When the Rug is Pulled Out from Under You: How Systems and Workflows Can Help you Stay Afloat
I had the picture perfect life. My husband and I were high school sweethearts; a power couple building the a life together.
We had a modest, well-kept home in the suburbs. We were surrounded by a close community of family, and friends.
Our beautiful daughters were happy and healthy. They attended a small private pre-school where they were thriving.
I had an amazing corporate career that appreciated and rewarded me with promotions, trips, and bonuses. I was a rockstar; diving headfirst into different opportunities and succeeding in them! I quickly climbed the corporate ladder for my hard work and efforts.
On the outside we had it all. The life that I had dreamed of creating. Our friends and family were proud. We were proud – we co-created what the life we dreamed about… or so I thought.
The life we had created was like a mask; beautiful on the outside. But on the inside, it was hiding a secret life of trickery, manipulation, and deceit.
It was the night before our first family vacation.
I had put the kids to bed, and finished packing up the car. I was sitting on my husband’s lap, excited to leave the next day.
It was then that I learned the problem. He left our family, and never returned.
The life that we had built was pulled out right from under me.
The Beat Carried On; How Systems Saved My Career
The funny thing is; while I felt like I fell flat on my face in front of a million people… I didn’t miss a beat.
While I was managing the stress and exhaustion of going through a messy divorce, my career continued to thrive.
It’s ironic because I taking more personal time than ever before… in and out of the office constantly… but I pushed on.
I had a huge emotional and logistical detour in my path.
Each day, I worked on myself; going to yoga, therapy, and spending time with my kids. We were healing.
Months after my husband left, I received the best performance review of my professional career. And, a killer bonus came with it.
As it turned out, what made me successful in my career to begin with, allowed me to continue to be successful, even during a time of personal tragedy.
The habits and workflows I had developed, and the systems I had implemented all allowed my job to continue churning around me… even when I was not entirely “in the game.”
The divorce “cascade” effect that happens to most; went in the opposite direction for me. My life didn’t fall apart, it thrived by leaps and bounds.
Life on Autopilot
The idea of running on autopilot sometimes has a negative connotation. If you are on autopilot, you are just “doing” and not fully present to the world around you.
For example, have you ever arrived at a destination but not remember the drive there? That’s an example of running on autopilot while driving.
For me, my ability to run my work on autopilot, allowed my brain to be elsewhere, while still maintaining normality. I could keep my work moving, with little to no effort.
The habits and workflows I developed allowed me to set up myself up to be successful. Whether it was leveraging block hours to complete tasks, or following a checklist or workflow, my work was process driven with very little variables in between.
My need for time, pushed me to become more streamlined than ever before.
I proactively developed efficient and streamlined processes that enabled me to take the time that I needed.
And, when I ultimately decided to to leave that job, it turned out that they had to hire 4 people, just to replace me!
Create Time, by Creating Systems
Process is the lynchpin of sustainable, predictable growth. It’s what holds things together. It’s what separates a business from a group of people who happen to work in the same office (HelloSign.com).
I’ll admit, I’m naturally a systematic person, and I thrive on structure and routine. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for me to create them. I’m also extremely analytical and can overcomplicate processes unintentionally.
Even if you aren’t like me, you can still develop your own workflows that help you run on autopilot when you need to, just like I did.
As entrepreneur this is an important skillset to have. Your life, depends on your business. What happens when you fall ill or have life event that takes you out of the game for a bit?
Here’s how you can begin to develop your own systems and workflows.
1. Know your goals
Review your goals every day. In fact, review your goals twice a day. Your goals the pillars of your foundation. Even when you feel lost and confused, you can turn back to them for guidance.
It’s part of my morning and evening routine each day to write out my goals and the why’s behind them. This helps me stay focused, especially when I feel like I have a million things to do.
Another motivating factor in knowing your goals? A Harvard Business Study found that the 3% of graduates from their MBA who had their goals written down, ended up earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together, just ten years after graduation.
(I think that speaks for itself!)
2. View your life strategically
When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to play board games like Monopoly, Life and Risk. Going into the game I always had a goal (get all of the blue countries first, because that was my favorite color), which allowed me to develop a strategy to get there (I prefer going after the small countries first, then moving to the larger ones).
Same with your life. Review each area of your life; personal, career, family, friends, and determine the overall strategy that is going to help you reach each of those goals.
3. Breakdown your strategy; create action steps
A strategy does not mean anything, if you are are not actively implementing it.
Pretend your hourly rate is $1,000,000/hour, and you have to pay yourself. Knowing how expensive your time is, develop actions that will be most effective to help you drive you towards your goals.
Be clear and specific. Don’t waste time on menial activities that have no return or allow you to procrastinate the most important things.
Be able to distinguish, what you have to do versus what is procrastination! Stick to it!
4. Develop habits and workflows
Use your actions to develop habits and workflows.
For repetitive tasks, create checklists that allow you to do the work and then quickly validate accuracy against. Allow your brain to focus on the work that matters most, not remembering the specific details.
Establish calendar time that allows you to implement your actions. Create a habit of reviewing how you are spending your time and making the appropriate changes.
Systematize your work with workflows and routine. Set a schedule of when specific actions get done, and stick to it.
There is power in habit.
Maybe your goal is to be able to get as much as done, in as little time as possible.
Or maybe, like me, you want to be able to leverage workflows to automate areas of your business so that if needed, you are able to take a break.
Regardless of your motivation, systems and workflows are a key factor in developing successful, scalable business and allow you to withstand the trials and tribulations of time.