘no’ to tasks and opportunities that don’t align with your top priorities helps maintain focus and efficiency.

Watch and listen

Transcript

Monika Dawidowicz: Hello and welcome to Tech Excellence podcast, where we discuss all the things connected to running your tech company and making it excellent, whatever it means to you. Every week, I interview amazing guests about their definition of excellence in technology, and today, I am joined by Stoyan Yankov – mentor coach with huge experience working with like over 200 teams all over the world, helping them to create great company culture. And he’s also the co-author of a book, Perform and Perform Methodology, so definitely something I recommend to read for every person working within tech, even if you’re not a tech founder but maybe a team leader. It also makes sense for everybody to start applying that perform tech, sorry, not technology, methodology, we’re all into technology words. 

Stoyan Yankov: Maybe we should make it the technology, Monika. 

Monika: Maybe yeah, that’s probably, there’s a way to do it, the technology and to somehow automate the process. However, we will talk about the perform methodology later on because today’s core topic is bringing the future into present, so we’re going to talk about effective planning for startups, tech leaders, and anybody who is involved in planning during their work. Hi, Stoyan; it’s great to have you here. 

Stoyan: Hey Monika, good to see you after, I don’t know, two years, three years? 

Monika: Yeah, I think it’s after two years, exactly. So great to see you, too. 

Stoyan: Very excited to explore together this topic, Monika, and you mentioned, you know, for those of you who are planning, like literally every time at the workshop or a training program with startup teams, with large organizations, there’s going to be at least one person that comes to me and he would say, or she would say, Stoyan, all these planning tools and ideas, amazing, super practical, love it, but I don’t have time to plan my time. I’m just too busy. You don’t get it. Like we have a product launch, we have the customers, the people. I’m just too busy to organize my time. It always puts a smile on my face, you know. I wonder why you’re so busy. Maybe you haven’t prioritized time for planning and organizing your time and now you have no time for anything, including prioritization. So I’m very happy to explore this topic and hopefully bring some value to your audience. 

Monika: Because sometimes it can be a vicious circle, a lot of leaders say, yeah, I don’t have time for planning. Why? Because you’re not planning, and you’re not planning because you don’t have time. So, it seems like a never-ending story, but there are some tools that you can use. And also, I think it’s a mindset thing based on your book, at least. So we are going to explore it, especially that one thing that I noticed among the founders is that sometimes, you know when you have this vision and this drive to execute your new idea, you think about something very far away in the future, something really distant, the success, the revolution, how you will change the world and the big idea. But, you know, the whole art of business is to put it into actionable steps and into some strategy. Because, you know, if we ask someone, what are you planning? Oh, I’m planning to conquer the world. You need to know how are you going to conquer the world and in what iterations, etc. So I think, you know, having some targets and planning is crucial. And maybe you could tell us why? 

Stoyan: Yeah, let’s start from there. First of all, having an ambitious vision absolutely important. I recently had a conversation with the former vice president of Microsoft, Chris Williams. Go check him out. Very inspiring guy talking a lot about leadership these days. And we probably spent 30 minutes out of 60 minutes conversation talking about the importance of having an audacious vision, articulating the vision, communicating the vision, repeating the vision, making sure everybody buys into the vision. So having an ambitious vision, absolutely important. At the same time, Monika, you’ve been organizing events conferences. You know that everybody these days is building a unicorn. 

Monika: That’s true.

Stoyan: That’s like, it’s like, what are you guys doing? Like two founders or something? We want to build a unicorn. It’s like, hold on a second, do you know what’s the probability of somebody building a unicorn? And do you really want to build a unicorn? So, you know, the first part is, hey, let’s be ambitious, but let’s be ambitious based around what we actually want to create. Like, if your business works well, 3, 5, 10 years in the future, everything works by plan. Is that the direction that you want to be? You know, okay, let’s say you actually achieve the unicorn status. Is that what you want? 500, 1000 or more people, you know, stress, pressure, investors, like, that’s fine if that’s what you want. It’s been amazing, right? But what is the kind of business that I want to build? What is the kind of lifestyle I want to build around it? So, I’m fully aligned. 

