3 Simple Automations To Decrease Your Workload & Free Up Your Time
(Which You Can Set Up Today)
In my last blog I talked about the 4 types of tasks you should ditch, decrease or delegate to help you create more time in your day for the things you love (whether work or play). Maybe this seems like a fantasy, but it is possible. So, this week I wanted to share some practical tips that will not only help you to decrease the amount of time you spend on those tasks that are sapping your time and energy, but they'll even make delegation much easier.
Since one of personal lessons is to not try and do everything myself, I decided to ask an expert. And there’s no one better than Maria Watson, who is known as The Details Director for a good reason. Processes are basically her “superpower” and she loves helping business owners to create systems, processes and order in their business. Today Maria is sharing three simple automations that you can set up today to decrease your workload and free up your time and head space.
Before she starts, I have a note for the self-confessed “tech-phobes” out there – technology doesn’t have to be scary! In fact, Maria is fab at taking the fear out of technology, so read on with an open mind and think of technology as your friend. Now, over to Maria…
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3 Simple Automations to decrease your workload & free up your time!
A Guest Blog Post By Maria Watson aka The Details Director.
When you think of automations, you might think that sounds complicated, or even scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Once set up, an automation will feel like a godsend, with some jobs taking just a fraction of the time they did before. Here are my top 3!
#1 - Online Scheduling
If you’re often in meetings and booking calls with clients, you need this.
No more to-ing and fro-ing with “I’m free from 3pm until 5pm but I could do 12pm” then 17 days later you still haven’t booked the appointment!
Instead, simply send your client, your prospect or your business bestie a link to your calendar so they can see when you are free and can book a mutually convenient time to speak to you. It’s like magic!
Most scheduling systems are simple to set up (think step-by-step guides and videos). They also link up to your current online calendar, for example Google or iCal, so that you can control when you are free for meetings in ‘real time’.
- Calendly – super simple to set up, there is a free version (I’ve not yet paid to use Calendly) and it’s very easy on the eye! If you’re just starting out it’s perfect.
- Acuity Scheduling – Again easy to set up but it has more bells and whistles which are awesome. There is a free trial, so you can test and master it before you pay. It’s a favourite for our clients especially as it allows you to accept payments too… bonus points for time saving and general niftiness!
#2 - Task/Project management
I can honestly say if I was working with a client and I had to pick only one system to that I thought would have the biggest impact on their overall efficiency and time… this would be it.
Do you have repeating tasks and appointments in your business (and life)? Then you need a task management system.
Why is it so important?
As a business owner, you’re often working on lots of different projects which are competing for your time and attention. Add to that all the ideas you probably have and the home stuff, and your brain can get very full, very quickly.
Within about 5 minutes of waking you’ve probably thought of zillion things you need to do that day so it’s not surprising that things slip through the net and balls get dropped. As a business owner this isn’t a good place to be.
A task system stores all the things that you must remember to do and alerts you as and when you need to do them so that nothing gets forgotten – halleluiah!!
You pop the tasks into the system and tell it when and how often you need to do them and **poof** it appears on your to-do list when it needs to be done.
And the beauty of a task system is that you can start it small and grow it with your business.
Here’s a quick step-by step you can use to get started….
- Start small by using it as a reminder for all your own regular business to dos such as bookkeeping, VAT returns, paying the credit card, renewing insurances and domains and the like.
- Next add stuff that needs doing at home – putting the bins out, worming the cat, prepping for kids club etc.
(See how much this frees up your mind already?)
- Then start to add in client tasks – prepping for client meetings, responding to client emails, basically any regular tasks you carry out and anything that you promise a client you will do, add to your system.
- Add in tasks ‘on the fly.’ You know, those ‘emergencies’ that randomly pop up… like when you’re in a super important meeting and “OMG! It’s non-uniform day next week, I MUST remember to sort that when I get home tonight” – Bingo! Simply add it to the system!
This alone will sky rocket your efficiency and save you tons of time doing things at the last minute or having a melt-down when something doesn’t get done at all.
