You are putting in the hours. Your effort is being given. Well-meaning friends and leaders will recommend “work smarter, not harder”. Yet you are not getting the results you and your company are expecting. There can be several reasons for this but typically your productivity is a great place to put your focus.
Productivity is defined by Dictionary.com as:
“The quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services”.
Every job has repetitive, tedious tasks that are required on a regular basis. Many are done on a regular, predictable schedule over and over. An opportunity now exists to leverage the latest web tools to automate these specific, repetitive actions either one at a time or in a sequence that triggers a chain reaction. The opportunity is to “automate the repetitive stuff”.
I have found the following exercise helpful in identifying the activities in your day and then to decide which of these can be automated so you don’t have to do them yourself.
- Document the steps you go through time after time and then use Zapier or IFTTT to automate several of them together into a productivity chain.
- Create a list and write down every action/activity you do during a typical days activities from the time you wake until the day ends. Record everything that you do. It is important that you write these down as they occur rather than try and recreate what you think you do from memory. Many of your daily tasks have been done so frequently over an extended period of time that you are not even aware of them in detail. They have become a part of your daily activity without thinking about them, yet they can take up a considerable amount of time.
Here is a brief sample of what you might find. Your list will be much longer and hopefully more detailed, but this will suffice as an example.
Sample Activity List
- Check email.
- Check your calendar.
- Review LinkedIn Profiles for those that you are meeting with that day or the next.
- Check email.
- Invite contacts that you meet to connect on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter and Google+.
- Enter the information into your CRM tool (you are using a CRM tool, right?).
- Send a follow-up email to those that you met and include info/attachments as appropriate.
- Check email.
- Plan out the route to your off-site meetings and check the traffic.
- Check to see if marketing has sent you any leads to pursue in your CRM.
- Call those that you have scheduled to call.
- Present a PowerPoint deck to a prospective customer using your online meeting tool (GoToMeeting/Google Hangouts/ Skype).
- Send out invitations to connect on LinkedIn to those you met today.
- Send out invitations for LinkedIn for those that attended your GoToMeeting or your in-person meeting.
- Add all new contacts to your CRM.
- Add meeting notes from your GoToMeeting or in-Person meetings to CRM.
- Check Twitter to review activity from your current prospects and customers.
- Tweet and share your new product coming out.
- Share a Tweet and/or update with a link to a new seminar that you/your company announced on their website today.
- Add all registrants for the live seminar as leads in your CRM.
- Review the websites and social profiles of all registrants to your seminar.
You get the idea. Most people are surprised at how many of these ‘tasks’ they either are doing, or know they should be doing to grow their business.
Once this list is completed I recommend that you schedule time with your manager to meet and review your list of activities and solicit input.
Frequently, she will be able to share insight that she has gained from her own career. After this manager review and discussion is complete, tighten up your activity list by removing duplicated tasks throughout the day and list each of these only once. Make each step as concise as possible.
Now that the list is finished you might notice that there are many actions on the list that are connected and flow from one to another every time.
Highlight those items on your list. You are now looking at your pathway to automating this list of repetitive, tedious but important actions that are eating up a significant portion of your day. The result is that you are no longer doing each of these tasks manually, one at a time, when they occur. The result is a substantial amount of time freed up and if you use the time wisely, increased productivity.
Now is where the fun begins
There are a class of tools that easily connect the web apps you are using in your daily activities to each other, in which activity in one app triggers action in another app, which triggers activity in another app. An unlimited chain of these interactions can be built from the hundreds of web tools that are already integrated. There are two tools that I have used and both yield positive results. Check out Zapier and IFTTT.
I will use Zapier for this example below:
Email to Base – every time there is a new inbound email Zapier will create a contact automatically unless it already exists.
Base to Calendar – this creates a reminder on your calendar for the next morning to follow up with new leads that came in.
CRM to LinkedIn – this will generate a LinkedIn invitation for each new contact in your CRM.
LinkedIn to Base – this imports new LinkedIn connection to CRM as a new contact for those that invited you on LinkedIn.
GoToMeeting – every time there is a new attendee Zapier will create a lead automatically in CRM, LinkedIn or other tools.
Seminar to CRM – Automatically add every registrant as a lead.
Dropbox to email – email sent when there is a new Dropbox file added that specific leads or partners or employees should be aware of.
YouTube to email – sends an email when a prospect adds a new video to their YouTube Channel.
Each of these is accomplished by creating a “Zap” in Zapier or a “Recipe” in IFTTT.
Both sites have excellent tutorials and are available as a free version to use and experiment with.
Automate your repetitive tasks and increase the time you have to become more productive.
What repetitive tasks do you automate? Let me know in the comments section.