So when we start embarking on a journey, and we bring people on board, we can actually we relate to this thing, right? Wake up in the morning, and you can’t wait to start doing stuff. So starting from this, right, bringing the future into the present, you got to define what the future is, the long-term future, not just, hey, let’s build a unicorn. Okay, and then, you know, hey, maybe let’s take some time and really identify what we want to happen. Okay, so that’s kind of the starting point. But then, building backwards, as you said, you need to create space in your daily, weekly, monthly schedule for proper time management, planning, strategizing. And many people don’t do that. Not that they don’t know, just we’re too busy, right? It’s so easy to wake up in the morning, get your coffee, and then start doing stuff. But the problem is, you feel like it’s kind of like we give this metaphor also in the book, Monika, you know, starting your company is like you get into the jungle, right? Like, it’s the first few years, for everybody who’s starting now, first few years, it’s a fight for survival, pretty much. Like the odds are against you. Any kind of study you go and see, the odds are going to be against you. I don’t know, 5% of startups are still going to be operational in a few years, okay? 

So, first step, build the structures to survive in the jungle. But if you’re too much in the jungle every single day, like, you’re down in the trenches, you know, like trying to fix things and figure things out, it’s really difficult to actually make progress in the right direction. There’s a lot of productivity cost, as opposed to, well, let me create some structure, organizational structure, and it starts with you, the leader. Frequently, regularly, I need to take a step back. I need to have a look at where are we going? What are the goals? What are the objectives, right? What are my personal priorities within the framework of these goals? And what do I do on a daily basis? Like, how much time do I spend on a daily basis to plan and organize my time? I tell founders, you got to set 20 to 30 minutes, like block it in your calendar, literally. Like, I would recommend do it at the end of the day. Some people do it in the morning, that’s fine. But, you know, let’s say you’re working until 7pm, 6.30 to 7 o’clock, you have a meeting with yourself, you sit down, you have a look at your day, okay, what happened today? Are we making progress on the goals? How did I do in the meetings? All right? You do a reflection, and then what do I have to do tomorrow? What are the kind of results? By the way, this is a fundamental principle in any productivity or time management book. Start with the end in mind, okay? 

So many founders, like, we sit together, and I coach them on productivity, right? And what are you going to do tomorrow? Show me your to-do list. Oh, I don’t have time for a to-do list. Okay, let’s do it now. You do a to-do list, and one of the items, for example, follow up on leads. Okay, that’s your to-do list, okay, let’s do it. Hello, lead, I just wanted to follow up. Have a nice day. No, it’s not, is that what you want? Maybe you want some sort of an outcome. Maybe you want to close a deal. Maybe you want to schedule a meeting. So, creating space in your calendar, right, every single day, where you make a to-do list, but then you prioritize in terms of the outcomes. You can find a, there’s a really good tool called the perform planning method. I’m happy to elaborate and explore it with you. But again, it always starts with the long term, okay? How do we set goals? And people get so stuck, Monika, with we need to find the perfect strategy and methods. There’s no perfect strategy and method, you know? Many companies are using OKRs, objectives, and key results. We can also talk about that if you want. But there are so many methods, you know? It’s more about what is the kind of method that we choose as a team, as a company, that we will follow through on? 

Monika: Yeah, that we will actually follow that. Something we will actually use, that’s the best one, yeah, the one that we will use. Because there are so many different, different strategies on how to plan, and you can get really, you know, lost in all of them. But if you just choose what works and choose something that you will be using every day, then I believe it makes sense. 

Stoyan: It’s an experimentation. You don’t know. You know, I was, you know, we have different methods we’re using in my team, right? And I would use try different tools and apps and project management tools and people just don’t use them. So we’re using spreadsheets, you know, to have a method. We have a method how we use it, but it’s a spreadsheet, like, you know, so people don’t use the other ones. So why, why complicate things? Keep it simple. If spreadsheets works for you, that’s fine. If you want some more, you know, ClickUp or Trello or some other kind of a tool, fine. But it’s not about the tool. The tool is the last time; the last thing that needs to come to mind and to discussion is the tool. It’s more about what do we do. Where are we going? How do we set goals? How often do we have strategy sessions? Even if you’re a small team, you know, most founders, especially early-stage founders, they just plan in their heads, like, you know, “Hey, what are we going to do? Hey, let’s try this thing.” Okay, boom. Well, maybe you want to allocate a little bit more time to strategically identify what are the most important goals. Let’s choose the ones that are with highest priority, with highest impact for the business. Let’s identify what percentage of our time and resource is going to be spent on them. Who will take ownership of each of the goals? 

Monika: No, I think that’s crucial. Yeah. Who will take ownership of each of the goals? And sometimes it’s forgotten that, you know, there is a task on the to-do list, but it’s not assigned to anybody. It’s not assigned to any owner. So if it’s everybody’s, it’s nobody’s. 

Stoyan: Yeah. Me, Maria and Peter are working on this campaign. So, what’s up with the campaign? Oh, we haven’t really been doing much because- 

Monika: We’re just working on it, you know, the three of us. 

