Time-Saving Tech Tools
Published on 23 May 2019
Time is a valuable commodity for any business owner, and it’s always in demand. Unfortunately, there is no way to get more time – we can’t increase the number of hours in the day, but what we can do is take the hours we do have and use them more efficiently using technology. In a recent HubLive, SmartHub Business Manager Elize Hattin sat down with SmartHub Mentor Daniel Johnsen to discuss how he uses technology to save him time in his business.
Daniel is a big fan of time-efficient technology. “Any time I’m thinking about automating a task, it’s because the task takes me too much time, or doing that activity adds zero money to my pocket, so I try to find ways to get rid of it,” He explained.
Here are some of Daniel’s favourite apps, plugins and techniques that he uses to save him time in his business.
Calendly is a scheduling app intended to put an end to the never-ending email chains when you are trying to organise a time to have a meeting. It integrates with other calendar apps in order to find available times to connect with your contacts, prospects and clients. Daniel believes this tool is the best $9USD that he could spend a month. “I’ll get an email from someone saying, “Let’s meet Tuesday, when are you free on Tuesday?” and I send them the link to my Calendly, they can schedule a lunch, a dinner, drinks, a 20 minute meeting, an hour long meeting, and then I get an email invite, it shows up on their calendar and it shows up on mine. Scheduling adds $0 to my income, so I got rid of it,” he said.
Calendly has Basic, Premium and Pro packages, ranging from free to $12USD a month per user, and it has a 14-day free trial.
Many people become frustrated with autocorrect, but this tool has a use beyond fixing spelling mistakes that may or may not exist. Daniel uses autocorrect to create his own shortcuts when he types, saving time by putting automatic scripts into his custom dictionary. “Any time somebody asks me when we can meet, I just type in the letters “SWD”, which means “Schedule with Daniel.” When I do that, autocorrect changes that to a message I set up beforehand that says, “Hey, I would love to meet with you. Follow this link to my Calendly, schedule a time,” and it’s done,” He said.
To set up your Autocorrect like this for an Android device, you can head into Settings, then Keyboard Settings, and then to Custom Dictionary. From this place, you can add words and their autocorrect suggestions. On an iOS device, you can go into Settings, then to General, then Keyboard, then Text Replacement. You can add a new word and shortcut in here. This technique can be used for all kinds of things, including web addresses, your business contact information, or anything you like.
Managing expense reports is very important, but also time consuming. This is why Daniel loves using Expensify to help him prepare his expense reports. “If you ever see me on the plane between Brisbane and Rockhampton, you’ll probably see me with all the receipts I have. I take pictures of these receipts while I’m on the plane, and I use Expensify to get the pictures I take, it uploads them to the internet, it reads through the receipt and it can tell who the vendor was, the amount of money spent, the currency, assigns it a category and then it’s all compiled into an expense report. It takes care of everything for me.”
Expensify.com is free for individuals who use under 5 SmartScans per month, and ranges in cost from $6.99 AUD to $15 AUD for unlimited SmartScans and other special features including receipt storage, automatic mileage tracking and corporate card management.
Humans are visual creatures, and when meetings are hosted online, having visuals is key to success. Zoom is a video conferencing tool that is perfect for holding meetings and webinars. Daniel uses this tool thanks to the stability of the service and how easily it integrates with his other apps. “I can actually talk to Calendly and tell it to automatically create a Zoom meeting whenever someone schedules a meeting and then attach that Zoom meeting link to the calendar invite. Then where it says where the meeting will be held, it’ll say in Zoom and it will include the phone number to call and the link to download Zoom and whatever else is needed,” He said.
Zoom has a range of services and price levels to suit individuals, professionals, small and medium businesses and large enterprises. The free level includes unlimited one-on-one meetings, 40 minutes of call time for group meetings and features such as screen share, instant messaging and breakout rooms for collaborative meetings.
