Just like me starting out with this blog, you likely have a bunch of stuff to learn some of which you may already know but some of which will crop up in the middle of whatever you are doing and sidetrack your curiosity and productivity.
On top of that, you have deadlines to meet and clients you need to keep happy. And of course, some of us also have a family to make sure we care for too.
And building a workflow from scratch can take some time and real work tweaking to get right. Of course, this flow needs to work for both you, your blog, your clients and family too. When we sit down and look at it building a workflow that works for you can be daunting. And researching how to do it online can bombard you with information totally focused on how to code and build software, NOT what you need to think about in your own personal workflow.
How to get started building your own workflow
Most executives I’ve worked for have already had a workflow when I started working with them, and you do too. The difference between them now and you is that they have figured out what it is and why it works for them.
Over the course of my career, I’ve helped many of them take a “barely functional” workflow and build it into something that is productive and streamlined. The best part is that it is simple to maintain once it’s set up.
Before we dive into the specifics I want you to keep these things in mind as we proceed:
- You need to treat yourself like a client
- Planning ahead makes life a lot easier
- Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is key (be realistic here)
- find your most productive time of the day & use it
- Batch your related tasks
- What Resources are available?
- Use programs that make your life easier NOT harder (automation is AWESOME!)
- STOP comparing yourself to others
- What’s your flexibility like?
1. Treating Yourself like a CLIENT
Ok, I KNOW you’ve heard this one before. But do you actually DO IT? Have you actually sat down and worked through all the deadlines you give yourself? Have you simplified down the stuff you show yourself to the “need to know only” items? no?
This is likely the HARDEST PART of being an entrepreneur, everybody else is your client but not yourself. That means everyone else’s deadlines take priority, even though you know your business would do better getting Task A done, Client Y needs Task C done so you do it first.
Seriously STOP THAT, sit down and have a chat with yourself if you need. You can even use a friend or co-worker and get them to ask you some questions about your priorities in your business. Get them to ask you the questions you ask your clients!
If you are a blogger or influencer get them to ask you the big questions about what you want from your blog. Are you here to get a message out? What message is that? Do you want to make money? How much? By when? Which method? What is the purpose of what you are doing? What do you want the readers to see when they come to your blog? Set your blogs S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
2. Good Workflows plan ahead.
Yes, a solid workflow will plan into the future, for this blog I have content planned out about 3 months right now. It’s a general plan, but it’s a plan.
When you get a due date/assignment put the date on a calendar somewhere. (we’ll figure out where works best for you in a bit)
I LOVE due dates, due dates are my priority sequence. NOW if you have a big project due in 3 months, you bet I’m going to tell you to break it down and set mini due dates along the way.
3. Knowing your own Strengths and Weaknesses is critical to building your workflow
Yup, we are going there. I sat down with my current executive (aka boss man) recently, he’s great at a tone of stuff, but has so much going on that we miscommunicated on a deadline and now our regular workflow is all wonky cause another department got upset and freaked out & changed the flow. 😛 not fun, but I totally get where they are coming from.
The thing is we all have strengths and weaknesses, that’s part of life. And your’s can help build the best flow for you. Some of us need 1 spot to dump ideas, others like multiple locations. Some people need the feeling of writing out stuff so they can remember what they need, others are so techy they can’t imagine writing on a piece of paper.
Be realistic with yourself what skills do you have, which ones would you like to improve on. There is no need to beat yourself up if you are missing a skill you want, you have time to learn and develop it.
We also want to consider our habits right now as well. Some of them will help us, others can create self-sabotaging patterns. Again, be realistic, and gentle with yourself.
4. Finding your most productive time of the day
I know I know, the 5 am club is alive and well. Yeah, 5 am doesn’t work for everyone. It’s not the best time of day to get everything done for everyone. There is a misconception out there that everyone wakes up refreshed and alert ready to work out, and kick but in business if only they woke up at 5 am.
I’ll tell you what, that works for SOME PEOPLE, not everyone. Pay attention to your own body’s rhythms, when are you tired during the day? When you feel hungry? When do you feel like you need to move? Watch for patterns in your own system, at some point, you will notice your focus & ability to produce content or whatever you do is best in a particular time frame. Now go schedule that as your “productive window” in the planning ahead later.
