The Process Process

step by step
Step-by-Step

Developing a habit is an important part of creating change, but an equally important aspect is creating a process.  And not just any process, a SIMPLE process.  For if I’ve learned anything working with my clients, I’ve learned “if it’s not simple, it’s too hard.”  Creating a simple process is perhaps the most crucial aspect of driving change.

What does creating a process look like?  If I asked you to write down the steps to do something you do every day you could.  Let’s take getting dressed each morning.  My system looks like this:  1. Take shower 2. Brush teeth 3. Put in contacts….. etc.  I do the same thing each morning.  I don’t need to think about it, I’ve done it so many times that it has become rote.

Everything that is done routinely needs a clearly thought out process.  Let’s apply this concept to staying on top of the papers in your office.  We start by breaking this into WHAT, HOW and WHEN.

WHAT is the goal: “round up the piles, papers and notes into a clearly prioritized task list in order to be able to focus on my most important work.”

HOW is the process:

  1. Gather all papers and notes that are laying around into one big pile
  2. Pick up the top item in the pile – ask: what needs to be done?
    1. If I need to put it away – put it away
    2. If I don’t need it – put it in the trash, recycle or shred zone
    3. If I need to give it to someone else – put it in a pile with their name on it
    4. If I need to take action on it – prioritize the action (critical, hot, sooner, later) on my task list and decide if I still need the paper (put it in the take action zone or throw away if I can)
  3. Pick up the next item and process
  4. Continue until I’ve cleared the pile
  5. Distribute sorted papers to their proper places
  6. Review my task list to ensure proper prioritization

WHEN is the frequency: “I will schedule 2 hours each week.”  Put it on your calendar.  If something comes up and you have to move it, that’s fine as long as you spend the 2 hours each week.  (Realistically, when you get started this can take 2 hours.  As time goes on it may take less than 1).

While this process may seem daunting, the more you work it, the easier it becomes.  By having the process written down in black and white it helps you to keep on track and on task until it becomes rote.

4 Steps to Effective Decision Making

ideas spark ideas
ideas spark ideas

Being a solopreneur or telecommuter has many advantages. But there are also a few disadvantages.  One of them is that there is no one in the next office to bounce ideas off of. As the old saying goes “two heads are better than one.”  And the more I study group dynamics, the more I KNOW that many heads create best decisions.

But what happens when we are working alone? I see in many of my clients that making decisions often presents road blocks. From a productivity perspective, I don’t think that in this situation rushing to conclusion is the best solution.

To make a good decision, one should:

  1. Be clear about the problem and what you want to happen
  2. Gather facts – who, what, where, why, when, etc.
  3. Develop alternatives – brainstorm, discuss, debate
  4. Decide on the best solution – considering how it will affect other aspects of the business and analyzing consequences

1,2, and 4 we can do on our own. But who do we brainstorm with? Consider – a mastermind group, an accountability partner, a coach, a consultant, or colleagues from a professional association.  I depend on my NAPO colleagues most of the time.  When it’s a big decision I often consult an expert or coach.  Regardless, I know that ideas spark ideas, and for my decision making to be most effective I can’t do it alone.

Top Tip for Today’s Tasks

Today's To-Do's
Today’s To-Dos
(note endless snow)

I’ve stumbled upon an awesome technique to get me through the day on those days that I have just too much to do and can’t figure out where to start or what to do first.  I write each task, to-do, and action step on an individual post it.  Then I arrange them in order of:

  • Do what’s most time sensitive first
  • Do what’s most important next
  • Do what has to come before something else before I can do the other thing

It does take a few minutes to write out the post-its, but it’s a very useful exercise.  By doing this I am:

  • Getting clear on today’s priorities
  • Narrowing my focus on the most important things
  • Letting go of those things on my list that really aren’t important.

Useful Hints:

  • I’m loving these new 2×2 post-its
  • Post so you can see from your desk
  • Use a marker so you can read it from your desk
  • Color code if it makes you happy
  • If you have a lot of the same task to do, (phone calls, invites, notes to send) break it out in smaller groups (a few at a time – with each batch getting it’s own post-it) so it’s not so overwhelming.

The Best Part:

  • Taking down each post-it feels so good
  • You have a visual picture to get you through the day
  • At the end of the day when there is only a few post-its left you feel so good

And as much as I love my technology, sometimes low-tech is the best way to fly.  Try it and let me know how it works for you.