The following is a guest post from Ben Mulholland, content creator at Process Street.
Everybody — and I mean everybody — has tasks they could automate.
From basic tasks like saving email attachments to centralizing customer data, the possibilities for saving time are practically endless. Plus, as we all know, time is money.
Getting started with business process automation can be a daunting task, so I’m here to show off six tasks our marketing team automates (mostly using automation platform Zapier).
Use these to get started automating your efforts and giving yourself time to focus on the tasks that actually need your attention, like attracting clients and growing your list.
Organizing post ideas
Inspiration can strike at any time and from anything. You could be sat at your computer actively trying to think of blog post ideas, or one could take you by surprise as you browse a local shop. When that time comes you’d better be prepared to record and organize your idea properly, or risk losing it forever.
Our marketing team does this by creating a note in Evernote (which can be installed on any device) to hold the idea and then assigning a particular tag to it. However, rather than having to open up Evernote later and manually process these ideas, we use Zapier to automatically push notes into Trello and format them into actionable project cards.
In other words, when inspiration strikes we note it down in Evernote and that will automatically get pushed into Trello and organized appropriately.
While it may sound lazy or unnecessary, automatically creating a new document for the posts you write saves a huge amount of effort over time.
Rather than having to open up a writing app, create a new document, organize it, and post a link back to it in Trello, me and my team can just move the corresponding card into our “WIP” column. Zapier picks up on this, creates a document in Quip, sorts it into the correct file (according to who the Trello card is assigned to), and posts a link back into the card.
Again, it may not seem like much, but every little helps when you’re running a tight ship in a field where flow and minimum distraction levels rule supreme.
Whether it’s keyword research or guest posting, we have a documented process for everything we do more than once. That way we aren’t ever left wondering what to do next – we can look straight at our checklist, follow the next step, mark it as complete to track out progress, and then continue.
Unfortunately (much like creating documents), creating checklists manually adds up to a hefty chunk of time over any extended period. So, instead, we automatically trigger them with Zapier.
For example, blog pre-publish checklists can be triggered by moving a Trello card, and meeting checklists can be triggered at a set time (even without using Zapier). In fact, speaking of meeting checklists…
Centralizing meeting notes
We’re a little mad on centralizing information – the idea that everyone should be able to access everything they might need to. Hence why we post notes takes from our meetings into our shared Slack channel.
Usually this would need manually pasting in, but instead we have Zapier detect when our meeting checklist is complete, then automatically ship the notes into Slack for us.
While it’s true that we technically have an accessible version of the notes with the checklist, having that second copy in a much more freely available space is a godsend. That way we can check exactly what we’ve each pledged to work on, what we need from each other, and our CEO doesn’t have to go digging around for the checklist to be able to see our progress at a glance.
In short, everyone wins.
I’ve already mentioned how we use Trello to manage our marketing team, but it actually goes further than that. Each of our team members has their own personal Trello board, while we share boards for thing like “Blog articles” and “Knowledge Base Content”. That way we can manage our personal tasks separately from, say, blog articles and ideas we need to easily separate and track.
Now, the main problem with Trello is that is can be extremely difficult (and awkward) to get a concise summary of a person’s activity, or that of activity on a board in general. This can be easily solved, however, by once again using Zapier.
We’ve linked our Trello boards to various team members’ Slack channels, meaning that any activity in those boards is posted as part of a conversation in our messaging app.
So, rather than even having to open Trello, I can see everything that’s happened in the Blog board by just checking a Slack channel. Similarly, my boss can see all of the activity I’ve taken (along with a timestamp) on my personal board by checking a different channel.
This makes it incredibly easy to get an immediate summary of how our team has spent their day, thus increasing accountability and making everyone more aware of the need to report any work that they’ve done. It may sounds a little extreme, but it’s one of the best ways to keep on top of a remote team such as ours (especially if some members are new to remote work).
The final basic task you should be automating to save time and money is that of creating invoices. Everyone likes getting paid, after all, so why not make the moment even sweeter by taking the boring work out of the equation?
The exact method for this will vary depending on what you use to create your invoices (eg, an accounting app or something simple such as Google Docs) and how you wish to record your information, but we decided to keep things simple.
By filling in an invoice checklist in Process Street we can quickly note down all of the important information the invoice needs, such as the date, payment amount, personal and client details, etc. Once complete, ticking off the final task will (using Zapier) automatically push that information into an invoice template and email the final product to both ourselves and the client.
These are just a few of the tasks you could be automating to make time for the work which actually requires your attention – to make the most of automation you need to get creative and test the limits of what you can do. After all, wouldn’t you rather automate as much shovel work as possible?
What tasks do you automate? Have you got any automation tips of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.