Developing processes to replace routine actions takes considerably longer than just doing the action any individual time.
The first crack at developing processes will generally be unclear, run poorly, and be missing serious amounts of stuff you take for granted, but which are non-obvious for someone other than yourself.
(Heck, it'd probably be difficult for you to run your own first version of the process verbatim without improvising.)
At some point, you have to develop processes to move forwards. If you keep doing the same repeatable work once you've stopped improving at it, you can't move your time up the ladder of value towards higher productivity, higher creativity, and more impactful actions.
But most people don't factor that; they look at raw short-term efficiency, and making processes is almost never a smart short-term efficiency. Long-term? Absolutely. Mid-term? Possibly. Short-term? Probably not.
The right time to do this, of course, is before you're booked 110% and totally overwhelmed. Once you see your commitments at 80% to 90% of your time, it's a good alert to start freeing that time back up.
But it takes some discipline, since it's never the most urgent thing to do. And that's why most people don't do it, and wind up getting stuck.
Great and timely post Sebastian. As I'm pushing myself to GET to that 110% booking I'm starting to see the cracks in the armor of my business; areas where I need to add process to not implode once I hit that level of maximum capacity.
Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:
Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall
Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…
It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.
I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.
We humans are a strange bunch. Being equipped with the miracle of verbal and written communication, we get a 'pass' on something the rest of the animal kingdom relies on for survival: Speaking and listening in actions, not words.
It's taken me a long time to realize how poorly my action-related communication syncs to my verbal communication. I grew up believing it was OK to say one thing, but to do another. Many of us do. It's easy to fabricate worlds where we say one thing but do something completely contrary, and as a society few people call us out on the disparity. I'm not sure why this is. The best reason I've come up with is that few of us are tuned into "listening to actions, not words" enough to notice it.
As I've slowly become aware of the disparity, the main reason I've often failed to achieve parity between my spoken commitments and my actions is that it's a really, really hard skill to master. It takes meaningful, consistent effort to 'say as you do, and do as you say'. Life is full of small opportunities to massage the effect of one's actions with a stream of words that cover up the true meaning of the underlying actions. Our spoken (and written -- but mainly spoken, since it's more extemporaneous) communication acts as a type of elbow grease that makes interactions between humans run more smoothly -- or so we think.
Examples are plentiful and commonplace: