Automating tasks to save time

Automating tasks to save time

At some point in your business journey, you will reach a point at which you cannot fit in any more work and/or any more time to work. At this point, the single most productive next-step is not to outsource but is usually to look into automating some of the processes that support your business. I’m as guilty as the next business owner of following the same tried and tested method of getting jobs done simply because ‘I’ve always done it that way’. But I’m increasingly interested in ways that technology can free us from our shackles of tradition and comfort, always striving to become more productive and efficient in the business support I provide.

If you carry out any of the following on a manual basis, then you might just be able to save yourself precious time each week by using software and apps to streamline the process. Let’s not get shiny-object syndrome and adopt new ways for the sake of it, if these aren’t going to shave time off recurring tasks then they won’t be worth it, but I can vouch for each of these as I use them regularly in my own business. Some of the links below may attract a small affiliate bonus for me should you sign up.

Getting documents signed

If you require documents signing as part of your processes you probably recognise the endless creating, scanning, emailing, chasing, receiving by email, printing, signing, rescanning and saving process involved.

Using an electronic signature tool such as Hellosign or Eversign cuts out the majority of the process – simply upload your document, add the fields that need completion and your own electronic signature and the email of who you are sending it to. You receive a daily update on outstanding documents and can send a reminder with one click (free plans will have a limit on the number of documents you can send each month). The returned document is saved against your account and can be downloaded if required.

Scheduling appointments

The dreaded email ping pong!

Rather than manually trying to work out times and dates when multiple people are available, why not try a Doodle poll? Doodle enables everyone to highlight availability so that you can see at a glance when the most people are available. It’s super easy to get multiple availability and arrange pretty much anything in much less time. This article offers some similar solutions.

Trying to pin down an appointment time can be difficult, but if you offer appointments of any kind (telephone or physical) then a scheduling programme such as Acuity or Calendly is the answer. Check out both, as both offer free versions with differing functionality. I personally use Calendly as I can integrate with my Google Calendar on the free version and that satisfies my requirements. Whether it’s meetings with colleagues or appointments for clients, it saves so much time letting people select a slot from your availability.

If you’re keen to keep everything manual, this (slightly biased) article from Zoho has some benefits of taking your diary online.


If you produce recurring invoices and/or need to produce estimates and then convert them to invoices, then an accounting software such as Wave, Xero or Quickbooks may save some time.

I actually use Wave for my own accounting and have it linked through to my bank account, but do use it solely to generate estimates and invoices for one of my clients as well.

With several layout options in Wave, the invoice templates are much more professional looking than a Word doc or Excel layout. They are super quick to set up with your services/products and brandable.  For me, the speed comes in setting up my monthly recurring invoices. If needed, these can actually be sent automatically, as can overdue reminders.

I also have a dashboard so I can keep track of my income and expenditure each month.

With so many accounting options available for small businesses, this round up of the free options is well worth a read. Bear in mind the Making Tax Digital changes – Wave doesn’t comply (as of January 2019).

Scheduling Social Media

If posting to Social media every day is getting onerous then a scheduling tool could be the answer, particularly if you plan your Social media in advance. A small amount of time set aside to post in bulk will certainly take the pressure off. Interspersed with ad-hoc/topical posts and keep an eye on any comments/responses and your Social Media will be running smoothly. Top scheduling tools include Buffer, Hootsuite and MeetEdgar among others – prices vary depending on the number of users/profiles. Check out this post with the Top 10 recommended.

Refresh your business

Refresh your business

Often, business owners lack valuable time to step back and review their business. Quieter periods allow for some reflection and a chance to  refresh business practices.

Technology changes on a regular basis, and as a business owner it is important to make sure that you keep abreast of the changes in society and social media.

A SWOT analysis is the perfect way to review your business and look at opportunities to move forward. Templates are available to use, but basically, you will be looking at four elements to your business :

Internal factors : Strengths/Weaknesses

External factors : Opportunities/Threats


These are all quite broad points, so breaking them down, some of the types of things to consider could include :

  • Internal strengths

    • Unique Selling Points – are you getting these across on your website and social media?

    • Advantages that you have over competitors

    • Things that your customers need to know about

  • Internal weaknesses

    • Improvements needed within the business – research could be required

    • Things you want to avoid (as a business)

    • Causes of lost sales – customer service issues, slow responses to email, inadequate responses on social media

  • External Opportunities

    • Trends within your sector – do you need to research?

