I love saving time, almost as much as I love saving money. Sometimes, in order to save time, you have to spend some of it. Today’s Frugal Business Secret is about how to save time by spending a little time creating Rules of Thumb.
What’s a Rule of Thumb?
Some people call them SOP’s (standard operating procedures), or documenting the process. If someone asked me, “What’s a Rule of Thumb?” I would say,
“A rule of thumb is a written description of things you do on a regular basis. Having this written process description saves you time.”
And we all know that “Time is Money.”
Benefits of Rules of Thumb
Gets it out of mind. Any way I can avoid having to think through something means I don’t forget things.
Minimizes errors. I sometimes forget the details. In this case, I have to keep reminding myself about certain steps in the process. Errors cost time, and the less time it takes to do the routine blog tasks, the more time I have to be creative in my writing.
Reduces stress. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night wondering, “What was I thinking? Did I really say that?
Allows handing off the process to someone else. I’ve been thinking about just doing the writing for my blog and turning it over to an assistant who will add images and SEO and get it ready to hit print. Having a checklist means I don’t have to worry that something will be missed.
Creating Rules of Thumb for an Office
What’s the difference between Rules of Thumb and SOP’s? Not much. They both involve processes that are written down. The only difference I can see is that SOP’s are used in businesses with several employees, so everyone can be doing things the same (standard) way.
Last spring I worked in a dental office helping the office manager with SOP’s. The dentist wanted to cross-train employees so they could fill in for each other. She decided the best way to do that was to create “how to” sheets for each of the front office processes.
Over the course of several months, I developed a simple form that was designed specifically for the office and the assistant (Nicole) and I worked on several processes. The dentist wanted processes for answering the phone, accepting credit cards and dental credit, and making appointments. I added SOP’s for opening and closing the office and few more.
Nicole would create a draft procedure and we would go through it together, me being the “idiot” who had no idea how to do the series of tasks. The next time we met, we would run through the process again briefly to make sure it was good.
When we had all the SOP’s done, they were laminated and put on a large ring, so anyone working in the front office could grab them and start on a task.
Creating Rules of Thumb for Online Processes
Creating a Rule of Thumb is easy. I’ll use my blog posting process (see image) as an example.
Open up a blank note in Evernote. I like using this app because I don’t have to press “save” and it’s easy to find using a tag. I tag all my Rules of Thumb as “ROT” and the general title. In this case, I tagged “blog.” If I want to make changes, I just go into the note. I use two screens, so I always have a copy of the note on one screen as I work on the other.
Go through the process deliberately – creating a blog post, in this case – thinking about everything that must be included, and jotting it down.
Include notes inserts that will go into each iteration of whatever it is you’re working on. For example, I use the same closing in all my blog posts, so I’ve added it here so I can just cut and paste it in.
When Rules of Thumb Make Sense
- When you have a discrete process, like my blog post, a Rule of Thumb is perfect. That includes online processes.
- When a process is run the same way every time, you can see how the Rule of Thumb helps. For example, an office
Rules of Thumb are great for offices where you have several people who might be doing a task, and you want to assure it gets done the same way every time, as in the dental office situation above.
Rules of Thumb – A Work in Progress
Creating Rules of Thumb is not a one-time thing. Sometimes it takes me a while to work my way through the process while taking notes. Often, I forget something and I have to go back and add it in. Or, I discover something new that will improve my blog (specifically, ranking on Google).
Including Rules of Thumb in an Employee Handbook
If you have a larger organization, you might want to combine your Rules of Thumb into what I call an employee handbook. This document includes descriptions of employee benefits, time off, policies (like smoking, non-solicitation, and non-discrimination), and all of those SOP’s. It’s in one place – maybe online – where everyone can see it.
It’s Easy to Get Started
You’ll find that the more you Rules of Thumb you create, the easier it will be to do them.
1. Find a way to capture each RoT so you can retrieve it easily.
2. Work through the process you want to create, taking notes as you go along.
3. Test the process, making changes.
4. Revise as necessary.
5. Save TIME and MONEY in your Frugal Business!
Here’s to the success of your Frugal Business!