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Shorten Your Workweek by Automating These Simple Repeat Tasks

From streamlining meetings to setting up repeat office supply orders, follow these automation tips for optimizing business operations.

Henry Ford figured it out a century ago: By automating repeatable processes, you'll complete a project more efficiently. But you don't need to be speeding up a production line and pumping out automobiles to use that insight for small business operations.

Many tasks around the office usually take more time than they should. By streamlining these seemingly minor actions, you can save time for what you really want to be doing: building your business.

Here are some areas where automation can create more effective operations:

Vendor Meetings

Depending on what type of vendors you have, meetings can take the form of in-person check-ins or email communications. Businesses often check in with vendors on the fly, which can add up to several interactions every week.

Automate: Schedule a time weekly or monthly, depending on your usual level of vendor interaction. Notify vendors that this will be a standing check-in time, even if it's over email. This will not only concentrate all vendor interactions into a shorter timeframe, but also let you see trends in shipping, distribution, product quality and other issues more easily.

Most likely, this standing meeting time will get condensed as people become familiar with the system. So schedule a few hours at the beginning and set an ultimate goal (e.g., one hour every Tuesday morning).

Office Supply Orders

Checking on supply levels for office standards like printer cartridges, paper, pens, flash drives and other items might take only an hour or two, but it distracts you from more important work.

Automate: Create a system that automatically orders a standard set of supplies, based on your needs. If you're unsure of what's required, review orders from the past three to four months and track ordering of regular supplies (as opposed to one-time purchases like desk calendars or software packages). Consider using a single office product supplier to make the automated strategy even more efficient. Then, contact that vendor to set up a system.

Invoicing

Much like vendor meetings or office supply orders, some invoicing is done on a consistent basis every month. Creating each invoice from scratch and sending it to a vendor may be taking more time than you realize.

Automate: Several software programs let you streamline invoice management and automate payments. Although this approach might take a few hours to set up, it's worth the time since it can free you up in the future. An added bonus: It tends to reduce errors and late payments, which means more cash in your pocket.

There are other areas where automation can be beneficial to the business as well. In general, take a look at your operations and see where you might be doing the same tasks every month. From there, aim to develop a system to increase operational effectiveness.

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