4 Ways To Make Your Workflow Smoother

More often than not, you need a vacation to recover from a vacation.

When I returned home from a week-long trip in December, the holiday mood quickly disappeared beneath the pile of work waiting to be done. There were a lot of ideas to be gathered, several posts to be written, and plans for 2014 to be made. My self-enforced digital disconnect meant that I also had a barrage of Web-related activities to tackle.

To top it all, I had to deal with a messy workspace, a malfunctioning Internet connection, and a couple of less-than-optimal device setups. I felt like screaming because there was so much to do and nothing was getting done.

Finally, I managed to restore some semblance of order to that chaos by working through the weekend. Thankfully, I also managed to wrap up a post about what happened when I went completely offline for a week, which was due that week.

Sometimes, holidays can leave you so relaxed that you can’t find the motivation to get back to work. On other occasions, they can leave you so excited/frazzled that you can’t settle down enough to get any work done. The bottom line is that when you return from a total physical and mental break, you need at least a week’s time to get back to your usual self.

Looking back on my post-holiday madness, I feel that things wouldn’t have been as messy or felt as complicated, if I had had a smoother workflow to begin with. That’s why, I have made it a top priority to streamline my work processes by the end of this month. Here are some ways I plan to do that.

Use one app/device for multiple tasks

Dealing with different information streams to take care of tasks like email, reading, writing, banking, communication, learning, etc. is like battling a many-headed monster. Despite drastically reducing the number of apps and websites I use, I still find myself juggling too many setups to get my work done. As a solution, I’m focusing on turning my primary apps like Dropbox and IFTTT into all-in-one dashboards for various tasks (See how I use Firefox as a central dashboard.)

In keeping with my Mini-resolution #3, I’m also planning to switch from my laptop to my tablet for all of my work, eventually. As a step in that direction*, I have installed CyanogenMod on my tablet, transferred all my files to it, installed all the required apps, and turned it into a fairly good setup for work. I’ll also be getting a keyboard and a mouse to make things a little more comfortable.

Track everything in one place

The number of things you have to keep tabs on in the course of daily life can drive you crazy if you let them all stay in your head. But using ten different apps to keep track of such things can be just as overwhelming. I recommend using a single spreadsheet with multiple sheets to record everything you want to. As of now, my All-in-one Tracker spreadsheet has sections for managing my money, ideas, and writing. If there’s something else I need to monitor, I’ll just throw in a new section for that.

Group similar tasks

I never appreciated the beauty of this method before. My first inclination is to take care of tasks in serial order. As a very simplistic analogy, I write one post, edit it, publish it, put out a link to it, and then move on to the next post. Following a technique like this can interrupt your flow, because each of the tasks involved require a different mindset and varying levels of energy and motivation.

Once you’re midway through a task, you usually stop struggling to make it work and let your instincts take over. By clubbing similar tasks and taking care of them in batches, you automatically put this inherent quality to work and are likely to get your work done better and smoother.

Save the feed reading for the weekend

When you’re online, you cannot stop reading after just one article or post. That one links to something else that’s interesting, and that one leads to the next. Before you know it, you have spent a considerable chunk of your work time in reading, getting ideas, and planning, in turn causing your main work to spill over into your weekend.

Now, focused reading with the intention of finding something specific is a different thing. But feed reading is not usually that. It is a random absorption of just as random ideas, so it’s best saved for the weekend, or at least done within a strict time frame.

Maintaining a fairly smooth workflow can not only help simplify your workday, but also help you devote more time to the things that really matter to you. If all goes well, for the first time in several years, I will not be forced to work on the weekend as a result of whiling away time on trivialities during the week. I hope that in the new year you too find the right workflow to simplify your day.

*If you’re interested in knowing more about this switch, I’ll happy to let you know the details via email. If there are sufficient requests for it, I might even think of turning it into a full-fledged post.

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Undustrial Revolution - The Writings of Akshata
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