Optimizing, automating, and outsourcing your life (and business) can make you a more effective person. But I’ve learned that the process itself is very important — you have to follow each step in the right order. After all, outsourcing an inefficient process will not make it more efficient.
To start, let’s focus on the automation component of productivity. There are a number of ways to achieve automation — whether through software, processes, or even people. The goal is to figure out how to run processes that require little maintenance; so once you set them up and perfect them, you don’t have to think about them again.
Here’s an inside look at three automation tools I personally use — and how you can apply them to your own business.
FollowUp.cc is my number one productivity tool. I use it over a dozen times each day because it really helps me clear my mind and tackle my to-do list. At its core, it serves a very basic function: The service will remind you if someone doesn’t respond to an email you send. You can use it from any platform or device — just put a preferred time period and before “@followup.cc” in the bcc field of your outgoing email.
For example, use [email protected], [email protected] or even [email protected] for a recurring reminder. You will receive the reminder with the original email. If you put the follow-up in the cc field, both you and the recipients will receive the reminder, which is great for team updates or check-ins.
Meanwhile, if you simply send an email to a followup.cc account, you will get a reminder at that date and time.Regardless of how you send the email, it will return with the original message as well as a snooze function that lets you defer the message to another time. Never again do you have to ask yourself if you got back to someone.
IFTTT stands for “If this then that.” IFTTT is free and works with about 90 services like YouTube, Google Docs, the WEMO series of home automation devices, and a host of other web applications.
With IFTTT, you can do some very basic things. For instance, tell it to “Send a text if it’s going to rain today,” or “Add every tweet I favorite to an Evernote notebook” or “Save every video I like on YouTube to my Dropbox,” but that is just the tip of the iceberg. You can use these services to replace very complex business functions and free up hours of time and money. Think of everything you do online that takes a couple of minutes each, and let sites like this take over.
Zapier is very similar to IFTTT in that it allows you automate interactions between web services. Unlike IFTTT, Zapier is a paid service, but it works with over 300 services and is much more detailed in terms of exclusions and outcomes.
I used Zapier for my book launch because I was offering all kinds of extras to people who purchased it. Post purchase, I asked customers to fill out a brief Wufoo form. Once they did, Zapier would add them to a MailChimp and share with them a specific Evernote that provided the information needed to pick up their goodies. When visitors viewed particular links in that Evernote notebook, it added them to a Google Docs spreadsheet so I could run some analytics so I could measure engagement.
For my podcasts, I have to record interviews and save the files to Dropbox. Zapier sees the new files and can upload them to SoundCloud so they show up on my podcast’s iTunes feed. There is a website marketing company called HitReach that combines the two sites to complete a 14-step chain of business functions that use to take someone 30 minutes each time they did them, multiple times per week. Now they don’t have to do it at all.
I even use IFTTT and Zapier for outsourcing. Certain triggers will send an email to my virtual assistant service, Fancy Hands, to have them complete the task. I can actually automate my automation and outsource my outsourcing.
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