We all spend time on the computer. It’s mandatory in today’s digital (really virtual) world. And if it’s not the computer, it’s our phone. Answering emails, sending texts, making phone calls, crossing off tasks (we hope).
Technology is vital to running your business but sometimes we get lost in the details of it. You sit down to do research for an upcoming presentation, but an unexpected email/text/popup comes in and now that it has your attention, in most cases your focus is diverted. Some people are naturally able to block out but I’m not one of them. (I see a butterfly and I’ll forget what I was doing). Since I do run my own business, it’s imperative I actually get my work done because I can’t rely on anyone else but myself. Here are a few things that help me, and they might help you.
Block out the noise.
If you need to work on something with full concentration, the best thing for most people is to honestly block out the “noise”. How do you do that? Well, the first thing is that cell phone. It needs to be silenced. If you have an android phone, did you know you can automatically have it set to silence? If you know you work at your desk at certain times of the day, go ahead and put your cell phone on do not disturb. Or at least get into the habit setting your phone face down (which most phones will mute themselves).
Don’t forget about muting that computer too. Windows 10 has a mute notifications feature which can be scheduled just like the do not disturb on phones and tablets. “Quiet time” is found in the Windows Action Center (the sidebar that pops up if you press “Windows + A”). Most people set this to be for overnight, but you can schedule it for business hours.
Some people have the discipline to ignore the noise. But many don’t, and simply “muting” phone and PC, they can get a lot more done in 2 hours’ time than a full work day.
Automate routine tasks
Much of our work is tedious, like going through emails and saving the invoice attachments into a particular folder for the accounting department. Perhaps you monitor a sales email account and forward the emails out to the appropriate person in the company. Or, in some cases, your coworkers are not standardized, so somebody uses dropbox over here while this person over there uses Google Drive. How about you use a CRM system like Salesforce or Insightly, but it unfortunately doesn’t connect to your note taking system and thus you must manually upload your notes after every meeting.
Seeing someone spend their day manually taking care of such tasks drives me nuts because there are so many ways to automate that. Zapier is a service that not only can monitor your services, it can connect services that didn’t connect before. For example, when I create a new customer in my CRM system, Zapier checks to see if that company exists in my invoicing system. If it doesn’t, it creates it for me, pulling in the information automatically from the CRM.
Zapier can also make an individual system more efficient. It’s connected to my office365 account and when I receive an attachment from a VIP customer, it will save that attachment straight into their corresponding folder in OneDrive. Perhaps instead of making a rule for a person, you want to make a blanket one to cover a general term like invoices? No problem simply create a “zap” that will look for invoice or order in the subject line and save the email as an attachment in any cloud service.
Zapier covers most business services and they do have a free plan. But if it’s too pricy for you, check out IFTTT which, while consumer based, covers many of the standardized services and is free.
Finally, review your customer systems
For all the silencing and automation, we can deploy, nothing helps productivity more than making sure the system you use to get through your day isn’t holding you back. This, however, is going to depend on your individual skills with technology. Some people are just fine using Outlook and/or the Gmail interface to work through tasks, emails and projects. But many times, people will outgrow their default email client. Consider upgrading to CSM systems. There are many low cost and even free options. Streak is a popular one that actually integrates straight into the Gmail interface. Zoho has a free version of their CRM that can still integrate into office365. For more robust users, some popular ones are Insightly, Pipedrive, Cloze, and Hubspot.
All in all, there are many ways to simplify your workflows, but it does take a certain amount of change sometimes and many people aren’t willing to put in the effort. If you’re willing to embrace the change, it almost always results in more time in your day. And how much is that worth to you?
No matter the size of your business or the scope of your computer needs, Shannon Honadle with Honadle.com can help you resolve. Give her a call at (901) 213-7125 or send her a direct email to Shannon@Honadle.com for more information.
Don’t alter your business to fit your computers, alter your computers to fit your business.