I’ve worked with some executives who work best at 9:00 am, after they have been in the office for an hour. They’ve had their coffee, they’ve browsed through their email, then they jump in on whatever it is that needs doing right then and get going.
Others work best at 3:30 when it’s close to the end of the day and the “pressure is on” to complete the work.
Only you will know this, though others could already have seen it when things work for you.
As an Executive Assistant, my “best time” has to be whatever my Executive needs it to be. But as my own boss, it’s just before lunch from about 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. For some reason, if I’m not working that is the time I get the most done here and at home. (Kinda tough during the work day as I’m working then, but weekends & holidays that’s my Golden time)
5. Batching Related Tasks
When building your own workflow you really want to batch stuff together where possible. For instance, it’s easier and faster to handle the email situation if you do it in one go (no not a fan of inbox zero, just a fan of getting the quick stuff out the door).
Making pins? you’ll get into a rhythm eventually and pound those babies out quicker if you stay in the program you are using and do a bunch instead of leaving it, go do something else and come back, then open the program again etc. The less time you spend switching programs the quicker stuff gets done.
6. Your Resource List
I bet when you read that the first thing you thought about was the cost of something. While money can be a resource it’s not the only one to think about here. You are also looking at how much time you have available.
It does you no good to set up a workflow that will take more time then you have available. You are also going to want to make a list of tools that you currently use, email? which platform? Online or on one computer? Organization tools like a bullet journal or Trello are great too, they are a resource.
Also think about the knowledge you already have about the process, if you don’t have the knowledge where can you find it? Do you have a mentor that you can go to with questions on what has worked for them with these types of things?
7. Use only the programs that make your workflow EASIER not harder. (and yes AUTOMATION ROCKS)
It’s easy to get caught up in this program or that program that is supposed to make your life “better” or “easier”. It seems that almost every day I come across a new program trying to tell me how it is going to save me time, or money or sanity in an attempt to tempt me away from whatever I’m currently using.
The funny part is I already have my “Team” set up. I know how they work, and I LOVE using them. Once they were set up the time savings rolled in. The new programs I’m not so sure if I’m going to like them or not, or if they will take up too much time getting familiar with or even moving what I do over…
In short, I’m happy with the way things are now, and while I might play with a new program I’m not likely to get a bunch of new programs going that I have no clue if they will work or not on the off-chance that it MIGHT, maybe, someday save me 5 minutes more than I’m saving now.
I use a bunch of automations to make my life easier, the programs I work with, work with these automations. Stuff that you want happening in the background, should stay in the background, not come screaming out randomly to draw your attention away from what you are currently focusing on which is building your business.
8. STOP comparing yourself to others
In my experience, no 2 people work exactly the same. We don’t have the same lives as anyone else, so why would we think like everyone else. You may already have some preconceived notions on how you SHOULD be working or functioning or whatever. STOP, be aware of what those ideas are and get them out on paper (or digital) so you can really see them.
As an Executive Assistant yes I had to learn to work with my Executive’s thought processes. That doesn’t mean I work the same way they do, just that I learned to accommodate the process that works for them. Believe me, I can’t work the way they do, and they couldn’t work the way I do. That’s WHY we work together, 😉 we become a better team because of our differences.
When all is said and done, life is going to throw you some curve balls at some point. You can either have a flow that works around and with that, or you can be rigid and break in the storm. What I show you will help you bend and sway so you can grow another day. But it’s all about the attitude you approach life with.
I’ve worked with rigid, believe me, it’s painful to watch that breakage from the outside.
But with the right amount of flexibility a tree can withstand almost anything and come back swinging. An executive (or entrepreneur) can do even better, not only weathering the storm but winning at their goals in the middle of it.
A workflow needs to work FOR YOU. You shouldn’t feel like it’s work getting stuff into your workflow, but in order to know what works for you, we need to start by looking at what you are currently doing and how that’s going. So start by being aware of what you do when, for guidance on how to improve your current workflows sign up for my Workflow Management Course where I’ll walk you through how to save yourself more time then you thought possible.