Time is one of the most precious assets to business owners. But with so many time wasting tasks on your to-do list, you need to take control of your work or it will take control of you. Luckily, technology can help.
Here are 10 common time wasting tasks to automate to free up time:
Before you get around to responding to emails, it helps to organize them. One of the best efficiency moves you can make is to use the label, tag and/or folder functions in your email program. That way, you can tackle important emails first, and less important ones later (or maybe never). It also helps you to “batch” emails for efficiency.
For example, some messages might require an immediate response while others can wait. Or you might want to focus on emails related to one specific project at a time. Those situations are perfect for labeled folders.
Email platforms like Gmail can automatically sort emails into folders, according to rules you designate. For example, weekly newsletters can go into one folder. Emails from clients can be sent to a priority folder or labeled as “important.”
Responding to Emails
Once it’s time to respond to emails, there are likely some responses that will be the same or at least similar. For example, you might send similar responses to inquiries from potential clients or the general public.
Posting to Social Media
Engaging personally in social media is important — and you shouldn’t skip it. That doesn’t mean you need to do every single thing manually, though.
When posting general updates, links or similar content, scheduling apps like Buffer and Hootsuite can help you save time by scheduling posts to go live throughout the week. Instead of going back and forth between sites and apps, you manage everything from one dashboard.
Blogging platforms like WordPress and ecommerce sites like Etsy also offer options to automatically post new links or products to social media sites.
Finally, if you prefer to curate third-party content for your followers, a service like $99 Social sources and posts content to your social accounts, per your instructions. That will free you up to work on social strategy, rather than the execution details.
Have you ever gone back and forth to schedule appointments with several busy people — struggling to find a date and time that works on everybody’s calendars? It can be frustrating.
If you schedule a lot of appointments, you could spend hours every year on this time wasting task. Instead, why not implement an online scheduling app like ScheduleOnce?
You simply connect your existing calendar to the app. A good scheduling app will integrate with popular calendars such as Outlook and Google calendars. Then invite third parties to go online to see what is available on your schedule, and choose dates and times convenient for them.
Some smart people even include a link to their online calendar right in their email signatures — cutting yet one more step out of the process.
You’ll avoid wasting time fielding and comparing emails. Scheduling meetings was never so easy as with a scheduling app.
Sending Recurring Invoices
If you bill clients or customers for the same amount each month, it’s easy to automate that. Some accounting software such as Xero can be set up to generate and email out regular recurring invoices. Some systems also send follow-up reminders if the invoice is not paid timely.
Or perhaps you have customers on recurring credit-card billing arrangements, such as for subscriptions. In that case, use something like Freshbooks or PayPal to charge the customer’s card each month.
Many small businesses are regrettably lax at sending out and following up on invoices. Automating saves time, of course. It also makes it less likely that this important task will fall through the cracks.
Automating Website Traffic Reports
One of the best ways to learn how to attract more website traffic, is to understand your existing traffic better. You need to know what is working today — and what’s not. In other words, you need to have a good handle on what visitors are looking for, how they are getting to your site, and what they do once they get there. It’s important to review this periodically to measure whether you’re making progress.
But sifting through massive amounts of Google Analytics data takes time. And you might procrastinate.
Instead, take the time — once — to set up reports of key statistics. Then have those report(s) emailed to you and/or others on your team once a week. You can have them sent as a PDF or as a CSV spreadsheet.
These recurring Google Analytics traffic reports will save tremendous time in the long run. Rather than visiting the Google Analytics dashboard and sifting through data manually (when you remember to!), you’ll have a report delivered every week that you can quickly glance at or cover in team meetings.
Handling Customer Support Communications
Small businesses tend to reach a point where handling customer issues via regular email becomes unwieldy. You end up copying and pasting information from emails into other software systems, such as your order entry system or contacts database.
Even worse, important communications get buried in one employee’s inbox. Others in the company have no visibility, unless you remember to manually email co-workers to keep them in the loop.
Help desk software such as Groove can be a lifesaver. Help desk or ticketing systems get customer communications into one central place, automatically notifying all the right team members.
Then go one better — use a tool like Zapier to integrate customer support communications with other systems you use. Use Zapier to send a communication to your accounting software (such as to update customer contact information). Or send it to your project management system (such as if special account maintenance is needed).
By integrating with other systems, you’ll avoid duplicate data entry, or worse, the time wasting effects of confusion and mistakes.
Automating Follow-Up Marketing Emails
Marketing automation programs such as Infusionsoft can help small teams gain leverage. You can set up marketing campaigns with a series of communications for each step.
For instance, let’s say a prospect comes to your website and fills out a form to download your free whitepaper. You can send a series of follow-up communications to nurture that lead — without having to manually initiate emails each time. That’s leverage!
Filling Out Online Forms
Whenever you’re trying to sign up for a new online platform, service, newsletter or anything that requires registration, you probably fill out a form. Filling out one form here or there isn’t a big deal. But together they add up to one of the time wasting tasks in your life.
Software programs like Roboform can automatically populate these forms. You won’t have to enter the same information over and over.
Backing Up Your Data
Your data is one of the most important assets that your business has. That’s why regular backups are so important. But people forget or simply don’t take the time to complete this task regularly.
With Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, you can designate that all your documents default to save automatically to the cloud. And you can also set up automatic backups locally through Windows or Apple Time Machine.
Automate these 10 time wasting tasks, and then find 10 more to automate. A few minutes freed up here and there eventually add up to hours. Those are hours you can use to kick back and enjoy life.
Tired at Work Photo via Shutterstock