Productivity: Workflows 101: The Hidden Concept to Get More Work Done

Productivity: Workflows 101: The Hidden Concept to Get More Work Done

 4.7/5 (51)

Everyone is approaching productivity wrong. Tactics such as Pomodoros and blocking distractions only scratch the surface. A more effective approach is to improve your workflows.

My career exploded starting in 2009.

The money was great, but my soul was taking a beating. I couldn’t keep up with the countless emails. I thought employees were the answer, but managing them took time away from me actually making money.

I’d work seven days a week for several months. Inevitably, I’d burn out and head to the Caribbean for a week to recover.

This wasn’t sustainable, but I didn’t know what else to do.

One day, I was walking my dog and overhead my neighbors chatting about weeds in their yards.

Neighbor #1: I’m tired of these weeds. I just ordered a weed whacker to help me kill them faster.

Neighbor #2: A weed whacker? They’re just going to grow back no matter how fast you kill them. Buy yourself some Roundup, and you’ll kill the weeds forever. Do you wanna spend every Saturday cutting weeds?

Something clicked in my brain.

I had an efficiency approach to conquering the endless amount of work. That meant I kept trying to find new techniques to do the work faster and faster.

I’d keep trying out new productivity apps trying to find that “magic bullet.” But I never took the time to zoom out and analyze my systems for accomplishing work.

My research led me to discover a far more effective approach called Workflows. (Credit goes to Cal Newport for this phrase)

Workflows ask WHAT you should be working on, and HOW you decide to do them. It’s about analyzing problems and creating systems that get rid of certain work permanently.

I’m going to share some examples of optimizing workflows and some ideas on how to approach your problems.

These upfront investments in workflows will pay dividends.


Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels.

Optimizing Customer Service Emails Through Workflows

A pain point for e-commerce stores is dealing with customer emails.

Let’s say you’re getting 100 customer service emails a day.

If you’re using the efficiency approach, you’ll be asking, “How can I answer those 100 emails a day faster?

Some solutions are:

  1. Every day at 2 p.m., you’re going to block out one hour to answer C.S. emails.
  2. You hire a new customer service representative to help out.
  3. You create different templates to respond faster.

The results?

You’re able to cut down the customer service response time from three days down to two.

This is a win for most people, but is it the best solution?

Let’s tackle the same problem from a workflow perspective.

Remember, workflows tackle the WHAT and the HOW.

The first WHAT is… “What do the customers want?

Do the customers want faster responses to their emails? Sure. But they’d be happier if they never had problems in the first place, or never had to contact you.

Next, get clarity on where you are right now. Categorize all the emails you get over the span of a week. Create some graphs to help you visually analyze the most common problems.

Remember, you want to take an 80 / 20 approach and focus on the most common problems.

Most Common Email #1: People Keep Asking Where Their Order Is

This is one of those problems that can be automated with the right software.

You do some research and install the AfterShip Order Tracking system into your store.

People automatically get updates through email or text on where their order is. There’s now a huge tracking link on your navigation bar.

Most Common Email #2: Instructions for Using the Product Aren’t Clear

People receive your widget, but they have no idea how to use it.

You can create an instructional booklet and put it in the packaging.

Your team creates a detailed video on how to use the widget. The video is emailed a few days after the person makes a purchase.

For other common questions, you build a Frequently Asked Questions page. People have to scroll through the FAQ before they reach the Contact Us form on your website.

I remember one example from The 4 Hour Work Week. Tim Ferris was frustrated with the number of questions his customer service reps would ask him on what to do.

He created a rule. The customer service reps could spend up $100 to make the customers happy. This one rule eliminated so many back and forth questions from his staff.

Taking an Efficiency approach means you’re still going to have 100 emails a day. You’ll be able to answer them within two days instead of three.

Taking a Workflow approach means you’ve put an infrastructure in place to cut down on the work. Instead of getting 100 emails a day, now you’re getting 25 emails. The customers are happier, and you free up resources to focus on bigger issues.

Other Workflow Examples

Here are some other examples of workflows I’ve implemented in my life.

