Do you like to do routine tasks? Well, I don’t. I hate to do something twice. I hate to do the same thing over and over again. And I hate it to start from zero again. Don’t worry, this is not a hate post. I will stop ranting here.
The point is just that there are lots of recurring tasks in our day-to-day life like the household chores, mowing the lawn, running errands, paying bills etc… And all these tasks need to be done and you need to do them regularly every day, every week, every month or maybe every year.
Sure, there are people who like daily routines. It’s easy. You’re in your comfort zone. You don’t have to think too much about it. You can put yourself on ‘auto pilot’. You can listen to music, or depending on what kind of task it is, you can watch TV while you’re doing your routine tasks. It’s a way of making it more fun than it is.
But even then I don’t like these tasks, so I’ve always been looking for ways to avoid them. Let me be clear, this is not about being lazy, procrastinating or letting tasks pile up so you don’t see the end of it anymore.
This article is about optimising your day-to-day processes, so your necessary tasks get done and at the same time you have more time left for your interests, passions and projects. Sounds good, right?
What recurring processes can be optimised?
First of all, let’s agree on what a process is: A process is a series of consecutive actions, steps or tasks to achieve a particular end result. Now that we know that, a recurring process is simply a process that needs to be performed on a regular basis.
Let’s look at some examples of what these recurring processes can be:
- Food and drinks: choosing a menu, running errands, cooking, washing the dishes and putting the dishes back in the cupboard
- Your morning routine: Get up, get a shower, get dressed, meditate, have breakfast etc.
- Your evening routine: Brush teeth, take a shower, put on pyjamas, read a book, sleep
- Money management: Money coming in and going out of your bank account, follow-up of it, get and file your bank statements etc.
- Keeping the house clean: arranging, dusting, cleaning, getting rid of trash
- Maintaining the garden: mowing the lawn, weeding, watering the plants
- Maintaining the car: fill the petrol tank, wash the car, check oil, get oil changed etc.
In general we are talking about maintenance tasks. In the first place, you need to ‘maintain’ yourself (sleep, eat, drink and keep yourself healthy). Secondly, you need to maintain your environment (the house, the garden, your office etc.) and you need to ‘maintain’ your money level.
How to optimise your ‘daily’ processes
Of course with ‘daily’ I don’t literally mean every day. I mean regular, periodical, recurring processes and tasks. Now is the big question: How can we optimise these so we are spending less time and energy on them and have more time left for the things we love to do?
Let me tell you in advance: There are no miracles. I hope you’re not too disappointed by that. Nevertheless, there are six basic things you can do that can have a big impact:
- Eliminate tasks that you shouldn’t be doing
- Ask yourself if you should really do the tasks that you are doing or are you doing things that don’t really need to be done? Example: Ironing bath towels or sweaters while you can just fold them.
- Or, are you spending a lot of time trying to find out how something works, while you could just ask someone else and get the answer much quicker? Example: Spending a few hours trying to find out how to install a software while you can ask your 15 year old nephew who can explain it to you in two minutes.
- Streamline your processes
- Are you doing tasks in the right order? Example: Already grilling the meat while you haven’t boiled the potatoes yet. Boiling potatoes takes longer than grilling meat, so should be started first.
- Are you too impatient to finish one step and so you already go on with the next one. The result is that you need to return to that previous step to update, sometimes even undo, what you’ve done and then redo the task correctly. Example: You start writing a letter while you don’t have all the information yet. When you get the information, you see that it is completely different than what you’ve expected and now you need to write a different letter.
- Do things go from one place to another until it finally arrives in the right place? Example: You are tidying up a place and you put the things that don’t need to be in that room ‘temporarily’ at the door of that room. From there someone eventually picks it up to put it downstairs. From the hallway downstairs it goes to the kitchen and then hopefully someone takes it to the room where it belongs. This is doing the same job four times. You will gain a lot of time when putting the things immediately in the right place.
- Use the right methods
- Are your methods effective? Things done manually take more time than those done with a machine or a computer. Example: Putting screws to a piece of wood goes faster with an electrical screwdriver than with a manual one.
- Use the right tools
- Are the tools that you are using the right ones?Example: Ever tried to open a bottle with a crown cork on the border of the table or with a stone, a knife or a screwdriver?
- Automate where you can
- Look where you can have machines or computers involved in your tasks and look if it can be automated. Example: You don’t have to mow your lawn anymore. There is a robot that can do this job and it’s not expensive. Same for vacuum cleaning.
- Delegate where you can
- If you have already done all the above, then there’s just one other way to get your tasks done without doing them yourself and that is to see if someone else can do it. See who can help you out, by doing you a favour, via bargaining or you paying them for their help.
Next time you need to carry out a recurring task or process, think about these optimisation tactics. Use them in the order of the list above. And afterwards, enjoy the time you have gained doing so. Do more of what makes you happy. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?