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A workflow is a sequence of activities that has been thoughtfully devised to make a job easy and efficient. A workflow can involve the entire production process or be a sequence used by one individual. A simple workflow will often be the workflow used by an individual for a limited task, or the workflow of a very contained project in which several people are involved. While some simple workflows are designed to employ technology, others are employed by people without computers or other such devices. When designing a simple workflow, there are some basic considerations to reflect on.
One of the key decisions about a simple workflow is whether to use parallel activity or linear activity. For example, suppose you have a small business with five employees and have a mailing to get out and no fancy equipment. You could have a linear process in which the first employee stuffs the envelope, the second employee seals it, the third affixes the address label, the fourth applies a stamp, and the fifth stacks it in the appropriate mailing tray. In this process, each person’s work is streamlined because he or she only has to think about one thing, however each piece of mail is handled by five different people. In a parallel process, all five employees would simultaneously be carrying out the sequence — stuffing, sealing, labeling, stamping, and stacking, but each piece of mail would be handled by only one person.
Sometimes, taking some slightly complex steps in advance can contribute to creating a simple workflow. For example, a macro is a single computer instruction that triggers a sequence of events. By taking the time to set up a macro, a complicated sequence that must be repeated can be greatly simplified.
Using a layout editor to change the mapping for a computer input device — whether a mouse, keyboard, tablet, or stylus — is another possibility to consider in creating a simple workflow. For example, one could temporarily change the buttons on a mouse to map them to shortcuts needed to carry out a particular task, making it unnecessary to go back and forth from keyboard to mouse to keyboard to mouse. Alternatively, one might create new keyboard shortcuts that would allow one to control all action from the keyboard and avoid the mouse for a particular task.
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