I used to pity people in ‘process jobs’ whose duties could be written down on a piece of paper and executed by any willing worker who could read and carry out instructions. And while I still struggle to see how such roles could be wholly fulfilling, after years of working in haphazardly structured positions – where the expectations and tasks make seismogram-like fluctuations from one day to the next – my respect for business processes, or systems, has increased exponentially.
No matter how unpredictable or creative your work, there are always processes that can be articulated, so that with each new day or week there is at least some element of your work that that is unwaveringly consistent.
Rather than having to be acutely focused the whole time, elements of your job that are ‘mindless’ provide balance and allow you to rest for when you really need to engage.
I have renewed respect for the systematic parts of my role and see them as a welcome necessity. In addition to saving your creative brain energy for when you really need it, written processes have the following huge benefits:
- They reduce the back-of-the-mind anxiety that you might have missed or forgotten something.
- They make you work faster and more efficiently.
- They can be easily reviewed and refined over time.
- They minimise the impact on the business of sudden or planned changes, such as maternity leave, illness or disaster.
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It took a while for me to get my own systems in place as Flying Solo editor. In the role there are some tasks that have to be done at certain times of the week, and many open-ended ones that I can fit in wherever suits me best. But it wasn’t until I wrote all of these down in a ‘weekly schedule’ that I really found my flow with the role. Tasks that changed week to week, such as “work on strategic projects”, were still scheduled in, but into three-hour blocks to allow flexibility.
When it came time to hand over to Lucinda, my weekly schedule was the first document I sent her, as I knew that even though it would take some time to learn what each element involved, ultimately nothing would be missed. Of course there were a few gaps in my documentation, which were cleared up later, but the skeleton of the job was all there on paper. It also came with the clause that she could discard, rework or use the schedule as she pleased.
The fact Lucinda is highly capable helps immensely, but I know my business systems made the transition – not to mention my own work as editor – a good deal easier.
If something changed suddenly in your business and you had to hand over your role, would you be ready?