Process -> Action

Update: I wrote this short post before reading this passage from Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but, when I saw it, I felt it effectively summarized my thoughts on the benefits of creating processes:

"When beginning a repair job you can list everything you're going to do on little slips of paper which you can then organize into proper sequence. You discover that you organize and then reorganize the sequence again and again as more ideas come to you. The time spent this way usually more than pays for itself in time saved on the machine and prevents you from doing fidgety things that create problems later on."

You don't need to be in the motorcycle repair business for that to be useful advice.

To make it easy to get things done, document everything you do regularly (in my case, anything I do at least once per month).

I create processes for things like:

  • Email templates I use for customer updates
  • Document formatting guidelines for writers
  • Steps to assign tasks to a VA
  • Steps to prepare for a sales call

I can use these documents myself, or send them to VAs or contractors so they can slot into the process and get started on a task without feeling lost.

As well as making repetitive tasks extremely easy, expressing your processes in writing, screenshots, or a screen recording can lead to you discovering more simple and more effective ways of doing that task.

I treat them as living documents, because even if I think I know a process well, I'll usually end up refining it when I actually put it into practice.

If you're assigning work to VAs or contractors, an easy way to discover holes in your processes is if you get many questions back after sending the process docs to them. If not (and the work was done to the standard you hoped it would be), chances are, the process was clear and answered the main questions.

Over time, every document will become more refined.

I've also started to add a mini "FAQ" section at the bottom of the documents. These can cover edge cases or questions that don't quite relate to the process, but might come up. For example, in a document I use to assign content to writers, I include a short note on what to do if they won't hit the agreed deadline. It helps ensure when they reach out to let me know they include information that I can use to adjust plans accordingly without having to worry that the delay is going to affect anything else in a major way.

The main exception to creating process docs is that if you've actually never done something before, don't create a process for it immediately. Chances are it'll be a waste of time as you'll need to make a ton of edits. But, when you know how to do something (at least with some certainty), creating them is much easier and you'll need to spend less time revising them later.

Tools I use to create processes:

  • Notion for writing and storing them (and the pages are shareable)
  • SnagIt for creating screenshots
  • Loom for recording video overviews