Take the Time to Simplify


By Brenna Lofquist, Marketing Consultant for Heinz Marketing

I believe that this concept, while a small idea, translates to something much larger especially in terms of learning and growing in your career. If you take the time now to simplify tasks or processes, you’ll benefit in the long run and, not just in your career but personal growth as well.

Processes can kill productivity

Processes encompass numerous things such as attending meetings, answering emails, and completing or filling out reports. Either way they are likely things you do on a regular basis and you have developed a process that makes sense and works for you – or at least that’s what you think.

Sometimes we get too wrapped up in our processes that instead of promoting productivity, it kills productivity. Processes can make you feel more efficient and accountable but, if your process is not actually standardizing and simplifying a task, then you’re doing it all wrong.

You must find the balance between people feeling restricted by too many processes and not having any structure from little to no processes. Here are some examples of processes that do more harm than good:

  • Requiring an unrealistic number of approvals or sign-offs to complete a taskHow can you expect anyone to get something done with so many hoops to jump through?
  • Requiring attendance of redundant meetingsA meeting is not always the best way to accomplish something. Don’t stick to a process because it’s something you’re familiar with. Think about the goals or objectives of the original meeting and decide if there is a more productive way to accomplish the task at hand
  • Manually pulling data for reportsIn some cases you don’t have a choice, BUT you should always explore all possible options to help automate a process such as reporting

Some of these examples I have experienced myself or observed in others but hopefully you get an idea for the range of processes that can affect productivity.

There are numerous articles on the internet that discuss all sorts of impacts simplification can have on employees and businesses. I have picked out a few favorites to share:

  • For-managers discusses applying simplification of work to ensure that employees are not blurring the line between work and personal life and ways to do less work more effectively, rather than doing more with less.
  • 5 Ways Process is Killing Your Productivity from Fast Company talks about just that! “No wonder people feel like they can never get any real work done”, a quote about managers spending 40% of their time writing reports and 30-60% in coordination meetings.
  • In a more recent article from Forbes, learn about 8 simplifying tips to avoid processes from slowing down your company. My favorite is #5, Ask “who will miss this?”

Going back a little – the original thought for this blog post came to me when I was curbing my productivity by doing something so minute. I created a report in Excel to track performance of an AdWords campaign and started to notice it was taking longer than it should to plug in the data and make sure the formulas were correct. I realized I subconsciously developed a process that was not doing the intended purpose of simplifying or standardizing a task. I was manually updating formulas and making formatting changes manually, every week. when I could have developed the report from the beginning, that would not include manual manipulation. Instead, I should have developed a report from the beginning that wouldn’t require manual manipulation each week.

While this is a minuscule task, look at the bigger picture, it doesn’t take many redundant or useless processes to make up time wasted. You just attended an hour-long meeting you felt did not provide any value to you or you could not make a meaningful contribution. That’s an hour of time wasted you could have been spent working on a deliverable for a client.

The bigger picture

Ultimately, if you take the steps to simplify tasks and processes, you will not only accomplish more but you are likely to provide higher quality and efficiency. In turn, you can spend that extra time educating yourself and learning more about your craft to promote career growth.

Everything I have discussed can also be applicable to your personal life. It’s very unlikely you are working on the same tasks, but the same principles can be applied to make sure you are taking full advantage of the time you have.

At the end of the day, if you are working through a redundant task or sitting through a meeting wondering why you are there, don’t let it keep happening – figure out a way to simplify or standardize, you’ll be happy you did.

I’d love to hear about any ideas or tips you use to simplify work processes – drop a comment below!