If you run a business and want to make it more productive, check out these four ways to automate your business. Try to implement one strategy per month until you find yourself employing all of the tactics. Even if you only use one of these strategies, you’ll have more time in the day to do the other things you enjoy.
Create and Maintain Processes
Anything you do on a regular basis that requires thinking should have a process set in place. Processes provide tremendous value to your business for two main reasons:
- They create a road map for other people to follow.
- They make the people who follow the processes more efficient.
And keep in mind that processes shouldn’t be limited to written documentation. They can include templates, workflow charts, and screencasts as well. Just create processes that are easy to follow. Creating and maintaining processes will help you maintain a steady workflow, even as you transition from old employees to new employees. When you hire new employees, having up-to-date processes they can refer to will be very useful.
Invest in Tools and Programs
A quote from Vladimir Prelovac sums up this point well:“Whenever you can trade money for time — do it, it’s worth it.”
I’m a huge advocate of paying for tools and programs that help increase the productivity of your business. Tools and programs have a positive ROI and free up your time so you can focus on growing your business. Buying tools and programs especially make sense when they’re one time purchases; your effective cost per use continually gets lower each time you use the tool or program.
We use tools such as email marketing software and online fax in our business. Email marketing helps us efficiently email our target audience with relevant information and products. Online faxing services help us by making it easier for our business to send and receive faxes.
Use Macros and Scheduled Tasks
I absolutely love to automate my responsibilities with macros and scheduled tasks. If you’re capable of doing this in your business environment, I highly recommend doing so. A macro is a “series of commands, keyboard or mouse actions that are recorded and performed automatically when a certain key is pressed or a certain command is entered.” A scheduled task is “a common task that your computer will carry out automatically at the times you specify.” I use internet macros, Excel macros, and scheduled tasks to automatically perform repetitious tasks for me. For the most basic of tasks, internet and Excel macros require very little programming knowledge and can save you lots of time. However, if you can hire someone or obtain programming knowledge yourself, you have considerable power at your fingertips.
iMacros – “The unique tool for instant web automation, web testing & data extraction”
Recording Your First Excel Macro – “A Beginner’s Guide on how to Record, Modify and Run Your First Excel Macro”
Using Scheduled Tasks – “Schedule any script, program, or document to run at a time that is most convenient for you”
Send Out Automated Emails
Hilary Mason, a computer scientist at bit.ly, gave a talk at IgniteNYC about using shell scripts to automate responses to certain emails. For example, she wrote a script called Nag Bot that auto generates emails to nag people who have been unresponsive to your previous emails. Automated email scripts help reduce the amount of time you spend managing your email. Hilary hasn’t released the code to the public yet but plans to share it on GitHub.
Additional email management resources:
Dispatch – “Teach your email to answer itself.”
OtherInbox – “Automatically organize and prioritize your incoming emails.”
So what are you waiting for? Choose the strategies that make sense for you, and start automating your business today.