Stoyan: No, but that’s why Monika, that’s why we, the reason we created me and Cristobal, Cristobal Michael, there is the CEO of Startup Wiseguys, leading acceleration program in Europe, but also since recently, I think, was the best global acceleration program in 2023, 2022. Sorry. So, we created this methodology for ourselves first because we needed it. It’s like, we need some structured approach towards company culture and performance that will allow us to build teams and pay attention to the areas that matter most, yeah. Like effective planning is one of them is E for, from the performance. 

Monika: I chose only one point because I thought, you know, it’s too elaborate, and also, like, anyone can just go and grab the book and learn more about the whole thing. 

Stoyan: Yeah. Let’s, let’s dive into the, into the, into the planning part, but, but they’re all connected, right? And then, you know. 

Monika: And all equally as important. 

Stoyan: For sure. For sure. And they’re interconnected, right? Like roles and responsibilities, like, you started talking about accountability and delegation. Who is responsible or accountable? So, I mean, some of you might have used frameworks like RACI or RACI, which is very, very helpful for any project, for any company to identify who’s the one person in command, who’s the accountable person. Very few teams do it. Everybody knows this stuff. 

Monika: Yes. I know. I’ve heard about a lot of stories that there are so few teams doing that, actually. And sometimes, you know, people are just confused and lost it. There’s no like owner of the task and of the area. 

Stoyan: Yeah. And it’s about creating clarity. Like, planning is a lot about creating clarity pretty much because when you know who’s the decision maker and the decision maker knows what exactly is expected from them, right? Because the founder, everything makes sense in the head of the founder. 

Monika: Yeah, of course. 

Stoyan: But when you delegate, when you delegate to somebody from your team or somebody from your team delegates to somebody else, are they clear what’s exactly expected from them? What is the deliverable? And what is their level of decision-making on the specific project? And also the people that they’re managing, do they understand who is the person they need to turn to when they need something, right? Who is the decision to be made? Who do they need to consult? Right. I mean, that’s the RACI, right? RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Accountable is the person that’s in command making decisions. Doesn’t mean they’re doing anything, right? They’re the project manager. The responsible is the person that is doing stuff. And it could be three, four, five people. Let’s say you have a, I don’t know, IT project. It could be three developers, right? And there’s one that’s accountable. Okay. And then you have consulted. Who should we ask before we move forward to create this feature? Okay. This is Michael. Cool. Informed. Who do we keep in the loop?

I got to tell you, I don’t want my team to keep me in the loop about everything. I have enough email and Slack messages, you know? So you got to talk about these things and identify what are these areas, who’s accountable, who’s responsible, create clarity, and then it makes it easier for people to operate on their own. 

Monika: Yeah, that makes sense. Sounds like something that really makes sense. And you said it’s about clarification. How to clarify your priorities? Because everything seems to be important. And especially if you have a very driven team, everybody thinks that, oh, everything is equally as important. So, how to clarify the priorities? Is there anything you can advise? 

Stoyan: I had a conversation with Melissa Rosenthal on my podcast, Productivity Mastery. If you guys enjoyed this one, go check it out as well. 

Monika: Yeah, definitely. We’ll link it down below. 

Stoyan: So Melissa Rosenthal, she’s the COO, sorry, CCO, Chief Creative Officer of ClickUp. And she was an executive at BuzzFeed at Cheddar. She was running her own startup at some point, and we talked about focus and planning. And I love her answer. It was something in the lines of, at any point in your startup, you only have two or three things you should really focus on. You know that. You know that. I mean, it’s easy. It’s really simple. Like sit down, gather your team, hey, what are all the places and ideas? Where can we go? What should we focus on? Okay. Right. Raise funding, attract customers, build the product, like make a big list. Okay. Everything. Talk to your advisors, talk to other people, make a big list, and then ask yourself, what are the top three objectives that matter most? What is most important to us? We need to attract 100K in funding. Okay, cool. This is one of your objectives for the next quarter. What else? We need to get traction for, you know, for this tool. Okay. How many users do you need to acquire? I don’t know. Well, if you did know, well, okay, cool. All right. What else? Well, we need to hire two more people. Cool. What kind of types? Personality. Okay, great. What percentage of your time are you going to allocate to make progress on these ones? 

And then you can build it backwards. There are so many tools. We talk about OKRs as one tool. Maybe I can mention to the five people that haven’t heard about it, but like OKRs is objectives and key results. Right. Because you’re supposed to only set three objectives for a quarter. No more. And each objective, you need to clarify it with the key results, which is the tangible key results connected to the objective. So the objective is grow sales in the next quarter. The key result could be in increased sales with 30%, reach out to a thousand leads, like whatever. Right. Like tangible. 

