The importance of organizing your workflow

Pointy Flat Cast Episode 22 – Organize Your Workflow

There is a theory out there that in order to become successful in any endeavor, that it requires at least ten thousand hours of work before you reach your goal. That roughly translates into twenty hours of work per week for ten years. Ten years. An entire decade.

This is not an outrageous statement. If you study other content creators, other artists, musicians, actors that start from the bottom, many of them have the same tried and true tale. They were on the grind everyday for around five to ten years. This is the norm. If you started out in chasing your dreams and making something of yourself today, it’s going to take a lot of time. Time is the number one resource you cannot afford to be wasteful with.

One simple thing to save you as much time as possible is to spend each day efficiently. So there are a couple of ways to do this. The first thing to do is to have a general plan for that day. If you know what you want to accomplish for that day, you have a course of action to follow. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll end up doing a lot of things but accomplishing nothing of worth.

Once you have your plan, you need to sit down and analyze your own workflow. You need to be absolutely honest and record how you do things, in what order, and how much time each step takes. It takes some brutal self awareness and the willingness to admit flaws for the next step to be useful. After analyzing your own workflow, you need be willing to cut out things that don’t add value to the process and final outcome. For a personal example, I know uploading all my podcasts to YouTube is not worth the effort. I want to believe it’ll succeed someday on that platform but all the analytics show that doing this one action adds no value and accomplishes nothing. I’m wasting my time. I need to cut this step out in my podcast creation process.

Now you can modify a step to increase value. Continuing on with the previous example, for a video to succeed on YouTube, I need to have a short and concise script and some compelling video footage. I can take my podcast, condense it down into a key idea, and produce a decent looking video for it. This takes a bit more time but now I’m making content that will succeed on YouTube and also direct additional traffic to my podcast. It’ll be worth doing in the long run. I changed a step with no value to something that added value. The alternative is to just cut it out if I don’t have enough time in my workflow. Record data and analyze it, the data will not lie to you.

Another key thing you can do to increase efficiency is to change the order in which you do things. I’ll use making coffee as an example. When I make coffee, I have some necessary tasks to accomplish before I can enjoy my bolt of morning energy. I need to boil the water, I need to grind my beans, and I need to setup my brewing device (could be pour over, Moka pot, French press, Aeropress etc.). Before you do anything else, you need to start boiling the water. It’s the step that takes the longest but also requires the least amount of user input. As the water is boiling, you can grind your beans, set up your device, and have it ready once the water is nice and hot. If you started all of these steps and then started to boil the water, you would essentially have doubled the amount of time spent making your cup of Joe.

I know spending a few more minutes to make a cup of coffee is not the biggest waste of time but wasting time in a similar fashion here and there in your workflow adds up to hours a day gone. Take the time to sit down, analyze how you work, and be willing to change the order in how you do things. Identify key tasks that are important but require almost no user input and observation. For content creators, the times you render and upload videos are valuable periods where you can work on another task in parallel. You’re effectively doubling the amount of work being accomplished during those times.

Finally, after taking the time to identify your own workflow and organize it by cutting out steps that don’t add value and changing the order in which you accomplish your tasks, you need a way to visualize your workflow. You need something concrete that shows you what you need to do and in what order. Don’t leave it as an abstract idea and hope that things get done. They certainly will but you waste so much time by not visualizing your workflow. Personally speaking, I like writing down my tasks on Post Its. They’re small so it forces you to distill what it is you need to do into a short string of words. It also forces you to focus on only a few tasks at a time; it’s pretty hard to write a long verbose list on a Post It. And finally, the act of taking an abstract idea, forming it into words, and reinforcing those words through writing helps me remember the tasks I need to do.

The only flaw is that I burn through a lot of Post Its. It is pretty wasteful so I recently switched to Trello. Now I’m not telling everyone to use Trello. In fact, it may make your workflow worse if you use a tool that does not suit you. This is why it’s so vital to take the time to sit down and observe how you work. Once you have a working model of your own workflow, you can pick out the necessary tools that will be compatible with it.

Hopefully these steps will help you increase your efficiency and by increasing efficiency, help you reach your own definition of success a little bit quicker. Anything to cut down those five to ten years of grind will be worth doing. Before I leave, I’ll leave you guys with one final tip. Focus on one task at a time. Break down the things you need to accomplish for the day into steps and focus on one step at a time. Maybe two at most. We’re only human. We have limitations and by respecting those limitations we can accomplish more. The other end of the spectrum would be to be unrealistic, try to take on many tasks at once, and accomplish nothing or accomplish things in a way that adds no value.

Just remember, five to ten years may seem like a long time but everyone faces the same thing. You aren’t alone in the struggle.

In the words of Captain Taggart, Never Give Up, Never Surrender!

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