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November 16, 2017

The Right Way to Make Lists: A Guide for Theatrical Managers

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We’ve been making lists the wrong way.

You may think I’m crazy. After all, what’s the big deal? You think of things, you put them on a list, you do the things. The problem lies in the reason we make them to begin with.

We make them because there is too much to hold in our heads. We write things down so we don’t forget them. But what if you can’t remember what to write down in the first place? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called back a client to ask another question about their upcoming show, or ordered another truck drop because I forgot an adapter on a gear order.

I made these mistakes because every time I started working on a new show I made a new list. Essentially, I was starting from scratch on every new show despite having worked on hundreds of shows previously (and knowing I’m going to work on hundreds more).

So if that’s the wrong way to make lists, what’s the right way?

It’s pretty simple actually. Start with a pre-existing list of all possibilities and remove what you don’t need. That’s it. Change this one thing about your list making and you will dramatically improve your management abilities. Let’s walk through the steps together.


1. Make a List

Start by writing down everything you think you’ll need for your upcoming show. Don’t overthink this step. When in doubt, just write it down.


2. Think Beyond Your Current Show

I'm betting you've created this list before and you’ll be creating it again many times in the future. So add things that will apply for those future situations. Are there different questions you’d ask an incoming dance production versus an opera? Are there different tasks you’d complete during pre-production for a corporate event versus a concert? Again, don’t overthink this step too much. You’ll be doing it again!


3. Use it on a Show

  • For your upcoming show, go through the list and HIDE anything that doesn’t pertain. DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING! Simply hide.
  • Add anything that wasn’t there before, that has suddenly come to mind. Maybe there’s something specific to this show that you haven’t encountered before. For example, the first time I lit an outdoor event I needed palettes for my dimmer racks to protect them from flooding. Once added, don’t ever remove them no matter how strange or situational they seem. You may hide some of these things on the next show, but someday you will see them again.
  • List Maintenance - Add clarifying details, update spelling errors, organize.

4. Repeat!

The next time you use the list, simply unhide everything and repeat the process. It’s perfect for pretty much any type of list imaginable including:


Why does this work?

It takes less brain power to eliminate the things you don’t need than think of all the things you have forgotten. Our industry is an amazing test case for this. We do many similar types of projects over and over again. Think of all of the lists you have thrown away that you could have reused.


 

Making lists in this way will save you an incalculable amount of money over your career. It makes you look really good because you never forget things. And, you’ll save yourself time!

How does it relate to our work at Propared?

A schedule is nothing more than a list in chronological order. It is the whole concept behind creating project templates and cloning past projects in Propared. Let your past work help your future work. Don’t plan for just one show, plan for all of the shows yet to come.

 

Make your event planning faster with Project Cloning.