How To Create A Full-proof Workflow

This post is Day #13 in the 31 Days to a Better Work + Life Balance series. 

A good workflow can make such a difference in my week. I hate ending the week feeling like I'm way behind and wasted too much time. Maybe you know the feeling? 

Here are some symptoms that your workflow might be in need of some help...

  • You almost always have a chaotic beginning, not knowing where to start
  • You feel scattered and overwhelmed, flip-flopping between tasks
  • It takes you awhile to get to the meat of the job or you're always playing catch up
  • You feel like you consistently get little done even with large amounts of time
  • It's common for you to feel like you skipped steps or left things out 

If any of the above describe you, then there's a good chance you need a better workflow. By this I mean a series of ordered steps that you follow to get your work from the beginning stages to totally finished. It can be a checklist, chart or scheduled reminders. It can span several days or just one.

I have a separate workflow for cleaning, blogging, designing, social media and preschool lessons. I'll give you examples from the first three today for a starting point and then you can create your own.

Begin With The End In Mind 

Before creating a checklist or something similar, know where you want to end up. What is the main goal of your list?  Examples:

My cleaning goal is to get the house picked up and peaceful feeling so we can rest and find things we regularly need

A typical blogging goal might be to write 5 helpful posts in a week

Or a design goal for me would be to finish a set number of designs for the season, with originality and audience in mind

Defining your purpose will help eliminate steps that aren't as important. Like when I defined my cleaning goal, it helped me not to get too obsessed with deep cleaning and organizing, but instead focus on things we daily need like clean dishes, laundry and bathroom. Find your why and work backwards.

List Out Key Steps

These don't have to be in order, but actually write them down. This can help you see where the time usually goes. Examples: 

Cleaning steps might include - All laundry off the floor, Sort dirty/clean, Sort lights/darks, Take downstairs. Change loads, Fold and put away, etc.

Blog steps might include - Write headlines, Outline main points, Take photos, Upload/edit photos, Fill in outline, Add Categories/Tags, etc.

Design steps might include - Browse Pinboards, Make moodboard, Sketch layouts, Design in Photoshop, Organize/Upload files, Create marketing materials, etc.

Find hacks

This is a good time to looks at your list of key steps and see what you can do to cut down your time. Can you combine any steps or group tasks for efficiency? Can you create shortcuts like email templates, saving passwords or most visited sites? 

Cleaning hacks would be like keeping wipes in reach so we can quickly swipe makeup, hair and toothpaste from bathroom surfaces. Or using the touch-it-once rule for reducing paper clutter.

Blog hacks would be like taking all photos for the week at once. Or creating post ideas actually in Wordpress, with headlines and key points saved as daily drafts for the week. Then I can just go fill it in when it's time to write.

Design hacks would be like saving templates so I have a foundation to start with each time. Or keeping my font websites saved in bookmarks so I can just click instead of typing in address each time.

Name & Order Your Time

Estimate how long each task takes you and schedule it in to your workday. This can be where you actually put your steps in order and decide when to tackle them. Which days/times make the most sense for each step? Schedule reminders, make a checklist or chart to help you. Examples:

Cleaning - I use the 30/30 app for quickly cleaning up the house twice a day. I spend about 15-30 minutes each morning and afternoon to pick up and change loads when we need it most.

Blog - I keep a list on my ipad/computer for blog steps. Then I can copy and paste structures over to each post. I also schedule two mornings a week to write and one morning for photos.

Design - I keep a printed chart/checklist so I can go down the list and see what still needs done for each stage of the design process. I spend two mornings and one evening  a week designing.

Assigning times helps to see what's doable and if your goals make sense. It also helps to put actual steps to work.

Test and Tweak

Try out your workflow for a week and take notes. What isn't working? What takes too you too long? Is there anywhere you regularly get stuck and then how can this be fixed? 

If you find that you regularly can't keep up, maybe it's time for different goals, purchasing software to do tasks for you or to hire some help.