I’m one of those people who get a lot done. I like to make lists and I like to do. People always think it’s because I drink a lot of coffee, which is true. But that’s only part of what makes me prolific.
I’ve found a way to be efficient – to get a lot done – by streamlining work that I do again and again. Taking the time to set up templates and repeatable processes ahead of time actually makes me speedier. It’s my secret trick. Let’s look behind the curtain to see how I use these processes to save time.
What is a repeatable process?
A repeatable process is essentially anything that you do over and over and need a similar result. When you write regular newsletters, publish daily to your CMS, or pull data each month, you are repeating elements of work. Why not formalize a process? Not everything is repeatable verbatim, of course – but when your general how-to steps are the same each time, you’re on the track toward what I’m talking about.
Why you need a repeatable process
The natural reason why you should consider repeatable processes is to save time and money. And that is what everyone – yourself, your boss, your client – always want to hear. Yes, it will take some set-up time, as I’ll explain. But the result can actually save you time in the long run.
How I use repeatable processes
I used to create a newsletter for my client team. It was an internal communication tool that captured data and deliverables for the month.
But – real talk – I didn’t want to spend too much time on this thing. I had a lot of other work on my plate. Fortunately, my client agreed. “Don’t spend more than an hour on this each month,” she advised. She too wanted me to work more wisely – after all, she was paying for my time, and preferred it to be used on high-ROI projects.
And yet, the newsletter task still had to be done. We wanted to share our work with our team.
So, I created a template. First, I brainstormed with the client regarding what type of content we wanted to include each month. Then I determined a structure for the newsletter, including content buckets. Finally, I worked with a designer to polish it.
Did that initial effort take time? Absolutely. I probably spent 10 or more hours on that first edition. But from then on, it was truly a much easier plug-and-play task.
Moving forward, I set time on my calendar each month to do the work. I blocked a couple hours (shh, don’t tell my client I took two hours, not one). Then I simply used that dedicated time to pull the data, itemize the wins, write, edit, and release. Done.
What I learned and why this was a win
That template and process turned out to be a huge time saver. I knew what I had to accomplish, and I knew exactly what window of time I had to work on that newsletter. I saved my brain from endlessly spinning and fretting about what to include in each edition. I already knew what data I was mining, what wins I should spotlight, what the newsletter would look like, and how much space I had to cover my stories. Most importantly, I knew I had time set aside to work on it. Once the reminder on my calendar chimed, alerting me to the task, I was able to get right to work instead of fidgeting and fussing over design and content buckets.
My teammates and clients noticed the pre-work effort’s payoff, too. They took note of the consistent look and feel of the newsletter. They viewed the effort not as a singular send – a one-off email to ignore – but rather as a true “newsletter.” They actually looked forward to receiving it – and eventually this comm became a treasured internal marketing tool. People even asked how to submit content to it. Bonus!
So why am I spending so much time talking about a newsletter when this is a blog about repeatable processes? Because, simply put, a newsletter template is a repeatable process. It’s something I had to do each month – it repeated.
Types of repeatable processes
Metrics are another repeatable process you can save time on. If I’m frank, I struggle with data mining. I’m not trained in Excel and databases – despite knowing they’re an essential part of my job as a marketer. The truth is that I’m a content and words person first. The same was true for many of the members of my former marketing team, who were hired as wordsmiths. When it came time to prove how those words were working out for us, well … it was a bit disastrous. We definitely produced a hodgepodge of results. Every one of us had a different way of displaying data and sharing it with our team leader and clients.
Fortunately, we had a database expert on our team who stepped up to help. (As an aside, this is one of the great things about being part of a team. You can admit when you aren’t working within your core competency, and ask for help when you need it. You can delegate.) To start, we as a team established exactly what data we all needed to check daily, weekly, and monthly. Then our database guru went to town to set up Excel queries – a type of repeatable process – that helped pull the data. All we had to do was hit the “refresh data” function in our Excel sheet, and – voila – new data appeared. This saved immense time and many headaches.
Invoicing can be a repeatable process, as can tracking content submissions to PR firms, fact-checking your content, and even creating agendas for team meetings.
Reusing content across various marketing channels can also be a contender for a repeatable process. It’s not so much a process, but the act of reusing and recycling what you’ve already done – repurposing it for other uses – is a type of repeat work. And it can absolutely save you time and money.
Using repeatable processes for internal training
Do you constantly train new hires on how things work around your office, such as showing them how to build a web page or publish to your CMS? If those processes are used regularly, why not document them and create an internal how-to? That’s a type of repeatable process that can help you save time on internal training.
Internal documentation helps with contingency planning during downtimes (or if your team suddenly shrinks and the left-behind folks have to take on the work others used to do). And of course these records also help when someone simply moves on – and you bring on a new face.
When your processes are documented, you don’t have to spend oodles of time with one-off training sessions and how-to’s. Rather, you can share the process documentation and then sit with employees to answer any questions.
Don’t forget to test your processes
One last thing before we close. If and when you decide to create templates or document how-to’s, don’t forget to test. The last thing you want to do is create a process document rife with errors that ends up causing more stress – and work – for you and your team. Run it through a trial, step by step, to make sure your instructions are clear and the process is sound.
What can you do?
So, what can you personally turn into a repeatable process? It’s likely you have at least one task that you can put on a form of auto-pilot. Maybe it’s the way you query your metrics. Or the way you pulse your team for content contributions for your newsletter. Or the way you design a deck. Calendaring can also be a repeatable process, like my annual tradition of January planning.
My request is that you take some time to think about the tasks that you do over and over – each day, each week, each month, each year. The first step is to itemize those. Then have a hard look. Which of those could become a candidate for a process? Can you write up a quick step-by-step outline that documents what needs to be done, so that the next time you come back to it, you can jump right in? Ask your teammates, as well. Is there anything they do regularly but seem to struggle with – or even something that simply takes a lot of time? These chores, too, are candidates to consider for repeatable process documents.
Then, once you’ve set up your process, it’s relatively simple to execute – to rinse and repeat, over and over, for maximum efficiency.
Act-On puts high value on “time to value.” Being speedy – getting up and running quickly – is one of the key things that makes us different. Likewise, repeatable processes in your back pocket can get you up and running faster with your to-do list. Even without drinking gallons of coffee.
Back to you
How have you optimized efficiency through repeatable processes in your own job? Share your tips here.