Use Procedures to be More ProductiveAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." ~ W. Edwards Deming
The first time I wrote a blog post I was not pretty sure how to reach potential readers. I remember I posted a couple of tweets about it, hoping someone would notice. With the second post, I thought that posting it on Facebook would also help. As I was writing more articles, I added references in LinkedIn, Google Plus, StumbleUpon, Reddit and Tumblr. Then I thought that if the article had a picture, it also could be posted on Pinterest. Also, since I write all my articles in English and Spanish, and my audience is divided between Europe and America, it made sense to use different schedules so most people would notice.
What stress! All this shebang was only in my mind so, when the time to publish an article arrived, I went crazy trying to remember all the combination of places, times and languages I had to use to promote it. And almost always I kept forgetting something… until I decided to document the process with a procedure.
A procedure is a set of actions that must be performed in the same way, to obtain the same result under the same circumstances. Documenting the processes that must be done often is very common in the business world, where many operations must be done following certain criteria of efficiency, consistency and quality. They are the reason you get the same burger at any McDonalds in the world.
However, they are not something exclusive to companies. Think of how convenient it is to have a recipe while you are cooking and how easy is to buy the needed ingredients with that recipe at your fingertips. Also, keep in mind that individuals increasingly tend to be small independent organizations. Writing small procedures to document the processes and tasks that you need to do often (or not so often) will provide you the following benefits:
- Consistency. If you do the same task in different ways, you generate different experiences in those receiving the result of the task (it can be yourself), and this can cause confusion and disappointment.
- Productivity. If you have to perform a task for which there is a procedure, you just need to have that procedure at hand and follow it step by step. You will find yourself spending 15 minutes in a task that used to take one hour.
- Tranquility. If you follow this blog, you already know that out of your head equals less stress. Also, if you have a well-defined procedure, containing all the important details, you do not have to worry about doing something wrong or forgetting a part of the process.
- Prevention. What if one day you are sick and cannot do the task? Or if you have so many things to do that you need to delegate some? If the procedure is complete, legible and understandable, someone else will be able to do it smoothly.
Although there are specific tools for documenting processes such as flow charts, when it comes to self-management, the most recommended way to do this is with a simple well-written text and/or a checklist:
Part of my “Publish article” procedure, in FacileThings