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My friend Paula Rizzo looks like a sweet little cat. 

She’s neat and orderly and totally adorable, a petite, pretty brunette with a laugh like a bell. 

But don’t be fooled. Inside that kitten facade, the girl is a pit bull. 

She cut her teeth in newsrooms (which are not for the faint of heart) where she spent nearly two decades as a TV news producer, and now has an Emmy on her mantle to show for it. The girl doesn’t think in days or hours, but in seconds. 

So while the rest of us are doing things like, you know, blinking, she has already studied, learned, and mastered whole skill sets.

And when the girl had a stomachache for days, she ignored it.

For a delicate flower, she has an extremely high pain tolerance. Then the stomachache abated for a bit. You know why?

Because her appendix had exploded inside her. 

She lived to tell the tale, and while she was on the mend, she used her ninja list-making skills to rejigger what she would and would not be doing.

She and I were putting plans together to do a live event at the time, and when this disaster happened, she said, “We need something that will last even if body parts explode,” and so we launched an online digital course I’m quite proud of, called Lights Camera Expert.

The thing you might not guess about Paula is that she has an addictive personality. She gets into one thing, and THAT is what she’s into. Oatmeal for breakfast? All other breakfasts can go home now. Genmaicha green tea? Every day. I’m just glad she never tried meth. 

The girl is also obsessed with lists.

I don’t just mean “tasks for today” lists, but like, “stuff we need to talk about today over maki rolls,” including, “What’s going on with what’s-his-name?” 

(That is a question for me, and the answer is, nothing. Nothing is going on). 

She launched a blog about lists. Then a book about lists (Listful Thinking, bestseller, translated into umpteen languages, including whatever they speak on Mars). 

While I was doing laundry and trimming my nails and trying to figure out what to do for lunch, she released her second book, Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You. 

It’s pretty and practical, bound in an adorable package. Just like her. But there’s more to it than that.

Anyone can write down what they have to do today. But that’s just one use. Because what’s the point of all of the effort you make if you don’t know where you are right now, and where you’re headed. 

Lists give us control, reduce piles of to-dos into a clean, straight spine that can stand and move. She’s a list chiropractor, helping align the pieces to ensure that the to-dos align with the what the what-fors, and don’t forget the WHAT-I’M-NOT-DOING-ANYMORES, which is equally critical. 

If you could use a tool for helping map out your next steps—in your life, career, project, check out Listful Living: A List-Making Journey to a Less Stressed You. 

You’ll end up doing things you wouldn’t have otherwise thought about, or done, and that’s key. Trust me, when Paula tells me to do something, I don’t ask questions. I do it. 

 

If you think that being a successful person, professional, entrepreneur, or human requires that you “do it on your own,” boy are you making life hard for yourself.

I’ve been on my own for almost 7 years now—7!—since I was laid off from my magazine job. And people always say, “Wow, you went out on your own. You built this on your own.”

Kinda. And kinda…not.

I wouldn’t be anywhere without other people. And if we’re being honest, NONE of us would. It’s a misnomer, the idea that you have to do it all on your own.

Being independent does NOT mean you seek no help from anyone. What it means, to me anyway, is that you’re resourceful, capable, and not able to do everything, but that you know how to enlist the support of those who can.

I’ve had some very successful collaborations with other people. Some are long-term, like the business partnership I have with Paula Rizzo, co-founder of Lights Camera Expert (who was a friend for years before we started sharing a bank account).

In fact, people ask Paula and me all the time how we made, and continue to make, our partnership work. Granted, some people are JUST business partners, meaning all biz all the time, and they don’t have a friendship outside of their work. Fact is, Paula also happens to be one of my very best friends, too. That means there’s some balancing to do.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR PARTNERSHIP ALIVE AND WELL

1 | Know your roles

I know what I’m good at, and what she’s good at. And most important, we agree on these things.

If I’m going to benefit from Paula’s gift for creating spreadsheets and general order out of chaos, I have to admit that that’s not my jam. And while Paula is a published writer and is quite capable of drafting copy, she knows that’s what I do really well (and really fast) and so she lets me do that. If pressed, either of us could do the other thing of course! But we move more quickly and efficiently if we allow each other to do what we’re best at.