Monika: Very tangible. 

Stoyan: And measurable. Yeah. And you assign who’s going to be in charge. Right. And I love that it’s only three. You know. 

Monika: Yes. I think it’s really important not to water down your efforts and focus on fewer things and doing them properly instead of doing, like, you know, doing, like, 10 different things and not having enough time, not having, like, a very clear vision. I think that’s a very powerful practice to narrow down your efforts to, like, a smaller portion of activities. 

Stoyan: And you know, you’re still going to do 10 things or 20. 

Monika: Of course. Especially if you’re a beginning founder. 

Stoyan: Yeah. I mean, even if you’re not like you, there’s so many things you have to do anyway. So you need to protect time for the things that matter most. And there’s a great question I learned from the co-author of a book called The One Thing. Fantastic book. The authors of the book are hardcore business people. Like they built several businesses. One of them is, I think it’s the largest real estate company in the world. They had, like, more than quarter million employees, like, multiple businesses, different books. And they live by the philosophy in this book called The One Thing. And if you go to the book, in the back of the book, there is a question mark. Because they believe that everything is connected to this question. And I think people, if people ask themselves this question more often, they’ll be more productive. So the question is, what’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? 

Monika: Yeah, that’s a powerful question. 

Stoyan: Think about it. Like this question, you have a goal-setting or strategy session. You identify all the different goals, ideas, projects. What’s the one thing we should do or we can do such that by doing it? Okay, attract investment, maybe. I don’t know. That’s the one thing. Cool. This is the one thing. How much effort and resources are going to put into that one thing? And Jay Papasan, one of the co-authors, he recommends you come up with these 17 strategies, you find the one with the biggest lever, and you just say no to everything else. That might be a bit extreme, right? For example, what’s the one thing we can do to attract more users? Because you can use the question like that, right? What’s the one thing we can do to improve company culture? You identify the one with the biggest lever, and sometimes you’ve got to test a little bit, experiment, see which is the one. And then you double down, triple down on that one, right? 

Like you’re doing a marketing Facebook campaign. I don’t know. You try 10 different campaigns. You figure out the one that generates most results, and then you probably put most of your resources on that one. It makes sense. 

Monika: Yeah, totally. 

Stoyan: Right? But we don’t do it. 

Monika: Yeah. I mean, one thing sounds extreme, but if it worked for the business giants, then I believe it’s something that makes sense. 

Stoyan: I think there was a story with Richard Branson. They wanted to book him for an event, to speak at an event. So they sent him a proposal, and like 100K for come and speak at an event. The office of Richard Branson kindly rejects the offer. Okay. Quarter million. Let’s get Richard Branson. We sent him a private jet, get him his pigs, bring him back to his island, all right? Reject kindly. Half a million for a 30-minute keynote. Send him the jet, take care of him, get his family, whatever. The office kindly rejects and sends the email back. “Richard has three strategic objectives, and speaking in public for any fee is none of them. He appreciates the opportunity, no thanks.” And then somebody will say, but he’s Richard Branson. I mean, he can afford it. He’s just chilling on the island, you know, doing stuff, right? But it’s also, like, a food for thought. Maybe that’s why he’s Richard Branson. 

Monika: Because he’s focused on like three key things at a time, instead of doing like 15 of them. 

Stoyan: And Monika, you speak to many super successful people. I get the chance to speak to people like the founder of Reebok, the former president of Starbucks, the founder of Vivino, Unicorn founders, I mean, you name it. These people are naysayers, no-sayers, okay, not naysayers, no-sayers. Everybody thinks these are like, yes, yes, men, they’re not. They’re no by default. People are really bad in saying no. These people, it’s like you have to be really, really good to convince them they should do something because they know that there’s so many opportunities. They have to be laser-focused on the two, three things that matter most. 

How do I help myself to focus? One very simple tool, you know, one thing is to define, identify how do we set goals, right? Do we use OKRs, KPIs, some kind of a strike? Doesn’t matter. We set the goals, we are clear where we’re going. But then, even if we have goals on a team level, it’s like, what about me? Each individual in the team needs to be clear what they should focus on, what their priorities are. So, again, we like the number three, right? What are your top three priorities in the business? As a leader, you need to know at any moment what are your top three priorities and you need to help and coach and make it clear for your team to know what their priorities should be if they’re not clear. Ideally, you coach them to set them up themselves, and you just help them, you know, adjust a little bit with the overall vision. But to begin with, what are your priorities, right? 

