Effective time management is very key in my life. It is right up there with the importance of quality. While I recognise that it is not a top priority for everyone, it seems that some time management is helpful even in the most basic of situations and lifestyles.
Understanding where “process” plays into that time management is helpful in identifying areas where there could be steps made to improve time management.
Process can mean many different things. In this case, process refers to a systematic approach to something. So, if you have a habit of putting on your slippers before using the bathroom, right when you get up in the morning, you have a process. Process could also be interchanged with the word, “procedure” or “routine.”
Many times, however, process relates to a procedure that produces output. It may involve multiple departments in a company environment. For the sake of this article, we will work with the word “process” in its simplest format, as a sort of procedure or routine that is used in personal (or professional) life.
Effective Process and Ineffective Process
I heard someone say one time that everyone has a budget. At the time, I thought to myself that that couldn’t be true. I knew people who would just spend what they wanted, when they wanted, with no planning. However, that was the point that was being made. Their “budget” was to spend whatever, whenever.
In the same way, everything has a process behind it. Even your morning routine of getting out of bed, putting your slippers on, and going to use the bathroom is your process. Is it an effective process or an ineffective process? You could say that because the job gets done, it is an effective process.
However, getting it done only indicates that it is a process and not necessarily that it is an effective process. An ineffective process would be to go to use the bathroom and come back to put one slipper on and then go back to the bathroom and come back to put the other slipper on and then back to the bathroom to finish.
Obviously, that is ridiculous, but that process and the preceding one both produce the same output of the morning routine (warm feet and emptied bladder). The first example is a more effective process (time savings) compared to the second example.
Similar to the budget example above, the usage of time, even in ineffective time management, is still a management of time. It just may be a poor and ineffective management of time, in the same way that the multiple trips to the bathroom is an ineffective process and therefore, an ineffective management of time.
Gaining More Time
So, let’s evaluate how we can improve that time management by identifying the processes. Once we have identified the process, or steps, we can identify where we can make improvements in that process.
There are two parts to evaluating process, in terms of time management:
- Identifying unnecessary steps that could be eliminated.
- Identifying repeatable steps that could possibly be replaced by automation or another time management method.
Unnecessary Steps in the Process Flow
In the example(s) given above, with the multiple trips to the bathroom, there were some unnecessary steps. There were two additional round trips to the bathroom for the slippers. Those two additional round trips could have been eliminated. Let’s look at the two processes. First, the ineffective process:
- trip from the bedroom to the bathroom (without slippers).
- trip back from the bathroom to the bedroom (pick up one slipper).
- trip from the bedroom to the bathroom (with that first slipper on).
- trip from the bathroom to the bedroom (pick up second slipper).
- trip from the bedroom to the bathroom (with both slippers).
- trip from the bathroom to the bedroom (after finishing business in bathroom).
That is a total of six trips, or three round trips between the two rooms. Let’s look at the effective process:
- trip from the bedroom to the bathroom (with both slippers).
- trip from the bathroom to the bedroom (after finishing business in bathroom)
When we look at it this way, it is easy to see that there are four additional steps that are not needed, saving four trips, which is saving a full two round trips between the two rooms.
Similar to what we did, above, it is sometimes helpful to draw out the process on a whiteboard. You do not have to get as complicated as a programmer would, but a simple sketch of the process would suffice. A visualisation of what was typed above, in our example, would be a way that you could use a whiteboard as a tool in process identification and subsequent time management.
The Lazy Programmer
There are many quotes out there about programmers being basically lazy people. At first, when I read that, I was offended. You see, my education is in programming (BSIT). However, I read the quote again and I realised that it has to do with the core thinking of an effective programmer.
Even Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, recognized that when he said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job…because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
You see, with programmers (myself included), we identify places where there are repeatable steps and then program the interface, the shell script, the rapid application interface to go through those steps without us. In that way, we can click a button, sit back, relax, and the program or application does it for us! Hence, laziness births automation and through that, an opportunity for saving time.
Repeatable Processes in Daily Life
In the case of programming, the repeatable steps are replaced with automation (the programming; the application). However, on a simpler level of process analysis, this can also be applied to everyday life.
A really basic example of this is picking up your child at school. Let’s say you generally go to pick up your child and drive from point A (home) to point B (school) and back, to facilitate that pick-up. If your spouse drives home at the same time, coming from point B to point A, you are talking about a repeatable process. The process is the driving from point B (school) to point A (home). It is repeatable, in this case, by two drivers who are already driving that route each day at the same time. It isn’t automation, but it is an opportunity to utilize the efficiency of having your spouse pick up your child.
Most people do not analyse this as a repeatable process, because it doesn’t necessarily land in our brains in the same way. (I’m still trying to figure out how to push a button and the child is home, so you see where my head is… automation!). But, it is basic common sense time efficiency.
You could also look at this situation in the same way as the bathroom and the slippers and that it is an unnecessary step for you to pick up your child at school when your spouse is already driving that route at the exact same time.
Whether you look at process in terms of removing the unnecessary steps or creating ways of replacing steps (repeatable processes, automation, etc.), either method will help in identifying areas of efficiency.
Now, all you need is a whiteboard where you can doodle out your “processes” and find ways to be more time efficient and practise effective time management. Then, be sure to tell all of your friends that you are learning some basic programming concepts 101. They are sure to be impressed!
While they are impressed, you will have that much more time to spend on yourself and your family, all because you practised identifying process.
Deborah is right there with her devotion to efficiency. If we can save a few seconds here and there it all adds up to a few minutes and a few minutes is long enough for a phone call you might not have made otherwise. If shaving in the shower saves mess and time then do it. If making a flask of coffee works for you rather than getting up three times to make a cup, then do it. If making twice as much lasagne is possible then do so and freeze half for another day.
There are all sorts of efficiency improvements possible once you start thinking about it.
My own favourite is to go for a 2 mile walk when my brain hits a brick wall. It recharges my batteries, gets me fit and I come up with writing ideas while I am away from the computer.
Deborah Anderson (aka Deborah E in music circles) is the host of the Social Web Cafe TV weekly “Marketing Momentum” show on iHeart Radio. She is the new host of Michael Q. Todd’s WebToolsTV.
Deborah’s marketing endeavors include social strategy coaching, where she has her own unique and innovative approach. She blends her masters in organizational psychology with her community building and social media marketing experience to help her clients to find the path that provides them with the best ROI for their branding efforts.
She is currently co-writing a book with Ileane Smith on Internet community-building and also was the “rock star” at Internet Marketing Ninjas who formed their successful project management process and methodology, as Director of the Project Management Office.