Workflow is, essentially, how you get things done.
It is how you move a task or a project from arriving in your world through to execution and, eventually, completion. You may have workflows for different tasks, end to end, or you may have generic workflows that you put all tasks though; for the most part this post is going to talk about the latter.
So, why have workflows?
You can’t just deal with everything as it lands; well, you can, but it’s massively inefficient. Dealing with everything as it comes in will see you bounce between different tasks, dealing with whatever is at the top of your list to the detriment of everything else. If you don’t have a flow that brings these things into your wider task management system, then how did you know that you’re doing the right thing at the right time? How can you be sure that you’re working at your highest point of contribution?
Sooner or later you will become 100% reactive, just dealing with whatever arrived most recently, unable to break out of the cycle of just dealing with whatever task is sitting at the top of your inbox at any given moment.
Workflows help you solve all that.
Having workflows helps you organise and understand what you have to do; they give you a systematic approach to removing low value tasks and pulling the remaining tasks and projects into your task management system and prioritising them against the other tasks and projects that you are already working on.
Beyond all that, workflows are the first step to automating tasks; once you have a repeatable process flow in place you can hand over to a tool like Microsoft Flow or IFTT, which can help take low value tasks off your hands all together, and ensure that you’re able to hold your focus on the things that matter.
So what workflows should I have?
I’ll probably cover each of these in more detail in a later post, but here’s a high level pass at a top three:
- Email – This is an essential, you need to have a way to deal with your email, and the most important part of this is getting it out of your inbox, so how do you do that?
- Anything that requires less than 5 minutes – JFDI – Just (F**king) Do It
- Anything requiring more than 5 minutes – move it out of your inbox and into your task management.
- Anything that is directly to you and just for information – read it, archive it.
- Anything that is just for information and not directly to you (I.e. you’re on cc) – remove it via a rule and review it later.
- Notes – at the end of each day, process the notes that you have taken that day, extract any tasks from them and put them into your task management, before filing the notes. Time for this should be in your diary and heavily protected.
- Regular Review – A full weekly review of everything outstanding in your task management system, together with a look back at the week just gone to capture what went well and what could have gone better, plus a look forward at the nest week to make sure the meetings in your diary are going to be the best use of your time.
Other standard tasks that can be work flowed or automated include things like setting up meetings and approving forms, basicaly anything that is repeatable, boring and time consuming is worth work-flowing away and, eventually, automating.