After money, time is a resource that is in high demand for businesses. While everyone is busy juggling meetings, emails, and deadlines, it's difficult to put much thought into improving efficiency and how that could help your business.
Recently we've been investing our time in initiatives to improve efficiency and earn back more time. Now we can focus our time and energy on solving new problems. We're already seeing sizable returns on our investments, with some solutions shaving hours off routine tasks.
What could your business do with more time? Think about it- more time in the day. More time before that looming deadline. Maybe even more time to shut your brain off and relax once in a while.
We share four tips to help you earn back time for your business and become more efficient.
1. Identify repetition
People like routines. They keep us in our comfort zones because we can follow a pattern and don’t have to think about what comes next. But these can be a great opportunity for time savings.
Start by identifying processes that you repeat every day or in every project cycle (these are usually tasks that eat up a lot of time and are relatively mindless). If you can write the steps on a piece of paper, hand it to someone else, and that person could run through that list with the same outcome, that's an opportunity for improvement.
Once you've identified a process, ask yourself, your team, or your friendly neighborhood digital agency (that’s us!):
- Can this process be automated?
- What can we do to reduce the time required to do this daily, weekly, etc. in the future?
Now it's time to implement the solution. Empower your employees or team members to spend time on projects that will save you time and make you more efficient in the long run.
Example: Retail Order Processing Pricing
In a past life, I had a job processing orders for a retail company. When I started, I was trained on a process to manually check every order for valid pricing based on the selected product options. During peak sales periods, this ate up my entire day.
After one peak sales period, several of us worked with a developer to create a report that did this analysis for us. It took a few days and some back and forth to get the report finalized. After that the process that could take an entire day could be completed in the two minutes it took for the report to run.
The culprits aren't always as obvious as that example. But, that's the sort of thing you want to look out for.
2. Build out a knowledge base
You've been in this situation: after spending hours digging into a problem, you think you'll never forget the solution and you're eager to move on and put the frustration behind you. But you’re going to forget. And it's going to be that much more frustrating (and time consuming) when you come across that problem again. Not to mention, what if someone else on your team runs into that problem, how is your memory of the solution going to help them?
Ask your teams: do we have a system to document helpful information and find solutions for past issues or problems?
Avoid Information Hoarding & Start a Documentation Process
If people in your company are still relying on stacks of printed documents for information, or if you only have one person as the resource for a specific topic- that's a red flag. If those people leave, or if the documents are lost, your company will lose time and energy re-learning or troubleshooting problems that have already been solved.
How do you keep this from happening? Start a knowledge base (a centralized hub of digitally accessible information). This solution will be both valuable and time-saving. If you don’t have one, start it.
There are a variety of software solutions out there. Or, depending on the size of your organization, you might even be able to get away with your own system of documents - maybe even Google Docs. Whatever makes the most sense for your business.
We use Confluence and we keep it up to date with
- technical how-to’s
- solutions to common problems
- meeting notes
- anything else that might be helpful for future reference
Having this resource saves a lot of time and frustration.
3. Create starter kits and templates
If you repeatedly create work that’s similar in structure, think about creating a starter kit or template. The 10 minutes it takes to create a new document, add a header, and format it to look nice might not seem like a big deal. But imagine if you open the “Memo Boilerplate” and start typing your content right away. If you’re creating one of these documents once a day, that’s almost an hour you gained for other work this week. It adds up.
Ask your teams: what are we creating on a regular basis that's similar in structure?
Example: New Project Starter Kit for Websites in Umbraco
Umbraco is a powerful content management system (CMS) that we use to build a lot of our clients’ sites. We implement a lot of customized solutions and unique designs for each project, but the foundation of the projects is the same. So, we decided to build a starter kit to use for new projects. This eliminates the need to repeat the initial configuration steps, saves a few hours, and lets us get started on custom development almost immediately.
4. Identify repetition
Did you pass the test? (Hint: re-read #1.)
Remember that repetition doesn’t always exist in one place. Sometimes tasks are duplicated by multiple individuals within the same project cycle.
Eliminate Extra Work: Diagram Your Workflow to Find Overlaps
Walk through some of the processes in your organization, from person to person. Get the details on what everyone is doing then take a step back and look at the entire workflow. If it helps, draw out a diagram. If you’re seeing redundant efforts, talk to the people involved and figure out why they’re both completing the task. Then make a plan that eliminates the extra work.
When it comes to creating more time in the day, the moral of the story is that you must spend time to earn it back. Consider it an investment for your future sanity. Empower your teams and employees to find and implement these time-saving solutions.
Finding the right solutions can be the hard part, but once you implement them, you’ll be able to start using your valuable time to do more meaningful work.