Running your own business is, most of the time, pretty damned hard work and consequently, time consuming. And I’m not just talking here about managing daily administrative tasks and keeping track of your employees’ work schedule, or monitoring your expenses and handling customer complaints. I’m talking about all those “little things” that you must perform day in and day out, and that can take hours out of your working timetable.
Automating redundant activities (such as emails, presentations, meeting notes, etc.) can free up valuable time so you can focus on those things that you’re really passionate about, such as finding new creative ways of helping your customers, spending more time at the beach with your family, or watching the newest episode of Game of Thrones (I’m not going to ask which one comes first). Fortunately, there’s a huge range of web-based tools out there that you can use to automate your business processes and boost your company’s productivity (as well as your own). Here are 12 things that you can automate to make the most out of your working day:
The first things that come to mind when someone mentions creating a presentation are, most likely, PowerPoint or Prezi. Yet for novices, these tools might seem a bit too complex, and it may take hours until you can actually figure out what you’re trying to do and get all your ideas organized. MindMeister—actually a brainstorming tool—offers a unique method of creating good-looking, dynamic presentations with just a few clicks. “In one single map you brainstorm topics, add media and formattings, create your slides and even present them live to your collaborators.” It’s just that easy!
Yes, you read it right: no emails. Slack came into my life at exactly the right time. My team was growing and it was getting more and more difficult to manage email communication with a larger number of people. Slack is my communication with people at my company alone, all in one place, instantly searchable and accessible. It lets you organize team conversations into separate private or public channels as well as drag, drop and share all sorts of files while automatically indexing and archiving them. According to a company survey, “Slack users saw 48.6% fewer internal emails and held 25.1% fewer meetings after installing and using the app, leading to a 32% overall increase in productivity”. What are you waiting for? Ditch your email service and never look back!
So you’re too fond of your email and you’re not quite ready to part with it just yet. Emails, if used correctly, can still save you precious time and provide you with valuable data. The very first thing you can do is to automatically set up your email client to create email templates (aka ‘Canned Responses’ if you’re using Gmail) and customized signatures so you won’t have to write emails from scratch every single time.
Keeping your brand active on social media can easily be a full-time job: posts after posts, updates after updates, it all requires a constant eye on. Tools like Buffer or Hootsuite or even editorial calendars like CoSchedule let you schedule and automate your social media posts well in advance so that you don’t need to sit at your desk every time you need to manually post something. You can also manage dozens of social media accounts in one place, assign certain accounts to a colleague, or monitor what people say about you.
Don’t waste precious time browsing through hundreds of news that happen daily. There are media collection systems that you can use which learn your reading habits and only gather the articles that you really want to read. Other apps like Zolt or Circa, recently resurrected, allow you to sort through the news and send you concise coverage straight to your smartphone. Alternatively, you can subscribe to services such as TheSkimm, which sends a skimmed version of global news to your inbox every morning.
Start scheduling your computer back-ups automatically. This way you will never forget to do it, your data is safe and you won’t get any interruptions or slowdowns to your daily working routine.
You can speed up scanning documents with apps like Scanbot or CamScanner that let you instantly scan documents such as notes, receipts or invoices from your mobile device and then manage, sync, update and share them no matter where you are. You can also directly select a document and fax it to over 30 countries.
How many times did it happen to you that you tried to contact a business partner or a friend, only to find out that their number is no longer the same and working? Let’s be honest, usually, you update your address book AFTER it already happened. What if your contacts could update their contact information directly in your address book? Crazy, right? No, Addappt is already on it and lets your saved contacts do just that.
If you’re like me, chances are that you have your work phone and laptop, your personal phone and laptop, and maybe a tablet when on the go. Needless to say you can easily get lost in the amount of incoming messages. There’s a new app in town for those who use more than one device. Pushover smartly organizes messages and notifications from all your devices in one common space. It basically sends push messages to any smartphone and places your messages in one unified inbox, making it a good choice for the stay-connected-all-the-time entrepreneur.
I travel a lot. Chances are I’m on a business trip every other week. Since I can’t afford a personal assistant to handle all my travel plans for me (yet!), I’ve started using TripIt, an app which manages all your travel information, regardless of where you bought your ticket from. All you need to do is forward all your travel emails to the app and it will create a master itinerary that you can access at any time and on any device.
Unless you’re a writer yourself or you’ve already got one hired, editing and proofreading documents can be a hassle, especially if the clock is ticking on that particular project. There are a few apps out there such as Grammarly, an online platform that corrects grammar mistakes, catches contextual spelling errors and poor vocabulary usage. Simply upload your document onto their site or download a browser extension to make proofreading of any text automatic.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of filling in forms online. Some of them—subscribing to emails or signing up for an online service—can be quite long and take up time I don’t have. Technology such as Roboform saves us once more by allowing you to store data like name, address, billing information, etc., on your computer and use it automatically to fill in forms. There’s no greater and more satisfying sight than an already pre-filled form.