Productivity is about spending more time on the work that matters. All of us have a ton of small “shallow work” eating up the space and energy we have available for important deep work. Since business operations and collaboration depend on them, we can’t completely ignore these tasks – but by leveraging automation we can minimize the effort we spend on them.
Automation is ideal for simple, repetitive tasks and with so much intelligent tech now available, there’s no longer any reason to keep wasting time on them. If you’re looking to build a more efficient and effective workflow, here are six unproductive daily tasks you can automate right now.
Tracking your time is essential for employees as well as managers, but as far as mindless admin goes, it’s one of the worst tasks out there – making it an ideal candidate for automation. Automatic time tracking apps like Timely don’t just reduce the admin overhead, they also improve the accuracy of your reporting and create a faultless record of where your time has actually gone. Timely actually uses AI to create accurate timesheets without you having to lift a finger – and because they run in the background while you work, they allow you to focus fully on meaningful work. Kiss goodbye to stop/start manual timers and note taking.
Meetings are an unavoidable part of working life. While you can’t always opt out of them, you can at least cut down associated admin. Since meeting planning involves coordinating the schedules of multiple people – sometimes across different countries and time zones – it can result in a frustrating email back and forth. Smart apps like Dewo use AI to do this task for you – intelligently identifying ideal slots aross all participant calendars to maximize everyone’s space for focused work. Similarly, X.ai sends out several different time options to attendees and allows them to select those that work best – freeing up more time for people to work on the tasks that actually matter.
Tasks management is another area that’s ripe for automation. Trello actually has a virtual “Butler” to help you manage your Trello boards and keep on top of tasks. This automation tool can respond to an incredibly wide variety of events and perform a range of actions to keep you more productive. It also allows you to add custom buttons to your Trello boards and turn laborious, repetitive actions into one-click shortcuts. Nifty is another task management tool that enables teams to automate workflows while managing feedback and deadlines, and Asana also allows you to automate routine work; teams can build custom integrations, add features and automate steps for their exact requirements.
Keeping track of your receipts is an important part of financial management and expensing, but it’s easy to lose old receipts or throw them out before you’ve filed them. Receipt scanning apps like Expensify and Neat not only allow you to keep your books in order without effort or expertise, they also extract information from any receipt, file them according to your specific requirements –including expense type and tax category – and then send the data on to your expensing software.
The average worker sends or receives 112 emails per day – which takes up 23% of their day. Email automation tools like SaneBox can save you serious amounts of time by learning your email habits and creating natural response templates, while Unroll.me removes annoying emails or newsletters you never signed up for from your inbox. If you use email marketing, tools like Drip and GetResponse automate the entire process for you, writing emails that people will actually read and engage with, and sending them out automatically whenever it’s appropriate.
Using automation to keep your to-do list up-to-date might not seem like it would have that big an impact, but by automatically scheduling your most pressing tasks in your calendar, you can prioritize the work that matters most, achieve more daily goals and maintain focus. Focuster automatically schedules your to-do list in your calendar, while Zapier converts information from your emails, notes, Slack messages and form submissions into smart to-do lists. Another admin faff you don’t have to think about.
Build custom workflows for repetitive tasks
In addition to these task-specific tools, there are a ton of apps out there that let you create custom actions to automate tedious tasks in your workflow – like changing file names, resizing images, saving Word to PDF and backing up files. Zapier offers multi-step Zaps which allow you to build entire workflows with over 500 integrations, from file sharing to project management. Likewise, Integrify and Apple’s Automator app let you create workflows in a drag-and-drop builder and integrates with external databases.
For more complex workflows, Flokzu allows you to create tasks, deadlines, business rules, and notifications without knowing any code – plus, it also has a reporting dashboard that displays your performance and metrics, giving you the necessary insights to ensure you can hone and optimize future workflows.