So far so good yeah?
But wait, it gets even better….
- You can use your system (and we strongly suggest you do) to collaborate on projects with others (your team and your clients).
- Use your system to action client emails that you otherwise risk forgetting about! Simply whoosh the email to your tasks system and hey presto it’s added to your to do list. Another win!
- You can link your task-management system to drop box, Google drive and various other systems you may already be using so that everything is in one place and easy to access.
- You can store files in it and use it to house all your business processes and procedures.
- You can save hours using meeting time and reading time (no more living in your inbox with 200-mile-long email threads) by using it check in and communicate with your team and assign tasks to them.
And you can do it all a bit at a time.
Try a few systems, find one you like and start small. Get used to using the system and keep adding, tweaking and testing so that it works for YOU.
You will be amazed that you ever lived without it.
- Wunderlist (soon to be Microsoft To-Do) – Very simple list style app. You can organise your lists into folders (great for projects), share lists with your team, clients, family, assign tasks from your lists (paid version), chat, all the functions you need in a tasks system. It’s very reasonably priced. If you are working alone the free version is sufficient.
- Trello – Based on the principles of Kanban (a Japanese method for managing the creation of products) it provides a very visual overview of projects using boards (one for each project), lists and cards. There is so much you can do with Trello, that's a blog post in itself. If you are visual and like to see the big picture, and often lose your desk to post it notes, have a tinker with Trello. Oh and bonus – it’s free!
- Basecamp – Brilliant for teams (especially virtual teams) managing multiple projects. Basecamp is super simple to use, very intuitive and fun to work with. It has great chat features and ‘check in’ functions to keep everyone connected. You can easily flit from viewing all projects to seeing just ‘what’s on your plate’. It is more expensive than the others but worth every penny if you want to cut back on (or eliminate altogether) time in meetings and on email. You can try it for free!
#3 - Canned Responses & Customer Support Software
If a lot of your time (or your team's time) is spent in the inbox dealing with the same customer enquiries over and over OR you have processes which involve communicating the same information to your clients (such as client onboarding) then canned responses can be a godsend.
Canned response are pre-written responses to similar questions.
You write the email and once it is saved as a canned response, it is ready to grab and re-use each time that question is asked.
It will give you peace of mind knowing the ‘tone’ of your email responses are in line with your business brand and ethos and you don’t have to spend time pondering your responses. Furthermore, you don’t have to be the one responding to the emails, you can outsource this job and know that your clients are still getting brilliant and consistent support.
How does Customer Support Software Work?
Customer support software turns your inbox into a customer help desk. An email comes in and is assigned a ticket. You log on a couple of times a day and deal with each ticket (you can save canned responses within the software), close it and it’s stored away. If you need someone else to deal with it you can assign it to them and they’ll get a notification. You only ever have on-going ‘cases; in your inbox. If a customer emails in more than once the whole history of communication appears which jogs your memory and allows you to add personal touches to your reply… “Hi Jenny, how are the yoga classes going?”.
This ‘help desk’ takes the ‘noise’ out of your inbox, creates an amazing experience for your customer and a simple and efficient process for you and your team.
4 Easy Steps for Creating Canned Responses
- Make a list of all the questions you get asked regularly (e.g. can I have my login details?" or "Will there be a recording of the online training?")
- Write the ideal answer using the wording and tone of voice that fits with your brand.
- Save these either in an easy to access document or in your email provider's canned response function.
- Each time a new question comes in that might be asked again, add it to your list!
There are loads of other things you could automate of course, but this is where I recommend you start. But remember... you don't have to do it all at once! Start with what’s easiest or most important for you, then layer in additional automations one at a time. If you get stuck, I’m always here to help at thedetailsdirector.com.
I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for reading. I can't wait to read your comments below.
Over to you...
What do you automate to free up your time? Or what have you been meaning to automate but put off (and why)? We'd love to hear from you, especially if you try any of Maria's tips above. So please share your tips, tricks and insights in the comments box below.