227: Why You Need a Better Workflow Instead of a New Tool

227: Why You Need a Better Workflow Instead of a New Tool


In this episode of the Grad School Femtoring podcast, I talk about the importance of having a better workflow instead of a new tool for improved productivity.

I also share an example of my personal workflow which is a mix of using an online calendar and tasks management system in a way that honors my shifting energy levels.

I stress the importance of not overcomplicating tasks, finding a balance in calendaring and task management frameworks, and focusing on the underlying problem, not merely the symptoms.

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227: Why You Need a Better Workflow Instead of a New Tool


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring podcast. This is your host, Doctora Yvette. Today I'm gonna be talking about why you need a better workflow instead of a new tool. I'm talking about this because I've noticed time and time again. Among the folks that reach out to me who need support with their productivity and with setting up an effective and simple system that a lot of times they're coming to me thinking that I have that magic tool, that I'm gonna introduce them to a set of tools in my toolbox that are gonna transform their life, and that is the tool that is going to fix their problem, not necessarily looking at

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The underlying root of the problem for some people that underlying root of the problem is that they don't have an effective workflow. Now, if you're hearing me talk about this [00:01:00] and thinking, what is a workflow? What do you mean by setting up systems? If you're not familiar with terminology related to project management, for instance, I highly recommend that you check out my episode on Project Management 1 0 1.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I will link it in the show notes, but for today's short episode, I thought I would focus on workflow and . Let me talk about workflow and define it, and then I'm also gonna talk about standard operating procedures because I feel like I can't talk about one without the other. So when I'm talking about a workflow,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm talking about the series of steps involved for you to execute a project from beginning to end. So it's a sequence of events. It's a sequence of tasks that you do to get yourself from task initiation to task completion. And why I say that workflow [00:02:00] reminds me of standard operating procedures because in my opinion, standard operating procedures.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Are the documentation of a workflow. So SOPs are documented. Step-by-step instructions that let you know how to get from point A to point B. Now, you, it doesn't make sense to create an SOP for every single thing in your life. That would be too much, but . I've said this before and I'm gonna say it again. If there's something that you do regularly, that you do more than three times and involves more than three steps, you might wanna set up a standard operating procedure.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You might wanna document the steps that you go to get from beginning. To end, I have SOPs for certain aspects of the work that I do. So for example, with the podcast, I have a standard operating procedure that I've documented. It's a checklist [00:03:00] of all the steps that I go through to get the podcast from.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The moment now where right now I'm recording it, two, the moment where it's finally in your hands, you're able to listen to it and I've notified you about it. Let me take a look at this checklist, 'cause I have it printed out here. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. There's 15 steps involved for me to get from point A to point B.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So from beginning to end and it roughly takes me anywhere from . Two to four hours. Yep. Every week. Just to get you an episode or two every week. I know this because I've documented it. I know this because I've done it multiple times and because I have a pretty good workflow now that I've done it so many times and I've documented it, it feels really

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Easy. I might say it feels really [00:04:00] smooth, and that's what I think that folks are looking for when they're reaching out to me asking for help. They say, I'm struggling with time management. They say, I feel overwhelmed, or like I'm all over the place, but really is they're struggling with or they, it's not always this, it's not, this is not always the case.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Uh, but it sometimes is related to the workflow process. So how do you improve your workflow? One of the things that I said is documenting it, creating a standard operating procedure, and then updating it over time as you change and improve that system, you know, as you change and improve the steps from point A to point B, that's one way.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The other thing is to, uh, do, an audit of all the things that you do. You can do a time audit. You can do an [00:05:00] energy audit. This is something I help folks with. I I have these exercises where you . Complete a time management audit. You complete an energy management audit to figure out, okay, where are you?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: What is the thing that's taking up the most time? What is the thing that's taking up the most energy? And then from there, we're trying to think about, okay, so what are the steps involved to get you from point A, point A to point B? And where do you run into resistance? Where do you run into issues? I can give you an example, you know for me is

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: One of the things that comes up for me with regard to the podcast or with regard to my business, is that I've ran into resistance with, , analysis paralysis. So with the podcast, you know, one other thing I'm trying to think about, what part of the podcast did I run into resistance [00:06:00] with? in the past.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I think I overcomplicated things for myself by telling myself I need to create multiple flyers for every single episode that I then upload and share on social media. And now I've simplified it. I'm like, maybe I'll do one per episode . Sometimes I don't even do any, sometimes I just release an episode and I don't post about it on social media because I know I've got folks who subscribe and who regularly listen to it.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And I also know that if I don't get to this episode, the next episode, I can always post a flyer and folks can play catch up if they miss the previous episode. So now, instead of having that task of . Oh my gosh. I have to create multiple flyers, get in the way of me putting out more content and more episodes that might be helpful to my listeners.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I, I don't, I don't run into that resistance anymore. Or at least not as much 'cause I don't give myself that pressure. And , you know, [00:07:00] another thing that comes up a lot with folks and their workflow is, , sometimes it's. , their calendaring system or their task manager. So if it's their calendar, it's that they're only making time for

