Automation 101 (aka the Secret Sauce of Productivity)

You know something that people who are really killing it in the blog world have that the average blogger doesn’t?  Assistants.  Like, real life people on their payroll.  It’s nice to have the money to be able to have people on a payroll...BUT...all that you may know about a payroll is that you are on someone else's.  Well you know what?  You don’t have to have a payroll to have an assistant, boo!  Trust me.  I have an assistant that has been getting the job DONE on time and at high levels for free.  They’ve stepped in when I was working and didn't have the ability to tweet or promote my blog posts on Pinterest or simply find new content to blog about.  Would you like an introduction?  My assistant is on my calendar under the name BAE (Blogging Assistant Extraordinaire), and is a robot.  Yep, my assistant is AUTOMATION.  If you don’t already, you should insert a robot into your blogging process.  I’m not talking about one of those annoying bots that likes Instagram photos and follows accounts with the intention to unfollow in a few days (I actually hate those bots and don’t encourage anyone to use them...I know it’s tempting but don’t do it).  I’m talking about a robot that can do things on your behalf when you already have too much on your plate.  My blog is geared towards people that have a day job and are trying to build their blog/business at the same time.  If this is you, you already know that free time sounds like a joke.  That’s why it’s CRUCIAL to use automation in your day to day strategy.  Today I will be discussing automation and why you need to get it in your life...like right now!

 

Let’s be real here, extra money to pay an assistant is probably not available yet because...well, bills, kids, Sallie Mae, being underpaid at your 9-5, etc.  I always say that until you have that extra money coming in, automation is your assistant.

So what exactly is automation?

My Dictionary app says that automation is "the technique, method, or system of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, as by electronic devices, reducing human intervention to a minimum".  Great, well in my terms, automation is something getting done without you having to remember to do it (set it and forget it) or for those times when you literally can’t even.  You basically create a task that will run at a scheduled time and it will do what you want without you having to be there to babysit.

I talk about automation...A LOT… on my blog and social media because people don’t realize just how important it is to use when you haven’t the means (read: coins) for a real assistant (virtual, in person, temporary via fiverr, whatever).  You can’t do it all alone, trust me.  BUT you can automate a big chunk.  You may be wondering why it’s so important?  Simply put...you actually will be able to have free time.  I know that sounds unrealistic, but I’m living proof.  I have been using automation in some form for around 5 years, but I’ve become more intentional with it over the last year and a half.  I have a day job.  I have a family.  I have a blog. I have a business.  I am able to knock out a large portion of tasks daily thanks to them being automated.  This in turn frees up time to be able to work on other things that I HAVE to touch such as brain dumping ideas, creating blog posts, sketching new product designs, taking and editing photos, etc.  I post to twitter 10 times a day Monday-Friday.  Do you think I would remember to post every 1.5 hours on my own?  Nope.  Not only would I forget, but if I did remember, who’s to say I wouldn’t be in the middle of a meeting at work or a training session or a huge project that requires all of my attention?  I can’t just stop what I’m doing to post a tweet or pin something to Pinterest.  This is why I just add all of my tweets for the week to a Google calendar and they post to twitter automatically around their scheduled time.  This is something that you can do for free by the way.  No limitations on the number of tweets you can schedule at a time (like on Buffer’s free account).

There are also those days where I need to compose a blog post but either A- don’t feel like typing or B- don’t know where to fit it in my day.  Guess what?  Your assistant can do this for you too.  I compose my blog posts initially in a Google Doc.  Fun feature? Voice dictation.  So yes, your assistant can also transcribe/type for you.  This is useful for those long car rides to/from work when you wish you could be doing something productive.  Talk to your assistant and let her type for you.  This also works well for emails that you want to send to your list.  Talk those out as well.  You’re already in the car for 30-60 minutes, so you might as well use the time doing something else other than cursing at other drivers on the road :)

Want to know a few more ways that you can use automation in your processes?

  • Market research: if you can’t think of anything to post about on your blog, a great thing to do is search hashtags on twitter and see what people are confused or asking questions about.  You can keep track of all tweets that match your search criteria in a Google spreadsheet (Google’s version of Microsoft Excel, free as well!).  For example, maybe you are a hair blogger.  Perhaps you could search for #hairproblems (literally just searched for this on twitter and saw a crap ton of posts with people tweeting about their hair problems) for ideas on what to post about.  Instead of stalking twitter hashtags all day, your assistant can stalk for you and put the results right onto a nice spreadsheet that you can check at your leisure.
  • Tag new customers in your email marketing platform when they purchase something from you: this is a great thing to do and can be hard to keep up with on your own.  Let your assistant tag them and send them a satisfaction survey a few days later.  You don’t even have to remember to do all of this, it can happen behind the scenes.
  • Cross promotion: If you are a blogger, whenever you publish a new blog post, rather than going to all of these different social media platforms to shout about it from the rooftops, you can just create a task that will post the details and URL to your social media automatically.  This is what I do and it contributes to my peace of mind.

So how do I use automation in my blogging process?  Along with the three things above, here are a few more ways:

  • Email courses: course content is sent to subscribers automatically on a schedule

  • Label and Filter my emails: Emails that I receive matching a specific criteria are labeled and moved to a different folder.  This helps to keep my inbox looking pretty.

  • Pin my Instagram photos to a Pinterest board every time I post to Instagram

  • PayPal transactions are automatically added to my accounting software

  • Receive a text message whenever I receive a new sale.  I don't need to keep my email open all day as a result which cuts down on distractions.

  • New Client Workflow: When I get a new client, they automatically receive a series of emails (aka onboarding) full of information regarding what they need to do at different phases of the project.  This eliminates me having to remember to send them a questionnaire and the link to my scheduling calendar because the details are outlined in the automated email.

Since BAE has been a key member of my team, I have been able to get a lot of things accomplished that would have taken loads of time and memory to do otherwise.

Here are a few of my posts that go into more detail on how to automate certain tasks:

The best shortcut keys to save you time

Two of my favorite automation programs to use

Three reasons why you should post your Instagram photos to Pinterest

How to use voice dictation for composing blog content

 

Every blog has a different focus and goal, so the ways to automate tasks are immeasurable.  I just wanted to open your eyes to the various possibilities so that you can think about adding automated tasks to your process.  I am a total geek for automation, so if you have any questions about it, I’m here to help!  Just leave your questions and comments below and I’d be happy to answer them.