July is all about productivity, and we couldn’t focus on productivity without spending some time on my favorite Aisle Planner feature (and one that is centered solely on productivity): the checklist. The Aisle Planner checklist was designed to make the planning process smoother and, in turn, your work days shorter. Trust me, if you’re not using the checklist correctly (or at all), you are missing out on some serious opportunities for more me-time. Today, then, I am so excited to get into the nitty gritty details of using the Aisle Planner Checklist to drive your workflow. So start planning that well deserved vacation now—you’ll be doing so much more (in way less time) once you master our checklist.
What It Is
The checklist is essentially your bible for the planning process. It’s an evergreen list that allows you to categorize items, set due dates for tasks and assign tasks to different people involved in the process. You should always have your one master checklist template (for each of the different services you offer) that you apply to each and every wedding you plan. Then, within each wedding, you can tweak that template (only if necessary) to make it work for that specific event. The overall process, though, should be the same for every event you plan—that’s where the time-saving comes in.
Make the Checklist Your Own
Because every planner approaches the planning process differently, our default checklist is centered around everything a couple needs to do to plan their wedding. That being said, this is just the default checklist template we offer. To make the list work for you, we encourage you to dive right in and begin editing existing items on the template, removing items all together and/or adding items of your own. We even recommend editing the existing text to make it sound like you were the one who wrote it. You’ll be using it for every wedding you plan—you want it to feel familiar.
Use the Checklist to Drive Your Workflow
The first step to using the checklist is to define your workflow. We break down the process of defining your workflow in an earlier post, but the basics of it are this: you will be ten times more efficient and effective if you have a clearly defined process (with specific line items) that you follow for every single event you plan.
In order to clearly define your workflow, you need to be willing to carve out a few hours where you focus solely on this. Trust me, a few hours of your time is completely worth it to have an end product that you will use for every single event you plan for years and years to come. My workflow and checklist are the only things that keep me sane and on track when I’m juggling 12 weddings at once.
A favorite metaphor of mine is this: imagine heading to the grocery store to stock up on multiple items without a list. Sure, you know everything you need in your head. You’ve been grocery shopping for your family for ten years. You know where things are and you know what you need. But, without a list, regardless of your superhuman shopping skills, you will always end up spending more time in the store than you would have if you brought a clearly organized list. You’ll end up forgetting something, visiting the same aisles multiple times, etc. Defining your workflow is like creating a killer grocery shopping list—one that is organized by sections and by store layout, one that works for you every single time, one that shaves tons of valuable time off of the process.
So, in short, list out all of the inevitable steps you take with every single wedding you plan. Then, categorize them and list them in an order that honors your planning process. THIS is your workflow—and you should always (always, always, always) stick to it.
Introduce Your Clients to the Checklist
This is a super important part of the process. You can manage client expectations by introducing them to your workflow right off the bat. Let them know what to expect. Let them know which items are pressing and which usually allow for more leeway. Let them know, from tip to tail, exactly how you will manage the planning process. This helps to alleviate any unnecessary future stress right from the get-go.
Assigning Due Dates
I personally don't assign specific due dates to every task on the checklist. I only do so for the tasks that require absolute due dates—this gives me a little leeway as the planner. This is important because we all have extra busy months sometimes (or head out for vacation for a week), and the last thing you want is a client noticing a due date has passed and getting stressed out about it. This isn’t to say you’re allowing yourself to drop the ball as a planner—it’s just to say that certain items don’t need a hard due date and, by setting one, you can sometimes set yourself up for failure.
Also, be sure to let your clients know in advance that the time frames are suggested (and that there will be times when you’re ahead on the process and times when you are behind). This helps to manage client expectations and alleviates any uncomfortable situations that could sprout from assigning specific due dates for everything on the list.
I don’t recommend assigning tasks for each and every item on your checklist at once. Instead, try assigning only handful of pressing items to each person at a time. This helps to keep your team and your users focused on the most pressing tasks at hand. You don’t want to overwhelm a client or a coworker by sending them 50 task assignments all at once—things tend to get lost in the shuffle that way. Also, I only will assign tasks to my couples when I am 100% not responsible for it (like, purchasing shoes). If we are collaborating on a task, I will often leave it unassigned.
As a planner, regardless of whether or not my client is logging into Aisle Planner on a regular basis, I still use the checklist to be sure that every item is getting done on time. So, even if your clients aren’t using the checklist, you should still use it to guide you as you follow up with them on their responsibilities. For example, if I assign "Purchase champagne flutes for the bride and groom" to my couple, I'll follow up with them when I notice this task is outstanding by simply adding a comment ("Hi, Beth, Just thought I'd check in. Have you purchased your champagne flutes just yet?If not, let's plan on getting this done in the next week so you don't need to think about it!”).
Regardless of others’ involvement in your Aisle Planner checklist, you should personally take responsibility for ensuring the completion of items and tasks. This means, even if the task is assigned to your couple and not you, you should be the one to follow up on it and mark it as completed (even for items you have nothing to do with, like registering for wedding gifts). Remember, the checklist is yours—you have to be willing to take full ownership of it in order for it to work best for you.
Aside from saving you time and increasing productivity, I also find that there’s something very special about having your own “signature” planning process. The checklist, then, basically makes that unique process a tangible one—one that you can show potential clients as a serious selling point and one that you can be proud to call all your own. There’s something so empowering about defining the perfect planning process for yourself and for your clients and, finally, putting that process down on “paper” (or, in this case, on a really pretty screen).
Overall, I’ve also found that using the Aisle Planner checklist to define my workflow has resulted in greater client satisfaction and client/planner transparency—and that’s something we can all use more of!