Your Workflow is Art

Everyone is unique in the way they go about achieving things.  Everything you do is unique and special in it’s own way.  This can be in a little way,  or this can be in a big way.  It all depends on what you are doing and how much you want to take control of what it is that you are doing.  However you approach it,  the workflow you end up with is art.

The argument against this is always,

“But what about process work.  Surely there is no art in that.  You are told what the process is,  and you follow it”

The perfect example of this would be making burgers in a fast food restaurant.  Every burger comes out the same doesn’t it.  No matter which restaurant you go to,  if it’s of the same chain the food will be the same.

I choose to think that this isn’t the case.  Even at this level you apply your own individual flair to the final product.  It’s just that the deviations from the norm are minimal and normally not noticed.

When you move into other lines of work however you have a lot more flexibility.  You have a choice how you choose to organise your workflow.  It’s important that you put some thought into it if you want to be great at whatever it is that you do.

  • Consider the ways that top designers go about getting their inspiration
  • Consider the ways that top sportspeople hone their skills
  • Consider the ways CEO’s analyse the market and make predictions
  • Consider the ways a master craftsman focuses while performing their work
  • Consider the ways a teacher controls their class and inspires them

If you take a while to observe these when you get the chance you’ll find that many people have come up with many ways in which to organise their workflow,  all individually theirs.  And when you look at a successful person you’ll notice that their workflow is beautiful. There is a certain rythm and effortless flow to it.  And at the same time it’s theirs.  It’s something they have developed to suit them individually.  You can’t copy them,  what works for them won’t necessarily work for you.  You could read a book on how to do what it is that they do and you won’t read about the ways in which they go about doing them.

How are you going to creat your art?

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • You have to take the time to reflect. One of my lecturers gave me a brilliant piece of advice.  He said that for everything you do,  if it’s important,  you should take the time to think about what worked,  what didn’t work,  and why?
  • Move to a higher level of abstraction. Think about all the supporting skills and how you manage them.  It’s not uncommon for people to dive into solving a problem and not really think about the simple things like:  How are we problem solving?  Where are we getting inspiration from?  Are we collaborating effectively?
  • You don’t have to do the same old same old. Try new methods.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  Question everything.   Don’t just do things a certain way because that’s the way everyone else does it.  Consider why they do it that way.  Does it work?  Is there a better way?  If  so then why not try it?
  • Throw it all out and start again. A lot of people are loathe to do this as it is a lot of work and it is risky.  If you are going down the wrong path however then it is the best thing to do.  And it’s not an entire waste if you consider that you have learnt a lot from the experience.
  • Find the essence of your work. What is the overriding quality that would make you really proud of what you have achieved?  Discover that and then make sure it is a key influence in defining your workflow.  The essence of your work could be many things.  It could be robustness,  it could be quality,  it could be elegance,  it could be speed,  it could be effortlessness.
  • Observe others. Develop a fascination with how people organise their work,  and why?  You will find mountains of inspiration,  even in watching people doing things that are unrelated to your line of work.
  • Plan your day before you start. Doing this has many advantages.  In particular however it forces you to think about how you are going to go about doing your work.  Can you reorganise things to work better?  Are you allocating time to tasks appropriately?  Can you anticipate problems and factor solutions into the plan? etc.
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