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The workflow training story of Elena Tavella,

Ph.D, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen

Who wouldn’t like to achieve more and work less? This is what Elena Tavella from Copenhagen University thought to herself before joining our workshop. However, she was not convinced it could be done. This is a very personal story of one our workshop participants. It is a story that we hear a lot and frankly one of the reasons why we keep at it. We will let Elena tell her story.

Right after the workshop I cleaned my desk and emptied my in-box reducing my mails to one. I immediately felt happier because I implemented something I had learned at the workshop, but I was not totally convinced that I would see an immediate effect on my work efficiency. I was quite sure that the papers lying on my desk and the mails in my in-box would not have been a big distraction. Soon, however, I realized that previously every time I took my eyes from the PC I would see the papers on my desk and be reminded of other tasks to be carried out, thus loosing focus on the actual task I was involved in.

The result that Elena experienced, shortly after trying out some of the tips and tricks she got from the workshop was an eye opener for her.

Now that my desk is clean there is nothing to see or remind of work. Of course, to have any real effect the desk needs to be cleaned every day, even several times a day. I also realized that every time I was checking my mails I would have a ‘quick’ look at old mails that I had probably read several times before. Now there are no mails to read, only the new, unread ones. Having less distractions on the desk and in the in-box makes me feel like I am actually working with focus, more concentrated and faster. I wonder if it is just a feeling or am I actually working more efficiently? The most important thing is that I have made small changes to my routine and I feel much happier about my work than I did before.

Elena, like most of us, is motivated by the feeling of completing tasks, but her experience with training her workflow goes beyond that. This is what she noticed.

What I like most is the feeling when I can delete completed activities, I feel and see that I have actually done something. I also enjoy updating the lists weekly and daily because I get the impression I can organize my time and tasks the way I want, allowing for flexibility and last minute tasks to come up. Through the lists I am aware of which tasks I want and need to carry out, and by shifting the tasks around I can change my routine, thus making daily work more exciting.

Elena also speeded up her completion of tasks. It is not everyone who gets to this point, but many do even if it sometimes takes a little longer. However, this is not the real benefit. The true bonus is how it frees your mind. This is how it made Elena feel.

When I attended the workshop I had a long list of tasks to be carried out; weeks later my list is half the length. Might be that it is just a coincidence because I delivered some deadlines; or maybe now I am working more efficiently. Importantly, I feel that I can have a rest at work without having a bad conscience and prepare for the next months and the activities I have in the pipeline; earlier I was constantly looking for new activities to start working on as soon as possible. Writing tasks down frees my mind. The task I need to carry out is on the list, therefore I don’t need to constantly think of it but will come back to it when I am done with the current task and take a look at the list. Putting down tasks on the list gives me the feeling that I WILL start working on and complete the task. Following the list gives me a sense of trust in my performance and confidence that I will succeed in carrying out the tasks I need and/or want to perform.

Many people come to the conclusion that they need to master certain mechanism to be in control and have the right perspective on their tasks at hand. Elena got to that conclusion as well. The journey for a her is still e head of her, but she has already experienced a lot and gotten some quick wins.

For me, the most useful mechanism is breaking down assignments into smaller tasks. First I was wondering how to do that and thought it would be difficult to implement. Then a colleague from Canada asked me to carry out a bigger assignment and I broke it down into small and very simple, almost trivial tasks. Those were tasks that seemed to be carried out easily within a limited amount of time, and I wrote them down on a to-do list. Step by step I carried out each task, deleting them from the list upon finalization, and soon I was done with the entire assignment. It felt strange to be done so fast and with little effort, I was even worried the assignment would not meet my colleague’s expectations. Not only did I work efficiently on the assignment in terms of time and effort, but also my colleague was very satisfied with my work. Since it felt so good to break down assignments I kept on doing it for other assignments as well, each time realizing how much faster and more focused I would complete them. Breaking down assignments helps me know exactly what I should do in a specific moment and what I should do next, giving me a feeling of overview of my work and confidence that I will succeed. Interestingly, now that I am writing down steps for completing assignments and deleting them from the list when done, I feel I have so much time for myself.

Now you have heard Elena’s story. Her story is very honest and of course we are very thankful that Elena has decided to share it with us. We hope the story has inspired you as much as it has us to keep doing what we do and help people. We would love to create the same experience for you, your colleagues and your team. Feel free to contact us and let us discuss your possibilities.

We are looking forward to getting to know you.