A Process For Creating Processes

by Steven Bradley October 28th, 2009 

Anyone in business has inevitably uttered the words "I wish there was more time in the day." Unfortunately we can't create more time, but we can work more efficiently within the time we have. One great way to work more efficiently and gain back some time is to create process or systems for the work we do.

So how do you go about creating process for your business? It's not as hard as you think.

Making Costco's Kirkland brand
Creative Commons License photo credit: star5112

Why Processes are Important

Before getting to the how let's look at the why. Processes are important to your business for a few main reasons:

  • Processes save time – by developing repetitive elements in your work for reuse
  • Processes reduce errors – by allowing you to consistently improve small packets of work
  • Processes make it easy to hand off work to others – by creating a roadmap and instructions for others to follow
  • Processes scale – by creating reusable systems that can be automated and implemented quickly

In a nutshell processes enable your businesses to work more efficiently

What to make a Process?

Anything you do more than once is ripe for a process. Did you Anything you
do
more than
once is ripe
for a process
research keywords for a site? Plan on researching them again on your next site? Why not start developing a process for keyword research.

Anything that has repetitive elements can be turned into a process. Keywords change from site to site. You may not do exactly the same thing in researching them on different sites, but you probably use the same tools and you probably spend some time brainstorming and you probably spend some time organizing keywords and phrases into themes.

Start turning those tasks into a keyword research process.

What to make a Process First?

Does it matter what you turn into a process first? You should set up systems for your most important and most often done tasks first, but it really doesn't matter. As long as you continue to develop processes it will benefit your business.

Top/Down and Bottom/Up Processes

Top/Down processes are for higher level tasks. They're more roadmap than recipe. These processes might set out a plan for researching a new market or creating content. Top/Down process will be more general and allow some flexibility within. Not every step will be spelled out for you. Think of them as offering a direction.

For example a simplified process for keyword research might be:

  • Brainstorm words and phrases
  • Organize into major keyword themes
  • Use keyword tools to build a detailed list of words and phrases
  • Refine detailed list and major and minor themes
  • Rinse and repeat

Organizing keyword themes is part of this simple process, but there's no specific steps for how to go about organizing your keywords into themes. Again roadmap and not recipe.

Bottom/Up processes are for lower level tasks. They're more recipe than roadmap and they will deal with the specific details of how to complete a task. They'll have less flexibility though they may have some wiggle room.

As an example you likely respond to similar email inquires all the time. Instead of writing each reply from scratch create a simple template you can use to save a few minutes of typing. Your goal with bottom/up processes is to save time, even if that time is only a few seconds. That might not sound like much savings each time out, but it does add up over the course of a week or a year.

As your processes at the bottom move up and as your processes at the top move down they'll inevitably meet. Your top/down keyword research process didn't specifically define how to build your detailed list or which tools to use. Your bottom/up processes will define those things. Eventually your top/down process may be an organization of your bottom/up processes into a general roadmap for getting something done.

Risk!
Creative Commons License photo credit: geoftheref

Strategy for Implementing Processes

All of the above is well and good, but how do you find the time to start creating all these processes?

  • Be aware. Spot potential activities that take more time than you'd like or are repetitive across projects and think about how you could create a process.
  • Set aside time every week. You have to make time to save time. Schedule an hour a week to build processes. You'll soon save more than that hour weekly and be able to devote more time to developing more time saving processes.
  • Let processes grow organically. Observe how you work. Some processes will likely begin to form on their own. Take the additional step to formalize them
  • Create processes on the spot. The next time you write an email to a common request save it somewhere so it's easily accessible the next time you you get a similar request
  • Keep a list of tasks you want to systemize. Make a few quick notes and revisit during the time you set aside for creating processes each week.
  • Lean on others. People share their own processes all the time. Try those you think will work for you and adapt them to your own needs.
  • Find better tools. For many tasks there's already a variety of tools that will do what you want. Find some that work for you and use them.
  • Iterate. Always be improving your processes so they work better at saving you time and achieving your goals. Look at that email template you saved and make one sentence in it better. Keep improving it incrementally.

The next time you're working keep an open text file at hand. Write down the general steps you take to complete a project. You've just started to document a process. The next time you're working on a similar project open your document and flesh it out more.

In time you'll have built up documentation that you or anyone else can follow. Even better you'll have something in place that you or others can improve to make the process better.

Conclusion

Creating processes and systems allows you to stop being an employee in your business and become an owner working on your business. They'll save you time, let you work more efficiently, and help you scale your business by developing reusable systems and a roadmap for others to follow.

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5 Responses to “A Process For Creating Processes”

  1. Making processes is what I do. I take a job and find ways to make it efficient and profitable and save my customers money. I'm in a very competitive market but manage to accomplish this.

    Thanks for the tips.

    • Glad you liked the post and found it helpful.

      Process are so important in running a business. It took me longer than it should to realize it, but now that I've started creating processes out of much of my workflow it's been giving me more time to work on other projects I've wanted to get to for awhile.

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