Dealing with Co-Workers: You get your best work done when you’re not being interrupted. I have a 15-minute meeting every day at 12 p.m. called the Daily Huddle.

It asks what we’re working on and what bottlenecks we’re facing. If anyone has any questions for me, they can ask me then. Any other issues can be left as a comment in our Project Management software.

This gives me several hours a day to do “deep work” instead of getting interrupted with Slack messages.

Booking a Flight: I started working with Executive Assistants several years ago. One of the most common tasks was booking flights. The biggest issue was that they’d keep asking me for different information.

That’s when we worked on creating a Standard Operating Procedure just for travel.

pasted image 0

There was an upfront time investment in creating this document, but it has saved us endless hours of back and forth.

Three Ideas to Help You Create Workflows

1. Ask the 5 Whys

Most people focus on the symptoms, but it’s far more effective to figure out the root cause.

Let’s say that you’re experiencing headaches every day. You could take an Advil every day, but that’s not great for your long-term health.

You do some research on the potential causes, and you see that poor posture is one. You realize that you’re hunched over your desk to use your laptop.

You decide to invest in a proper ergonomic work setup. Your headaches magically go away!

It’s not easy to figure out what the root causes are. I use a tool called the 5 Whys:

  1. Because I keep oversleeping. Why?
  2. Because I keep hitting snooze on the alarm clock. Why?
  3. Because I’m not getting enough sleep. Why?
  4. Because I’m staying up late watching Netflix. Why?
  5. Because I hate my life and watching Netflix at night is the only thing that makes me happy. Why?

The root cause of oversleeping for this person is depression. That’s the lead domino that will fix all other issues.

2. What would things look like if they were easy?

People tend to overcomplicate success.

I like to ask myself, “What would this look like if it were easy?”

In 2016, I wanted to gain muscle. It was a pain in the ass for me to keep up with my macros and workout programs. So, I asked myself what would it look like if it were easy?

1. I’d have a personal trainer. He’d monitor my metrics and design workouts for me every day.

2. I’d used a meal planning service. Every day, I’d get my daily meals delivered in the morning. Those 3 meals + 2 Scoops of protein would hit my macros easily.

Think about how much mental space I freed up by not thinking about this anymore. It wasn’t cheap to create this setup.

Good health is a force multiplier, and I’m sure I made back my money through better focus and energy.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels.

3. Touch it as Few Times as Possible

It’s mentally draining to keep revisiting the same tasks.

The less you revisit a task, the better.

If you delegate work and there’s a ton of back and forth, often it’s because you didn’t explain it well enough.

Let’s go back to the example of booking a flight.

In the early days, I would delegate it, such as:

“Can you book me a flight?

Depart: from ATL to SLC October 10th Morning

Return: SLC to ATL October 14th Afternoon”

Slack: 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?

Email: The flights are typically $300, but I see right now it’s $500’ish. 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 as possible, so I don’t have to keep dealing with it?

I use a framework called Vision / Resources / Definition of Done.

Vision:

I’m going on a business trip with my friend. I need you to book a flight.

Depart: from ATL to SLC October 10th Morning

Return: SLC to ATL October 14th Afternoon

Resources:

You can find all the information you need in the Travel SOP.

Definition of Done:

I want the flight booked as soon as possible.

We’ll figure out the accommodations and research things to do later.

Once booked, please make sure it’s in both TripIt and my Google Calendar.

If you have any questions, please ping me in the comments section of this task.

By investing all this upfront time in delegating, there are fewer questions. Fewer questions mean that I’m not interrupted when I’m trying to do more valuable work.

Where to Go From Here

It’s not easy to create these Workflows. There’s an upfront investment in both time and thinking capacity.

Yet, focusing on building these workflows can increase your outputs.

I want you to develop a workflow approach to any problems that you encounter. Having a workflow approach will lead to you working on bigger problems

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels.

Please rate this article – it helps me know what to write!

