What if your life as a business owner/entrepreneur didn’t have to be marked by a constant state of feeling overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do it all in?
Or what if it were possible to reduce the amount of decision fatigue you feel day in and day out?
Or what if you could create more leverage in your day-to-day world that would allow you to more fully enjoy the business you’re leading?
If any or all of those could be true, would you want to know how to make that happen? Of course. The challenge isn’t in the want, the challenge is in the execution. And one of the problems with creating leverage through automation is that when most business owners and entrepreneurs hear the word, “automation” they only hear it at the fourth level, the level of technology/software.
But that’s only one of four levels. There are three that come before it. In other words, you can start creating massive leverage in your business this week if you start thinking through how to use all four levels of automation instead of just one.
So, what are the four levels of automation that can use to create massive leverage? Well here they are.
Level 1: You Automation
By now, you’ve probably heard the story about why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit he did every day. He didn’t want to waste his decision power on choosing what to wear (i.e. he was trying to avoid decision fatigue by creating a simple system that automated his clothing decision for him).
My experience has been that most business owners overlook the power of this kind of “manual” automation—of creating simple systems so that non-routine work becomes routine. Every time you automate something in your world, you reduce the amount of decision fatigue and increase your productivity.
For example, schedule automation is a simple system that can make a huge difference. Case in point. Most business owners and entrepreneurs complain that they can “never find time to work on their business.” That’s not true. You never “find” time, you make time. It’s a schedule and priority issue.
So, one simple “automation” you can create is to schedule a weekly strategy or planning block into your calendar every week. In my former business, I blocked out every Tuesday morning (I was off on Mondays) from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. for planning. How did we grow 30.5% per year for a decade? Well, one of the keys was a simple schedule automation. I never had to think, “What should I do first thing this week?” Nor did I let email or meetings or other people keep me from my business planning session. It was automated. Every Tuesday morning from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Any time you do something more than once, you can automate that sequence. It could be as simple as written directions or sample replies or selecting what to wear each day.
So, what is something that you’re currently doing on a somewhat regular basis that you could create a system for and “automate” how that thing gets done?
Don’t wait on technology. Start this week. Put systems in place so that you don’t have to waste time thinking about what to do. You just do it.
Level II: You and Others Automation
One of the great advantages of being a business owner and/or entrepreneur is that we get to create leverage by hiring other people. However, while we often think about hiring people for roles (i.e. sales, marketing, HR, admin, delivery, etc.) we often forget how we can use them to help automate our world.
For example, I was recently talking with one of my coaching club members. He had finally put together a weekly meeting with his team on Monday mornings but was struggling with putting together an agenda ahead of time. His wife, who also works in the business was meeting with us. So, I said, “I have an idea (Note: as a former pastor, I’m always pro-marriage, which gave me the idea). What if the two of you set up a lunch date every Thursday to talk about the business. And, as part of that lunch, discussed the agenda. Then when you get back, [_______ name withheld], can type the agenda up and get it out on Thursday afternoons so everyone who needs to prepared for something can before the Monday morning meeting?” In other words, he had a task, “Create agenda.” To avoid putting it off, we created a “you and others” automation. Now, it just happens.
Back in my old pastoral days, I knew I needed to write more notes to people. I would write down on my to do list “Write three notes today.” And yet, day after day, it wouldn’t get done. Partly because I forgot and partly because I hated addressing envelopes (I know, we all have our issues). So, my simple “you and others” automation was that I had my assistant put three note cards on my desk every day and then he’d address them and send them out.
I have another client who knew he needed to keep in touch with past clients but never would. The solution? A simple automation. Every Monday, his administrative assistant gives him a list of ten past clients with their phone numbers. While he’s out driving, he now uses that time to reconnect with his past clients.
Don’t overcomplicate automation. It doesn’t have to be with technology. Create systems that automate processes that you want to accomplish and find a way to get your people to help you get your stuff done.
So, what can you make into a you and others automation this week?
