Every business has its fair share of drudgery. That boring repetitive stuff that is necessary. Necessary to get orders out of the door. Necessary to comply with regulations. Necessary to keep your finances up to date. Necessary to ensure you get paid. Some of these jobs might be small and bitty some long and laborious. They are taking up space in your head, your to do list and your day and there may be a better way. These repetitive tasks are prime candidates for automation.
Now automation has had alot of press lately. People like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have been speculating that automation will make humans redundant in a variety of roles. I don’t think the robots are quite ready to be our masters yet. But, there’s no question that there has been an explosion in the number of applications that can perform many of the repeatable tasks in your life and your business. Machines work faster, they don’t make as many mistakes and they don’t need to sleep. As someone with a background in administration and operations I have seen my role transform over the last decade as we get better at harnessing technology to do more things better and faster. I’m not redundant by any means but, using technology, I can make sure I’m free to focus on higher value work – the stuff that really needs the human touch.
Before introducing a new technology into your working life, you need to step back and take a bird’s eye view of your workflows and processes. Write out your processes and work out what problem you are trying to solve before you start searching for a new app. Think carefully about the sources of stress in your working life (e.g. I can’t find the information I am looking for quickly) and look for something which will address it. Without completing this step, it’s all too easy to get seduced by a new, shiny, feature rich application that might not be quite the right fit.
I would encourage you to too be open to spending money on your apps. There are plenty of free apps or apps which will allow you to get started with a limited suite of features. If you read my blog post about the value of your time a few weeks back, you’ll be in a good place to assess where you should consider spending money in order to save time. Estimate the time/cost savings that automating a process will provide and compare to the time/cost it will take to actually automate that process. Whilst I do understand the need to keep costs down, free is not always best. It is often better to pay a small amount and upgrade to something which is perfect for the job than try to work around something. It is worth looking to the future and considering too how a tool might scale with your business – does it for example have a per user cost? What would be the cost implications of that if your team expanded?
Finally, don’t be afraid to shop around if one thing doesn’t work for you and try not to get discouraged – there are developers working on apps for different industries, personality types and ways of working. Before making a decision, make good use of social media to ask others about how they might be using an application and whether it works for them. You’ll find plenty of people willing to wax lyrical about their favourite apps. Facebook groups are a great place for this.
What could automation do for your business? If you need help navigating the hundreds of apps out out there or you want to share your experience with an app which has transformed your work, join our Facebook Group – The Productivity Club for more help, advice and general productivity chat. I’ll look forward to seeing you there!