    • New technology –  using apps, new programmes, writing blogs

    • New markets – do you need to research?

    • Social changes – do you have an online presence? , is your website mobile responsive?

  • External threats

    • Competitors – do you need to research what they are doing?

    • Changes in sector standards and technology –  are you getting left behind? , do you need to research?

    • Cash flow

business developmentBy carrying out an analysis of where you are and where you want to be,as a business owner, you will start to see what changes need to be made to your business and be able to identify tasks that need to be completed in order to facilitate this.


If you have taken the time to look into refreshing your business, let me know how it went.

If you feel that you don’t have the time to carry out these tasks, why not visit my services page which details my skills? As a freelance Virtual Assistant I am sure that I can help support you in taking your business forward. I am experienced in Business Development support as well as general administration and have supported projects for tender bids, service launches and new business strands. You can read a little more about me here.

Contact me here, or connect via Facebook or Twitter.


Five quick and easy ways to get organised

Five quick and easy ways to get organised

Everyone is short of time, so finding ways to get organised and make life that bit easier are always welcome.

Here are 5 quick and easy ways to bring some order into your life:

EmailGmail really has everything you need to organise your emails. Although you may roll your eyes at the professional image portrayed by an @gmail email address, you can check email from other accounts you own through a Gmail account inbox. Therefore you can have the functionality of the Gmail inbox with any other email address – I have 4 addresses currently coming into my inbox – only one is Gmail. From Gmail you can also choose which email you send from, so the potential from just the one inbox is huge. In addition, you can set up filters and labels onto any incoming emails, for example, all emails from Amazon go into a file called Amazon. You then only need to check that file when you have ordered from Amazon. I have set up a label for all the emails from my clients, for example, so I can easily see them and give them priority.

There is also the possibility of adding an out of office, and also canned responses, which are useful when you send a similar response out to certain queries. Employees often have to use Outlook, but Gmail is so much better and easier to use for those who have the choice, with the added ease of all your accounts and emails being in one place. By filtering or labeling emails, you can streamline your inbox and make sure that you only spend time attending to the emails that really do require your attention.

calendar organisationCalendar synchronisation – For me, the ease of the Google calendar is that you can link it to your Google accounts and it is available (and synchronised) with any other devices that also have your Google account linked to them. This ensures that the appointments and reminders that you put into your calendar on your laptop at work, also show up on your phone. You can also share calendars with other people, enabling an assistant to also schedule into your calendar from their devices as well.

Document sharing – Filling up your inbox capacity with giant documents is not cool. Using either Google Drive or Dropbox to share documents is much easier. With Google drive you get 15GB of free storage for photos and documents with the option to share these with others, choosing to give read-only, editing and commenting rights. The documents are available across all devices. A free Dropbox account allows for 2GB of free storage which can also be shared across devices (with the relevant app downloaded to the device). Don’t forget that documents can also be shared during Skype calls, removing the need to email documents across prior to calls.

social media sharingSocial media scheduling – No need to log into all your separate account  to post, you can do all this through a scheduling tool. Personally, I use Buffer for organising my social media posts. The free version allows one account for each of the social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+) and provides basic analytics. There are paid plans available for businesses with multiple social media accounts. I also use Hootsuite for monitoring Twitter list. Hootsuite also offers a free option across three social profiles, with paid plans available for those requiring more profiles. I found it a less user-friendly for posting and use it generally to manage my own Twitter lists on a dashboard. I would suggest that new users try both Buffer and Hootsuite, to see if they have any preference to one over the other.

Passwords – Do you have lots of bits of paper with different passwords scribbled on them? Do you have to click on the ‘Forgotten password?’ Link? Or do you use the same password for everything? Well, that could all end if you go along to Lastpass.  Lastpass has actually changed my life – it is the only login I need to remember. Lastpass remembers all your passwords – I have business and personal ones in there. Once you are logged in to Lastpass,  you are presented with a list of websites with a saved password, you follow the link and Lastpass  fills  in the password for you. If you set up a new login or change a password, it notices. It has saved me so much time every day.  I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. And the best thing? It’s free!

So to recap, bring some order into your life by:

  • Sorting your inbox

  • Synchronising calendars

  • Using free storage solutions

  • Scheduling social media from one place

  • Organising passwords

I would love to hear if you have implemented any of these time-savers after reading my blog post – let me know in the comments below.

Of course, I am available to help with any calendar management, email management or social media scheduling.  Get in touch with me or check out my services page to see how I might be able to help.