Level III: Others Automation
Level three is the delegation level, not the dump level. It’s where you automate some of your tasks through others. For example, a few years ago I was helping a client automate his follow up sequence. He’s a service professional so he does a lot of networking (maybe like you). And yet, like most business people I know, when he came back from a networking meeting, he wasn’t doing much to follow up that stack of business cards.
To turn that around, we created a simple seven step follow up system. Later we automated several of these steps with technology but at first, it was all manual. However, the best part was that he didn’t have to do any of the follow up himself. All he had to do was turn in a business card with someone he wanted to follow up with and his administrative assistant would then oversee his seven step follow up system. He had to help design the system, but once it was designed, it was automated through someone else—even though the end user felt like it was coming from him. Note: he has one system. You can take this to the next level by creating various follow up sequences based on the need of the people you meet.
Nowadays, having others handle your social media accounts can create some significant leverage. For example, I have a friend who’s written a couple of books and a ton of articles. To create some leverage, he finally decided to outsource to someone in the Philippines to go through his books and articles and then create FB posts or tweet quotes from them on a set schedule. Simple. Easy. Done. It looks like he’s active on social media but the vast majority of it is all automated by others.
By the way, another business owner choice that’s worth considering is outsourcing your accounting. Some business owners get this early on, but plenty keep this until they’re in the multiple millions of dollars of revenue (which is way too late). Why? Outsource this and let your outsourcer know that you want X reports on Y dates (i.e automate it though others)
So, what are you currently doing that you could fully automate through other people—internally or externally?
Level IV: Technology Automation
Finally, we arrive at the fourth level, the level of technology. As I said above, when you hear the word, “automation,” my guess is that this is the level you immediately think of. And we could easily spend days discussing workflows and funnels but we won’t. Today’s discussion is primarily focused on the first three levels—not just because they’re the forgotten three but because once most business owners and entrepreneurs start thinking about technology automation, progress tends to slow down.
“Yes, we ought to use technology to solve that!” Okay, which technology? Well, I guess we ought to do some research. Then we ought to get some bids. Then do we have money in the budget for that? Which one will we select? How will we implement that? Who will be responsible for that? Etc. In other words, rarely when a business owner/entrepreneur thinks about technology automation is it something that can happen this week—and I want you to get traction on automation this week.
However, when it comes to technology, there are plenty of simple automations that you could get started on this week if you’re not already using them. For example, remember when we discussed automated responses above. Well, a simple technology automation would be to put those responses in different “signature files” so you can quickly select the response and it’ll autofill. Two seconds. Done.
Speaking of autofill, keystroke program can allow you to create auto-actions (record a series of keystrokes) or autofill in text. For example, how many times do you have to type out your email address each day/week? A ton. Personally, I just type command-shift-e and I’m done.
A template is another pretty low level automation you could create this week. For example, if you run a weekly meeting, why start from scratch each week. You could create a template of your weekly agenda and only have to change a few words each week. That’s pretty doable this week.
Notifications and email reminders are pretty low tech automations that you could execute on in the next few minutes.
In other words, don’t let technology automation slow you down by thinking it has to be big. Start small. Then, once you have the low level items taken care of, you can start thinking bigger like working on big workflow solutions. Or you could choose to migrate from a simple email service to a CRM with automated campaigns. Or you could decide to have a dashboard created with APIs to your key programs so you no longer have to open six different programs to see your key metrics for your business. You just have to open one and now you have everything automatically in front of you.
However, for this week, all I want you to do is think through, “What is one task I’m currently doing on a somewhat regular basis that I could “outsource” to technology?”
If you’re really serious about increasing your productivity and creating leverage, while decreasing your sense of feeling overwhelmed, then I’d encourage you to invest more time and energy this week into figuring out how you can automate more and more of what’s currently on your plate. And to do that, you’ll want to consider using all four levels of automation.
- You automation
- You and others automation
- Others automation
- Technology automation
Remember, the sooner you start automating on all four levels, the sooner you’ll create more leverage, increase your productivity and experience a greater sense of calm and peace. So, what are you waiting for?
To your accelerated success!