People like me write a lot about productivity, and we also write a lot about technology and automation in the pursuit of productivity. But why?
When you are looking to milk the most out of your precious work hours you want good, concrete advice backed up with clear processes you can follow, easily explained and more importantly easy to implement. The trouble with technology is that most of us don’t really understand how it works – why we should be using it, and what the benefits actually are.
There are few basic rules of thumb that you can employ to help you decide what you do, how you do it, why you should do it, and what you can expect to gain. These are:
- Automation potential
- Integration potential
- Cross platform availability
- Stepped processes
Let’s look at Automation to begin with:
It kind of does what it says on the tin. When your time is scarce if there is a tool you can use that will do something useful for you automatically, cutting out the need for your manual intervention, then that has to be a good thing, right? This is the bedrock of using technology to boost your productivity. Sometimes however we can get a little carried away so ask yourself:
- Will this help me?
- Is this good for my business?
- Is it really necessary?
- Is there a chance it may do more harm than good? [see my earlier article: Rise of the Machines : When Automation Goes Too Far]
Integration – here’s where a lot of people’s eyes begin to glaze over.
Integration is simply the ability for one tool to talk to another. The bad news is that technology is not magic, it cannot do something just because you would like it too; I know this sounds a little patronising but in my website development role I have often had to battle clients’ understanding of the capabilities versus the limitations of what is and isn’t actually possible – including cost factors too.
What you need to be checking out when assessing a new application is if and how it can work with other tools in your arsenal. There may not necessarily be a direct integration yet developed between your two favourite pieces of tech – but we now have the likes of IFTTT and Zapier that have been developed specifically to bridge these gaps. It is worth keeping on top of these two services as they are constantly adding new tools to their integration suites.
Cross platform availability is an absolute must.
By this I mean the ability to use the same tool on all the devices you own that you may have about you when you need to get something done. So, for example, if you want an application to manage all your social media activities and accounts then HootSuite or Buffer would be worth looking at as there are desktop browser add-ons and Android apps for tablets and smartphones available, as well as simply the full desktop website.
But why should this matter?
Productivity is all about making the best use of your time. We often lose vital minutes and hours each day that we could be putting to better use. Waiting for a train, riding in a taxi, waiting for a client to arrive, these are just three examples of ‘dead minutes’ – that is, time that is taken out of your working day when you are not actually doing anything.
You don’t necessarily want to be tackling an in-depth spreadsheet analysis if your client is running 10 minutes late, because it is going to be a struggle to get your mind back in the correct zone when they do finally arrive and you risk looking flustered and disorganised. But you could quickly check your social feeds, review your emails, save online articles to read later… The chances are that you are going to be doing these at some time anyway – so why not do it to fill up this dead time – and then you will have those few more minutes later to do something else.
Obviously these are processes that take place in several steps, but that’s not quite what I mean here. Referring back to my earlier article where I postulate that there is such a thing as taking automation too far, this is a consideration that should help to prevent the detrimental effect that over-automating can have on your reputation or credibility.
The thrust of my argument is that if you automate absolutely everything you risk your clients, contacts – even your friends – receiving impersonalised notifications, messages and replies that cannot help but flag up that their interaction with you has been ‘dealt with by a machine’. We hear over and over again how user experience is the ‘new black’ of marketing, so you want your contacts to feel welcomed, heard, unique and special.
You can have this if, instead of a fully automated process, you implement a series of automations that you are able to review, filter, tweak or personalise at each stage. This is another use for those ‘nooks and crannies’ of time: you can be curating your next batch of social posts, or following back recent followers… or whatever you wish to add the human rather than carte-blanche approach to, instead of twiddling your thumbs and losing time.
What is the point of having systems in place that allow you to work wherever, whenever if you just can’t connect to the resources you need? It may be access to files stored on your desk pc when you’re in the coffee shop, or an important email you’re waiting for, or your colleague’s input on a project; whatever it is you need to be able to access all points of your business whether on the go, at your desk, or even out of the country.
You’d think with today’s cloud technology this would be simple enough. But many people either do not leverage this successfully or commit too much critical information to too risky a platform. It’s a fine line between making the best use of technology and risking business ruin by holding the door open for hackers, malware and all the other cyber threats that now exist. So what to do?
Follow these simple guidelines for optimum productivity with least exposure:
- Use secure cloud storage with a reputable provider for commonly used files.
- Add an extra password protection to the file itself if it contains sensitive data.
- Password protect any application on mobile devices that could give someone unscrupulous access to your financial information, your data, client data, your files, images, videos, any paid service, any application that permits in-app purchases. That’s pretty much anything that a bad person could ‘hurt’ you with by getting their hands on.
- Ensure your broadband is secured.
- Do not use public wi-fi hotspots.
- Invest in a mobile data package that gives you enough extras to be able to do business on the hoof. Install reputable, quality security protection on ALL devices, both static and mobile. Keep an awareness of the latest common threats.
This has just been a brief look at the considerations you need to make before diving head-long and half-cocked into a hi-tech, automated, process-driven, highly productive business workflow scenario; but as a starting point it will definitely set you off in the right direction.
I will be setting up a Facebook group later this year as a resorce to post useful and interesting articles on topics like these, ask questions and share experiences.
If you would be interested in joining this then please either drop me a line to email@example.com or sign up for my weekly digest of blog posts to ensure you don’t miss it’s launch.