The Easiest Ways to Save Time on Your Business: Scheduling & Automation

Posted on 21 May, 2016 in Productivity / 22 Comments

Scheduling and Automation - The Two Easiest Ways for Solopreneurs to Save Time

There comes a point in every savvy solopreneur’s career where they’re like, “Oh, shit.”

You see…

They’ve finally implemented all the lifehacks and workhacks and think they can’t get any more productive.

Are you there yet?

You’re a master at efficiency.

You’ve figured out your ideal energy management, batch your tasks, and eliminate distractions.

The Broad City girls look at you and go, “she a #kween.”

But does that mean you’ve hit some productivity wall?

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re doing everything right and still not finding new ways to grow your business.

But there are two things you can almost always count on to make a little more room in your day.

Scheduling and automation.

They’re similar but different, and best used together. In this post, I’ll take you through when to do one versus the other, or nothing at all.

Leggo.

What’s the Difference?

So, a lot of entrepreneurs use these terms interchangeably or incorrectly. Let’s make sure we’re on the same page before we get too deep into this shindig.

Scheduling tasks

When you schedule work, you’re completing the work for a task before that task actually “happens.” Basically, doing something in advance and setting it up to run later.

You’re manipulating time like the TARDIS.

With scheduling, you’re still performing a task every time you need it to happen. With workflow and process automation, it’s a little different.

In this case, you do the work once and it happens repeatedly.

To stick with the social media example, social media automating is when you write a Facebook post or tweet once, and it publishes multiple times. Like with Edgar.

The major difference is how much work you’re putting in and when.

Scheduling lets you do a little bit of work over and over again. Automation is more work upfront, but all the work is completed at once. Then you set it and forget it.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get a free cheat sheet of the first 9 tasks you should automate for your solo business!

Now let’s go into a little more detail…

Saving Time by Scheduling

Once again, scheduling is like playing with time. You put in the work for a task at one point, but it “gets completed” at another.

The most common way most solo business owners use scheduling is by batching tasks.

Let me ask you this:

How many of the following things do you do?

  • Schedule a week’s worth of social media posts at once
  • Set up an email newsletter the night before it goes out
  • Written replies to work emails at crazypants hours and scheduled them to send later to “be less annoying” or look less like a workaholic

Yep, those are all examples of both scheduling in general, and batching tasks specifically.

When to schedule stuff

Scheduling is best for tasks that have inconvenient timing.

For example, publishing your social media posts at strategic times would be sooooo annoying without scheduling.

You’d have to like, set alarms for all the times your audience was online, make sure you hear it and are available, and log in to Facebook, Twitter, etc. and bang something out.

Nah thanks. *gives side eye*

They’re tasks where you still need to put in the work manually each time – there’s a level of customization required, or else you’d automate it completely. So the best tasks for scheduling are also custom or infrequent tasks.

Great tasks to schedule out

As an infopreneur or freelancer, scheduling should be your best friend.

You have a ton of hats to wear, and it lets you wear one at a time. You batch social media, and you’re wearing the marketing hat for a few hours. Then you switch to your accountant hat for an extended period of time for billing and expenses.

Yada, yada, yada.

When you bundle stuff together, you’re not trying to do more than one thing at a time or switch back and forth constantly.

So some of the best tasks to schedule for your business include:

  • Social media posts
  • Emails in the middle of one-on-one conversations
  • Email marketing messages
  • Invoices to clients

They’re things that you still need to oversee and put together content for, but you can control when that work gets dripped out to its intended audience. Yay!

Automate It All

Scheduling is like “automation light.” You’re completing the work for each task, but changing the time.

With automation, you only complete the work for that first task, then it re-occurs automatically based on rules you make up.

You basically become a wizard.

You can put in the work once, and then software or tools take care of it for you every other time. Welcome to the future.

You’re living in it already if you do things like…

  • Auto-filter your inbox
  • Use IFTTT or Zapier
  • Share new blog posts automatically

…then you’re already automating your business. So rock on.

When to automate stuff

Automation is best for very frequent, repetitive, and generic tasks. That means:

  • You do them over and over again. Even if they only take one or two minutes at a time, you’re doing them several times per day or week.
  • You do them the exact same way every time…or close to it. It’s bland. It’s mundane. It’s generic.

If both of those describe a task pretty well, it’s not worth your time long-term. Put some time in now and save more time later.

Great tasks to automate

Automation is great for any solopreneur who has a lot of totally set routines.

Like sending the same customer/client service response over and over. Or promoting the same blog post on social media.

So that’s most of us.

We all do things that could be automated:

  • Promote blog posts more than once
  • Label and organize your inbox
  • Sending customer service template emails
  • Send confirmation emails before calls or meetings

And even if you do automate them, you can probably take it further. We all can.

Anything that can be fully automated, should be.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get a free cheat sheet of the first 9 tasks you should automate for your solo business!

The Best of Both Worlds

Now, there’s one more way to save time that I haven’t mentioned yet. Because it just combines the two we’ve already talked about.

It’s a scheduling-automation lovechild hybrid thing.

Some tasks can be mostly – but not completely – automated. They’re pretty repetitive and generic, but do need some amount of manual work from you each time.

Say, a little bit of personalization.

Or pressing the “final trigger.”

These are things like…

  • Customizing & sending email templates
  • Scheduling & looping pins in Boardbooster
  • Using blog post templates for recurring posts

Not all the work is done upfront, but a significant portion is.

The best way to find tasks of this type is looking at what you already schedule. Then see if there are certain parts of that process that you can automate, repeat, or template.

How do you combine scheduling and automation to improve your solopreneur productivity?