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: mandatory meetings or classes and not making time for other things that they need to get done for themselves or for their study time or for the projects that are really meaningful to them. Sometimes folks go the other way where they're just over calendaring themselves, where every single minute is scheduled and then they don't give themselves any

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Any wiggle room, they don't give themselves any breaks, and that's a recipe for burnout. So it's about finding that middle ground that feels good for you. For some people having [00:08:00] every half hour documented and scheduled on their calendar, it feels good for them if that's you. Keep doing what works for you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: For some people having . Lots of, , gaps in their schedule, helps them,, and they only include the things that are hard deadlines, and they feel pretty good with their time management to meet those deadlines without having to schedule out every single minute of their day. So you. You gotta figure out what works for you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Sometimes you need a little bit of extra help by working with a coach, by talking to a friend, by doing some reflection, by working on your own audit, your time management audit. Do what you have to do to think back and to identify some of the issues that are coming up for you. You know, if it's calendaring, if it's your task manager.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: One thing that I see that comes up a lot that gets in the way of people having an effective workflow. is that they find a task [00:09:00] management software and they're like, oh, this is the one that's gonna help me and change my life. And they'll pull up something like Trello and then they'll create a million columns.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Of course, this is an exaggeration, but they'll have multiple columns for a bunch of projects, so many columns that they can't, they can't even see them all on their screen. So then . They can't see everything that they've got going on, or they have multiple boards, one for each different aspect of their life, and they struggle to go from switching boards from one board to the next to the next.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: They can't see . Everything. They don't have an aerial view of everything they have going on in their life. So if that's going on, I'm always like, okay, how can we simplify it? How can we make it so that you can see almost everything all in one place, all within your screen? So it's figuring out like what feels good for you.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I can tell you what I do, but I'll tell you what I do and what, what my workflow is and it might [00:10:00] not work for you. You know? Actually, I'll just tell you. I'll tell you what my . My workflow looks like in terms of my calendaring and my task management. I use Google Calendar and I use Kanbanflow as my tools. So those are my tools.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: My workflow is anything that comes up that I know that I need to get done. Any new tasks that comes up, goes in my Kanban. But my Kanban board is just one board for everything, and I have about five columns, no more than that. So everything has to fit in these columns of what I need to do this week, next week, this month in the future.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So actually, I said five, right? So it's, I'm not even looking at it right now. I'm trying to remember. It's a column on what I need to do today. What I need to do this week, what I need to do next week, and uh, what I need to do this month and later. So those are the five columns. I can see everything that I've got going on, what I need to get [00:11:00] done on my task manager, and then from my task manager.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That task will. Uh, sometimes go on my calendar and I say sometimes 'cause I don't always say work on X and write that down on my calendar. Instead, I have time blocks and so I know that in any given time block, like my podcasting time block for instance, I'm gonna go back to my task manager and see what are my tasks related to my podcasts that I need to get done.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That's it. So. . Task manager keeps track of all the fine details. My calendar gives me more of a broader sense of the things that I need to get done. I don't write down every single task on my calendar because that would overwhelm me. But I do have time blocks. I have time blocks for when my clients can meet with me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I have time blocks for when I can do other types of work that's required for me to, you know. To make a living to survive and [00:12:00] thrive in this world. Um, that's my workflow. It's super simple. At the beginning of each day, I check my task manager, I check my calendar, I figure out what are my top priorities for the day, based on again, what's on my task manager, what's on my calendar, and then I work accordingly.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And by working accordingly, I also kind of had to listen to. My energy levels and how I'm feeling and , that may mean doing more or less on any given day. This is why I don't schedule out every single minute of my day and say, this is when I'm gonna do this task. This is when I'm gonna do that task. No, I have, my calendar in time blocks so that if I'm having a rough day, maybe I do bare minimum, but I still touch that, that time block, um, material.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: whatever I'm prioritizing in that time block, maybe I'm having a pretty good day, high spoon day, and I'll [00:13:00] do a lot more stuff during that time block. It depends. I have to give myself that flexibility. I have to give myself wiggle room. Um, so that's what works for me might be listening to me and thinking that would not work for, for me at all.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That's okay. That's why with the folks that I work with, I actually . Do share tools with them and teach them how to use tools if they ask me to, but it's not my standard go-to, to say, here's how I do things. Nope. Instead, my standard how to, um, is let's take a look at what you have going on. Let's do an audit of what you've been doing, and let's identify the pain points and go from there.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: . . That's all I wanted to say for today. I wanted you to be more mindful about your workflow, about how do you go from task initiation to task completion? . And what are the struggles and if workflow is one of them, think about [00:14:00] what is one thing you can do to simplify your workflow so that you run into less struggles.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Alright, y'all, I hope you have a good rest of your week, and I will catch you all on Friday.

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