Some of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to grow our businesses or any area of life are rooted in our processes.
One piece of my business is helping other solopreneurs and freelancers optimize their systems, processes, and productivity. In that context, I’ve seen a lot of patterns emerge related to where and how we get stuck (and I say “we” because I am not immune).
The biggest issues come up around process and outcome.
This article is focused on process. I’ll cover outcomes tomorrow.
Why Process is so Important
Let’s start with a few reasons why process is important.
First, identifying your process is crucial if you want to engage the optimization and maximization strategy for growth.
Second, process the key to leverage and scaleability. When you have a process, you can teach someone else how to do something and hand it over, knowing it can be done the same general way each time. Similarly, you cannot scale something that doesn’t have a process (at least not without a lot of stress).
Third, when you can identify your process, you can see where the bottlenecks and breakdowns are, and target those areas for change.
Where you get stuck in your process
(1) You are unaware of your process
You have a process for everything you do, and especially everything you do more than once. In my experience helping freelancers and solopreneurs — mostly real estate agents, coaches, consultants, and creative professionals — optimize their business systems, the biggest problem I see is that most are unaware of their processes.
(2) You are unaware of all components of your process
Even if you are aware of your process, you are likely unaware of all parts of your process. Most people will have a sense of the big pieces of their process — or at least what the process should be (see #3, below).
When I work with a client to help her optimize her business, one of the first steps of my process is to ask the client to tell me her process. Then I watch what the client does, and I see many more steps that the client didn’t tell me.
Here are the parts of our process that we tend to overlook:
The pre-process process
How do you set up your work space? What are the things you need to have in place, either physically or in your mind, to engage in your process? How do you prime for your work session? What do you do to prepare for a meeting? These are all components of your pre-process process.
The little pieces in the middle
There are a lot of little things you do in your work that are part of your process. It’s important to identify all the steps you take, even if some steps are not areas suited to optimizing and maximizing.
For example, in my real estate business, each time I show a client’s home, I send my client a message with a report on the showing before I leave the home. That’s a part of my process of showing my clients’ homes, which itself is a piece of a bigger process of how I serve my clients.
Comments and questions
Conversations — with others and with yourself — are a part of your process. This includes both verbal and written, including any documents and onboarding materials you send to a client.
- What are the things you say to each client?
- What materials do you send them?
- What questions do you always ask?
- What do you say to yourself before a meeting or walking on stage?
- What questions do you ask yourself?
Every process has moments of pause, rest, or dormancy. In nature, winter is a dormant season, a time when nothing grows. When you cook a turkey, you must allow it to rest after you pull it from the oven, before you carve it. When you bake bread, the dough needs time to rise.
The post-process process
There is always a process after the process.
Dinner doesn’t end with dessert; it ends when the kitchen is cleaned up and the dishes are put away. You vacation ends when you finish unpacking your suitcase and put everything away.
What do you do after the deal closes, or after a project is complete? What’s your process for celebrating or debriefing? What do you do with the files from a project? Do you set a reminder in your calendar to check in with a client in a month or a year?
(3) You don’t follow your process
You might have a process, or you know what it should look like, but you don’t follow it. Everything and everyone is an exception to the rule.
(4) You believe you can’t have a process
Creatives especially like to believe that every project and every client is unique, which leads them to believe that they can’t have a process. I hear that, and for a long time I believed this to be true for my business.
So here is some truth: although your clients and projects may be snowflakes, that doesn’t mean you don’t or can’t have a process.
Mother Nature herself has a process for making snowflakes.
(5) Your process is not aligned with your outcome
You may know your process, you may know all the pieces of it. You may follow it. You may even be aware of all the energetic pieces of it. But if it’s not aligned with your outcome — the result you desire — you will feel stuck.
To be clear, an outcome is different from a goal. For example, you may have a goal to close a certain number of deals a year; an outcome would be to serve your clients in a way that is also nourishing to you and doesn’t put you in constant overwhelm. If your process gets you to the goal without serving your outcome, you will feel unfulfilled. And likely be headed to burnout.
(6) Your process is not aligned with your values
There are many ways to reach an outcome or even a goal. If you place a high value on presence, but your process requires you to churn through clients to meet your goals, you will feel misaligned and stuck.
(7) Your process is not aligned with your strengths
If your process is forcing you to do a lot of things that are not your best work or the best and highest use of your time and talents, you will find yourself feeling devoid of meaning and headed to burnout.
(8) You believe your process is the only process
We limit ourselves when we fall victim to the belief that our way is the way. Your way is a way; not the way. There is always another way.
(9) You don’t consider the energetics of your process
I am using “energetics” in this context as a catch-all for a lot of intangible pieces that most people don’t consider. Any change you make to your process must consider the other dynamics at play beneath the surface. These include:
- communication dynamics
Where do you think you get stuck in your process? Can you think of other ways not mentioned here? Please share them in the comments!