With Independence Day coming up, I know exactly what I don’t want to do on my holiday: send reminder emails, worry that I missed an important task, fight with software, and other business administrivia.
There are a lot of highly technical guides out there for automating your entire life by writing scripts, configuring complex software, and mashing different apps together. I have no interest in turning you into a robot or recommending anything that takes more time to set up than it saves. The tips you’ll find here are simple, easy to implement, and useful for anyone who runs their own business (and even those who don’t).
It sure would be helpful if there were a few less things in your head and a few less annoying tasks in your day, wouldn’t it?
Hide emails that should be dealt with “later”
If you’re a GMail user, Boomerang is a free app you can use to “snooze” emails for a day, week, or even a year. When you set an email reminder, that email disappears from your inbox until you need to deal with it. You can schedule it right down to the minute you need it again.
Note: If you’re a Google Inbox user, you already have this feature. If you’re not, I recommend checking it out! I made the switch a few years ago, and managing my email has never been so easy. If you don’t love it, you can always switch back to regular GMail.
Bonus: Boomerang can also automatically send emails you’ve drafted. No more bothering your team with 2 a.m. emails, and no more saving drafts and trying to remember to send them when the office opens again.
Schedule recurring tasks
You know all those things you need to do every Monday, two weeks, month, or even 6 months? Put those somewhere. Whether you use Google Calendar, Asana, or another calendar or project management app, put every single recurring task into that software. Some things I have listed as recurring Asana tasks:
- Write a blog post
- Sunday family budget meeting
- Submit quarterly taxes
- Read a chapter of the programming book I’m working through
- Change the cat litter
- Plan next week
- Invoice clients
- Date night
- Water the house plants (if this one isn’t in there, there’s a 100% chance I’ll kill them all)
- Take the cats to the vet for their yearly check-up
Not only does this get all of those little tasks out of your head, it saves space in your schedule so all those things actually happen and you don’t overbook yourself.
Templates, templates, templates
Ever find yourself writing the same email over and over again? Or changing the font of a document every. time. you open Word or Google Docs? Or looking up your brand color for your social media images each time you have to make one?
Stop doing that. Now.
Next time you find yourself searching your email outbox for the exact wording of an email you’ve sent a billion times before, copy that text and add it to an Email Templates document you can keep handy. Even better, add it to an FAQ page on your website.
You can easily change the default font and header style in both Word and Google Docs so you never have to think about it again. Or take it one step further, and the next time you carefully format a document with the colors, fonts, and other styling you need, save a copy of it with “Template” in the filename. Next time you need to start a new business document, open your template and you’ll have all of your branding tools ready to go.
And lastly, figure out the hex codes of your branding colors and save them somewhere you can reference very easily (paste them into a document, save them in a notes app, whatever it takes). You’ll be surprised how often you need them.
Teach your website to talk
If you’re still logging into your website to check for comments, form submissions, or new orders, save yourself the hassle. Almost every website content management system has tools for receiving emails when someone takes an action on your website.
It might seem counterintuitive that I’m telling you to get more emails here. However, you should always know what’s up on your website, even if you snooze the email to deal with later. Setting these email notifications up can also help alert you when a big order has come through and make sifting through comments that need moderation easier.
Another easy step to take: sign your website up for Google Search Console. It’s easy to set up and will tell send you an email when your website is acting odd, not working, or when specific pages aren’t loading. You can also configure weekly or monthly emails that keep track of click count and other statistics.
Get some peace
If This Then That (also know at IFTTT) is one of those apps that always pops up in life automation articles. Copy all your tweets to a Google Doc! Back up Facebook photos people tag you in to an online photo album! Who needs these things?
But you know what it is good for? Shutting your phone up. I’ve been using IFTTT for several years for the following:
- Mute my phone when I’m connected to my classroom wifi
- Put my phone on vibrate when I’m connected to the office wifi
- Turn my ringer all the way up when I connect to my home wifi (I always lose my phone in the couch cushions, and the ringer is always off when it happens!)
- Mute my phone when it’s charging (since it’s usually charging when I’m sleeping)
Most smartphones have built-in features that can set quiet hours, but I find the additional levels of control IFTTT offers much more useful.
How do you automate annoying tasks so you can enjoy your time off the way you want to? Share your methods!