Getting to Grips with Workflow

If the previous section relating to Depths of Perspective is a long range, strategic view of our life, work and commitments, we now come to a very tactical part of the course.

Workflow is designed to help you still remain in control when things are coming at you thick and fast. These two elements of the course are strongly related, and if you implement the approaches outlined in this Workflow section, it will provide you more time to think at the other perspectives that we looked at in the Depths of Perspective.

In this section, we will look at five very distinct phases of dealing with all of the stuff that comes at us. While these phases are unique, individual and use specific sets of tools and behaviours, they are interlinked.Workflow_chart

Capture, collect or catch is about getting things off our mind; writing them down. In this phase, we will look at the various tools available and how to use them with the greatest effect.

Clarifying or processing is about taking everything we have captured in the previous phase and defining the meaning of each item. A simple question, “What does this mean?” can be used time and time again.

Stage three is organising, which is putting all this stuff into a system that will remind us of what we need to do, when we need to do it. You can use a variety of tools, and this will then link to the next main section of the course, Setting Up a System. However, the tools you choose to use are not really that important; the key is the underlying approach that we will describe in this section, which you can then apply to a wide variety of paper planners and software applications.

Stage four is reflecting or reviewing all the stuff we have captured, clarified and organised in the previous stages. This is the critical success factor, not just of this specific approach but pretty much any time management methodology I have ever come across. It goes under different guises, weekly planning, weekly review and so on, but the underlying principle is the same; taking some time out on a regular basis to analyse all our commitments.

The final stage is engaging with all this stuff that you have captured, clarified, organised and review. Or simply put … doing. When we get to this stage, we will look at four criteria to help you get the best use of your time; making the right instinctive choices. Likely, you will be already practicing many of these habits, but by seeing them clearly laid out, and being more conscious of them will help us trust our own intuition.

These first three stages group together. If you are feeling stressed and out of control, they will help you gain back some control. However, if you don’t do stage four, reviewing, then you will likely quickly get back out of control again, which is why we describe this as the key component of this entire approach.

improvingAs with the previous elements of the course, there is nothing complex in the material, and you will probably already be using some of these habits, behaviours and tools in your life. In some situations then, we might be providing tweaks to your already effective systems. In other cases, we will be simply validating what you have already discovered; that you are pretty productive anyway and on the right line. In many cases however, we may be explaining entirely new concepts or at least helping you make some sweeping changes.

Whatever your starting point, I have never found anyone who has had nothing they could improve; me included. In fact, some of those who get the most from this course are the ones who need it the least; the already effective managers, team members, husbands, parents, teenagers and so forth.

So if you are already very organised, efficient and effective, you can still get better at your role, whatever it might be. The key will be to look at your current system and ask what is working for you, and what isn’t. In some cases, various tools and methods used to work for you, perhaps when your role was different, you were more office-based, you weren’t as busy, before you had children or some other significant change.

It might be that the changes have been gradual; possibly much more of your communication is now electronic or you have simply outgrown your previous system. Whatever the situation, hopefully this will help you evaluate your current systems, even if you haven’t previously thought of them formally as “systems.” So let’s look at each of the stages one at a time.