What’s a workflow and why is mine screwing me over?

Like the legacy of a dodgy holiday romance in Magaluf, your workflow is one of those things that could be doing you damage without you even realising. Fortunately, unlike the legacy of a dodgy holiday romance in Magaluf, your workflow doesn’t need antibiotics to improve.

In case you’re wondering, your workflow is the process you follow day in, day out, on the path to getting sh*t done. The problem is, over time, we all have a tendency to lose our laser focus and let the processes that see us slay the day slip. If your workflow has gone a bit Pete Tong (remember him?), it’s probably costing you precious time and we all know that, in business, time is money. A healthy workflow means healthy margins and who doesn’t want a bit of that?

These are our tips for investing your time in the right places, from changing the way you do meetings to getting your clients’ priorities straight for them and dodging tasks that don’t do anything for the bigger picture.

1. Say ‘no’ to notifications

Remember back in the day, when DARE told us to ‘just say no’ to drugs? Well, times have changed and now it’s digital disturbances that are doing us all a mischief.

We wouldn’t for a minute suggest that your head would ever be turned by the temptation of Instagram and WhatsApp when you’re meant to be cracking on, but even proper work stuff can throw your workflow off. Emails landing, LinkedIn notifications, Dropbox updates; turn them all off. Meeting reminders and phone calls escape the cull, although the Do-Not-Disturb mode on MAC and iOS mode works wonders if you’re fancy going cold turkey.

2. Pick up the phone

In the age of WhatsApp, email, Skype, Google Hangout and god knows what else they’ve invented to keep us all connected 24/7, the lowly old phone call has been left on the shelf (or rather, off the hook). We get it, actually speaking to each other is daunting in this day and age, but picking up the phone will shave minutes, even hours, from your workflow when you use it to replace meetings and make faster decisions. If you work from home, it’s a nice alternative to talking to the dog as well, to be honest.

3. Get on their wavelength

When the bills they are a-calling and the breath of the tax man is warming your neck, it can be tempting to go in hard on that big client project without pausing to establish their priorities and expectations first. Getting stuff like this straight from the beginning helps you know where to focus your time and their budget from the start; don’t spend days rewriting parts of a website that aren’t published or designing unique icons if they’re happy to save time and effort with a predesigned set.

Further to this is getting your ducks in line from the very start. Avoiding bottlenecks is key to keeping a streamlined workflow and you can avoid it happening by getting as much information as you can from the start; establish those brand guidelines, discuss competitors, get access to their image library, establish budgets, etc, etc. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail and all that.

4. Multi-tasking is for morons

Ooft, it’s a bold claim yet an honest one. Once-upon-a-time, men were ridiculed for their inability to multi-task but they might just have been onto something. Multi-tasking is the least effective way to manage your time and it leaves you feeling frazzled to boot. Focus on one thing, crack on, get it boxed off, then move onto the next job in hand. Give one job your full attention instead of flitting one from to the other like a hyperactive moth in a neon factory.

5. Do it well, once.

So many of the tasks that take up time in our day could be streamlined with templates. Create a Google Doc of email templates written to suit those that you end up rewriting time after time (‘Thanks for sending over this information’, ‘Here are some outstanding invoices’, ‘Great to work with you, let’s do it again soon’…you know the ones)

Standardise documents like contracts, statements of work, cover letters and so on, so that you can make them appropriate to each client with just a change of name and very little else. Spending a bit of time tweaking the paperwork you use client in, client out, will see your workflow soar.

6. Just get on with it

Google engineer, Addy Osmani, once said ‘First do it, then do it right, then do it better’ and goddamn, we feel that right in our soul. We’re pre-programmed to put off the things we know will be difficult, whether it’s your tax return or the massive project you wish you’d never said yes to. In your quest to streamline your workflow by ticking off tasks on a list in the name of accomplishment, don’t be tempted to dodge the in-depth stuff that’ll have an actual impact on your bottom line. Make like Nike and just do it.

GSD Mondays are one of the cornerstones of our weekdays here at Helm, a couple of hours dedicated to coming in and just cracking on. Next time you’re about on a Monday morning, join us, mek a brew and power through that thing you’ve been putting off.

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