I had this conversation. I had a coaching client, an Italian guy, Federico. If you’re watching Federico, love you, brother, tons of love. Creative producer… music producer from New York, moved to Denmark. We met there. He, you know, he graduated this innovation school, doing a lot of cool projects, great professional. He started a business, and he had some connections. They gave him projects, they liked it, recommended him. All of a sudden, he has a lot of projects. He calls me one day, “man, I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do.” It’s just- 

Monika: No surprise. 

Stoyan: I’m like, you know, “I’m not sleeping,” and, you know, he was expecting a second kid as well, so on top of everything, right? I’m like, okay, let’s meet up. Okay? We meet up. He’s all around the place like he’s. I don’t know what to do. Okay, let’s take a step back. What are your top three priorities in the business at the moment? “Okay, I know, well, I need to do this and that and that.” Okay, cool. What percentage of your time and energy do you spend making progress in these three areas on the things that you mentioned as priorities? “No more than 5%.” 

Monika: Then it’s all backwards. 

Stoyan: Interesting. Are they really your priorities? “No.” Okay. So how much time, what percentage of your time and effort do you want to spend on these areas, making progress in them? “I think 80%.” Interesting. Okay. What can you do? Like, let’s talk. Let’s discuss it now. Then he sits down. We talk about it. He figures out that he actually hired somebody to do all the things that are taking his time because he was already generating good revenue, right? He calls me in two or three weeks, and he’s like, “man, 80%, I’m killing it.” It’s like, cool, like, but I wanted to stay there. Now you’re at 80%. I want to call you in a week and we have the same conversation, you know, but that’s very simple for everybody who’s listening. I don’t care if you’re a founder if you’re an employee in a startup, what are your priorities? Like when you do this kind of activities, you generate most value for the business. Maybe it’s attracting customers. Maybe it’s coaching, growing your team. Maybe it’s raising funds, like meeting investors. I don’t know, but you define that. But you have to be disciplined, right? 

Monika: And say no to the other things, more often at least. 

Stoyan: It’s very hard to say no if you don’t know what your priorities are. 

Monika: Exactly. 

Stoyan: It’s so much easier for me to say no when I’m clear, when I, it’s not rocket science, I’m not smarter than anybody, you know, I just learned some tools that I use regularly, right? So these are the goals, these are the priorities, these are the objectives. And then, on a day-to-day basis, we can also talk about how do you plan and organize your day, which people really bad at usually. But once I do have that, I mean, Monika, you know, it took us quite some time to kind of organize exactly when we both of us, you know, can record this because we’re both busy. We both have stuff happening, right? And I want to make it happen, it’s a priority for me. But then there’s maybe a couple of priorities that come ahead, right? For example, serving clients, traveling, preparing, serving clients will come to me before doing podcasts, great podcasts like this one. But it’s still a priority, right? But it’s not, sometimes people are like, these are my 17 priorities. 

Monika: Okay, so some of them are more of priorities and some of them are less of priorities. Yeah, but I think it’s, again, the art of, you know, deciding, okay, we have three top priorities and three other, let’s say, like, middle priorities, yeah. So if we have extra time, then we can commit to that. If this week or this month, we don’t, then we need to skip that. But maybe next month, if we keep up with the three priorities, we can actually add something extra. Yeah, I think it’s a matter of deciding- 

Stoyan: This is why I recommend, this is why I recommend, you spend, like, you block time in your calendar on a daily basis, in which you kind of, for planning. And people are like, Oh my God, 20, 30 minutes, I don’t have time for that. Well, you’re gonna save four hours the next day. 

Monika: Exactly. And you don’t have time because you’re not planning properly. 

Stoyan: You haven’t planned it, right? Yeah. And you want to plan things, like, in a way that when the next day starts, you’re fully committed to do one thing at a time. Like, people always say, I’m so good in multitasking. No, you’re just distracted. 

Monika: Nobody is good. 

Stoyan: You don’t have discipline. Yeah. You don’t have discipline. 

Monika: Nobody is good in multitasking. 

Stoyan: Let’s be honest. I mean, okay, there’s 

Monika: Yeah, there’s been so much research on how multitasking is not actually productive. And it takes you more time to skip from one task to another than actually fulfilling one task and then going straight to the next one. 

Stoyan: You know, there was one study that they did that they asked people to smoke weed and to do an IQ test. And they asked another group of people, same sample of people, to multitask on email and do an IQ test. And the multitaskers actually perform worse than the people who smoke weed, who are also performing worse than the usual. But multitasking- 

Monika: So it shows that, you know, multitasking is similar to substance use if it comes to lowering- 

Stoyan: It’s actually damaging. It’s actually damaging to you and to your productivity, to your brain. So we have to be very careful, which is why I’m coming back, block 20-30 minutes in your calendar and you sit down with yourself, get a cup of tea, whatever. And by the way, Monika, if you want me, I can give you, I can give you- matcha. That would be good.- I can give you a very simple process if you want me to so we can get there. 

