Do you ever find yourself doing the same small tasks repeatedly in your work or business? Do you sometimes say to yourself, “There has to be a better way”? Well, in many cases, there is.
Automating routine tasks or finding other shortcuts can save you more time than you realize. Doing the same task a couple of dozen times a day can take up a substantial amount of time. Finding a faster way to do that task buys you time that you can spend doing more productive work, which is why finding ways to automate your work is an important principle in time management training.
Here are six time-saving ideas for automating repetitive tasks:
1. Use macros or shortcuts
Macros are a useful feature available in many programs like Microsoft Word that you can use to perform routine actions automatically. They are easy to create and fully customizable.
Keyboard shortcuts are integrated into Windows and many other operating systems, as well as individual programs. Learning these can save you time looking through menus to find the option you need.
2. Create templates for documents and emails
If you frequently write documents or emails that are essentially the same, creating templates for them can save a substantial amount of time.
Simply use your word processor or email client to create a sample document without some of the details, such as the recipient’s name, address or email.
Then when you need to send it to someone, all you have to do is open the template and add in his or her information.
If you combine this idea with a text replacement application, you can save even more time.
3. Utilize checklists to help remember steps
Some tasks involve numerous steps that are difficult to remember. For these you can make checklists detailing each step in order. Not having to guess or go back and redo things will save you more time than you spend making the checklists.
4. Use auto-complete and text replacement applications
Some software such as browsers, email programs and word processors have auto-complete features that you can take advantage of. When you start entering text, the auto-complete feature tries to guess what you are typing and brings up options.
In a browser, for example, certain search toolbars will compare what you are typing to popular searches and give you a list of terms to choose from.
Then you can select from the list instead of typing the entire request.
Other applications can expand a text snippet into a full-blown template. For example, you could type ‘esign’ and have it expand to one of your common email signatures.
5. Develop and document processes so that others can use them
At many work places, managers will develop standard processes for performing certain tasks. This makes it easier for anyone to do them.
Whether you’re a manager or not, this is a good practice. Documenting processes for things you do regularly will make it easier for anyone you delegate to, or for anyone who does your job in your absence – leaving less room for error. Even if you are the one doing the task, this process serves as a quality checklist that helps produce consistent results.
6. Create an automated system
Even if creating a macro for Outlook or developing software program is out of your area of expertise, you can often find someone to help you develop a solution using one of the freelancer matching services like Guru.com, Elance.com, or RentACoder.com
Automating things that you do regularly can save you lots of time. It also cuts down on repetitiveness and reduces boredom. These shortcuts are just a few ways you can automate repetitive tasks. Technology offers many more time-saving opportunities that you can take advantage of.
1) Think about your typical day and identify the routine tasks that you do repeatedly… Do you write the same kinds of emails? Make the same kinds of changes to a document?
2) Think about ways that you could automate, simplify or use shortcuts to speed up these repetitive tasks.
3) Pick one small change you could make this week to get started… For example, you could try an auto-complete application and use it for email templates that you write often.
Leave a comment with some of the ways you are going to automate some of your repetitive tasks…