Workflows aren’t just for development teams. Typically, a workflow consists of several steps, along with a review period. If you’re on a dev team, you might think of moving tickets from ready for development to the in-progress stage. Or if you’re working within a content management system, you might think of submitting a piece of content for review and approval.
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However, you’re probably using a workflow for your personal tasks and don’t even realize it. If you’re not, you might consider how you can incorporate a very basic workflow to help organize your projects. I started incorporating a light workflow into my daily work without even realizing that’s what I was doing; I was just doing what made sense.
After I recognized the steps I was taking—that I could use that workflow to streamline my activities—and the tools that I used, just knowing where I’m storing my information and avoiding the clutter of random notes helped make me more efficient with my day-to-day activities.
Let’s walk through my three-step workflow, and highlight the tools I use, to help make myself more productive and efficient.
Step 1: Disposable Content = Notepad++
Sometimes you need to write something down so you can do something else with it later. Or maybe you need a place to copy something just to end up deleting it later. For me, the tool of choice is Notepad ++. It’s easy to use: it’s lightweight and flexible enough to store one thing for a week (timesheet entry), as well as something completely different for five minutes (copying text from word to strip out the formatting and paste into a CMS).
Notepad is flexible enough to store week-long pieces of content to single sentences for copy and pasting.
Notepad++ has a few key advantages over Notepad. It can make looking at a snippet of code, or sample XML file, a little bit easier. It’s light weight and flexible, and it’s also convenient for situations where you’re viewing XML, JSON, or if you need to strip out stylings from something like Word. You can have multiple tabs open if you need to shift gears suddenly.
Step 2: My Personal Sandbox = Evernote
Evernote is a step above Notepad++ in my process workflow. I generally consider Evernote to be my personal sandbox. Obviously, I keep notes in Evernote, but I also draft content for an initiative outside of a project. I’ll use it for a personal ideation session or to draft a blog post (like this one). The important piece to this is that I know where I can find something. If it’s related to a client, I have a notebook where I keep all client-related notes. If it’s for an initiative, I can easily find where I left off or look back on where we started.
One of the best things about Evernote is that it’s with me on my phone or on my computer. That provides access to the important things that I need to remember and makes them easily accessible. If I’m in a meeting without Wi-Fi, I can pull it up on my phone. If I’m away from my computer, I can still answer questions or write something down so I can remember it. Specifically relating to the workflow, if there is something important that I need to remember, I can find it there and if I took a quick note in Notepad++, then I know to move it over to Evernote for future reference.
Step 3: Publish/External Facing = Confluence
The last step in my workflow is to publish. Whether that’s to internal teams or external clients, at some point you’ll have to share your work. The choice to use Confluence, or a similar tool, is largely an organizational choice and not everyone has that type of tool. When you get to this point, formatting and organization become even more critical. You’re putting content here for a purpose, and your audiences’ ability to find and digest that content is key.
Confluence’s formatting and organization makes it key for sharing information with external audiences.
When writing for yourself, odds are that you can easily decipher your own formatting and language, but when you’re sharing information with your team or with a client, it’s important to think about how your audience is going to view your content. That’s a key benefit to having different steps in your workflow.
When you’re jotting down notes and trying to formulate your ideas, it doesn’t matter as much about how you structure the content and the specific word choices. What does matter is when you get to a point where you need to share your ideas with someone else. At the same time, don’t wait too long to share with the group—there is a point of diminishing returns on your edits, so publish early and publish often. If you have updates that need to be communicated, don’t wait to share them with the group.
Regardless of the tools you use or steps you take, developing a workflow allows you to be aware of the type of content you’re working with and understand how to better organize it. Whether prioritizing day-t0-day activities or chipping away at a massive project, workflows will help you stay efficient in your work.