Written processes bad had a bad reputation in decades past. They have the reputation of being time-consuming and repressing creativity and innovation. Why write everything down the way it’s supposed to be done instead of allowing someone to figure it out for themselves?
Well, if that were true, then why was something as formulaic as Elizabeth II”s state funeral as beautiful and as moving as it was? Most of the procedures enacted during the transition of power were centuries old. And yet people around the world tuned in to watch them.
Say what you will about the institution of monarchy and the British Royal Family, but I think the past week and a half have done more to show the positivity of written plans and processes than anything else has in the past 20 years.
Written processes allow you to feel your emotions when you are overwhelmed or overtired.
We’ve all been there: it’s 5 pm and you still have at least 5 more things you need to accomplish before you can call it a day. This is true whether you are a 9 to 5 employee, an independent contractor (like me), or if you are a stay-at-home parent. What happens when you feel you cannot go on without having a good cry?
Well, here’s where those pesky written processes come in handy: you have your next steps written. which means you don’t really need to think about how to perform your next task: you just have to follow the instructions. If most of your tasks are set procedures, this means you can still have that good cry while getting on with the work of the day.
We can’t all retreat into the bathtub in the middle of the working day.
I have bawled my eyes out while doing routing Excel spreadsheets before. Why? If there’s no deep thinking involved and I have all the steps laid out, then I can allow myself to feel my emotions. And following something set in stone is itself soothing.
Written processes mean good things for your mental health. If you’re in the middle of a mental health episode but cannot afford to take the time off, having written procedures in place gives you at least a handrail of sorts until you can get your head sorted out.
Think of it like a mental health emergency kit for your job or business. Goodness only knows we all need that these days.
Delegating work is more successful when your employee or contractor knows what to do.
Want to scale your business? How much of what needs to be done is written down for everyone to follow and how much is passed down orally? If your business currently has an oral tradition for its procedures, then you probably need to think about changing that.
The oral tradition is a wonderful thing–it’s how we have most of the world’s mythology after all. And it’s a vital part of some traditional cultures. But in business, it can work against you instead of with you if you are trying to scale up. Hire a new employee but have little time to train their first day?
Orally transmitted processes can differ from trainer to trainer, which can cause frustration for your new hire. Not to mention there’s almost always something left out somewhere. Or the new hire gets so overwhelmed they forget a vital piece of information just when they need it the most.
Written procedures can at least help them get started. Really well-written procedures will ideally give them everything they need upfront so they can take the plunge and get to work immediately. This means you can have more peace of mind. Hopefully.
If you’re one of those overly anxious types, then you need slightly more than just written procedures in place. You need a good cup of tea. Possibly a cookie.
Writing processes helps with continuity—the real mainstay of any organization.
Take a page out of the British monarchy’s book: continuity is king. No, not the first-born son, or in the case of George VI, the second-born son, but continuity.
If you already have a process in place whatever happens, everyone knows to an extent what happens next. The Queen is dead, Long Live the King. Different person, same office, same duty of service, the same business of the day. Is it still exhausting? Absolutely.
But life is exhausting enough anyway, and if you’re exhausted just trying to have a written plan in place, think of how much more exhausted everyone will be–not to mention stressed–when there’s nothing written and the business has to operate as usual.
And, if you care about the people who rely on your organization for their livelihoods, this is exactly what you don’t want. You want them to pick up, carry on, and move the business forward as if you were still there. You don’t want them to suddenly go to pieces.
I’m an administrative professional. I know exactly what I’m talking about here. Who do you think ends up having to deal with the problems which arise when no process is written down and the person who knows how everything should go is no longer there?
Yep, the good old-fashioned AA or VA.
Processes go beyond business; they’re part of life.
Written processes aren’t just for your business. Planning is just part of life. We always think of planning in terms of finances, retirement, career, etc. But what about other things? Mental health processes can help when you’re in a depressive episode or are having suicidal thoughts.
Having a process in place for if you have a medical emergency, or if you need to suddenly take care of a family member, is also helpful. Think of it as planning ten steps ahead so that you don’t have to think in the moment. Let’s face it, if you’re staring down a depressive episode or are on your way to the emergency room, you don’t really have the wherewithal to think clearly.
So, plan ahead and write everything down. Processes are good for your mental health, your business, and your life.
What makes a good process? That is a question we’ll be answering on Wednesday.
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