The Liberation of Process

Photo by  Dana Marin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Dana Marin on Unsplash

When the world is full of limitless possibilities, choosing just one thing seems virtually impossible. When you can choose anything, the magnitude of all the possibilities -- of every single potential individual choice -- ends up being completely overwhelming. So, we choose to do nothing, and we never change or move forward.

Your business IS limitless possibilities. Sure, you run a marketing or consulting agency today, but that doesn’t have to be true tomorrow. You can literally DO ANYTHING.

So what you are now doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll stay. You can wake up one morning and decide to open a taco stand. Probably unlikely, but it’s still a choice you could make.

 
 

Even if you decide to continue doing what you do, you have to make eleventy-million decisions about what you’re going to do every single day.  

Those decisions pile up,  take up space in your brain, cause anxiety, and lead to decision fatigue.

  • Should I run Facebook ads?

  • I need to write that next blog post -- when should I schedule to fit that in?

  • Should I incorporate as an S-Corp? Or is the LLC good enough?

  • What happens if I need to issue a 1099 and the vendor won’t give me a W9?

  • Should I be posting on LinkedIn? Posts or videos?

  • Ack! I need to send that invoice over to my client… add that to the to-dos

If you’re anything like every entrepreneur I’ve ever met, your brain is a constant stream of to-dos, questions, and ideas for what might come next.

The problem is…

If you’re using all your brain power on trying to figure out what to do, you don’t have that space available to think creatively, to solve problems, to create -- or to move your business forward.

You’re making the same decisions, over and over, individually -- and just not realizing it.

Make The Decision ONCE

Decision fatigue is real -- the more decisions you have to make during the day, the more exhausted you’ll be at the end of it. It takes brain power and energy to make decision after decision.

And as a business owner -- that’s pretty much what your day consists of -- decisions.

Some are big, some are small -- but every action you do (or don’t) take is, in fact,  a choice you’re making.

Processes and systems exist to reduce the number of decisions you have to make. Decide once.  then turn it into a process, so that next time, you already know what to do. No decision needed.

Mark Zuckerburg famously chose to wear the same thing every day. He got up in the morning, put on t-shirt #2, which looked exactly like t-shirt # 1 and t-shirt #3 and went about his day.

I have the same thing for breakfast every day. Get up, make a smoothie, get dressed. There are no decisions involved. The Zuck and I know exactly what to do.

We made the decision once. Then decided that was going to be our process for this particular situation going forward.

So, for Zuck, he now knows that every day, he’s going to pick out this t-shirt and put it on. I know I’m going to get up and make a smoothie. We created a process or a framework -- now that decision is done. We know precisely what the next thing is when we get up in the morning.

And now, all that energy that would have gone into making those decisions gets to go towards some other decision that we don’t already have a process for.

When you start to apply this to your business, you can see just how liberating it can be.

When you create a process, you’re sitting down and making ONE decision about how things are going to go, every time you encounter this particular situation. So the next time that situation comes around, you don’t have to decide -- you just have to follow the process.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Entrepreneurs are busy folks -- there’s always something else to do. So, it can be really difficult to find the time to sit down and develop a process or systems.

It ends up being something that sits on our never-ending to-do list, accumulating dust.

𐄂 Develop process for client onboarding

It’s something we’ll get to eventually… or the next time. But we don’t have time now to do it -- we’re too busy.

The problem is that the next time never comes around. It just sits on our to-do list.

And every new client ends up with a different experience. Sometimes we forget all the pieces that we want to get done -- only half of them get a welcome gift. Or we miss sending a few of those welcome emails.

Think about onboarding a new client. There’s a million things that have to happen:

  • Send an invoice

  • Get them to pay you

  • Set up the folders on Google Drive

  • Send them the welcome email

  • Send welcome gift

  • Tell them about how you work -- how is their project going to happen

  • Update their information in your CRM

  • Add them to your email list

  • Make sure your team knows what’s happening

  • Set up a kickoff meeting

  • The list goes on, and on, and on…

If you have to think through how you’re going to make all those things happen every time, you’ll be exhausted before you get to item 5.

Instead of moving onto the next thing, we’re worrying whether or not we forgot something. Or feeling guilty because that experience isn’t what we want it to be.

What if, instead of spending all that time worrying, you just took 30 minutes (because it doesn’t actually take all that long) and just decided.

By taking the time to slow down, figure out what the process should be, and how it’s going to happen, you’ll actually free up hours and hours. And those newly freed hours can be used for something a whole lot more fun and interesting than remembering to send an invoice.

Turn Your Decisions Into A Process

So… how are you actually going to do this?

 
 

What’s Your Focus?

Decide what part of your operations you want to focus on developing the process for right now.

You don’t want to tackle them all at once, because it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So, pick one area to focus on, or even a sub-area.

So if you wanted to improve your client onboarding process maybe you just focus on invoicing and payments for now, as a baby step.

Or, feel free to jump in and design the WHOLE onboarding process together. It’s up to you and how much effort you can tackle at once.

Schedule It

Right now, go put an appointment on your calendar for one hour during the morning next week. Do it in the morning, because you’re going to make a bunch of decisions all at once, and decision fatigue gets worse as the day goes on. Do this when you’re fresh.

Brainstorm First

Take out a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm all the parts, pieces or steps you want to happen. You don’t have to put them in order or on a checklist or anything. Just lay out all the things you want to be part of the process you’re building.

Put Them In Order

Now take the items you brainstormed and put them in order. What has to happen first? What depends on some other task happening before it?

At this point, it may be helpful to move the list into a digital format (or into your project or task management program), so you can re-order things easily, but don’t feel like you have to.

Assign Tasks

Figure out who (or what) is going to do each part of the process.

  • Can certain tasks be automated? (Zapier is your friend)

  • Is this something you should do?

  • Something that can’t be automated but shouldn’t be you?

Templatize It

Now that you’ve figured out the What, Who and How for your process, document what you decided.

Documenting might mean:

  • Creating a paper checklist to follow

  • Adding it as a project template in your project management software

  • Creating the zaps in Zapier to make steps happen automatically

Do whatever you need to do, based on how you do your work, to make sure that you can easily follow this process, the next time around.

The format of the documentation ultimately doesn’t matter -- what matters is the process.

The Freedom Of Process

Now that you’ve taken care of that piece, you don’t have to spend time on making those decisions. Plus, if you happened to automate or delegate some of those steps, you might not even have to spend time actually DOING the steps either.

So, now you’ve got some time freed up.

What’s the next thing?