Home >Opinion >Disrupting your set-in-stone workflows can help you to improve yourself

The world would be a slightly nicer, more efficient place if people occasionally thought like profitable companies, and companies occasionally thought like nice people.

Because there are lessons individuals and organizations can learn from each other. Organizations, for instance, often function in impersonal and inhumane ways, forgetting that their actions ultimately have an impact on the lives of individuals—customers, employees, suppliers and so on. Organizations often set these issues aside as they drive forward in their hunger for efficiency and output. Nice people, on the other hand, are more considerate in their race to the top. They sometimes stop, pause, think, make accommodations for other people, and generally try not to be reprehensible, even as they seek to succeed.

People, meanwhile, often lack the eye for constant improvement and periodic review that all good companies possess. Instead, they plod along in their professional and personal lives, rarely stopping to think if there are ways and means of making things easier, less tangled. Instead, we often settle into a blind, unchallenged routine.

We should all be constantly challenging the workflows that make up our everyday lives.

Let me explain with an embarrassing example of mindless workflows. Many years ago, I was part of a group of management trainees working for a company in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex. For the first few weeks of our jobs, we all stayed in a nice posh hotel in south Mumbai and took the local train to Bandra East station, from whence we would take an autorickshaw to the office.

Each morning, we would disembark from the train at Bandra East, go up some stairs to the overbridge, walk along the overbridge across railway lines and milling crowds, before descending the stairs and tumbling out into the hot sun. We did this like clockwork, each morning, never stopping to consider the details of our ritual.

Until a new member of our group pointed out something. Why are you guys using the overbridge, he wondered. What do you mean, the rest of us asked. Because the overbridge essentially goes parallel to the platform. You are just going all the way up, walking right overhead in a straight line, then walking down again and taking the exit. You would save so much more time if you would walk straight down the platform and walk out of the station. We just stood there looking up at the overbridge with our mouths open.

This might sound like a petty oversight. But it is symbolic of the ruts people fall into in the course of everyday life.

Instead, it is well worth stepping back a bit once in a while and looking at all the little workflows that make up our daily routines: commutes, cooking, clothes, reading, taking notes, the apps we use at home and work, the devices we use all around our house and so on. It may surprise you how much more we could be getting out of all the workflows we indulge in every minute of every day.

For instance, earlier this week, the purchase of a new iPad gave me a chance to reconsider how I use it for lectures, study and research. Hitherto, my workflow involved using around half-a-dozen apps: Google Drive to store my files, Notability to record lectures, PDF Expert to annotate PDF files, Apple Notes to take notes, iScannerPro to scan documents, and Drafts for typing long text.

But some readers will appreciate that moment when you unbox a new device and think to yourself: “Let me not clog this beautiful thing up with useless apps and install only what I need." So, that got me thinking: What really is my workflow when it comes to working on a tablet? I sketched some notes, did some thinking, some online research, and finally realized that I needed no more than three apps to get things done: Google Drive for storage, Goodnotes 4 for note-taking, PDF annotation, and sketching, and Notability for that rare instance of a lecture that needs audio recording.

Keen readers will note that I haven’t picked an app for writing long texts and articles. That is because my workflow review showed me that I rarely ever do this. And when I do, the default Apple Notes app should be more than sufficient. So now I have a clean iPad, a handful of apps that I will use, and simpler workflow. For now. I will review this in a few months time. Never let that workflow get complacent.

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