What is a process, anyway? The general definition of a process is “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” (Many thanks to Google for the assist.) With such a broad definition, one can imagine that processes are everywhere…and they are! Just about everything is a process if you think about it…making a bowl of cereal in the morning, getting the mail, preparing for work, maintaining your email inbox, analyzing data, coding an application…the list goes on & on. We perform processes all day, every day, and rarely give them a thought. And why should you, right? These processes work because you can do them without even giving it a thought, so they must be good….right?
Just because we don’t think about them doesn’t mean they are good! Nor are they being done the best way. From our work to home life and back again we need to think about our processes…reflect on them and ask some key questions. Why does this process exist? What is it trying to accomplish, and is it doing that? What are the qualities I value in achieving this process, such as cheapest, fastest, simplest? Does my process incorporate those qualities and accomplish my goal? Can this process also help me meet other goals or partially/fully complete other processes? The list could be endless.
But why should you care about processes? The mantra of today’s world seems to be “do more with less.” This challenge is present not only in business, but in our personal lives as well. Efficiency and effectiveness are the secret keys to getting stuff done quicker, cheaper and with a quality result. Just about anyone you talk to in business will lament how they wish they were more productive, or that they feel like they can’t focus on getting things done. But how can you efficiently and effectively do more with less? One simple way is to examine your processes! Cut out the wasteful steps that don’t provide any value. Streamline tasks and automate where appropriate. Consolidate, collaborate, centralize and compromise. Once you reap the benefits of optimizing one process, you’ll find yourself looking for more!
This is the point where you’re saying “Yeah…. it sounds good on paper but this isn’t gonna fly in real life. ” I disagree! How about a few examples?
You pay your bills every month somewhere around the end of the month. You know exactly how to get the job done, but still dread it each month. If only there was a better way! Well, there probably is. Here’s a few ways to change up your process to add efficiency or be more effective:
- Schedule bills to pay themselves each month using any one of a number of methods/services. Your bank probably has an online portal to schedule payments, the biller probably does as well, or you can get a third-party app or service that you consolidate it all through. Make a one-time call to your billers and try to move due dates to cluster around a couple of key dates each month. Then just track your bank balance each month around those key dates to ensure there’s no unexpected surprises. Ta-da…no more monthly, hours-long bill-paying sessions!
- If you’re not a fan of scheduling payments or doing them online, make your bill-paying sessionsmore productive by consolidating similar tasks into that time frame. You’re quite likely already sitting there with a calendar, address book and stamps, so why not fill out all of next month’s birthday & anniversary cards, stamp them and set them by the door? Memory fuzzy on when to mail them? Write the “mail by” date on a sticky note and pile them up in order.
- If you’re more of a “pay as I receive them” sort of person, your process can likely benefit from some improvements, too! Create a calendar (digital or analog, whatever you prefer) and keep it near where you watch TV. Every day or two check it out to see what’s coming up & if you’ve received the appropriate statements you’re expecting. Hop online during a commercial break and pay or schedule payment for the next bill or two. Check the items off the calendar when complete and you’ll never worry about missing a bill or paying it late!
Yes, I realize these are simple examples to a pretty straightforward process. Starting simple bears no shame! Succeeding at making even one small area of your life more effective and efficient can be just the tip you need to build momentum for the big stuff you’re not sure how to tackle. And don’t worry…the next article provide a good method for breaking it down to understand how something’s being done today…and how to spot the steps that are truly not necessary!!
What is a process you want to re-think? Tell me in the comments what task you dread and want to make less painful…maybe you’ll get some helpful suggestions!