Productivity Challenge Chapter Five – Automation Reloaded

Remember the robots ? We talked about them in chapter two. To jog your memory, chapter one was email management, chapter two was about automation, chapter three was calendar management while chapter four was phone management.

Well today, you’ll learn how to make the robots help you even more. You’ll be like those Robot Wars guys only even more badass. In terms of time, this really takes it to the next level.

Before we do that, let’s recap: you have so far won at least 3h15 per day. Not too shabby uh?

I’ve also asked you to complete your list of tasks. If you’ve been wondering, this list is actually Chris Ducker’s 3 lists to freedom. He uses them to know which tasks to delegate or outsource.

So, now, let’s start Challenge No.5 where you delegate work to the robots.

Save 3 hours by automating the hell out of your day

Yea, that’s right. 3 hours. Suddenly you are doubling your results from the past few challenges. This IS the power of automation.

Step 1 – Learn About the Possibilities

In the previous emails, you’ve seen what other people have automated and how that can help you. The thing is that you aren’t a slave to other people’s thoughts. You can come up with your own automation schemes. So the question comes down to this: what can you automate?

The simple answer is everything that can be rendered on a computer. It’s complexity will define the cost (in time or money) but that’s about it. So, what should you automate? Here’s the list of must haves.

  • Generating Key Performance Indicators. While metrics are very important in running a business or a department, generating them is technically a waste of time. You aren’t creating something a customer wants. This is the first thing that should be automated.
  • Billing and Payroll. Again, these are required activities but they can fairly easily be handled by an automated system which would contact your customers or employees with the required information.
  • Employee Scheduling or Assigning Task. If you have employees that use a scheduler or calendar for tasks, this is another thing that can be completely automated.
  • Customer Management or “Onboarding”. That is NOT for everyone, but if you have a lot of small customers, this is something that should be on autopilot.

There are many other things that you can automate. Look at your delegation list. Everything that is computer based can be automated. Just put a star next to it.

Step 2 – Choose your tools

How exactly do you automate those things in the previous step, well, here are the best tools (and how-to)

  1. Program it in Excel using VBA. If you work in a company or own a company, you use MS Excel. With Excel (and other Office applications) comes a program called Visual Basic for Applications or VBA for short. It enables you to program anything into an Excel spreadsheet. So, if you have your performance indicators in Excel, you can use VBA to automate the actions that you do with them. Look at this video on how to create a digital dashboard for more info.There is a lot more stuff that you can do with VBA (here’s a link to a tutorial) and you should really explore. Out of the must-haves, VBA can be used for these (not all have tutorials, sorry):
  2. Program it on a website using HTML, Javascript and PHP. Basically, you can create a website to automate your stuff. The best resources that I’ve found for learning these programming languages and TheDigiCraft videos. Dynamic websites can be used for the tasks below. It is a bit more involved than VBA and you won’t really find tutorials. You could outsource or delegate it but TheDigiCraft videos could help you.
    • Generating Key Performance Indicators
    • Billing and Payroll
    • Employee Scheduling or Assigning Tasks
    • Customer Management or Onboarding
  3. Use automation software. I talked before about Tasker, IFTTT andZapier. Those are free (or nearly free) consumer oriented programs. I’d like to mention that for companies there are significantly more powerful (and more expensive) options to do specific things. For example,Infusionsoft is great for marketing automation, following your customers on their journey with you. On another front, Freshbooks or Waveautomate your billing and accounting. There is also Qlikview which can work very well for dashboards. You can use these software solutions as such:

Step 3 – Implementation your Automation Solutions

There is an element of “shoot and forget” to automation. That’s the goal. However, make sure you don’t get to the “forget” part too fast. Also, it’s not a “forget forever”. So, here is the automation cycle:

  1. Define the goal. You’ve done this in step 1 where you defined what you wanted to automate. Make sure to start by the things that would give you the most results. It will feel awesome when tasks that use to take you a full day can be done with a single click.
  2. Define the tools. Again, that’s step 2 that I’m repeating here. Brainstorm with your team if you have one. Brainstorm with your dog if you don’t. The goal is to find the most effective tool for your automation.
  3. Implement. Code, install the required software, do your thing. That will normally be the longest step. It can take a few minutes to install a software to months to program a website.
  4. Monitor. Keep a close eye on your automation efforts. The goal here is to find the bugs or issues early and fix them. Also, make sure that you are actually saving time. Using the automated system should take less time than not using it. Don’t be the idiot that uses technology for technology’s sake. If it doesn’t help you, let it go.
  5. Review Goals. And here you are back at the beginning. Is your automated system working well? If so, switch your focus to another task. If not, try again on the same task, maybe using a different tool.

Further Resources – Want to learn more about the topic?

Here are a few articles that discuss the same subject.

Here are the links to the previous challenges.

Now this was a little more involved was it? But oh so rewarding! 3 hours! you’ve nearly doubled your “free time”. Don’t lower your guard though, there are still two challenges left.

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