Time truly one of the most precious things to any business owner and the reality is, time is money and money is time. There are so many time wasting tasks on our daily task lists, things that we could very easily set up to just happen and because we live in the digital age there is no doubt an app, piece of software or online service that will help you do this and give you back your priceless minutes.
These are just some of the most common things that steal our time and keep us from attacking the bigger and often more profitable areas of our business. We may perceive these as being vital aspects of running our business efficiently but in truth they are stealing your time. How many are you guilty of and how many did you know you could reduce? Read on and see!
1 - Sorting Emails
Sorting your emails is the first step to streamlining your email time so before you start responding to emails, it helps to organize them. Your greatest ally in this will be the label, tag or folder functions on your email program because this will allow you to access the critical ones without wading through the junk or low priority emails. You can allocate email folders or tags based on projects, people or areas of your business and this has a two-fold efficiency. Firstly it means finding previous emails is easier and quicker because you know exactly where to look for it and secondly it means that emails that come in for these will automatically land there and you can see how many you have of a particular email.
Email platforms like Gmail automatically sort emails into your folders based on rules you set. For example you might have a folder that is exclusively for external newsletters and marketing material which would take a low priority of the folders you have allocated to clients or high profit projects. If this is the only tip you use from this article, it will still free up a lot of your time and improve you efficiency immediately.
2 - Responding to Emails
When you’re actually responding to emails, especially if they are FAQ’s, you may feel like you are saying the same things over and over again. This is a flag for you to create a templated message for this kind of inquiry. Gmail uses canned responses for this and email templates in Outlook is for all the Microsoft users out there. It may initially take some time to set these up but the time you will get back from using them will far outweigh it.
3 - Posting to Social Media
Social Media should be a very important part of your marketing and if it’s not, check out "Does Your Business Need Social Media" on emanation’s blog to see just some of the stats around social media as a marketing tool. Now I know you’re probably thinking that sounds like something that will take up a lot time but with scheduling apps like Buffer and Hootsuite you save time by scheduling posts to come out at designated times. Blogging platforms will also allow you to schedule your blog posts in the same way. Setting aside a set amount of time will allow you to schedule your content and have it come out when you want it to without you being at the wheel is a massive time saver!
4 - Sending Recurring Invoices
If you are billing your clients the same amount each month, it’s super simple to automate this. Accounting programs such as Xero can be set up to raise and email regular recurring invoices and some will even send follow-up reminders if the invoice is not paid within a specified time. If you have clients on recurring credit-card billing arrangements for subscriptions or even services, use something like Freshbooks or Stripe to charge the customer’s card each month. So many small businesses in Australia are really bad at following up on invoices so automating the invoicing and follow up makes it nearly impossible for this vital aspect of business to be overlooked.
5 - Automating Follow-Up Marketing Emails
Automated marketing programs like Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign really help smaller businesses leverage their marketing. They allow you to set up marketing campaigns with a set of predefined steps to ensure a consistent and quality client experience. For example, when a prospect completes your contact form to receive a free gift or access to your lead magnet, the program will send a series of follow-up emails/messages to help nurture the lead and hopefully convert it to a sale/client. You set it up once and then it all happens without you. How’s that for leverage!
6 - Backing Up Your Data
Your data is the hub and brain of your business and it needs to be protected and backed up regularly. We all know someone, maybe it’s even you, that lost their hard drive to a virus or hardware malfunction and the first thing everyone asks is what? “Did you back it up?” and all you wanted to was punch them in the face because they said it with a very obvious tone that implied they knew you didn’t. You wouldn’t be freaking out if you had. Cloud-based services like Carbonite and Dropbox will automatically back up your files to the cloud, that mystical place we all know about that holds the world’s information that is, in fact, just the internet and part of it allocated to specifically hold your data. Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive allow you to put in place a protocol that ensures your documents default to save in the cloud automatically.
Even if you only fix these six things, the time you will save will really start to add up and as I said before, time is money and money is time so get some of that time back and start investing them in things that are going to make you money and not help you waste it.
This article was prepared by Ant Ulijn, Social Media Extraordinaire and Values Alignment Expert from emanation. If you found this information useful, please comment below and make sure you like us on Facebook for more great content like this.