2 | Keep romance alive

To be clear, Paula and I are not romantic partners. But when I say “romance” I mean the part of us that keeps us connected as humans, keeps us in love with what we do and if we’re being honest, in love with each other (albeit in a platonic way).

If all we do is email, we will lose that. We make it a point to have dinner, to hang out, sometimes drink Aperol spritzes on the roof of her apartment building—and not talk about work. We need to remember that we are people and friends, and to laugh at stuff and have fun. NOT just worry about our email funnel. The minute Paula and I have nothing but email funnels to talk about, it’s over.

3 | Don’t get it twisted. I love texting, and I do it ad nauseum. But. Sometimes texts can be taken out of conTEXT. They can be misread, or misunderstood. They hit the wrong tone, by accident, and before you know it, one of us is thinking that the other is mad or isn’t listening. Bad news.

So what we make regular practice of now is voice text. Meaning: You leave a message via text using your voice (sorry Android users, not sure how that works in your world).

This makes all the difference in the WORLD. Because then you hear the message and the tone, and this prevents anything being taken the wrong way.

I make sure I do it particularly when talking about things that could easily be misunderstood, or when I want her to hear the tone, and warmth, in my voice. She does the same. It can also be really fun.

AlSO, SEE OTHER PEOPLE

Paula is very important to me. She’s a long-term partner. Others are short-term, meaning we partnered for a few successful one-off projects, and we keep looking for ways to do more stuff.

Take Tricia Brouk, and we come from different industries, with different backgrounds. Tricia is a force. Choreographer, director, podcaster, coach, writer, artist. TEDx curator and producer. She’s really something to behold. (And I like being around people like that. So I make sure I’m around her as much a I can be.)

We have similar interests. We even offer some similar services in the speaker consulting business.

In the short time since we’ve met, we’ve gone to and supported each other’s shows. We’ve asked for each other’s opinion and given honest feedback. She wrote me into a screenplay she was working on. If you look closely at a video she did to promote her fitness business, I’m in the background doing deep knee bends.

She produces TEDxLincolnSquare, and I will send people her way whom I think could be a great fit for her show. The first year, she booked me to do standup comedy at her TEDx event…and then the following year, invited me to host the thing!  

Why does this work? Because Tricia and I know the difference between managing and collaborating. We trust each other to do our thing, and create safe containers in which to do it. THIS IS KEY if you want to do more stuff with more amazing people.

We recently did a FB live together to discuss the art of collaboration, to promote the premiere of a mini-doc she directed and produced, called “Just Enough” (more about it here).  

Our next step together as collaborators?

I’ve invited her to be a featured speaker once more at my live, in-person workshop, Tapped to Speak LIVE, where I’m helping professional speakers up their game and create their own TEDx talks. Remember, Tricia and I both work with private clients to do this. (Here she is, doing her thing at Tapped to Speak LIVE 2018!)

PRACTICE COLLABORATING

So how to do you invite more short term opportunities and feel out potential longer-term partners? You need to date them. Here’s how:

Show up to—and support—the people you admire. As you meet new people, and separate the ones you like from everyone else, take an interest in them. Show up to their shows, their events. Buy tickets, reserve seats, opt-in to their lists. Share their stuff on social media. Take them out to lunch. Show an interest in what they’re doing, not just how they can help you.

Don’t push to get “married” too soon. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re looking for a long-term partner, you need to start with short-term. Paula and I didn’t start our business on day 2 of our friendship. We had had a long time observing each other at work and play before we made that jump.

Plus, if you push for something with high stakes and big commitments before you know who they are or what they value, you not only risk a potential partnership, you could ruin the relationship.

Take some low-stakes gambits, and find out what they’re like stressed. Dream big, sure. But start very small. Rather than attempt to collaborate on a 2000-person event with someone, start with a little workshop. Or a webinar. Give yourselves each a chance to try taking risks and even losing a little together.

It’s like what they say about picking a life partner: Seeing them at their best is easy. What you need is to see them at their worst. Make it a point to be around them after they’ve been drinking too much, or had no sleep, or under a lot of stress. THAT is the person you’re dealing with.

