Workflow optimization - intro to Productive! Magazine No.31 with Grace Marshall
Optimization is a really popular term nowadays, and I guess because of that its meaning has faded and lost some of its value. It’s a pity, because I see optimization as one of the crucial elements of productivity. It lets me save time and effort and maintain the quality of my work.
This is the Editor’s Note that I wrote for 31st issue of Productive! Magazine. See how you can use the workflow optimization rules employed in plants and factories to improve your personal productivity and team effectiveness.
Process optimization is often discussed in terms of business and industry, not in regards to personal productivity, however it is really easy to spot the similarities.
Three crucial parameters that can be adjusted to affect optimal performance in plants and factories are equipment optimization, operating procedures, and control optimization. It sounds kind of formal, but if we take a closer look at it, it all becomes really obvious:
1. Equipment optimization
Make sure the tools, devices, and even furniture you use serve you well and don’t hinder your productivity at any time. Think if there is anything you can change in your PC settings, apps you are using, or your office arrangement.
I’ve got an adjustable desk that I can use while standing or sitting. It lets me change my position while working – no need to take a short break to stretch my back, which could distract me for a longer time.
I use bluetooth headphones that let me walk away from my iPad or laptop to retrieve a document or other items that I may need to show someone over Skype without having to go through the process of taking out my earphones and putting them in again.
I buy a new iPhone every year and sell my last year’s model to someone. The upgrade price difference is well worth the productivity gain I get from having the best smartphone there is. Especially that iPhone is one of my main computers these days.
Equipment that you have should be used to its fullest advantage. It’s good to discover those things that annoy you or impede your productivity, and to try to get rid of any bottlenecks.
- I have applications that help me do certain things much faster and easier, and they all sync in the cloud and “talk to each other”, like Nozbe, Evernote and Dropbox. I also have writing, scanning and other handy apps that talk to these three. This way things sync with each other and create powerful workflows.
2. Operating procedures
However serious it might sound, it is all about making the job easier.
I try to automate everything as much as possible. If it is not too complicated, I write a small computer program that speeds up and smooths the process of getting a given task done (providing I know it will surely repeat in the future). If it is something more advanced, I ask one of the developers to do it for me.
It is also great to write down all the procedures so that other people have access to them and so you are not the only person in power. We have a Nozbe Wiki dedicated to this purpose.
Templates to the rescue!
In Nozbe, we try to have templates for all the recurring processes. A checklist or a separate project template shaves a significant amount of time off and saves a lot of headache. You don’t need to plan everything every time; there is no need to worry that you forgot something or missed something important.
Having an easily accessible database of frequently used elements, steps, or procedures is a must!
The new Nozbe version release partly described in this blogpost is always based on a template.
Magda, the executive editor of Productive! Magazine, has an exact editorial procedure written down and always follows the same steps in order to publish our mag on time.
To encourage using templates we actually launched a new way of sharing Nozbe templates – it’s called Nozbe.HOW and here’s my video introducing them to the world:
In plants and factories they have special control loops. There are hundreds of them, and each is responsible for controlling one part of the process, such as maintaining a temperature, level, etc.
Of course, there is a counterpart for control loops in personal productivity. In short, all your optimization procedures and tricks should be verified regularly. You want to be sure that the templates, checklists, and other means you’ve prepared and use are up to date.
You can also share your ideas with others and ask them to suggest any possible improvements or new ideas.
I hope that this industry-originated idea for optimizing and automating your actions will help identify some bottlenecks and flaws in your workflow. Try to analyze it today and see how you can save yourself some hours and energy that you can then utilise for the stuff that you love or simply the tasks you couldn’t do due to the lack of time.
Read the latest Productive! Magazine #31
Inside you will find a great and motivating interview with Grace Marshall on work-life rhythm-not-balance and being really productive as well as the articles on making working as a team work, transparency in teams and exercises as a productivity booster.
We make sure everyone can read Productive! Magazine - it is free and comes on-line and off-line - you may enjoy it a desk and on the go.
It’s available on the web at productivemag.com and I hope you will like it!
Question: Have you found any areas for improvement? What were they? Please share your findings in the comments so that other readers can think of that too.