Most people’s to-do list looks like, I don’t know, budget, like a budget dock, you know- 

Monika: Lead generation, marketing, meetings, calls. 

Stoyan: Which is okay because, intuitively, you might actually get there. But it’s not enough for ambitious people. Most founders are ambitious. They have to be ambitious. There’s so much stuff to do. You can’t stop there, right? So, step number two, and by the way, you can do that in your notebook, paper notebook, in your spreadsheets, on your app. It’s up to you. You get one place, you brain dump, right? First stop, capture. Let me have a look at the goals. Let me have a look at the objectives, the meetings, the different things, ideas. Okay. You make a list of these 30-40 things, some of them unrelated. Okay. 

Let’s group them together. Step number two. Oh, these are all connected to the investment round. This is all connected to the team. This is all connected to lead generation. Okay. But what is the actual outcome? This is the question you got to ask yourself all the time. What’s my outcome? What’s my outcome from this meeting? Talk about the budget. Now we can talk about the budget. 

Monika: Not enough. Yeah. 

Stoyan: Like, I don’t know, confirm the budget and who will take care of what, maybe, right? What is David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done? He was on the podcast. We talk about that and he said it really beautifully. You have to identify what done looks like. And you start with done. 

Monika: Not to do, but done. Yeah. That’s powerful. 

Stoyan: To do is the second one, right? And, like, for those tech people, maybe they’ll get it. He says the outcomes and actions are the zeros and ones of productivity, right? You start with the outcome. What’s done look like? What’s the end result of your action? In anything you do, by the way, this one thing you get from today, what’s the end result? What is the intention? You go to a holiday. What’s the intention? What do you want to get out of it? You enter a meeting. What’s the intention of the meeting? What’s the end result? Okay. So that’s the third step. You identify the exact outcome and then you reverse engineer it. What does that mean? Now that I know that I actually want to close this project for 10,000 euro, if that’s your objective from this call, right? Close the deal for 10,000 euro. Good. What do I have to do to improve my chances for this to succeed? And then you brainstorm. 

Monika: The ideas on how to get there. 

Stoyan: But now it’s target-based, you know, it’s not just random kind of tasks that might be helpful, but it’s not okay. 

Monika: Yeah, it could be done better, yaeah. 

Stoyan: Yeah. And half of the things you initially wanted to do, you’re not going to do them because they are not so effective as the ones that you came up with, right? Okay. Step number four, you want to prioritize because the first time you do this, you might have 24 hours of tasks you have to do tomorrow. So you got to say no. So this is the place if people want to really go deep to ask yourself, how much time is each task going to take me related to the outcomes, right? Prepare this contract and send it a proposal, right? I don’t know. Two hours. Two hours. Good. Send these five emails 30 minutes. Jump on a call, 45 minutes. Okay, cool. 

You time all those things and then it becomes like a menu in the restaurant. Like literally for me, it’s like, I like to use this metaphor because it’s like, you can’t eat the whole menu in the restaurant. First of all, you know, you got to pick because you can’t eat so much food, but secondly, it’s about the budget, right? You don’t want to spend, you know, you have to be careful what you spend your money on in the restaurant, right? This is a nice salad, but it’s very expensive. Let me take that one. So it’s kind of like the same with your time. People don’t look at their time as a budget, but they should, right? 

I only have, I don’t know, 8, 10, 12 hours to work today. Good. If I spend an hour with Monika if I spend an hour with Monika- 

Monika: What do I have to say no to? 

Stoyan: What do I have to say no to? If I spend the hour with you, I can’t spend it anywhere else. It should be a priority for me, right? I need to weight it against everything else. So this kind of a process, it takes me 20 minutes, but then I’m like, okay, I can see all the different opportunities for me to spend my day. I consciously make a decision, what are the most important outcomes, and what are the steps to get there with the highest leverage? What is important and urgent? I’m using colors. If you get a copy of the book, you can see how exactly it looks, but it’s like, all right, having a podcast with Monika is urgent and important in that case, because I will be traveling for three weeks. 

Monika: It starts in 15 minutes. 

Stoyan: Yeah, exactly. 

Monika: And she’s been talking to me like, come on, come on, let’s do it. 

