How to automate repetitive tasks at work? Introduce automation and save time
January 3, 2022
Even the best-qualified employees can’t reach their potential if their time and energy are consumed by numerous tedious, repetitive tasks. To help them develop their most valuable skills, automation can take many unnecessary tasks off their hands. How to automate repetitive tasks in the workplace? What can be automated, and in what areas?
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McKinsey Global Institute has been conducting a research program on automation technology and its potential effects for several years. The report reveals that 45% of business tasks could be automated using machine learning and artificial intelligence.
On the other side, the topic of automation raises some concerns about taking jobs away from people. Automation is indeed redefining the way we work, but research says that generally, it will generate as many new jobs as it excludes.
So we should think about automation as a chance rather than a threat. Not only can robots and computers do a range of routine tasks better and faster than humans, but they are becoming more adapted to perform tasks involving cognitive abilities. As the mentioned McKinsey report says, increasing automation means creating new jobs, redefining existing roles and even contributing to a complete career change.
Task automation and productivity
All these short tasks that employees repeat multiple times throughout the day take a toll on their productivity. As a result, they can become creatively exhausted or unable to see things from a different perspective. It can lead to mistakes, avoidance, and even burnout.
Removing repetitive tasks from a to-do list is critical to productivity. Some tasks can be delegated, while others may need to be automated.
Task automation means the use of tools or software to automate repetitive, tedious and cognitively undemanding tasks. However, it has many more advantages than reducing the amount of physical or mental work. It helps to unlock employees’ true potential and save time and energy.
Advantages of automation in terms of productivity:
- freeing up the employee’s time and mental energy to engage in high-priority tasks;
- creating a mental space to focus on product or service improvement;
- reducing potential mistakes and bad decisions;
- improving the quality and speed of performed tasks.
How employees spend their time at work?
Checking the calendar, e-mails, collecting information and taking notes – all these activities are the most tedious and time-consuming at work.
According to McKinsey study, 28% of an average working week is spent responding to e-mails (approx. 11 hours per week). Likewise, a further 19% on information and data gathering, and 14% on communication and collaboration, leaving only 39% actually dedicated to role-related activities.
Some tools may help employees with these tasks and automate the most tedious parts. Thanks to them, work can become more efficient and productive. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Everyday tasks you can automate:
1. Sorting and replying to e-mails
According to Forbes article, on average, employees receive at least 200 messages a day and spend approximately 2.5 hours reading and replying to e-mails.
So, how to facilitate that process and what to automate?
- set up most frequent e-mail replies – using advanced filters or a tool like Zapier, which generates automatic answers to frequently asked questions;
- set up automatic replies to meetings invitations scheduled in your calendar (using software such as Calendly);
- link your e-mails to a to-do list tool (like Todoist) – your priority e-mails will be automatically added to your list, so you won’t forget to reply to critical ones;
- schedule e-mail responses reminders – so you don’t have to remember to follow up (you can try Boomerang, Gmail’s plugin);
- create automatically added e-mail signatures – including your title and contact information, so you don’t have to type them every time.
2. Collecting multimedia
There are a lot of digital materials on the web (like articles, videos, ebooks etc.) potentially interesting for you. But it is impossible to consume them all. So, you can use appropriate tools that collect and automate only the news, texts, and articles you really want to read. They automate tasks like:
- sending a summary of global news and top headlines to your mail inbox every day (like TheSkimm);
- monitoring topics of your interest that appear on the web (by Google Alerts);
- automatically forwarding certain e-mails to a dedicated place (like Evernote notebook), where you can read them at any time (using Gmail filters).
3. Correcting text documents
Unless you are a professional writer, you should consider editing and proofreading any text documents you are writing. The good news is you can use the tools for automatic text analysis, such as Grammarly or Hemingway.
They will automatically correct errors such as contextual spelling, grammar, misuse, and poor use of vocabulary. Such applications can also identify long, complex sentences, repetitive phrases, and more. To automatically correct any text, you can add their extensions to your browser and have all your texts checked in real-time.
4. Taking notes
Personal assistant tools are used to organize, save time and, as a result, increase productivity. An example would be Evernote, where you can save and store notes or ideas and create a calendar, all in one place. You can keep there standard text files, photos, and audio recordings (Evernote Personal).
After adding each note, you can create an Evernote draft in Gmail, sync the new notebook with your Google Drive, create a draft WordPress post from the note, etc.
5. Timesheet creation
Another useful productivity tool is a time-monitoring app. One of them is TimesheetKiller – an automated time-tracking tool that tracks all the tasks you perform at work and groups them into projects in your timesheet. The app is perfect and easy to use because it:
- automatically monitors your activity in documents, programs, and websites;
- processes the names of files, folders, and URLs you use – data used to assign your work-time to the relevant projects;
- defines which projects you work for based on the keywords you can to each project;
- prepares a timesheet for you (daily, weekly, monthly or yearly);
- allows you to export the data to a csv/xls file, so you get a report ready to send to your employer or client.
