When you think of all the tasks you perform in a day, how many of them could be automated? Rather than spending time on tedious tasks, you can save time and focus on more important things by setting up a handful of automation.
From managing emails to tasks to your team, let’s look at several automations that can increase your productivity each and every day.
1. Manage Emails With Ease
If there’s one thing that takes up time, it’s emails. Checking your inbox, replying to messages, composing new emails, and keeping it all organized is a time-consuming process. But, with an automation or two, you can regain some of your precious time for other tasks.
Let’s look at a few ways to automate email management using two popular tools, Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.
Set Up Rules or Filters to Move, Mark, or Label
Did you know that you can automatically take actions on emails you receive in Outlook and Gmail? Move messages to certain folders, mark emails as read or important, or tag messages with a category or label. Each of these actions can help you organize your inbox and spot the emails you need quickly without lifting a finger.
To set up a rule in Outlook, go to “File -> Manage Rules and Alerts.” Select "New Rule" and then use the Rules Wizard to walk through the process. You can pick a rule template, choose the conditions, select the actions, optionally add exceptions, and then turn on the rule. Then, sit back and let Outlook organize your incoming messages.
To set up a filter in Gmail, select the gear icon and choose “See all settings.” Go to the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab and pick “Create a new filter” at the bottom. Enter the conditions and choose the action(s) you want to take. Then, let the rule you set up manage your incoming emails for you.
Take a moment to review all of the conditions and actions available for your favorite email app. There may be one that you didn’t realize existed.
Create Automatic Email Replies
Automatic replies can be used for more than when you’re out of the office. In both Outlook and Gmail, you can send an automatic reply template based on conditions you set up. Although it may take a few minutes to set up initially, this automation can save you from continuously typing the same email or repeatedly copying and pasting from one you’ve sent.
To use an Outlook template as a reply, set up a new rule as described in the above section. In the list of actions, pick “Reply using a specific template,” click “a specific template,” and select the template’s name. Complete the remaining steps for the rule and you’re set.
To use a Gmail template as a reply, set up a filter as described above. In the action list, pick “Send template” and choose the template name in the drop-down list. Add any other actions you like, click “Create filter,” and that’s all there is to it!
Tip: You can set up different templates for various types of replies to automate even more responses.
2. Schedule Social Media Posts
Posting on social media may be popular for personal situations but can be super important for business ones. For marketers, bloggers, advertisers, entrepreneurs, and much more, those posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and the rest are now part of normal business.
With tools created specifically for helping you stay connected, applications like Buffer and Hootsuite can take much of the work out of posting at those prime times. For instance, if you set aside time to compose all of your posts at once, just pop them into one of these tools, schedule them, and you’re done.
Buffer and Hootsuite also offer additional business services to go along with your social media posting. Take a look at Buffer’s plans and features as well as Hootsuite’s options to see which works best for you.
3. Set Up Recurring Meetings or Events
It may seem like a simple thing, but many people don’t take advantage of the recurring event feature in their calendar application. Outlook Calendar, Google Calendar, and others provide this option to save you time and eliminate the risk of forgetting to schedule a meeting.
If you have a daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly event like a meeting, conference, town hall, or seminar, you can simply set it and forget it. When the time comes for the next occurrence, you’ll automatically receive a reminder.
To set up a recurring event in Outlook Calendar, double-click the date and time to set up the event. Click “Make Recurring” in the detail window and choose when to repeat the event. You can pick the time, recurrence pattern, and the number of times to repeat it.
To set up a recurring event in Google Calendar, double-click the date and time to set up the event. At the top of the detail screen use the “Does not repeat” drop-down list to pick the recurrence. You can choose from options like daily, monthly, weekly, annually, or set up a custom schedule. Then, set up the notification beneath.
Remember, you can create recurring events for everything from meetings and conference calls to classes and workouts.
4. Create Repeating Tasks or Reminders
Just like setting up recurring events in your calendar, you can create repeating tasks or reminders in your favorite to-do app. For both personal and business situations, these helpful tools ensure you won’t forget a thing, keep you on task, and provide a friendly "ping" when something is due.
