116: Using Checklists, Journaling & Deadlines to Bring an Online Product to Market

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The building blocks of every Expand Online journey revolve around checklists, journaling and deadlines… seriously, what big scary project have you ever tried to work on that didn’t have checklists and deadlines?

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing an exact 1-to-1 translation of your past work into online work or doing something that looks dramatically different, when you expand online it’s so easy to let time and effort slip by.

And that’s why we need to set realistic deadlines.

Yup, we’re going straight to the hard stuff… there are 5 major deadlines that need dates in order to put something online, and unsurprisingly, these tie exactly to the 5 phases of an online product discussed in the Expand Online Getting Started Guide. You can always down load it at https://techofbusiness.com/onlineproduct/ but in case you haven’t downloaded it yet, I’ll let you in on those right now. They are:

  • Idea
  • Mode of Delivery
  • Tech
  • Creation
  • Launch

And, not coincidentally, our deadlines correspond.

We need a deadline for when the idea needs to be formulated. A deadline for when the mode of delivery has been identified. A deadline for when the tech foundation has been identified and all accounts created. A deadline for when product creation is to be complete and a deadline for the launch period.

Between our deadlines, we use journaling and checklists to take us across the vast terrain that is between us and the next deadline.

I seriously love goal journaling — this is where you don’t start with a blank sheet of paper in your journal each day but instead start with a sheet that has specific prompts to help you move towards your goals.

These don’t just work well with online projects, they are also hugely useful in the health and wellness space.  Actually, I think the first one of these journals that I bought was in that space. But anyway, journals that have daily or weekly planning pages to help you identify what you’re working towards, give you space to write the most important steps for today or this week and additional space to jot ideas or feelings or struggles or triumphs are most often the best ones to be using when you’re in the process of doing something new or big.

These journals take the project and give you space to break down a daily action plan. Most journals of this type include a space to describe your top daily or weekly priority and break down how you’re going to keep that top of mind.

If you’re in the idea phase of your online product, then one day could have the top priority of brainstorm all the ways I could translate what I do offline into something that I could offer online. And the next day I could have the priority of splitting my brainstorm into three sublists. And the next day would be to take the “lights me up list” and rank the ideas… and so on. Each day marching you closer to the deadline of having your ONE IDEA.

Easily, the biggest phase of an online product is the creation phase. This phase has a lot of pieces that need to come together. I don’t want you to over deadline yourself, which is why we only have one creation phase deadline. But a goal or prompt journal is probably not going to get you through the creation phase alone.

So, we need to break it down further — and that’s where our checklists come into play.

In my mind the easiest online product is a mini-course that is built entirely off an in-person workshop. You might have run this workshop as a 3 hour one-day workshop or as a weekend workshop that spans several hours each day. But most of the time, the workshop takes people from point A to point B in a short amount of time. We’re going to use this workshop as the example for building our checklists.

The first step in the creation process for this course is to take what we already do in our workshop and itemize it. Start with the beginning of the workshop and go through the end of the workshop. Think about the supplies, the lectures, the practical application, the nuances, everything that makes your workshop actually work. Then, add in what happens in the days and weeks leading up to the workshop and write those down. And, if relevant, do the same for what happens in the days and weeks after the workshop concludes.

This is your online product outline. It’s still messy but it’s out of your head and a puzzle that can be put together for online delivery and consumption.

And from there, we can start to make checklists of all the tasks we have to move the puzzle pieces around, build them out, connect them to one another and march ourselves towards the creation phase deadline.

I’m a big checklist gal, I would rather have a checklist that has 300 items on it and keep marching from that same checklist.

Other people I work with are small checklist folks, they prefer to have a checklist for all the video scripts they need to write, another checklist for recording videos, another for editing the videos and another for uploading the final videos to Vimeo or wherever they are storing the videos for their online course. And then more checklists for the other elements of the course, like written text, visuals, downloadables, promotional content and so on.

Still others prefer to have a checklist for each module or lesson or chapter of their program and have all the tasks tied to that module or lesson or chapter together in a single list.

And others prefer to have their checklists based on the tools they are using to implement the work, so one for Canva or Photoshop, one for ActiveCampaign or ConvertKit, another for Google Docs and so on.

All these approaches work, I find that checkmarks themselves give me enough of an endorphin boost to keep moving forward, whereas some people need to see a completed checklist to get that same endorphin boost! If you are a completed checklist kind of person, make sure to keep your lists succinct so that you can get to complete.

But no matter which checklist method you use, make sure you are using a tool that allows for additional items to be added to the bottom of the checklist or checklists.

Now, creating those checklists and seeing all the tasks laid out in front of us, it can sometimes feel overwhelming, which is why I tie checklists back with journaling. I can use my journal to say that I’m going to check off three video scripts and two emails or edit two videos or even write an intro paragraph for sections 1 and 2. This way all the empty boxes will be tackled in turn.

So, let’s recap for a moment before I get into a couple other examples.

First we use our five phases of an online product development cycle to create realistic but firm deadlines. Then we use goal journaling to keep focused on the result we are striving for and for bigger sections of the project we use checklists to track all the elements and to see progress.

Let’s back into the tech phase of the mini-course project we talked about a few minutes ago. In this phase we’re trying to figure out the exact tools we’re going to use to offer, fulfill and deliver our mini-course. This phase of the project also involves getting the tech ready to contain everything you create and have it ready to use in the launch.

This phase is one that is most likely outsourceable — I do this for my clients in the Expand Online Mentorship program and many VA’s offer this type of research and implementation for their clients. The deadline for this phase is not the start of the creation phase, because those two phases can overlap, especially if there is a team working on getting this online product launched. That being said, I strongly believe that knowing all the online software tools that you’re going to be using before doing the big braindump. It’ll make it much easier to begin creating content and getting the tech to do its job when these two facets are done in this order.

Wow, that was an unexpected tangent. What I really wanted to actually say about the tech phase is that the main deadline is usually about 4 weeks before the deadline for the creation phase, as long as the creation phase is 6 weeks or more. And inside the tech phase, we have several objectives or goals. This is where we use our goal journal and checklists to keep us moving forward towards the ultimate deadline — the day that we’re ready to launch our product to our ideal buyers.

While I believe that you can be successful with a short turnaround from idea to launch, most of my clients use a 90 day calendar for launching their online products. Each of the phases falls into that 90 day calendar. Rough breakdown would be:

  • Idea: 10 days
  • Mode of Delivery: 5 days
  • Tech: 30 days
  • Creation: 45 days
  • Launch: 15 days

There is overlap between the phases, generally mode of delivery starts about 3 days before the end of the idea phase. Tech starts 5 – 7 days before the creation phase. This gives us roughly 90 days.

You absolutely can expand your business online in a way that feels good to you. There is no need to rush the process, but it’s also important to stick with your timeline. Deadlines, journaling and checklists are the three tools that I’ve been using extensively with clients, and personally for the Expand Online Summit!

If you’re listening to this before May 8th, 2020 grab your free ticket to the Expand Online Summit at https://expandonlinesummit.com or if it’s after May 8th, download the Expand Online Getting Started Guide from https://techofbusiness.com/onlineproduct/ and start making traction with moving some facet of your successful business online!

I’m here to help you and support you. Please reach out if you would like more information!

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