You may know other time monitoring apps like Toggl or Clockify. The difference between them and TimesheetKiller is that they run in the browser, while TimesheetKiller is an entirely local application, so it protects your data even better. So, if you care about your data privacy, try it: Download TimesheetKiller for free.
6. Organizing meetings
Organizing meetings requires similar activities every time, such as asking colleagues for availability, creating an invitation, or entering each event into the calendar. However, you can automate most of these tasks, for example:
- prepare a universal template of the e-mail invitation to meetings – including repeatable information and directions, so you don’t have to repeat them every time;
- create cyclical meetings that are repeatable, e.g. once a week or a month, and automatically enter them into the coworkers’ calendars;
- share your calendar with coworkers – this way, they can check when you’re free without asking you for availability every time;
- integrate work calendar (from Gmail or Outlook) with your local computer calendar so that all meetings appear in it automatically;
- ask your virtual assistant (like Siri or Alexa) to create a meeting in a calendar using voice commands.
Professional areas to introduce automation:
Thanks to automation, it is possible to optimize almost all marketing processes. For example, you can use automation to:
- monitoring web performance – automatic notifications and analysis of brand mentions on the web, audience’s activity on social media, industry trends, competition actions, and more;
- setting up automatic reports – weekly updates from your analytical tools (like Google Analytics or Facebook Ads), so you don’t have to remember to check them regularly on your own;
- publishing on social media – tools such as Buffer, Hootsuite or InstaChamp, as well as the CoSchedule, offer scheduling, automatic publishing and analyzing your social media content from all platforms in one place;
- publishing on a blog – most blog sites, such as WordPress, offer the option to schedule posts in advance. So, just like with social media content, you can write multiple blog posts at once and have them auto-published.
2. Finances and accountancy
Accounting departments and companies perform a large number of cyclical and repetitive tasks based on extensive data on a daily basis. The right tools can significantly speed up these processes and help avoid human errors. They automate tasks like:
- managing invoices – software like Freshbooks or Zoho offers features like scheduling and sending out cyclical invoices, tracking payments, and setting up automatic e-mail reminders about invoices.
- creating payroll – the process of paying employees should run flawlessly and on time. Accounting management tools like QuickBooks can automate your work by calculating employee earnings, accounting for payroll taxes and deducting employee benefits, and more;
- scanning paper receipts – tools like Shoeboxed quickly scan bills, extract the necessary information, and categorize them; what is more, they can automatically archive receipts you receive to your e-mail inbox;
- paying bills and invoices – you can automate transfers by configuring cyclical payments on your bank account.
3. Human resources
HR departments deal with many repetitive tasks, such as job interviews, onboarding, and training. To ease up the process, you can automate, for example:
- recruitment process – using tools like ZipRecruiter, you can have your job offers published on multiple job search websites, as the app aggregates offers from many platforms;
- researching potential employees – you can use online forms (like Paperform or Google Forms) to collect initial information about candidates to identify the most suitable ones;
- management of employee benefits (paid holidays, bonuses, allowances), using app like Gusto, you can have employee onboarding, payroll, and benefits management in one place;
- notifications about important dates (like the end of a trial or contract period).
This field has numerous everyday processes that are simple and require little thought, such as filling out documents or forms or scanning documents. Some tasks you can automate include:
- scanning documents – you don’t need a scanner to create electronic versions of administrative documents. With the right phone apps, like Scanbot or CamScanner, you can do it with your smartphone. These tools speed up the entire process, and offer automatic reading of the data from documents using text analysis technology.
- backing up computer files – instead of saving files to an external hard drive, you can set up a cloud backup, such as Dropbox, where you set a daily or weekly backup time.
How to start automating tasks?
The latest McKinsey Global Institute research from 2020 shows that in the past two years, more and more companies have become aware of the need for automation. However, if your organization does not implement such activities yet, you can use the tools we listed on your own. They will also be useful if you are a freelancer, as running your own business requires exceptional time management and abandoning unnecessary tasks.
You are not sure which tool to try first? For starters, we recommend the TimesheetKiller app because it requires almost no action on your part. It runs in the background while you focus solely on your work. What’s more, using it, you can monitor and analyze your activities and specify further areas for automation.
3 steps to define tasks to automate with TimesheetKiller:
- Create a list of things you should do throughout a day or week;
- Track your work and all tasks you perform;
- Analyze the list of tracked tasks and draw conclusions.
So if you need a timesheet or just want to analyze your work productivity, this tool will be the best choice to get started. Download TimesheetKiller for free.