Stoyan: Exactly, exactly. So I mean, I can move it, but I’ll be on the road for three weeks. So okay, I need to prepare. I need to be here. I need to be present. This morning, I went for a run, right? Because I want to be the best energy to be here and to give value to the audience of Monika, right? Much appreciated. No, but it’s in my calendar. Prepare for the podcast, you know, 30 minutes, go for a run, 15 minutes, have a look at the questions, and reflect a little bit, right? So if I don’t plan it, and this is the fifth step, by the way, schedule. 

What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done. I think there was a study, there was a study they did, and they found out if you set some specific goal but don’t schedule it, let’s say I’m going to go to the gym three times a week. 

Monika: But if you don’t put it in your calendar, it’s likely you will not. 

Stoyan: Yes, as opposed to I’m going to go to the gym 8 to 9 o’clock on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, you put it in your calendar, I think, three times, 300%, three times bigger likelihood that you actually get it done. Let that sink for a moment. The most important things that you want to progress on, do you block time in your calendar, even if there’s nobody else involved. I have a meeting with myself to complete this contract proposal and send it to the client. 9 to 11, I tell everybody, guys, don’t disturb me. I’m having a meeting with myself, but I have a meeting, right? So that’s the point. You look at this from the step number four, if you guys still following, like this is the menu of different things and how I want to spend my time. 

And by the way, for the founders and leaders, it’s not just about you. This is the personal time management. You have to lead your team, right? You got to check on the team. What is the progress? Do they need any coaching? When you’re creating this sort of like to-do list and stuff, you need to allocate time for like buffer time. Somebody will ask for feedback, something will break, you know? So you need to have more space for these kinds of things so you’re able to move around. And you need to create space for coaching for everybody to be on the same page. 

I had a Hollywood cinematographer on the podcast, Shane Hurlbut, and it was super cool because one of the coolest cinematographers. He shot Terminator, Salvation, Need for Speed, Guns and Roses music videos, some of the coolest movies out there, right? And we talk about productivity and leadership. And he told me one of the biggest challenges he had as a leader is to make sure that every person from their team is making the same movie. 

Monika: Yeah, let that sink in. For a lot of people, it can be the case that people within the same company are not working towards the same goals. And it’s because they were not clearly communicated. And they are not updated regularly about, you know, the whole idea, the mission and division. Yeah. And that’s, you know, I think it’s in the movie creation thing. It pretty much translates to any kind of business, and any kind of enterprise, that sometimes you can get lost in, like, what are we actually doing here? And everyone’s doing something different. 

Stoyan: And it’s not rocket science, once again. There’s no unified strategy, universal that works for everybody. It’s more like, hey, we got to have frequent communication and keep improving until we make it really effective, right? Daily calls. Many companies are working in a hybrid or remote setup, even harder to communicate because I can’t see Monika by the coffee machine and share some ideas. We need to set up a meeting for that, right? So even harder to communicate to see we’re on the same page. So we need to, we need to create space for these things to happen in an effective way. 

That’s one of the things that people are complaining most about employees, especially I have too many meetings, I can’t get anything done. Too many useless meetings that I shouldn’t be at. 

Monika: That should have been an email. 

Stoyan: That should have been an email, right? So keep it simple. But like, for me, daily calls, this is important. Like in your small team, at least, depending on how big is the company, right? But if you have a team of five to 10 people, or you’re 100 people, but your team is five to 10 people, maybe, I don’t know, you need to have dailies. Like, very simple, right? Everybody knows it. I don’t know why I should talk about it. But, like, you know, what did you achieve yesterday? What’s the progress? Quickly, boom, boom, boom. 

Monika: And what’s the plan for today? 

Stoyan: What’s the plan for today? What is your top objectives? Oh, Maria, that’s great. But can you actually prioritize that? Yes, thank you. I have a problem with that. Let’s set up another call. Go. 10 minutes. Check. Everybody’s motivated. 

Monika: It can solve so many problems if you have a daily. 

Stoyan: That’s it. That’s it. I like it. That’s why like, people don’t want to hear that. Because when they get me on a, you know, hey, Stoyan, come and give us the secrets, the magical pills, and I go- 

Monika: And they’re not secrets, actually. 

Stoyan: There’s no secrets. The secret is you got to do the work consistently. Go find the best strategies, iterate and improve, adapt to your context, show up every day. That’s it. Do the work every day. 

Monika: I mean, it seems easy, but it’s not. And I think like the whole methodology from your book that I’ll show once again for everyone who’s watching us in the video form. You know, you share a lot of simple things that, you know, it seems that everyone knows them. But again, it seems that you know, people don’t connect them together. So maybe as a closing thought, we could or you could actually tell something about the perform methodology because we only touched on one of the topics. And by the way, the subtitle it’s the “unsexy truth about startup success.” Yeah. And you’re telling a lot of truth about how to achieve success. And it’s maybe it’s not easy. It’s simple, but you have to put in the work. So maybe a few words about perform? 

