Maintaining high productivity is a struggle we all face.
As I sit writing this now, I can’t help but see the city skyline bathed in sun through the windows which line the room. The warmth eeks through the open doors and windows and the urge to nip out for lunch swells inside me.
At the same time, the political scene recently has been a flurry of big moments and captivating narratives – the headlines call out to me.
But I have to write.
I have to focus.
How do I keep my focus when surrounded by distractions? The answer I’ve found which keeps me pinned to my chair and my fingers glued to my keyboard is the art of following a process.
I’ll explain to you why I’m such an advocate for processes, what processes I use, and how you can build the processes you need to drive you forward each day.
Why processes are vital to your productivity
Let’s start with a simple stat.
According to Kermit Pattison, writing for Fast Company, interruptions are costing you a lot of time. In fact, the average time wasted as a result of switching tasks is 23 minutes and 15 seconds.
If you’re trying to complete multiple tasks per day, you put yourself at risk of losing a considerable amount of working time. In short, your productivity could be taking a nosedive.
By following a process, you can keep your mind focused not just on the task at hand but clearly on what task you’re going to do next. Instead of finishing one item on your to do list and wondering about what to get cracking with next, you flow straight into the following item.
This fluidity and clarity in your workflow seems almost too simple to make any meaningful change. I mean, it’s only careful planning, right?
Well, yes. But planning is crucial to your success.
Most of the time we don’t recognize the weaknesses in our own workflows because we’re so engrossed in them. So, here’s a tip. Check out a tool like RescueTime which you can install on your computer so that it tracks everything you do. It will see what websites or programs you’ve been using and then generate a report for you to show you how you allocate your time.
Don’t build your work practices on what you think you’re doing, build them on what you’re actually doing. You’ll see your inefficiencies more clearly and be better equipped to tackle them.
The processes I use to write these articles
At Process Street, we have a rule that you must make a process for any task you expect to do more than twice.
Let’s look at two of these processes. One general and one task specific.
The general one is how I approach my working day. I use Trello for my task management and each day I start off by sorting through my tasks to see what I wish to accomplish that day. I then take each task which I want to complete and move them into my To Do column.
Anything in my To Do column gets done that day. Anything not in my To Do column does not.
This act of defining what I need to focus on helps me gain focus. I can then go into each task and think about what needs to be done to accomplish my goals. If it’s a research task then I will put a short checklist in my card outlining the steps I expect to take. If it is a common task like writing then I know I will use one of my premade processes to follow.
In each card I note the amount of time I expect the task to take and I order my cards to clearly show which I’ll do first through to which I’ll do last.
This initial planning starts my day off with a moment of considered thought and saves me probably an hour or more each day.
If I’m going to be writing an article that day for our blog, I’ll specify which of my custom built processes I intend to use. Our pre-publish checklist is one which we share across the team and have all contributed to building.
This checklist is engineered to make sure every article we publish adheres to the high standards we set ourselves. There are a lot of small steps involved in this quality control:
- Check every link points to the right place
- Make sure all capitalization adheres to our style guidelines
- Run spell check in American English
- Make sure all images are coded correctly with keyword optimized alt tags
There are 30+ steps in our pre-publish checklist. That’s a lot of steps to remember without a process. Time after time our process guides us in the right direction and makes sure we don’t miss simple mistakes.
This process gives us quality assurance.
How can you build processes which work for you?
Building processes is a long term strategy.
Not just because these processes help create consistent quality or garner small productivity gains every day which add up over time, but because processes exist to be improved.
Start off by noting down all the steps you can think of which contribute to the completion of a task. This is your base process.
If you work within a team, it’s a very good idea to collaborate on this process creation. You can compare approaches and priorities which can improve the overall performance of the team, while moving toward a standardized approach to establish consistency and improve the scalability of your team, in case you look to hire further members.
Begin following the documented process you have drafted and take note of a couple of key variables:
- How long does this take me?
- Are there any tasks which I’ve left out?
- Have I included unnecessary tasks?
- What does my team think of the process?
Each of those questions will tell you something different, and each will point you in a different direction for optimizing the process.
Once you’ve systemized your business through these processes, it is much easier to create performance metrics to target – ones which are realistic and don’t negatively impact on quality.
With better performance metrics you can more accurately predict output and, in turn, overall company performance.
Understanding your own productivity and knowing how to measure it is the first step to really understanding your own company and recognizing effective ways to improve performance.
Build processes, productivity, and your company
Don’t take my word for it.
I’ve given you the necessary tools to test your own performance for yourself. I’ve laid out the steps required to begin to implement processes and to track their performance.
Try it out for yourself and see what the results are.
The most successful companies in the world are ones with strong operating practices. That’s no coincidence.
Use your own productivity as a base from which to systemize your business, and start today!
Have you used process optimization in your business before? Let me know your success stories in the comments below!
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