Everyone gets the wrong approach to productivity. Tactics like pomodoros and blocking distractions only scratch the surface. A more effective approach is to improve your workflow.
My career exploded from 2009.
The money was great but my soul was struck. I couldn't keep up with the myriad of emails. I thought staff were the answer, however The administration took my time to make money.
I would work seven days a week for several months. I would inevitably burn out and go to the Caribbean for a week to relax.
It wasn't sustainable, but I didn't know what else to do.
One day I was walking my dog and above me my neighbors were chatting about weeds in their yards.
Neighbor # 1: I'm sick of these weeds. I just ordered a weed killer so I can kill them faster.
Neighbor No. 2: A weed hunter? They will just grow back no matter how fast you kill them. to buy If you do a roundup, you will kill the weeds forever. Do you want to spend every Saturday cutting weeds?
Something clicked in my brain.
I had an efficient approach to overcoming the endless amount of work. That meant I kept trying to find new techniques to get the job done faster and faster.
I would always try new productivity apps to find this "magic bullet". However, I never took the time to downsize and analyze my systems to get the job done.
My research led me to a far more effective approach called Workflows. (Credit goes to Cal Newport for this phrase)
Ask workflows WHAT You should work on it, and AS You decide to do it. It's about analyzing problems and creating systems that do certain jobs on a permanent basis.
I'll share some examples of how to optimize workflow and some ideas for solving your problems.
This upfront investment in workflows pays off.
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Optimizing customer service emails through workflows
A problem for e-commerce businesses is how they handle customer emails.
For example, let's say you receive 100 customer service emails a day.
If you use the efficiency approach you will ask: "How can I answer these 100 emails a day faster?”
Some solutions are:
- Every day at 2 p.m. you block an hour from replying to C.S. emails.
- You hire a new customer service representative to help you.
- You create different templates to respond faster.
You can cut the customer service response time from three to two days.
This is an asset to most people, but is it the best solution?
Let's solve the same problem from a workflow Perspective.
Remember, workflows handle this WHAT and the AS.
The first WHAT is … "What do the customers want?”
Do customers want faster replies to their emails? For sure. But they would be happier if they didn't have any problems at all or never had to contact you.
Next, you'll get clarity about where you are right now. Categorize all the emails you receive over a week. Make some graphs to visually analyze the most common problems.
Remember, you want to take an 80/20 approach and focus on the most common problems.
# 1 Most Frequent Email: People keep asking where their order is
This is one of those problems that can be automated with the right software.
You research and install the AfterShip Order Tracking System in your store.
People will automatically receive updates via email or text about where their order is. There is now a huge tracking link in your navigation bar.
Most frequent email address # 2: Instructions for using the product are not clear
People get your widget but have no idea how to use it.
You can create instructions for use and put them in the packaging.
Your team will create a detailed video on how to use the widget. The video will be emailed a few days after purchase.
For other frequently asked questions, create a Frequently Asked Questions page. Users need to scroll through the FAQ before reaching the contact form on your website.
I remember an example from the 4-hour week. Tim Ferris was frustrated with the number of questions his customer service reps would ask him.
He made a rule. The customer service reps could spend up to $ 100 to keep the customers happy. This one rule eliminated so many back and forth questions from his staff.
An approach to efficiency means that it is you still I will have 100 emails a day. You can answer them within two days instead of three.
If you take a workflow approach, you need to put in place an infrastructure to reduce the work. Instead of receiving 100 emails a day, you will now receive 25 emails. Customers are happier and you free up resources to focus on bigger problems.
Other workflow examples
Here are some other examples of workflows that I have implemented in my life.
Dealing with employees: You are doing your best job when uninterrupted. I have a 15-minute meeting every day at noon. called the Daily Huddle.
It asks what we are working on and what bottlenecks we are facing. If someone has any questions for me, they can ask me. All other problems can be left as a comment in our project management software.
This gives me several hours a day to do “deep work” instead of being interrupted by Slack messages.
Book a flight: I started working with management assistants a few years ago. One of the most common tasks was booking flights. The biggest problem was that they kept asking me for different information.
At this point, we were working on creating a standard operating procedure for travel only.
Preparing this document was time consuming beforehand, but saved us endless hours of back and forth.
Three ideas for creating workflows
1. Ask the 5 why
Most people focus on the symptoms, but figuring out the root cause is far more effective.
Let's say you have a headache every day. You could take an Advil every day, but it's not good for your long-term health.
They research possible causes and see that bad posture is one. You find that you have bent over your desk to use your laptop.
You choose an appropriate ergonomic working environment. Your headache will magically go away!
It is not easy to find out what the causes are. I use a tool called 5 Why:
- Because I keep oversleeping. Why?
- Because I keep sleeping on the alarm clock. Why?
- Because I don't get enough sleep. Why?
- Because I stay up late and watch Netflix. Why?
- Because I hate my life and watching Netflix at night is the only thing that makes me happy. Why?
The main cause of this person oversleeping is depression. This is the main domino that will fix all other issues.
2. How would things look if they were simple?
People tend to complicate success.
I like to ask myself, "What would it look like if it were easy?"
In 2016 I wanted to build muscle. It was torture for me to keep up with my macros and exercise programs. So I wondered what it would be like if it were easy.
1. I would have a personal trainer. He monitored my metrics every day and designed workouts for me.
2. I used a meal planning service. Every day I get my daily meals delivered in the morning. Those 3 meals + 2 scoops of protein would hit my macros easily.
Think how much mental space I was set free by stopping to think about it. It wasn't cheap to build this setup.
Good health is a strength multiplier and I am sure that I got my money back through better focus and energy.
Photo of Christina Morillo of Pexels.
3. Touch it as often as possible
It is mentally exhausting to do the same tasks over and over again.
The less you repeat a task, the better.
Often times, when you're delegating work and there is a lot of back and forth, it's because you didn't explain it well enough.
Let's go back to booking a flight, for example.
In the early days I would delegate it, such as:
“Can you book me a flight?
Departure: from ATL to SLC October 10th morning
Return: SLC to ATL October 14th afternoon ”
Relaxed: Is this a business or personal trip? Which credit card should I use?
Whatsapp: Hey, I found the flight on Delta. Do you have a SkyMiles number?
E-mail: The flights are usually $ 300, but I see it is currently $ 500. Did you still want to book it?
Do you see how much time is wasted?
Let's use the touch-it-once mentality. How can I delegate this as best I can so that I don't have to deal with it any further?
I am using a framework called Vision / Resources / Definition of Done.
I am going on a business trip with my boyfriend. You need to book a flight.
Departure: from ATL to SLC October 10th morning
Return: SLC to ATL October 14 afternoon
You can find all the information you need in the Trip SOP.
Definition of done:
I want the flight to be booked as soon as possible.
We'll find out the accommodations and investigate later.
After booking, make sure it's on both TripIt and my Google Calendar.
If you have any questions, please ping me in the comments section of this assignment.
If you put all that time into delegating upfront, there will be fewer questions. Fewer questions mean that when I try to do more valuable work, I won't be interrupted.
Where to from here
It's not easy to create these workflows. There is an upfront investment in time and thinking skills.
However, if you focus on creating these workflows, you can improve your workflow Outputs.
I want you to develop a workflow approach to whatever problems you encounter. A workflow approach leads you to work on bigger problems
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