Tim Ferris in his New York Times Bestselling Book, The Four Hour Workweek talks about the importance of automation in our work lives so that we can focus on managing our business in the sense of working ‘on’ the business rather than working ‘in’ the business. He also points out that life is for living, and that it’s important to create automated systems and leverage tools that can take some of the strain off of us, in order live more fully.
In many ways, The Four Hour Workweek has been the first mainstream productivity and life hack books to start a cascade of people wanting to work anywhere in the world, whilst sat on the beach sipping a cocktail – as long as they have a laptop and decent WiFi. He also introduced the idea of mini retirements, which are essentially Gap Years throughout your life to squeeze the most out of your time on earth; rather than to work really hard then travel once retired in old age when there are often more limitations (e.g. mobility).
Ferris, along with several other millennial productivity experts, urge us to outsource the majority of our tasks to a virtual assistant in order to take care of the time consuming yet ultimately mundane aspects of running a business. These tasks can include social media notifications, writing and editing blog content, responding to general emails and so on. There are however, many things you can automate to be more productive that don’t require you to outsource tasks.
The other thing to remember is that automation isn’t limited to online businesses even traditional businesses such as the beverage trade are finding ways to automate their processes using tools such as drink-it which is a software solution specific to this industry. There’s a good chance, that no matter what industry you’re in, you’ll be able to find a number of tools, applications and service providers to automate your business.
In the remainder of this article we’re going to look at automating a number of the most time consuming digital tasks the majority of business owners contend with; as in today’s ever connected digital world – things such as being inundated by emails, following up on sales leads, keeping our files organised, and managing our social media presence can overtake not just our business, but our lives!
Indeed, the digitally connected world we live in, can be incredibly harmful to living a balanced and successful life; particularly in terms of our emotional wellbeing and social lives. One of the best ways to ensure a more balanced life, is to automate your digital marketing by creating a network of automated process, systems, and apps to automatically take care of marketing tasks such as following up on emails, posting to facebook, and so on.
This will not only free up physical time, it will give you peace of mind, and a sense of certainty that things are being taken care of. Essentially, it will allow you the time you need to be calm, focused, and responsive rather than reactive; contributing to a more stress free working environment.
1. Email Marketing
There are plenty of time-starved business owners frantically sending out an email to a customer thanking them for their order and letting them know when it will be shipped. The key point with automation is that it frees your time to be working ‘on’ the business at a strategic level rather than ‘in’ the business where you are wasting your time doing the same job as a low-level employee. You could use something like Mailchimp or Mailerlite in order to start automating your emails at very low cost (both services offer free plans for a low number of emails/users).
2. File Transfer
If you’ve ever accidentally spilled a glass of water on your laptop, lost your phone, or had the despair of hard drive failure you’ll have most likely heard the words “did you back-up your files” and if you didn’t, this is the point where you begin to feel overwhelmed by a sense of frustration and kicking yourself. It’s important to have a disaster recovery plan in place to cover all eventualities.
That said, keeping on track of backing up your files can be time consuming, which is why automating your file transfer can make your life a lot easier and offer a sense of security and certainty that allows you to relax.
There are plenty of online storage services you can use to house your backups, if you have a Mac you can use Time Machine to automatically back your computer up to an external drive (or as alternative my own favourite is Carbon Copy Cloner. If you’re on a PC you can set automatic system restore points in Windows 10 or use a tool like Window 10’s File Versions to save to an external drive or a free drive cloning tool.
3. Marketing Funnels
Your marketing funnel is made up of several stages through which browsers (who will hopefully go on to become customers) move from first awareness of your brand or website through to making a purchase.
A marketing funnel is essentially the process of converting a visitor or browser into a paying customer, and sites such as Clickfunnels or Aweber can automate this process in a very efficient and visually engaging way. For more information check out this Aweber review to see the full list of features and benefits.
4. Social Media Marketing
Managing your social media marketing campaigns can be extremely time consuming. Many business owners consider hiring a virtual assistant in order to manage this time consuming task though there there are several free apps such as hootsuite and buffer that can help you automate this task. While you still have to spend some time setting up your social media content it allows you to do so in bulk saving a lot of time and effort in the long run.
Whilst automation can be a great bonus for your productivity and business, it’s important to remember that these systems will still need occasional input from you whether that’s a weekly conference call with your Virtual Assistant, to uploading your social media content once a month but the free time you will gain for other projects will be priceless.