Do you need to get more organized, but don’t even know where to start? Do you feel like you don’t even have a process or a meaning to your madness? This might mean that you need to optimize your work flow. Below are some of my favorite tips on managing workflow.
1. Start Relying on a To-Do List
Whether it’s in a planner, online (like ToDoist, which I’ll mention below), or in a running Word document, it’s critical that you create a to-do list and stick with it. Ideally, you should have a system that lets you schedule recurring tasks or things many weeks and months in advance, so you can push more information out of your head and into other places. This can help you think more clearly and be more productive.
As Einstein always said, “Never memorize something you can look up in a book.” The same analogy holds true here.
2. Identify and Delegate Stuff You Don’t Want to Do Anymore
You’re never too low on the totem pole to not have outside help for stuff you hate doing. If your workflow is interrupted because you feel guilty about putting things off you don’t like, consider delegating it to someone else. There are many affordable virtual assistant services out there now. I use Fancy Hands (that’s my referral link) for $30/month and have had great success with it. I have them do basic research, like for my upcoming trips to Greece and Italy.
3. Identify and Delegate Stuff You Don’t HAVE to Do Anymore
Sometimes you don’t mind doing certain tasks, but you really don’t have to be the one that does them. Before you start doing a tedious task, ask yourself:
- Am I covering for someone else, when I should be teaching them how to do it correctly the first time?
- Is this tedious work that is taking away from projects I’d make a bigger impact on?
- Could someone else on my team use this as a learning experience, benefiting more from it than me?
- Can I remove myself from this process to make it easier?
Oftentimes, we get used to do things out of habit instead of realizing when we can delegate them to someone else.
4. Work When You’re Most Productive
I used to have a lot of guilt about the fact that I wasn’t a morning person. I loved The Miracle Morning (still do), but most days, it’s all I can do to get out of bed before 8am. If it was up to me, every day would start at 10.
However, I do have some leeway, since I make my own schedule. Which explains why I’m writing this blog post at 10:15 at night. If you are more alert and excited to work at night rather than the morning (or vice versa), then do everything you can to make that happen. It will help your workflow and your overall quality of work.
5. Work on Technology You Enjoy
Are you just making ends meet with a 10-year-old computer that you really freaking hate working on every day? Does it get your morning off to a bad start because it takes 10 minutes to start up, even if it was just asleep (trust me, this is the worst)?
Listen to me. It’s worth it to buy your ideal computer. Or mousepad. Or whatever. Don’t just try to make things work if it makes it sluggish and impedes your work. If you’ve been making do with Photoshop Elements but you really need the real deal, pull the trigger. You won’t believe the difference it makes. You are happier, things are faster, and your workflow is more streamlined.
6. Pay For Tools That Are Worth It
I found my soulmate – ToDoist – and I never turned back. This is now almost my second year of having a pro account (only $30 per month) and besides WordPress and MailChimp (and Google, of course), ToDoist has been the only tool that I’ve stayed with. Once you find a tool that you really enjoy, it’s worth the price, especially if it makes your work that much easier. I also pay for Buffer for Business and Dropbox because they make my life more awesome.
7. It’s OK to Make Boring Things Colorful
If you’re a creative person, it’s okay to decorate your workspace. It’s perfectly fine that you doodle during meetings (it actually helps you pay attention and retain what was said). If writing down your weekly schedule in colored gel pens (yes I spent $50 on gel pens and that is an aff link) makes your workflow more fun (and also helps you identify separate areas or tasks better), DO IT!!!
8. Decide if it Even Matters
Many times we are trapped in the cycle of being busy that we don’t step back and evaluate the importance of what we are doing. Does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, if you don’t launch that interview series right now? Especially if you are already launching a podcast, a webinar series, and hosting conferences? Probably not.
If you have to, feel free to file them away or set them as a to-do six months from now. However, I am giving you full permission to cross things off your to-do list, permanently without doing them.
9. Only Do Email Twice Per Day
It’s awesome. Email never gets any less stressful (at least for me), but there are two tools I’ve been using lately that have really helped me get a handle on my email.
- AwayFind: Put a notification in your email signature that you only check email a few times per day and/or set an auto-responder letting people know. The message will let people know that if it’s an emergency, they can fill out an AwayFind form, which you’ll get as a text or app notification right away.
- EmailGa.me: Integrates with your email to turn it into a game. Times your responses and you get points (and a happier and happier face) every time you respond, archive, or delete an email. It easily tricks you into getting through email thoroughly, yet quickly.
This makes my workflow much less stressful, because I can count email as a task instead of an ongoing commitment I must keep an eye on the entire day.
10. Learn That it Doesn’t All Have to Get Done Today
This relates to #8, but it deals with again, prioritizing your tasks. You may have a list of items you’d like to get done that day, but when it comes down to it, probably half doesn’t need to get done today. Decide your top 3-5 priorities that HAVE to get done, and go from there.
What other ways can you optimize your workflow?
Featured photo credit: Mind Mapping via photopin (license)
Hustlin’ photo credit: I made this into a 4′ poster via photopin (license)
Other hustlin’ photo credit: 1175 20120822 Hustle While You Wait via photopin (license)