A vicious circle of thinking about office automation.

It makes no difference if you represent a SME, a large organisation, or if you are a sole trader. As an entrepreneur, did it ever cross your mind that there’s so much paperwork, reporting, so many different office and admin tasks that could be done faster, more efficient, almost automatic but you have no time to look into it and work on automation, because it would take too much time to implement it?

Can't stop, I’m too busy! Being busy all the time is part of the way we live these days. This is a vicious circle. It sounds like a paradox, right? To save time, you must first invest some time. It is not a paradox per se, it is a process that requires planning and deployment. Its results would be visible right away, and most importantly, they would be long term.

Before you can find ways to save time, you must first determine how you are wasting it and what are the other factors that limits your efficiency. At first, admin work is not that time consuming. You have time as your list of clients is shorter. Data entry, completing documents sounds like a good idea to fill your day with; you are very busy, you work hard and feels like it was a very productive time. But over a period, when your company grows along with your clients list and variety of services you offer, all the office and admin work become a nightmare. The number of invoices to file grows rapidly, so does the list of emails to respond, letters to sign, fill cells in spreadsheets; and where is the spare time for business analysis, new ideas, improvement or at least a constructive conversation with your personnel? You have no time what’s so ever to focus on the most important thing – your core business that generates your income and defines your market position.

“I have no time” is an excuse that works to your disadvantage; and every day the list of tasks that could have been automated only grows.

Companies use different office systems and tools in house. Many of them only use few percent of their full potential/ functionality; sounds familiar? Do you know it from your own experience? MS Excel is a great example here; it is usually used to enter numbers in cells. Some people don’t even know names of all tools they use during their busy day in the office. Not many people heard about macros that could automatically merge, split, generate reports and even send them by email, even send them out when your office is closed, and you just logged out from the system. Macros are used to automate tasks in Microsoft Office products. You name it.

How about automating emails in Outlook with possibility to set up emails to be automatically moved into folders without any action from your side, attachments being saved into shared drive, multiple emails being sent with personalised message and added attachment.
Also, reminders, tasks and to-do lists connected to your calendar with alerts and deadlines? And meetings set up for yourself and for a shared calendar for your team?
Another one could be project management with MS Projects; it lets you create Gantt charts, track progress, delegate tasks and control of what has been done and what is outstanding.
These are only a few examples. We mentioned MS tools as they are the most popular, both offline and online (Office 365) but is analogous to any other office systems.
It is truth, it takes time to implement changes in your office systems, automate the processes, that could and should be automated to use the systems and tools we have available. But this time cannot be compared with the time that you would save long term.

Automation of routine tasks is not a fad but a crucial element in this fast-paced changing world. It is a necessity for a business that wants to mean something on the market, within their industry.
We encourage businesses to take a first step towards development and automation, because as one of the famous adverts says, “you are worth it”.

As a business owner, you might make some sacrifices, it would require from you a lot of strength and focus, especially in the first period of its existence. Do not waste this chance, save time from the very beginning and the input of work and time for implementing automated processes will quickly bring profit. You would finally have time to focus on your core business, to deal with new customers, improve services, interact with staff, and above all to create new ideas. Remember that there is a difference between being productive and being busy. Work smart, not hard.

Ewa Adams - Business Consultant

Ewa is a certified coach & business specialist with 15 years of international experience (Europe, Asia, Africa) in various sectors (construction & engineering, IT, healthcare, aviation, recruitment/HR). Her life's motto is “It always seems impossible until it is done”.