Businessmen, homemakers, pastors and filmmakers all have core strengths that must be protected. I’ve found that the easiest way to do so is by setting up workflows. Pastors and filmmakers sometimes find it difficult to establish a workflow, since their sensitivity to the spirit and their creativity desire fresh off-the-cuff responses that struggle against the logical norms of a structured workflow – Although most subscribe to some form of a disciplined routine.
When I was a little kid, I’d watch my dad get ready for work. He followed the same simple tasks everyday like clockwork. The sheer repetition suggested he could ready himself in his sleep and I knew exactly when to hand him the electric razor so I wouldn’t alter his disciplined routine. When I was in sync with his workflow, he appreciated my help, but when I disturbed it, he wanted me out of the way. One thing was certain; his workflow reduced the time it took him to get ready to a mere 20 minutes including a shower.
By adapting a workflow, businessmen are freed up to focus their time on core activities rather than the onslaught of fires they have to put out. Homemakers are constantly fighting things that go against their planning to the point that systematic responses to certain activities can lighten the load and reduce the strain of battling hindrances. Both types of people find themselves forced into using project management skills daily and could take advantage of streamlining some of the more mundane or repetitive tasks into a simplified workflow.
When I write a screenplay, I spend most of my time determining the film’s structure and the key sequences needed to tell the story in the best way possible. I use a workflow that I developed after studying five great cinematic storytellers. The workflow allows me to progress quickly through the less creative steps in order to free my time for more creative opportunities.
The process I used to establish my workflow may be beneficial as a tool to establish your own productive workflow:
1. Brainstorm the important steps. Write every step in no particular order on a Post-It note or index card. Spread them arbitrarily out on a large table or attach them to a wall. Move them around to create a logical progression or outline of activities, making sure related elements are together. This is also the time to make sure elements that build on other elements are in the proper order so additional work or rework is reduced. This is know in corporate circles as mind mapping.
2. Group Steps into Sequenced Activities. Review the outline and determine what elements can be grouped together for efficiencies. This is the ideal time to think about a factory setting where you have multiple people handling portions of the activity. Ask yourself what functional person would handle what module of activities. The answer will help you to formulate chunks of work that can be done in tandem or a quick sequence, and give you numerous stopping points that don’t hinder progress. This is ideal when a project is longer than the amount of time needed in one sitting.
3. Test each Sequence of Steps. Using a mini project that touches all the modules or sequences, but takes no longer than a couple of hours, is ideal to verify that the process or new workflow is productive and effective.
4. Streamline the Process Based on Synergies. Drop the elements or the steps that are no longer needed due to the synergies gained from the groupings of activities. This is particularly hard for some people after they have built new habits around the workflow. However, this step is the one that gives you the greatest timesavings and helps you mature the process.
I chatted with one blogger who spent a few hours establishing a workflow that allowed him to publish a blog five days a week. While his structure lacks creativity, it is clear, concise and informative. The best part of his workflow is the freedom he gets to address issues he never thought possible, making him far more valuable to his audience.
I’d like to read about the types of workflows you have used and what made them successful. Please take a moment to comment.