Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions on what exactly a “workflow” is and how you can best maximize the time you have blocked out to do work. So, today I’m going to define what a workflow is, explain how I schedule them in to my week, and a few different ways to do the workflow itself.
What is a workflow?
According to Google, the technical definition is
the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.”
I like to think of workflows as dedicated time to focus on tasks to be completed. I will schedule workflows as blocks on my calendar. I find that an effective workflow should be at least an hour and no more than four hours.
What types of workflows are there?
There are a few different ways to classify workflows, but I typically like to classify mine by the level of intensity or the subject-matter. For instance, here is a list of different workflow types that may be on my calendar in a given week:
- Light Workflow: usually consists of little tasks like doing laundry, tidying, or filing papers. I classify a task as being within a light workflow as anything I can do effectively while also listening to a podcast or watching a show. I typically like to schedule light workflows for Sunday mornings as a catch-all for all those little tasks that are easy to let slip during the week.
- Study Workflow: this one is pretty self-explanatory, but I will work strictly on course-related work during this time.
- ALT Workflow: when I know I need to dedicate a good chunk of time to completing tasks for ALT, I create a dedicated workflow for it. I’ve found it helpful to use a dedicated workflow for big projects or things you want to ensure you’re making progress on, that aren’t necessarily as pressing as maybe schoolwork might be.
Although these different types can certainly be useful, my system for task management makes it so I can typically just say “workflow” and I’ll be able to easily see what I need to prioritize and tackle those things.
Preparing for a Workflow
There are a few things that I would recommend to get yourself into what I call a “workflow state”. Here is a list of things that I (and my clients) have found useful when preparing for a good workflow:
- Find a Good Location. A busy or distracting location can impede your productivity. Depending on the type of workflow, too, some locations will lend themselves better than others. For instance, I like doing my schoolwork in a library setting, my business work in the common area by the cafe, and light workflows in my dorm.
- Minimize Distraction. Sometimes, I have to physically put my phone in a pocket and zip it in order to not be distracted by it. Perhaps you’re too social to be focused in a public area. Find what will distract you and try to minimize that.
- Have a Plan. It’s easy to meander around tasks without direction and not actually get much done. Before you start your workflow, make sure you have a list of tasks you want to get done – ideally in prioritized order so you don’t have to waste time contemplating what to do next. Also have a goal on how much you’re going to actually, realistically accomplish before your workflow end time.
- The Right Music. Music works well for some and less well for others. I’ve been digging the Deep Focus playlist on Spotify.
- Scent Association. I know it sounds weird, but using an essential oil or a certain lotion or hand sanitizer each time you sit down for a workflow can help you get into the right mindset for working. My favorite focus scents are eucalyptus and peppermint.
How to go About a Workflow
So it’s time to do your workflow, you’re in the right place with the right materials, smelling your focus smell… now what?
There are a few different ways to go about doing the work itself. Please, do not sit down for a four-hour workflow session and not take any breaks. Here are a few different ways to schedule breaks:
- Use the Pomodoro Method. You can learn more about that in this blog post.
- You can also chunk your breaks after certain tasks/subjects are completed. The key to this is to make sure they are spaced out enough. For instance, earlier today I did a workflow where I knew I had about an hour of preparation for three different classes. So, I took a break after each class.
- As-needed breaks can also be effective with enough discipline. If you are able to recognize when you need a break and take them accordingly, then by all means take a break when you need it.
Dedicated workflow time has been essential for me to learn to manage my time. By scheduling these workflows, I’ve been able to better track how much time it takes me to to tasks so I can plan accordingly. Hopefully you find this information useful!
My challenge to you is to calendar-block your day using workflows, and stick to hard start and stop times for each of them. Tell me how it goes in the comments or on Instagram @alicia_life_tips !