A process is a planned sequence of related activities. This clearly means that a process is not the activities themselves, but it also means that a process is not an “overall activity” which we’ll call operation, but instead, a plan of activities that have something to do with each other.
Going to buy groceries is an operation, it is composed of many activities, checking the pantry, the fridge, and the cabinets, driving to the store, writing the shopping list, and if you are anything like my wife, finding the best bargains are all activities that are part of the operation, but the process is the planning of these activities.
Not every activity is part of an operation. When I go into the kitchen and grab a snack in between meals, I didn’t plan it, and it is not preceded or followed by any other related activity. It is typically a bowl of cheeze–it’s and nothing more.
Activities are very specific. We push a button, we type a blog post, and we scan the Twinkies at the self-register… scratch that, we scan the gansitos at the self-register (now we are talking!), and we place the clothes in the washer machine (This is the point where my wife gives me the look and asks: “What exactly do you mean by we?”).
Many of us spend a great deal of time and effort trying to be more efficient in our activities. That is okay, but it produces poor results. Why? For two reasons:
- Motivation: People need motivation. Unless you are an alien reading my blog from another galaxy (which would be pretty cool despite how dumb it sounds), you and I need motivation. When we attempt to improve on an activity and we see little progress, we get discouraged and lose motivation. That little circle that spins with the word “buffering” when you try to watch the “Goats Screaming like Humans 2, Super Cut edition” video (the first one was better, but I have heard the book was even better), is there so you can see some progress going on, and stay motivated to watch it. Without seeing progress, we lose motivation.
- Activities are efficient: Most activities are already efficient (didn’t I just say that?), there is not much you can improve to washing a pan, brushing your teeth, or changing your clothes in the morning. Yes, perhaps there are little things here and there you can do, but not enough to affect the entire day.
Instead, I suggest that you look at the processes behind these. It is not easy, it requires a shift in our thinking process itself, but it is worth it. Take some time and think of the steps in the plan instead of the activities. What activities can be done simultaneously? What activities can we simply ignore and yet achieve the same results?
Think of what causes you to do certain activities that are not productive, identify that problem and do something about it. This form of thinking will let you see a clearer picture of everything you do, and will allow you to have a better idea of how you can manage your life more efficiently.
Looking at my life as processes that can be improved, rather than as isolated activities has been a valuable tool for me and I hope it helps you just as much as it has helped me.
(This photo is for my reader in another galaxy and anyone else who doesn’t yet know what gansitos are)