If in business time is money, increasing efficiency is like giving ourselves a monthly bonus. If you increase the efficiency of your day-to-day tasks, the amount of time you save each month can make your business more profitable, grow faster, and give you more time to spend elsewhere.
My favorite way to increase efficiency in an online business is by using awesome software.
With the help of well created apps, I can get things done faster, increase the revenue of my business, and buy myself some more time to spend with my wife and son, or riding my bike.
If you spend less time doing other tasks, you’ll be able to respond to customer service requests faster, which will make people happier, which increases the positive word of mouth around your business, which will increase your revenue. Everyone’s happy.
Let me make this even more clear with a simple formula: good software + smart workflows = increased efficiency + increased revenue = more time to experience happiness and happier customers.
If the above simple formula has any truth in it, then when you do any small thing that isn’t being done as efficiently as it could be, you’re reducing your opportunities to feel and deliver happiness.
The thing is, you may not even be conscious of where in the process of running your business you’re doing things inefficiently. I know I wasn’t when I first started.
But then a light went on around one simple thing in my day-to-day work where I noticed I was repeating the same 45 steps to accomplish a particular task every two weeks.
I realized that I could use some software to automate those 45 steps, and once I set it up, finishing that task went from taking an hour and a half to 5 minutes. Much better.
I’m certainly not done making my own work flows more efficient, but below is a list of things that have helped me make more money, allowed me to deliver more happiness to my customers, and give me more time to experience happiness outside of running a business.
1) Use an organized file and folder structure on your computer.
I have an old client who doesn’t use much of a folder system on her computer at all. Every time she downloads something from a website, or saves a document she’s working on, it goes onto her desktop.
Her desktop is so full of documents that there’s no room for any new documents to be laid out where you can see them, so instead, most of them pile up on top of each other in the upper right corner. There must be hundreds of documents on top of each other in that corner. Oy vey.
Finding anything on her computer takes her 3 or 4 minutes when it could take 3 or 4 seconds if she just kept things organized.
At the end of any given work day, if she had to find a file 8 different times, she’s wasting about a half hour of her day just looking for files.
Wherever you can, try to create an organized, categorized folder structure that you can easily set up wherever you need.
For example, for your website related files, you might create a top level folder in your folder hierarchy called “Website.”
In that folder, create a folder called “Documents” and only put things in it like login information documents, spreadsheets, or website copy.
If you get more than 3 documents that can be categorized into a new folder, make a new folder within the Documents folder and call it, for example, “Website Copy.”
Try to minimize the instances of having a giant, uncategorized pile of files in any folder.
After creating the Documents folder, you might create top level folders for “Site Images,” “Custom theme files,” and “Blog Posts.”
Once you’ve got the folder structure set up, organize all your files into their appropriate homes until everything is well organized and easy to find.
The goal is to have such a well organized folder structure that you never have to use a search bar to find files on your computer.
2) Use Dropbox to backup your files and make them accessible across multiple computers.
Dropbox is a fantastic app that can save your hide and make your workflow faster.
When you create a Dropbox account, you move your well organized folder and file structure into a new folder on your computer called “Dropbox.”
Once you do that, all of your folders and files are uploaded to the Dropbox server, creating an exact copy of everything that’s in your dropbox folder on your computer.
In other words, your folder structure on your computer is mirrored on the dropbox server. (If you don’t know what a server is, they are just like the hard drive disks in your computer, except bigger, faster.)
If you open up a wordprocessing document on your computer and make changes to it, when you save those changes, the changed version is automatically copied to the Dropbox backup folder where that document lives.
That means you’ll always have updated versions of all the files on your computer in your Dropbox account, and it happens automatically.
If your computer ever crashes and you lose the contents of your hard drive, and if you have a Dropbox account, getting all your files back is just a matter of connecting your fixed computer with your Dropbox account and letting it sync up. Lickety split.
The time you lose when you lose years worth of work from a computer crashing is unimaginable. It’s one of the most inefficient things that can happen to your business.
Now, if you have multiple computers, like a desktop and home and a laptop you use to work at cafes, you simply install Dropbox on both computers and now you’ll have access to the same files and folders on both computers automatically, and everything will always be up-to-date.
This means you won’t have to email yourself files so that you can open them on your laptop at a cafe and work on them. And that means it’s faster to get work done.
3) Type by speaking, rather than typing with your hands.
What I mean by this is to use text-to-speech software that recognizes your speaking voice and can turn what you say instantly into typed words.
Right now, I’m actually talking into a microphone to type these words. Talking to type is about 30% to 50% faster than typing with your hands, depending on how fast you can type.
I’m on a Mac, and the best speech recognition software around is called Dragon Dictate. If you’re on a PC the same company makes a version for PCs called Dragon Naturally Speaking.
The Dragon software will work anywhere where you can put a cursor, such as wordprocessing documents, an e-mail, or Facebook.
The amount of money spent on speech recognition software pays for itself quickly in the amount of time it saves you to type.
Given that so much of the communication that happens for an online business happens via text, if you can increase the speed at which you can create text communications by 30% to 50%, that makes your business waaaay more efficient.
The process of writing by speaking can take a little getting used to for most people, but once you get the hang of it, writing becomes so much faster that it’s hard to go back if you’re interested in saving lots of time.
So, those are three ways to increase the efficiency of running your online business in big ways.
In part 2 of this post, I’ll share 10 more ways that can help you greatly increase the efficiency of your business, which means more happiness for you and your customers!