Create Protocols • Cat Morley

If you find yourself getting caught up in everyday mind-numbing and repetitive tasks that keep you so busy that you never have the time to start new projects, then creating protocols is the time-saving solution which will change your work routine and keep your brain free to work on the important things in life.

My workload at Cut Out + Keep has been increasing rapidly over the years, so I'm always trying to find new faster and better ways to deal with tasks. A protocol is a fancy name I've made up for the systems I use to deal with repetitive tasks. They're useful because they remove any thinking, confusion or emotion from menial tasks, making them easier and faster to complete. Even if you feel like you've got a really easy and manageable workload, a protocol can still save time and stress, giving you more time to watch cat videos on the internet.

1. Identify repetitive tasks

To know where to start creating protocols, you have to identify the key tasks and projects that suck up the most of your time. Take a look at your to-do list, inbox and office to see if you can spot any reoccurring or similar tasks that have been mounting up. If it's still not clear, use a timer and notepad to track how you're spending your time at work. Once you've got a list of annoying tasks that eat in to your day, single out the most time consuming one and we'll protocol it. I'm going to start with the piles of books which have been crowding our office.

2. Make a flow chart

A protocol is the process that takes something from a place or way you don't want it to be to the place that you do. Before we can start, we need to work out and list down all of the steps required to take it from the starting position to the end position. In my example, the process starts when a book comes through the letterbox. The desired end result is having the book filled neatly away under the appropriate colour in my rainbow bookcase, but before it can get to that, I need to decide whether we'll feature the book on Cut Out + Keep and take the appropriate steps to make this happen. Here's what my flowchart looks like:

With my flowchart at hand, there's never any confusion over what needs to happen when a book arrives. To make your own, work out all the actions you need to make and decisions you need to ask yourself. Try and keep the decisions to yes and no answers and work out what the appropriate action is for each.

3. Write template messages

I mentioned these briefly in my Organize your Emails article (and I'll write a whole article about them soon), but template messages are essential for dealing with repetitive tasks in a fast and efficient way, that requires no extra thought. Take a look at your flowchart to work out which messages you'll need and write them out now. My flowchart requires two - one to request content and the second to chase it up. Sadly, waiting on materials and having to chase people up is one of the things that keeps us busiest and holds up projects, but don't worry, I'll teach you how to chase people up effectively in a future article too.

4. Enjoy the time you've saved

Now you've got your flowchart and template messages prepared, you'll be able to speed through your backlog of work and you're ready to handle anything new that comes up in seconds without even having to think about it. If a hundred books fall through my letterbox tomorrow, all I have to do is decide which ones to feature and fire off my template messages to request the content. The only thing I have to worry about is squeezing them all in to my bookcase. Use this same technique to create protocols for all of your repetitive tasks and keep your flowcharts and messages at hand. Stick them above your computer until you get to grips with them. The key thing ongoing is that you keep your protocol in mind, so you can deal with new tasks as soon as they come in and limit the time you spend doing repetitive things so you can concentrate on new projects, being creative and things you enjoy.

I hope this has helped you to think about your work in a more efficient way. I'd love to hear the types of tasks you want to create protocols for and how you get on with them. As always, if you'd like any help or have any questions, just leave me a comment!