Productivity and GTD
How to Create Processes to Increase Your Productivity
It doesn’t matter how well you work on any given day – if you’re not consistent in getting things done then you’re wasting all that hard work. The problem is that being consistently productive is infinitely harder than having a natural ebb and flow.
That’s where processes come in.
While you might not be able to be 100% consistent every day of the week in how much you get done, by creating business systems for tasks you repeat often, you can at least minimize any droughts in your daily routine. After all, success stories don’t happen overnight — if you want to build a blog, it can take years of consistent hard work and output to grow a substantial following.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck into how you can create processes to set yourself up for consistent success.
Choose your platform
First you need to choose the platform you’re going to use to document your processes. This will largely depend on the processes you need to document and whether you’re acting alone or on behalf of a team / company.
For example, if you’re just documenting your own personal processes then chances are a simple setup will do. That way you can spend less time setting up your processes and more time following them.
On the other hand, documenting your team’s processes will require some kind of software to make sure that everything is organized effectively. After all, you want everyone relevant to have access to your processes while keeping security and accountability high, and that’s hard to do with nothing but physical copies.
In general, you’ll be choosing between using physical copies, a generalist piece of software, or something designed for business process management.
Physical copies are serviceable for personal processes, especially if you don’t have many and don’t follow them often. They’re easy to set up (you can just write a task list on a piece of paper), but if you’re making an effort to keep your productivity consistent, physical copies quickly become an unmanageable mess.
Generalist software such as Microsoft Word and Excel isn’t terrible, and at least the resulting documents can be shared digitally, but it suffers many of the same problems as physical. They’re awkward to edit, easily lost, and become a hassle to organize in the long run.
Dedicated process documentation software, however, is built for precisely this. Using one of these tools will give you the tools you need to effectively document and track your processes to maximise your productivity.
Pick the first process to document
Now that you’ve got your tools sorted, you need to pick the first process you’re going to document for future use. Need an example? You can check out some example marketing processes here, and some example accounting processes here!
The main thing here is to pick a process that is important and frequent, as this will give you the greatest return over time. Eventually, you’ll want to document everything you need to do more than once, but by clearing the most common and important items first, you’re giving yourself a massive leg up in consistency.
Record how it’s currently achieved
This step is simple – you need to record the steps you currently take to complete your process. Making sure to stick to the format you chose earlier, go through the process one step at a time and record everything in enough detail that someone with no experience would be able to complete it.
Two things are worth bearing in mind at this stage; the level of detail, and the accuracy of the process.
If you make the process too detailed then you (let alone anyone else) probably won’t read the whole thing when coming back to it, and corners will be cut. At the same time, there should be enough information there to complete the tasks to a high standard.
As for the accuracy, just be sure not to try and sugar coat the steps you take. Kidding yourself into recording an ideal version of your current process will only cause damage later on, so take care to record your actual process, shortcuts and all.
Fill in any gaps
Next you should be filling in any gaps you discovered while recording your process. This will usually be where shortcuts have been taken, but remember that not all shortcuts are bad. Assess whether the gap in your process would be better off filled or leaving, then proceed.
Usually this will mean expanding your process to include things like checking information, or being more transparent in the way your work and report, but all of this is necessary if you want to boost your productivity. After all, to be consistent you need to have a method which you can follow to the letter every time that task needs completing — any holes leave room for variance, which in turn will mess up your output.
If you’re recording a process that involves others, consider asking them for suggestions on how to fill in the gaps. Chances are that they will bring different ideas to your own, and having them contribute will in turn make them more willing to follow the final product.
Improve what you can
Perhaps the most difficult step of this whole process to get right is knowing what and how to improve. If you make too many changes then whoever’s using the process could be alienated, making them resist the change. The same will happen if needless changes are made or the person following the process doesn’t understand why it needed altering.
So, if you haven’t done so already, here is where you need to meet up with anyone else who might be following this process in the future. If you’re documenting personal processes, do some research on how others carry out the same process and see what they have in common to get a sense of what might work.
In short, don’t take something for granted just because that’s the way you’ve done it until now. There’s always room for improvement and boosting your productivity, so you should always have something to tweak and test.
Test your changes
We’re almost there — next you need to test out the changes made to your process to see if you indeed made the right call. Ideally, these tests should be done in as close to a live environment as possible (without risking catastrophe if they fail).
The tests will depend on the process you’re improving, but make sure that you’re not overlooking any key factors such as the time it takes to complete a given task or deliver a specific item.
If all turns out well then it’s time to deploy your process. If not, go back, consider your results, tweak the process a little more, then test it again.
Rinse and repeat
Once you’re satisfied with your results, go ahead and deploy your process. This could be as simple as moving it to a specific folder or as complex as meeting with the relevant teams and getting them on board with why it’s important and what they need to do to follow it.
Either way, once you’ve finished, it’s time to rinse and repeat the whole thing on the next process, and so on.
This might all sound like it takes a lot of time and effort to set up, but the savings you get in the long run are exponentially greater than anything you spend getting things up and running. After all, to be consistently productive, you need to have consistent methods.
How do you stay consistently productive? What’s the most useful process you’ve documented? Let me know in the comments below.