Automation has slowly started to take over our lives – and not just our work lives at that.
At the office, there are more and more tools that can help speed things up, streamlining operations and making them more scalable. As a result, we’re left with more time for creative work and a chance to cut out all the boring, repetitive tasks.
However – an increasing number of these tools rely on artificial intelligence to a certain degree.
And if you are not a huge fan of the robot, and, like Arthur Weasley, would not trust something if you don’t see where it keeps its brain, you can still embrace automation in the “old-fashioned way”.
What should I automate?
This is the first question you will need to answer, as you wouldn’t want to invest a lot of time into automating something that should actually be done manually.
Ask yourself this:
- Does the process have a lot of steps?
- Are there several people involved in the task?
- Is there a timeframe attached to it?
- Does it also impact other tasks and processes?
- Is it automatable: does it involve creative work, or are the steps analytical in nature and can adhere to a set of rules?
If the process you are trying to automate fits the above criteria, you can move on to automation.
Here are just a couple of ideas you can implement:
Meeting, call, and callback scheduling
Instead of writing yourself and other reminders about the people aspect of the job, invest in a tool that will send the reminders out for you. Even something as basic as Google Calendar can do it, but there are plenty of other tools on the market you can try out.
In any case, what you’re looking for is an app that will allow you to set up a meeting, notify all attendees, and send out reminders prior to the event. The same goes for calling someone back – various office apps enable you to add a note for later, and never have to think about forgetting it again. You can rest easy and keep these types of tasks out of mind until the reminder goes off.
Most of us need to enter the same piece of data into several different places – anything from contacts to scheduled time off.
You can automate this by, for example, syncing your Google Drive data so that when you enter something into a master sheet, it will automatically get distributed everywhere else it needs to be.
You can also invest in a tool that will read information from different sources, and enter it into the appropriate categories.
When working with a team, it’s paramount that every member is on the same page, without confusion as to who’s doing what, when, and where. And while there are a bunch of project management tools you can use, there is also a very simple way to do it without a piece of software.
This marvelous solution is called a Gantt chart, and it will help you track processes over a period of time. A quick examination of the chart will help you clarify each project’s progress and see where operations overlap.
You can find several good templates online to get you started and customize from there.
Ensuring that everyone gets paid on time is probably one of the most important things to automate – especially if you are sending out different payments on different dates.
There are dozens of accounting tools you can use for payroll automation, even if you are not sure what amounts you will need to pay out every month. As long as you add all the right people to the list, you will be reminded that money needs to be sent out. It’s a simple and safe way to ensure that you will not miss a date again.
Email and other messages
Finally, email automation is probably the first thing that comes to mind, and it’s incredibly simple. With a couple of add-ons or plugins, you can add all the filters and canned responses you need.
Set up filters that will send certain messages to certain folders, so you always know what’s going on with each project, and set up automated responses to certain types of emails (which come from a specific address, or contain a certain string of words).
It will take some time to figure out how best to organize this process, as no two inboxes are the same, but once you get your automation down, you will be spending much less time on email every day.