If you’re a Windows user, you can use Microsoft To-Do. If you use a Mac, you can use the Apple Reminders app. Each of these tools is already there, ready and waiting, to work for you.
To set up a recurring item in Microsoft To-Do, add the item with a due date, time, reminder, and then click the “Repeat” button. You can repeat the task daily, weekly, monthly, or choose a custom option. Click “Add” and you’re set.
To set up a recurring item in Apple Reminders, add the item to your list with a date, time, location, and notes as you like. Click the Info icon (letter "i") and use the "Repeat" drop-down box to choose the recurrence or add a custom one.
If you use a different to-do list application, be sure to check its feature list for a repeating task and reminder option.
5. Manage Your Tasks or Team
Whether you’re managing a team or a project, you can make use of automations to take care of tedious tasks that take time. With tools like Trello, Asana, and Monday.com, you can set up rules to do things like assign tasks, notify team members, move or sort cards in a list, set a due date, and more, all automatically.
To set up an automation in Trello, select “Automation -> Rules” at the top of your workspace. Click “Create rule,” select a trigger, choose an action, and save it. Best of all, you can set up automations with both free and paid Trello accounts.
If you use Asana, you can create Rules or if you use Monday.com, you have the Automation feature. Each is available with an Asana or Monday.com paid account. On Asana, select “Customize” and then choose “Rules.” On Monday.com, click “Automate” at the top.
Be sure to review all of the triggers and actions for the tool you select. You might just spot something that’ll save you even more time!
6. Back Up Your Device Data
When you think of a task that’s tiresome yet important, it’s backing up your data. Your computer and mobile device(s) contain data that’s essential to both your personal and business life and it’s certainly data you wouldn’t want to lose. By automating the backup process, you can ensure your data is recoverable and there when and if you need it.
On Android devices, you can automatically back up to Google One and on iPhone and iPad, you can take advantage of daily iCloud backups. On Windows, you can control your backup settings in “Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Backup” and on Mac, you can use Time Machine, an external drive, and/or iCloud.
Whether you use your devices’ built-in tools or look for a third-party option, setting a backup schedule is a solid plan for protecting your data.
7. Create Automated Workflows
For tools that go even further with automations for all sorts of applications, check out Zapier or IFTTT. You can automate everything from social media posts and email campaigns to uploading files and logging phone calls. The possibilities are almost endless!
Here are just some of the automated tasks you can set up with Zapier and IFTTT:
- Save Gmail attachments to Google Drive.
- Add a new card to a Trello board.
- Keep a spreadsheet of Twitter posts.
- Receive daily reminders for meetings.
- Share Dropbox files in Slack.
- Track work hours in Google Calendar.
- Save Facebook Lead Ads details to Google Sheets.
- Add Outlook events to Google Calendar.
You can set up five automations called Zaps with a free Zapier account and use two automations called Applets with a free IFTTT account. Be sure to take a look at the paid plans for additional automations and features at prices you can afford.
Frequently Asked Questions
What other productivity features do Outlook and Gmail offer?
Both Outlook and Gmail offer robust features for managing your inbox and handling messages. For instance, you can use conditional formatting to make certain emails stand out or set up automatic forwarding to another email address in Outlook.
Which time management techniques or tools can increase productivity?
There are plenty of methods for managing your time and the one you use is a personal preference. For a couple of suggestions, you can check out the Eisenhower Matrix technique for managing tasks. This method also helps you effectively use your time by prioritizing your workload.
Additionally, you can try setting up a block schedule to focus on one task at a time. You plan each day or week in advance by scheduling time for each item on your list. Check out our how-to on setting up a block schedule in Outlook Calendar for further details.
What’s the best way to eliminate distractions that decrease productivity?
Microsoft and Apple have both introduced features to help you concentrate and work more productively. Whether in a physical office or the comfort of your home, you can take advantage of these built-in tools.
On Windows, check out Focus Mode. You can customize the feature to reduce the notifications you see in the taskbar as well as hide distracting icons.
On Mac, you can use Apple Focus. With it, you can decide which apps to use and notifications to receive during your scheduled or manually enabled Focus time.
Image Credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.
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