Stoyan: For sure. So, performance is set. It’s been something we develop out of necessity first for ourselves, but also seeing the need of the market, people being confused, where do they start? So, we actually created a system,  methodology. Which focuses on these seven core areas everybody knows, but we don’t do them consistently. We neglect them because we’re too busy doing the business stuff, right? Perform stands for purpose and values, effective planning, roles, and responsibilities, focus and execution, optimal energy, robust communication, and mental toughness. 

These are the seven core pillars. If you want to build a strong culture, productive culture, but also fulfilling culture where people are engaged and motivated to be a part of. So the perform methodology gives founders and business leaders the opportunity to see their culture, to see their team from a perspective of the people side, right? The operational side. And identify what are the areas in which we are not doing really well. And what can we do? So we can fill in the gaps. So the book, the workshops, the programs that we do, they’re all connected into, you know, bringing people together first to discuss those kinds of things and identify, figure out what it is for themselves. And, of course, if they’re lacking any tools and examples, I’ve interviewed myself over 250 of the most successful business people in the world, some of them. So we can, of course, share some strategies. 

But as I told you, Monika, it’s, it’s no rocket science. Many of the, many of the things are the same. It’s about the implementation, right? 

Monika: It’s actually using them instead of just thinking, “Oh, I know the methods. I know the tools.” It’s just using what works for you. 

Stoyan: There was, there was a study with the, they did with American doctors and they found out that 61% of American doctors are either overweight or obese. And these are the guys that will tell you: eat vegetables, go for a run, don’t smoke. Right. But it’s not about knowledge. 

Monika: It’s about doing the things. Everyone knows how to lose weight: move more, eat less. 

Stoyan: Sleep well. 

Monika: Yeah. Sleep well. And still, a lot of people struggle with that. So it’s not about knowing the things. It’s about doing the things. 

Stoyan: It’s a commitment. I love that you started with that, and we can maybe wrap up with that. It’s a mindset. I need to come up with a mindset of learning. I need to get better every day. I need to make my team better every day. That’s my commitment as a leader. So that means it could be 1%, could be half percent, could be a step back two days later because you want to implement a new strategy. Right. But it’s like, we need to get into this mindset of getting better, improving on a consistent basis. Embedding personal development, embedding learning, embedding this experimentation mindset because it’s not about what you do tomorrow, right? It’s about where do you end up 2, 5, 10 years in the future. Imagine the impact you’re going to have if you start today. If you commit, I’m going to invest in my team, I’m going to invest in myself, I’m going to invest in improving every single day, not just the business, the product, but also the way we do things, our culture, my leadership skills. I mean, just imagine the compound effect. 

Monika: Yeah. Over the weeks, months, and years. And it’s definitely worth the investment of 20 minutes a day of planning, for example, or saying no to someone. Yeah. So, thank you for not saying no to joining this podcast. It was a pleasure, and a lot of, you know, inspiring thoughts floated here. So, I hope everyone took something that resonated with them. I don’t know if we have any comments or questions at the end, but I think that if you are watching us live on LinkedIn or maybe re-watching the recording, you can always tag Stoyan or me in the questions, and we’ll try to find you the answers. Obviously, I will include all the links to Stoyan’s podcast and the book in the description, so you will definitely not miss it. Yeah. And thank you once again for joining us. 

Stoyan: Make sure to connect, by the way, guys. Make sure to connect. I mean, we’re very easy to reach. Find us on LinkedIn, find us on Instagram, YouTube, whatever. Just say hello, you know, add us. 

Monika: If anything resonated with you, just let Stoyan know. 

Stoyan: That would be amazing. And keep performing, guys. Show up with a smile, even in the darkest of days, you know, like maybe just let me finish with that. I learned that from my friend, Mark Harrison, the CEO and founder of the T1 agency and several other businesses. He told me every time he was struggling, and it was like a mental trigger he acquired in his 20s using it already, still today. Every time he is presented with a challenge, something is not working the way he wants to, he’ll write on a piece of paper DFS, which meant “deal from strength.” In any situation, you only have two choices. Should I deal from strength, or should I deal from weakness? Choose more often to deal from strength. 

Monika: Super inspiring. And I think that’s a perfect closing thought. So once again, thank you very much. And to all of you listening to us, make sure to subscribe, to follow us on LinkedIn and Spotify. And I’ll speak to you next week with the next guest. Bye.