Pots, Platters, and Plates: How To Think About Your Projects

Pots, Platters, and Plates: How To Think About Your Projects

The amount of effort it takes to complete a project can be overwhelming if big projects are not broken down into smaller chunks of time.

For years, I have had my own personal system for doing this. But it wasn’t until recently that I actually came up with a way to put it into words.

This post is all about outlining that system and showing you exactly how I approach taking on huge projects. I have used this system for things like:

  • Several New York Times best-selling book releases
  • A $4,500 ticket live event (this one was a doozy)
  • Multiple in-depth audio/video/online training products

How To Balance Multiple Projects All At Once

Do you ever feel like you’re trying to do WAAAAAYYY too much all at one time?

Some will call this feeling abnormal. I simply call it “life.”

It is beyond a juggling act. Do you remember seeing an entertainer spinning plates on sticks on a variety TV show? It was a trick to see how many he could keep spinning before one of them fell and broke into pieces.

That is what the modern entrepreneur is doing. It is modern-day plate spinning, with pots and platters added to the equation.

  • The big projects are pots.
  • The medium ones are platters.
  • Then there are plates—the little things that are still major “musts.”

The project will dictate its category of container. This also depends upon the amount of time and the amount of progress you’ve already made with each project.

If a project is completed and it only needs to be spun occasionally, it would be simply a plate. Platter projects are on the large side, but moving along with tasks assigned and activated. Initiating a huge project creates a pot which is a large undertaking (and you may even need some help!).

Essentially, each thing that needs to be done is a different size. Each of these require small to large amounts of time.

Within ClickUp, you could think of it like this:

Plates = Tasks. These are the tasks that are stacking up, aren’t necessarily part of a larger project, but that you still need to finish. If a task takes multiple steps or a few things need to be checked off, you can use a checklist template to help you finish each part of it. Our team at ClickUp has a project with our name (Cato T. Radley) and then a list of Action Items.

Platters = Lists. If you have a group of tasks that are related, then you should create a List. ClickUp lists allow you to create related tasks that may be part of a larger project. You could have a Home Renovation project, but then have a list for “Kitchen” with all of the tasks you need for your kitchen remodel.

Pots = Projects. Think of pots as the largest project that you must balance. These are the heaviest and cause the loudest “bang” when they fall. Often “pots” (or projects) could be made up of “platters” (or lists). Check out how to arrange your lists within projects.

Knowing what category your project fits in ahead of time will will help you get any project done. Once you can visualize the container for a project, it will totally eliminate your feeling of being overwhelmed and uncertain. It will give you a deeper depth of understanding of what must be accomplished and how soon.

Each project has a certain amount of work involved, a number of steps to complete. The size of the project will determine the amount of time spent on it.

And that is where the great unknown lies—the amount of time each will take. (That’s why finding someone who can meet deadlines is like finding a unicorn.)

Obviously, time is tracked in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Tasks must be placed in the appropriate slots on a schedule to finish the project in time. There is an element of “waiting for the paint to dry.” That can be an unknown amount of time. You use your best guesstimate with what you know to be true.

This is the tricky part. Especially if the project involves collaborating with others.

The Hurricane Effect: How to Collaborate on Projects Without Losing Your Mind

When only I am involved, I know I can get it done. When the big pot involves others…it becomes more complicated.

Not only do I have all my emotions and baggage to bring to the table, now all of their emotions and baggage grabbed seats as well.

You must orchestrate all of that. It’s not just twice as much—it’s 10 times as much. And it could be 10 times to the 15th power, depending on how many people are involved or needed to complete the task (which is why multiple assignees are handy!).

It is easy to be under the illusion that nothing is being done when working with others. That is why one needs a mature perspective to properly manage the project.

How many times have tempers flared simply because two people on a project were uncertain of what the other was doing? This is what I call the “Hurricane Effect.”

Just because things are silent and still and quiet around you doesn’t mean there’s not a whirlwind of activity taking place with the people around you. You just might be momentarily in the eye of your project’s hurricane.

So often, all it takes to avoid the bad feelings brought on by the “Hurricane Effect” is a gentle push—a phone call, a letter, an email. A simple suggestion may do it. But it first starts with some kind of activity.

A slight nudge may be the push that creates a tipping point. From a baby step to a giant leap to a full out sprint. You must learn to classify and categorize each of these activities and be able to calculate the amount of time needed for their completion.

The 6-Step Process for Keeping All of Your Pots, Platters, and Plates Spinning

Your pot is filled. You have a monumental task in front of you. It may be writing a book, creating an online course, or creating a new division of your company. It doesn’t matter what it is. Right now, it is an idea/concept. You have to bring it forth to reality.

There is a guaranteed way to fuel your pots and clean the plates. There is a method to this madness.

Here are some of the ingredients I use over and over again:

1. Give me a one-sentence description of what you want to do with a project. Pretend you’re going to tweet it to me. No more than 140 characters. This is a concentrated sentence of clarity. You can add this in the task description of ClickUp once you start a task

2. Now, give me a list of all the different components of this project. I don’t want the details. Just list the big chunks of what must be done to pull this off. With ClickUp, you can add tasks to a List or start subtasks and checklists underneath a parent task.

3. Look at the small bits of this project. These are the things that will take a small amount of time. Fit this within your span of attention—I usually like to think in 15- to 20-minute segments. Starting is half finished. My 20-minute segment often goes over to 40-60 minutes at a time. This is like presenting your project plan.

4. Now tell me why you’re doing this. Not some flimsy, quickly stated reason. I want the deep-down passion, the “have to,” the thing that makes it worth living every day. What is it?

5. Look for the small tasks that you know you will love to do. Do those first. This will give you momentum and keep you rolling on the things that are more challenging. You’re looking for that feeling of accomplishment.

6. Do this daily. Look at what you accomplished. And celebrate. Acknowledge what you have done. Congratulate yourself. What? You didn’t do anything on your goal today? Then don’t go to bed. Not until you at least do a little bit. It’s the next 20 minutes that could make a difference for the rest of your life.

Another system that works great is the Get Things Done methodology, which you can also use in ClickUp.

Remember, you must always have the end in mind. No matter the task, the ultimate goal must be visualized even as you focus on all the tiny steps it will take to get there.

The desired outcome.

The end results.

The finished product.

All must be settled emotionally and mentally—before the start.

Now, tell me: what are your pots, platters, and plates? What are you doing to keep them in the air? What are you doing to even get them off the ground?

And, most importantly, why are you spinning them all in the first place?

Your next completed task could become your turning point. When would NOW be a good time to get started?

Tell us in the comments or email us help@clickup.com for help managing your plates, platters and pots!

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