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Productivity Hack: Write Mini Process Flows

Productivity Hack: Write Mini Process Flows

Creativity is one thing, but capturing it into a form that’s useful (to your needs) is another. I’ve got an idea that I plan to implement for myself: mini process flows. Now, your jobs that you’ll need done are different than mine. I’ll just show you mine as examples, okay?

Process Flow Basics

Here are the basics of getting something done by way of a process flow:

Input – Work Performed – Output.

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You start by taking _____ from someone or something. You do what you’re going to do to it. You give it out to wherever it’s going. The trick, of course, is mostly within the “work performed” section. You have to lay that out in such a way that it’s repeatable, and that you can follow along without much attention to the process after you get it working right. Let’s take a task I’m doing these days: producing a podcast.

More Than One Flow

First off, producing a podcast has lots of steps that deserve their own flows. Let me think:

  • Collect Information
  • Interview Someone
  • Record My Parts
  • Edit Audio
  • Mix audio
  • Write Show Notes
  • Produce the files
  • Upload Files to Host
  • Build Corresponding Show Notes Post

(Don’t worry. I won’t make a flow for each of those.)

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Build the Flow

For my example, I’ll do “Produce the Files.”

Here’s an example of how a flow might work out-

  • Input– audio mix from GarageBand 3 still in Garage Band and Show Notes in Text Editor.
  • Work– Play through audio once, listening for big mistakes.
  • Send the file to iTunes.
  • Inside iTunes, select the file, choose Get Info.
  • Edit info, inserting show notes and links into Lyrics tab. Doublecheck art. Etc.
  • Choose “Convert File to MP3.”
  • Play the new MP3 file once it’s converted.
  • Move MP3 file to upload area.
  • Output– Upload Files to Host flow

That’s how that process flow works. I use GarageBand 3 to mix down the podcast (all the music tracks, the interview bit, my bumpers, my promos, etc), and then I use iTunes to convert the file from Apple’s proprietary file format into the easier-to-distribute and consume MP3 format.

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The Benefit of Process Flows

So, if I had a small notebook with printed pages that said, “Podcast Production,” and that contained all the flows for the various steps listed above, I’d have a fairly easy set of Next Actions to follow to get my job done.

The BENEFIT of that is simple. I can choose to scale any part of my efforts that I can explain so easily in those process flows. For instance, what if I wanted to pay someone to do my editing, my mixing, my file production, and pretty much everything after the creative efforts? I could re-write the flow such that the entire “Produce the Files” flow could be sent off to someone else, and they could do pretty much everything else for the rest of the process.

Being able to disaggregate parts of the value chain means that I can choose to focus on different parts of the process, such as recording more audio, improving my techniques, etc. There are far better audio editors than me, but maybe I want my own style to show through in the interview process. Or maybe I don’t. I could give the flows for getting the recordings made to others, and then do the back-end work for them.

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See how this can be useful?

Flows as Next Actions

Because flows have inputs and outputs, they act as somewhat larger Next Action moments within the project. You could choose to overlay contexts to the flows such that each Input section could show the contexts necessary. For instance, I can’t produce the files for a podcast while out at a coffee shop (not yet, at least). So, some consideration to that could be overlayed to deal with those concerns.

Further, because my work requires some amount of creativity, there are times when I’m not as ready to produce as others (no, really!). I can use those times to work other flows that are just as important, but aren’t as heavy on the brain power.

What’s your take? How would you add to this? Do you use anything like process flows in your day now?

–Chris Brogan is working on executing larger scale projects with increasing complexity using these types of process flows. His blog is [chrisbrogan.com], but don’t go there today. His new media company is Grasshopper New Media, where he just brought on Kevin Kennedy-Spaien as Executive Producer for Health Programming.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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