How to capture your process

I know that we’re all creative and every project is different … except they’re not.  The concept and design of every project is different BUT the framework for the process can and should be reused and refined as much as possible.

With Australia in lockdown there is a lot of uncertainty around projects and workload.  Many of you are working from home and I know that while there is a lull in project work, discussion is turning to taking some time to work on your business.  So, although being stuck inside on your own is not great and things are stressful right now, lets keep busy and start documenting your workflow.

Before I started, capturing my process was a bit overwhelming.  I know I’m not alone and plenty of people are putting it off because it seems like such a huge task.  If you’ve got children at home at the moment, it is still really achievable – you can easily use small blocks of time to review individual sections.  There isn’t anything in this post that is particularly difficult or a secret hack for getting it done.  I’m pleased to say, it’s really not as bad as it seems and you should just get started.

Here is what I did.  I hope it gives you some perspective and perhaps a starting point if you’re doing the same.

I looked at a few different tools to capture my workflow.  There are plenty of digital tools, from complex mind-maps and project management apps, through to good old pen and paper.  I started on pen and paper, because I tend to think best when I’ve got a pencil in my hand but quickly became frustrated by running out of space as I added tasks on top of each other.

After testing quite a few project management programs I settled on Asana as my documentation tool.  I have been using Asana as a to-do list and since I’m a list kind of person, decided it was a good fit for this process.  I wanted to document a full scope project as the base template for future projects that would become a ‘shopping list’ of tasks for any smaller scope project.

Asana is a powerful project management tool which I’m completely underutilising for lists.  It does have great features like sub-tasks, notes, descriptions and integrations with the time tracker Harvest.  In the future I’ll be able to see the work times attached to this shopping list of tasks to help plan workload and project allocations.

I pulled out a bunch of past projects, both successful and challenging, and looked at how they were structured.  I did have a loose process I had been working with but with every project the process would change slightly.  When I was looking through the projects, I tried to define what contributed to the success of some that was missing from others.  I looked at everything from how the design was presented to when information was provided.  From this I ended up with a defined set of stages.  Each of these stages is a clear deliverable package – either a design presentation or set of documents.  These became the SECTION headings in Asana and each has an associated list of tasks.

Under these Sections I got everything out of my head in one go and listed every single task I could think of.  Everything from sending meeting reminders, which consultants need to be involved, what the package includes, right through to invoicing at the end of a stage.  I revisited the list over a couple of weeks, adding layers of additional detail.  It took a few goes to get everything down… all 19 pages of it!!

The idea of documenting this process is to make it repeatable.  Once I had the list there were three questions I asked about each task that would make it possible for anyone to complete it:

Does it break down into smaller tasks?

For example, the task ‘Site Measure’ includes a sub-task list of all the little bits and pieces beyond overall room size that needs to be documented and measured to accurately capture the existing conditions but could be easily forgotten.

Is there a template that could apply to this task?

This could be a canned email response, a drawing or document template or an information sheet.

Are there any documents associated with this task?

This refers to items like consultant documents, meeting minutes, contracts or photos.  If there are, I noted where they should be digitally filed in the project folder.

Creating a clear and detailed workflow gave me a set of templates that I need to create and showed me where I couldn’t articulate my steps as clearly as I would like.  I learned that my process was not clearly defined in the initial contact and pre-briefing stage.  I have since spent time working closely on what I want that experience to be for potential clients and how I can provide them with all the information they need to confidently start their projects.

There are so many details in this process that I can’t write about them all in one post.  If there’s any you’d like to know more about specifically please get in touch.