Why work harder when you can work smarter instead?
Several office tasks are perfect candidates to automate—without sacrificing the well-being of your business.
In fact, some of these tasks not only save time, but also can actually be done better through automation. Automation makes it less likely that (a) you’ll forget; (b) tasks will fall through the cracks if an employee leaves; (c) mistakes will occur through repetitive entry of information.
Here are seven tasks that you can and probably should consider automating to get things done faster and more reliably:
1. Paying Bills
Instead of spending your limited time paying bills each month, use a service like Bill.com to manage all of your payments.
The service works with any bank and even integrates with Xero and Quickbooks. You will not have to go cut checks or manually enter them into your accounting system. You can manage all of those payments online in one place. Bill.com claims that it can cut users’ bill-paying time in half.
Or, just check directly with your bank. Many now offer bill payment services, sometimes at no extra charge.
2. Delegating Customer Support Issues
Handling customer communications via email can become a nightmare as your business and the volume grow. Instead of letting one employee’s inbox get buried in messages, while other members of your team are in the dark, employ a ticketing system or online help desk like Groove or FreshDesk.
Help desk solutions provide a central place to access customer issues and communicate. Set up a contact form on your website, and route communications by type to central inboxes, where assigned individuals on your team can answer them.
These solutions also help you create a knowledgebase of commonly asked questions. This becomes a self-serve portal for customers, eliminating the need to answer many questions individually.
3. Managing Marketing Communications
Those who successfully use marketing automation report that it is like having another employee or two in your business.
Marketing automation software programs, like Infusionsoft and Hubspot, give you a way to automate large chunks of your online marketing by establishing a series of steps for generating leads on your website and then designating follow-up activities.
For instance, you can send a series of follow-up emails to people who have visited your site and filled out a lead form for one of your free downloads.
4. Filling Out Online Forms
This is a personal productivity enhancer. Inputting your name, company, address and contact information time after time in online forms can be tiresome. A software program like Roboform stores your data so you don’t have to manually enter it each time you come across one of those pesky online forms. Or simply use the similar functionality built into browsers such as the Chrome.
5. Backing Up Data
Despite our good intentions, too many of us forget or put off this important activity until it is too late. And it is not just for business owners—what about our employees?
Today there are so many inexpensive tools on the market that automatically back up data at scheduled intervals (example: Carbonite), that there is no excuse for data loss. Or if your company’s data is mainly in the form of documents, pictures and similar files, use one of the central cloud storage platforms, such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, or Apple iCloud, to store everything in the cloud.
6. Scheduling Meetings
When scheduling meetings with many people, finding a time good for everyone’s schedules can be a daunting task. Instead of going back and forth in a long email chain, set up a scheduling app like ScheduleOnce to simplify the process.
ScheduleOnce allows users to connect their existing calendars from sources like Google or Outlook. So when you need to schedule a meeting or appointment, you can invite others to view available dates and choose an open time that works for them.
7. Managing Your Inbox
Email can be one of the most time consuming tasks on an office worker’s daily to-do list. When it comes to sorting emails, you can set up labeled folders for different types of emails, like newsletters and communications with clients. You can even enable Smart Labels within Gmail, so that the platform will automatically sort some of your emails, like promotions and social notifications, into separate folders.
When it comes to responding to emails, there are likely some responses that are going to be the same or at least similar. Set up canned responses in Gmail or email templates in Outlook instead of re-typing those messages over and over again.
Anita Campbell manages several online communities and information websites, reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually—including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, andBizSugar.com, a small business social media site.