Is it just me or is anyone else feeling the looming deadline of the end of financial year starting to appear in the distance? It feels as though in the last two weeks alone my inbox has doubled in the amount of emails coming in. Like every EOFY, the speed of business is about to hit full speed as we all dash about trying to get our goals and deadlines met before June 30 ticks over.
It’s certainly one of the busiest times of year to be a business owner!
Thinking about this got me feeling really grateful for some of the business automations I have in place in my business as I wouldn’t be keeping my head above water right now without them.
What are automation tools and how can they help you?
Basically, any tool that removes manual work by a human (you) is automation. This doesn’t always mean that an entire process or project gets done for you by machines (as nice as that would be!), however. Some of the most effective business automations are replacements for small tasks that impact both on your time and mindset in a big way. Something as simple as having all your email lists merged, meetings booked for you or tasks organised can remove the drudgery and distraction that erodes productivity.
The best part is that many of these mindset saving automations don’t take developers, tech nerds or even much time to set up.
Below are the top three business automations I recommend everyone running or working in a small business should have in place at a minimum. If you sit down to get them implemented now I guarantee it won’t take more than two hours.
1. Automate your meeting scheduling
Right now the internet is littered with meeting scheduling tools. These are websites, plugins or apps that let your customers book a meeting directly into your calendar. No more back and forth securing a time together – send them a link and they can book a time, duration and location that works for them.
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Not only do tools like this preserve your sanity, they will also save you loads of time as you don’t need to chase anyone up. Some of the tools even let your clients update the meeting time if they need to change times or dates.
2. Automate your emails
It’s nice to think we could write non-template, fresh emails to all our clients and leads every time we need to. Realistically this just isn’t possible. There are certain emails I send at least five times a week, chasing leads, invoices and sending follow-up information or project ‘next steps’. Writing emails is time consuming so to make life easier, one day, I did something incredibly smart … I templated an email.
It doesn’t sound that revolutionary but making this change has saved me massive amounts of time over the years and enabled me to automate my responses to send within seconds rather than five minutes. If you use Gmail like me then this article has a great step by step guide to setting up templates. Don’t feel overwhelmed thinking you need to template every email you send in one go –just add a new template each time it comes up and you will gradually build up a huge time-saving tool.
3. Automate your to-do list
In my opinion, keeping a running, up to date task list is THE best thing you can do to stay organised. However, I often meet people who tell me they are too busy to have one let alone manage it!
I agree that getting into the habit of adding your tasks to your to-do list can add time initially. However, a lack of time is the exact reason why a task list helps you stay on top of everything. You also don’t need to be manually adding every task yourself to that list – you can automate things getting added on to your list.
One of the most productive ways of doing this is by automating the tasks you receive in your emails as this is where most people’s work comes from. Having an automation that adds tasks from your emails into your task list can save you loads of time and stop anything falling through the cracks and getting forgotten.
To do this I use an intermediary program (there is a free version) called Zapier. This program connects 2 tools together that otherwise wouldn’t share data. In this case Gmail and Google tasks. A few minutes to set up the connection on Zapier means that when I get an email and star it in Gmail, it is automatically added to my Google tasks and scheduled for tomorrow. You could easily use Zapier to add the task to a list in Asana or Trello as well if you prefer those tools.
These three business automations above are just a starting point. By starting to implement small tasks and actions like these though you will see immediate relief in your mindset, and minutes back in your day. It will also get you ready to start thinking about automation on a larger scale for your business.
I’d love to know what you’ve automated in your business and the effect it had for you or your team –where have you been able to save time and mindset?