i’ve gone on at length on this blog about automation, and workflow. (See Life’s Easy Mode in 3 Steps | Automate Your System). today i’m going to expand on techniques i use in my technology support business for chopping out time otherwise wasted. you can use these techniques in your business and life.
i’ve continued to put effort into NOT wasting my time by utilizing services that have dual outcomes to a business goal, tools for automation, filters, workflow and the practice of selective ignorance. the more traffic i get, want for freedom, questions about something i’ve produced and so on push the importance of these techniques, although saving time is generally accepted as a good thing.
some tactics are fundamental for me now, certain actions have to be automatic, they need to be completely out of my way so i can continue to struggle with real metrics, new sales, new creation, marketing, understanding my clients, and where else i’m screwing up and not taking action.
the more time you spend in “administration” the more you’ll be infuriated by your business efforts, try these on to get more done. *note, more of the right stuff, not wrong stuff. you never want to efficiently waste time
below are some ideas on expanded techniques for business automation. each of them is going to have a slightly different application depending on your circumstance, i’ll list them below and then elaborate on how i specifically use them.
- learn your freakin shortcuts
- use gmail filters
- use canned responses
- repetitive calendar events
- use alarms (train your pavlovian response)
- follow up then
- use templates for agreements, and newsletters
in google mail, in your calendar program, in your web browser, on your computer. the ones i’ve found lately most helpful are marking something as read in google mail, which is “shift + i” and “c” for composing a new e-mail. i’ve also loved the combination “command+shift+4” on my mac operating system for taking a screenshots. find what programs you use most, and learn 2 shortcuts for improved usability. (gmail keyboard shortcuts, go ahead and take a peek. http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=6594)
if you’re not using these, i ask why not? i filter everything from mint.com, facebook, twitter, most of my banks, credit cards, my amazon account. sometimes i filter them into one folder such as “web 2.0” sometimes into many folders. i’ve automated most of my bill paying, so i have the filter also mark messages as read. i scan my folders once a week and although probably receive 100-200 e-mails a day, only actually have to deal with 10-15. you’re mail program likely supports filters, otherwise called “rules”. learn how to use them.
another e-mail behavior here, because e-mail is a life sucking endeavor. create templated e-mails for people. the trick is you usually can’t come up with a template e-mail off the top of your head. so, here’s the action. come up with 5 scenarios and write for those.
i have a scenario where someone is asking me a question about something computer related, my canned response has an opening line, a space for resource links and a closing thank you. often times i just have to unload my brain into the middle and copy paste some links and appear saintly to those in need. if you are running a website, or selling something, you get questions…create these, keep them as word documents if you don’t use google, or drafts to open and copy paste in your e-mail program
tip: i don’t like google’s canned responses, it’s cumbersome, i use the program “Evernote” to keep all my support related canned responses, and they save tons of time, and do a service to others.
repeating calendar events
one way i save time is forcing everything to exist in time. what i mean by that is i don’t have a never ending to do list, i load up the calendar, things that have no time, go somewhere, and are addressed then and moved. follow up actions like “did this happen” also go into the calendar. the boost here is a majority of our days are pretty similar, and so repeating events to train yourself into productivity absolutely unquestionably works.
i have repeating events for workouts, for business networking for client work, paying out affiliates, and so on. befriend your calendar program, which will support alerts. today, those alerts can come to you as a text message or a pop up, or friendly phone alarm. this methodology promotes working in batches, and blocks which elite performers are known to work in. (If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers)
it stands for if this then that and boy do i love this new web service i just found. it’s “stupid” powerful but does take an initial investment to figure out. basically is takes all todays best websites and tools, and allows them to interact with each other. when something happens, (ie, someone follows you on twitter) take an action (send them this message) or another example, when you bookmark a website in google, it tweets it out.
the possibilities are endless. these are most handy in specific workflow situations…check out some of the “recipes” … meaning schemas of how users are implementing this tool. i have saved tons of hours from this tool in the realm of saving data and automatic responses. http://ifttt.com/recipes?sort=popular
use alarms (cell phone or computer)
in the same vein of calendar events there’s alarms. i have several alarms that aren’t on my calendar that have since trained me to take certain actions. these again, like most things are hardest at first, and now are automatic. train your pavlovian response to get up out of bed in the morning because of a specific alarm. only listen to this alarm, make it special in someway and practice (yes practice) literally jumping out of bed when you hear it.
other suggestions are clearing out your e-mail when you hear a specific alarm, or eating on a schedule (for losing weight). our minds are trainable, you are already trained to do a million things by society, (anyone clean out their Word with Friends que from one little sound?) take back some control and create your own positive responses with your cell phone alarm.
the key? practice. do it purposefully for a week, it’ll stick after that. i’m currently doing this to wake up and it’s amazing how well it’s worked. about 5 times a day i consciously lay down for 2 minutes, set an alarm, bounce out of bed and walk to living room (where i work out in the AM) … the next morning when i hear that alarm…i’m compelled to do the same despite my sleepiness.
this website has helped me batch my e-mails. when there’s an e-mail i need to deal with but it just needs to get out of my inbox, i can’t forget about it and file it away but i really can’t stand it being in my inbox, as that builds a slippery slope, i hit reply to that e-mail, change the TO box from whoever to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org … and let it fly. you don’t even need an account to use it…just try it. helpful for e-mail junkies and batching e-mail into two times a day or so.
templates are like workflows, they suck to set up, you don’t do it, but once you have them, you clamor for them everytime a specific situation arises. schedule sometime in your calendar to make 1-2 templates for specific situations in your business. such as, a new client welcome e-mail, how about a newsletter? use this slammin template i just made after listening to AppSumo’s copywriting class, which was one of their amazingly time sensitive promotions, (they are like Groupon for entrepreneurs).
*put in a 540 pixel wide table so it’s easy to scan – use arial 12 – try georgia 12
possible subject 1
headlines – how to make good ones?
trick 1 list things that if you overheard it would turn your heard and go WHAT?
trick 2 go to digg.com type in your topic, thing your selling or promoting. order by most dugg and use those headlines and swap in your topic or change things
educate, give something critical or valuable
if it’s valuable you can write a lot
story about the product or offer
setup information stuff like that
“benefits” of what you are promoting
more reliable website
bigger muscles, more hits
we’re running a promo, or get your’s now for, check it out now here at this link, or see the deal here.
make this bigger font, bold, different color
PS. make a claim here, like. after i used this, or guarantee, don’t like it?…read this review, or %100 money back guarantee. or, one of my users, jane, has this, and here’s her site…
all of these techniques need some amount of set up. take 15 minutes a few times this week and apply a few of them for compounded time savings over the next few months and into 2012. once you have them down, they become automatic, you reap the benefits and can focus on hopefully more important items, or at least continue on in your journey with less hassle.
keep on keepin on!