Streak for Gmail
Streak is a plugin for Gmail, created by former Google developers who worked on the creation of Gmail. It adds extra buttons and functionality to your Gmail account that makes it easier to keep track of your pipeline, know what to do next and it even collaborates with other apps and services. One of Daniel’s favourite functions is the ability to send things later. “If you ever get an email from me at 8:17 in the morning, I can guarantee you that I did not send it at 8:17 in the morning. If you’re working on the weekend, do a favour for the people you’re emailing and schedule the email for Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning,” He explained.
Another one of Streak’s features is using a CSV file to fill and create email templates. CSV stands for comma separated value, and these files can include things such as when you last saw someone, the name of their business and the last product they bought from you and how much money they’ve spent on your business. You can then take this CSV file with data from 100 customers and insert it into a template to create personalised, thoughtful emails in a fraction of the time.
Streak is entirely free to use for personal use, including basic CRM features and email power tools. There are also Professional and Enterprise levels which allow a higher level of functionality, including custom views, integration to other apps and programs via Zapier and advanced and customized reports.
In a world based on visuals, being able to create an eye-catching header, Facebook post or a flyer is important for your business. Canva is an Australian-made graphics creation website with a simple point-and-click designer and hundreds of templates to create anything your business could need. Canva is entirely free to use with some premium templates available for an affordable fee.
If you’ve ever been on a website and a messaging chat interface appears in the corner ready to answer your questions, there’s a chance that website is using Tawk.to. This plugin for your website is completely free and easy to install, making it easy for you to chat to potential customers who are visiting your website. They can also provide chat agents for as little as $1/hr.
Upwork, Trello and Zapier
Take a look at your daily schedule, be it personal or professional, and decide which things aren’t making you happy or bringing value to your company or process, and then get rid of them. This can be done by rescheduling it to a later point in time or you can find someone who you can pay to do that task for you. The term for this is a Virtual Assistant, and hiring one allows you to buy back some of your time meaning you can spend time doing the things you would rather be doing. Daniel uses his own Virtual Assistant and finds having one on board has made his life far easier. “A Virtual Assistant is great for if you need to do something like find 100 contacts, or you’ve got a process of submitting your receipts that you hate, you can just get rid of it, write down the process and train somebody else to do it. One thing my Virtual Assistant does for me is create a weekly meal guide for me using what’s on sale at the grocery shop. I get a list of three breakfasts, three lunches, three snacks and three dinners to cook that week. It takes her a couple of minutes and then it appears in my inbox and it saves me time versus what I’m paying her.”
You can find a Virtual Assistant at the website Upwork.com for varying rates around the world to perform all kinds of tasks for your business. Daniel recommends testing a number of Virtual Assistants before adding one to your team. “It could be something like creating a meal plan, finding cheap flights for a holiday, something that isn’t time sensitive. Find three people on Upwork and give them the same task and see whose product you like the best, who you communicate best with. Let them know you’re looking for someone to add to your team and then you pick the person who you enjoy working with the most,” he said.
In order to work with his Virtual Assistant, Daniel uses Zapier, which can automate actions between apps and services, and Trello, which works as a shared visual planning and to-do list. “I create a task for my Virtual Assistant in Trello, type it out and give her all the directions and what my expectations are. I’ve got a group of pending tasks which I want done, but I haven’t done yet, so I move the task I want her to do out of pending tasks and into requested tasks. As soon as it hits the requested tasks, Zapier will automatically notify her about it via Slack. It’s as if I’m writing to her, but it’s Zapier doing all the work. And then she works on it and messages me when she’s done, and we move it to the completed list.” The tasks a Virtual Assistant can do are endless, from buying clothes to finding a coffee shop to preparing travel arrangements.
SmartHub: Here to Help
Using technology for automation is a fantastic way to save you time when running your business. With solutions for everything your business could possibly need, learning how to use these tools can greatly improve your quality of life. If you would like to learn more about automation from Daniel, you can find him at the SmartHub at 228 Quay St, Rockhampton. He’s there five days a week and is always happy to help answer your business questions.