7 Famous Logos and their Hidden Meanings

7 Famous Logos and their Hidden Meanings

Whenever I create a new web site or blog that I want to scale into an authority site, one of the first things I do is create a killer logo for the site. Logos are awesome become they bring a sense of authority and professionalism to a site, even when it might be in it’s infancy.

Think about how a default WordPress theme looks the first time it’s installed. It’s usually plain, basic and used by millions of other blogs on the internet. Ever after you add a premium WordPress theme to the site, there is still room for creativity and ownership. All of that can be pulled together with a great logo — and that’s exactly what I did with this blog when I first launched it over 8 years ago!

In short, logos are awesome and they mean much more to businesses and brands than just being a name. In fact, some of the greatest logos in the world don’t even have names on them.

To stress this point even further, many of the world’s most famous logos have hidden messages within them as well — which is exactly what we are going to be looking at in this article.

Special thanks to Designhill for coming out with their own interactive chart on famous logos and their hidden meanings.

What Hidden Messages Do You See in These Logos?

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of logos in the world today that have hidden messages within them — each representing different components of their brands, how they were started and the services they offer. I hand selected a few of my favorites and showcase them for you below.

Amazon Logo

The largest online shopping site in the world is also one of the most famous logos as well. This can also be attributed to them stamping their big logo on the millions of packages they deliver daily.

While the Amazon logo has changed greatly over the years, in the year 2000 they made a simple, yet creative design change. Many people will notice what looks like a yellow “smile” under the amazon.com name, but it’s also saying that Amazon.com sells everything from “A” to “Z” — now you know!

Amazon_Logo

Apple Logo

Most of us already have something with this logo in our homes or office, while the majority of us probably have it stamped on our mobile devices and laptops as well.

Of course it’s Apple, but why the bite out of the side of it? This was done by the original designer to make sure other people wouldn’t confuse it for a cherry or another fruit.

Also, this simple apple design wasn’t the original logo for the company (which can be seen here). The original had a picture of Issac Netwton sitting under an Apple tree — imagine that being stamped on the back of your phone!

Apple_Logo

Batman Logo

This one is easy right? It’s everyone’s favorite super hero… Batman!

But do you know why the Batman logo is oval, yellow and black?

Each of these features were put together to represent fearlessness, elegance, heroism and valor.

Batman_Logo

Beats Audio Logo

From Dr. Dre, to Apple and all the celebrities in between… Beats Audio has been all over the place.

The logo is clean and simple in itself, but the “b” instead the red circle can also be represented a headset or earplug.

Apple loved the logo (and brand) so much, that they recently acquired it for $3 billion!

BeatsAudio

Firefox Logo

Many of us use Firefox on a daily basis to browse the internet… but why then name FireFox, and why it is on fire and circling around the globe?

Firefox is the name of the browser from Mozilla, but the concept behind a fox tail on fire and circling around the world is to represent the browser’s “global reach and also it’s blazing speed” — hence their claim that Firefox can read the entire internet!

FireFox_Logo

Goodwill Logo

If you’ve ever had the chance to drive past a Goodwill location, you will have probably recognized this logo — mostly because it looks like a half smile on the top portion of their logo.

However, the smiley face is actually a bit more. It’s a smiley face, a lower case “g” and the same “g” that is used in their “goodwill name”.

Who knew a “g” could make people so happy!

Goodwill_Logo

Toyota Logo

A logo that we all probably see on a daily basis is the Toyota logo, but what the heck is that symbol above their name?

The three ellipses on top are actually three hearts, each representing something different. The heart of the customer, the heart of the product and the heart of progress in the field of technology. The space that can be seen in the background within each of these hearts is meant to exhibit the “infinite values” in which Toyota stands for.

Not the easiest logo meaning to explain… but I’m sure you now know something 99.9% of Toyota owners don’t!

Toyota_Logo

Want even more logos with hidden meanings?

 

Now that you know some of the design and branding aspects behind some of the most famous logos in the world, I’m sure you are just begging for more!

To see the full list of logo designs and their hidden meanings, click here to view the interactive chart from Designhill.com.

While at their site, I also recommend you take a look at their most recent whitepaper on how to create interactive content for your brand and business.