You can’t change a person, but you must know what you’re getting involved with. That goes for marriage, and business partners, and friends, too. The best and most successful partnerships will be those with a capacity and real interest in knowing and working with the other person as they are, not as you wish they could be.

…Pssst. Is giving a TEDx talk on your bucket list? Join me for Tapped to Speak LIVE, a transformational two-day in-person workshop in Boston on April 4&5. Walk in with a bunch of half-formed thoughts, walk out with your TED-worth idea. To learn more and reserve your seat, visit tappedtospeaklive.com. 

Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com and author of the new book, Listful Thinking

Paula Rizzo, founder of ListProducer.com and author of the new book, Listful Thinking

Paula Rizzo is an Emmy award-winning television producer and founder of the productivity site ListProducer.com.  She’s also the author of the new book Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed. I recently had Paula on my show, Solopreneur on the Whatever It Takes network, to talk about how she stays on top of her stuff and beats distraction, which she does.

In this episode, Paula shows us how to use lists and other productivity tactics so that life doesn’t spiral out of control. She also gives us a little “list rehab,” since mixing everyday to-do’s with life list items will addle your brain and stall your productivity (read: don’t put “buy milk” on the same list as “write a book”). Here’s some more about Paula, how she came to be “The List Producer,” and a few of her productivity hacks from the show.

Do you have a day job?

My day job is as a senior TV producer. I juggle entrepreneurship with working a traditional job at the moment. It can be tough at times but I’m a big fan of outsourcing and setting up lots of systems so I don’t get overwhelmed. My lists serve me very well in this department.

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?  

I wanted to be Barbara Walters. I’ve always been very curious so I think I’ve always been drawn to journalism and news.

When did you realize this was (or wasn’t) going to happen?

I’m a very focused person by nature so I had my eye on the prize for a long time. But after learning what everyone does in a newsroom I knew being a producer was for me. Producers are the ones who call the shots and tell everyone what to do. That sounded perfect to me. Plus I didn’t want to live all over the country in small markets to become a reporter.

What is it about your life now that you can’t believe you do, and wouldn’t believed if someone told you 5-10 years ago?

I can’t believe I wrote a book about lists of all things! I’ve always wanted to write a book but I never imagined it would be this one. If you told me I’d be a TV producer at a major network in NYC, I would have believed you. Because that’s what I’ve always worked towards. But this newfound life as the List Producer is one I really didn’t envision. I’m so grateful I’ve been taken down this path to help people boost their productivity and manage overwhelm more effectively.

Where do you think most of us waste our time? What do you recommend doing to change it?

I’m a huge researcher, almost to a fault. Analysis paralysis is a really tough thing to get over when you’re starting a new venture. But the truth is sometimes you need to just get started and figure it out as you go. I should really take my own advice here but I know how difficult it can be.

What lesson(s) did you learn the hard way (could be your career, or life in general):

I wrote a blog post recently that got a lot of great feedback because it’s the first time I publicly talked about the disaster that was buying my first apartment in NYC and renovating it. I’m a huge optimist and I was positive that things would turn out just as they should. They didn’t. And with each passing day I became more and more depressed and upset—something that is way out of character for me. But what I learned from the experience was that sometimes I need to really go with the flow and stop trying to control everything. That is a huge wakeup call for me and something I work on everyday.

Any other advice you want solopreneurs/entrepreneurs to know? Resources you recommend or folks you like? 

Evernote for me is like a second brain. It’s a place I can stick anything! I can put things in folders, share them with different people, and search by keyword. I wrote most of my book in Evernote—I would get ideas on the subway, and you know how that is, you e-mail them to yourself or write them down on a piece of paper, and by the time you get home you’re not sure where that great idea went! If you put it in Evernote, it’s always there.

I also recommend keeping a running list with friends or colleagues so you can make sure to talk about all the topics you need to get to when you see them.

For more about Paula and her tips on how to reach your productivity peak, visit her website and pick up her new book, Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed

Watch a new episode of Solopreneur every Tuesday at 4pm ET!