Whether you are an artist, programmer, web designer, journalist, data entry clerk, or customer service rep you have most likely found yourself duplicating the same processes over and over again. For example if you are a Web Designer you have most likely spent some time searching for inspiration, color templates, then perhaps content, etc. The consistent re-performing of compartmentalized actions, ie look for color templates, then search for content, etc, would be called a "workflow".
However before you can say "I have a workflow that I follow". You need to get it down on paper, or down in a format that you can visually use and refer to whenever you are working on a project.
For instance I have an example on left of a workflow that I use to setup marketing for new clients. It goes from creating a WordPress website, all of the way down to creating blog topics that I would need to write about over time.
Workflows are meant to be perfected over time.
You can see that it is pretty basic, and general. When you first create a workflow it doesn't have to be perfect, rather workflows are meant to be perfected over time. Adding finite details can be done, but it may be best to add those details in the background, using notes, checklists, etc so you don't get lost in the details.
Workflows can help you tell the forest from the trees.
To Create Workflows:
Before getting down to the task of writing an entire workflow out, I recommend mentally rehearsing the process of what you do when you are working on a certain project.
Once you have a decent mental map of your process, you can use a tool such as Excel to create a workflow similar to the one above, or you can use a tool such as Mindmeister to quickly start drawing out your process. Mindnode on the Mac is also a great Mind Mapping tool that you can use as a workflow idea dump.
A workflow is meant to be a "macro-view" of the overall type of project you are trying to complete.
After you have gotten a large portion of your workflow down, review it step by step and find out if you are missing anything, or if there are certain details that you need to record. Important details could include special websites you might visit, things to remember, or certain variables that may apply in specific situations.
Execute your Workflow:
Now that you have your workflow down from start to finish. Use it! A workflow is meant to be a type of checklist, but unlike a checklist it serves as a mental "mind map" that visually stimulates the minds creativity rather than creating a rigidity that a simple checklist may have. As you work on your project using your new workflow, add any additional notes, or steps you may have missed. You could even create a checklist for each portion of the workflow itself.
If you were to take a workflow, and instead create a checklist, your checklist would be cumbersome. A workflow is meant to be a "macro-view" of the overall project you are trying to complete. Checklists on the other hand can assist you with completing the finite details.
Automating your Workflow:
Finally as you complete your workflow you will notice that many of the processes could be automated if you just had the right tools. When we create our automation systems here at Paradigm, we actually create "macro-view" workflows, and within each "module" or step there are much more finite processes that occur. An example of one of our workflows can be seen here on the right.
As you can imagine automation speeds up the process of completing workflows drastically, or depending on the type of workflow, the entire system can be automated.
The final goal of any workflow is to nail down the processes you are doing during your projects, so you can simplify those processes to the point that they can be completed more efficiently by you or another.
A workflow is not meant to be a replacement for providing customer service, rather it is a guarantee to your customer that they can expect consistent results.