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If it is broken, why don’t you fix it?

How to eliminate broken workflows while staying mentally focused

3 min readOct 23, 2014


A lot of times I find myself repeating the same thing over and over again.

It goes like this:

Something is not working the way it’s supposed to. And although I realise there’s a problem I’m more tempted to take the “easy left” over the “hard right”, because it is the path I’ve always taken in the past. It takes slightly longer, but it is also more comfortable and free of obstacles.

Sounds familiar?

Well, I’m sure there are plenty of things that you’re doing many times per day in a suboptimal way, but you’re most likely not aware of how much time you’re actually wasting because you’re so focused on the actual outcome instead of the process.

What I have realised is that instead, I should more often just give up resistance to my routine, stop for a moment and become aware of what I’m doing poorly.

A common broken workflow

I have several Google accounts, each enabling access to a different set of websites, applications and documents. In the past I constantly logged in and out of these accounts to get access to different assets. I realise now this was a complete waste of time.

Don’t dig into rabbit holes…

Now, I could have solved this problem in the moment, one random day at work (and figure out how to create user accounts in my browser). But getting distracted like this always bears the risk of getting sidetracked by tiny little bits and pieces and going down the rabbit hole of something completely unrelated. I’m so focused on the actual outcome of the task, I leave this problem aside. Like I’m operating with tunnel vision.

That’s very efficient on the one hand, but most of the issues I come across also get ignored until they pop up again. That can be very frustrating, because as we all know, we shouldn’t ever repeat the same mistake again.

…hop over them instead!

So I started creating a list of things where I would put all the nagging issues that I come across, and that I don’t want to spend a single minute on until I have eliminated some more important tasks.

My troubleshooting approach

It is a plain simple Google document, with the following four columns:

  • The problem
  • What am I going to do in order to solve it?
  • What am I going to do to not repeat the same mistake again?
  • Has it been eliminated forever?

Now a technique or methodology is only as good as how often it’s being used. But to my surprise I add stuff to “The problem” column almost every single day.

This includes trivial things such as being unprepared for a meeting, figuring out a better way to manage my calendar, or doing a particular task (such as the one mentioned above) more efficiently.

The weekly resolution

Once a week I empty my box of accumulated complaints, dedicate some time to each unresolved item and fill out the other columns as well. It’s like an inbox that is in input mode during the week for me to dump random stuff, and that I only actively process once a week on a Saturday or Sunday.

The reason for processing this list during the weekend is that you’re not getting swamped by everyday responsibilities. Actually, the more relaxed you are, the better results you can expect, because you’ll have a fresh perspective on everything and it’s more likely that you come up with original, smart ideas.

The other benefit that I’ve found apart from constantly improving my daily workflow is that I can completely dump all the mental clutter that piles up during the week into this document. Like this I can be sure that my brain won’t be nagging me anymore, and I free up headspace to be more focused at work — knowing that everything is going to be resolved by a more relaxed, creative person.

Originally published at hanno.co on October 23, 2014.



Marcel Kalveram

Senior Product Engineer (Web · Mobile · AI) - I love working at the intersection between engineering and product.