November 29, 2021

4 Ways to Automate Your Day and Free Up Precious Time

an alarm clock and coffee cup on a table

It’s hard to remember that dark time in the not-so-distant past when we had to do things like print out directions instead of trusting our phones to lead the way. Alexa hasn’t even been around for a decade, and yet here we are today, with smart home setups that open up the house for us, feed the dog, and turn on our night lights before we go to bed. We might not have flying cars, but we certainly do live in the future.

As we connect more and more to “The Internet of Things,” you’d think we’d have more free time and less pressure on our shoulders. Yet we’re more stressed than ever. It seems like for every task we’ve automated, there’s some other inconvenience desperately trying to steal our attention: a flood of social media notifications, endless sales emails, the nagging smart home device telling you the coffee’s running low. The list goes on.

We’re saving so much time, yet somehow, we seem to have less of it than ever.

A 2013 Oxford study called The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation? estimated that bookkeepers had a 97.6% chance of being automated in the next 20 years. If you’re a tax preparer reading this and thinking, “Phew, at least I’ll be safe,” don’t zen out just yet — the study gave tax preparers a 98.7% chance of being replaced by automated services.

Here’s the good news: Eight years after that study came out, we’re beginning to see automation take hold of the accounting industry, and so far there haven’t been any signs of an entirely robotic intern class at public accounting firms. The “robot panic” of the early ’10s has been replaced with an eagerness to explore and adopt technology that can take some things off accountants’ very full plates.

Take for example audit confirmations. It seems downright primitive to think of having to physically mail out confirmations now that they can be sent electronically. This change didn’t make auditors obsolete, it just freed them up to do more important things. Although many aspects of the profession can — and perhaps should — be automated, there will always be a need for professional judgment and client relationship management that haven’t been outsourced to technology yet. No doubt AI researchers are working on that one.

This brings us to the subject of your own life. While chances are high that your firm or business have already begun automating certain tasks that used to require several people to accomplish, many professionals forget about automating their own lives. And no, I don’t mean teaching your smart home how to turn off the lights. So what are some ways to do that?

Give yourself permission to take the “easy” way out

It’s 2021, we don’t even have to get off the couch to sort out dinner. And as glorious as that can be, no one over the age of 22 should be living off takeout. But there are other ways that busy working adults can save some time attending to the necessary tasks in life like feeding ourselves and keeping our living spaces tidy. Hire a cleaning service to swing by once a week. Or sign up for a meal delivery service to save yourself a trip to the grocery store. Reclaim your weekend and hire someone else to handle the lawn.

When it comes to your day-to-day tasks, why not use an automated bill pay system to set up scheduled accounts payable on behalf of your clients? The work still gets done, but it releases you from the burden of manual bill pay. Feel a twinge of guilt in taking the “easy” way out? There’s no need. That’s what technology is for! Use it.

Multitasking can be your friend

Some people think multitasking is the bane of our modern existence, but don’t write it off completely. There might be some value in it for you. For example, let’s say you’re approaching month-end close and know you’ll be extra short on time in the days ahead. Instead of trying to squeeze in a session at the gym AND letting your dog out into the back yard when you get home, go for a brisk walk through your neighborhood with your dog. That knocks out the workout and the pet care at the same time. And that’s an extra hour you can sleep rather than spending it at the gym.

Think efficiency here: what other things do you have on your to-do list that could be consolidated together? Batch payments instead of single payments. Syncing A/P to your accounting software. All those minutes saved start to add up.

Consider a time management tool

This one’s tough because no one wants to admit that they’re wasting time. But I bet if you sat down and mapped out your entire day, you’d realize there are periods — however short they might be — where you could have better used your time. No one’s saying to eliminate wasted time completely. You can still invest as much free time as you like into bad reality TV, arguing with strangers on social media, or whatever else you enjoy.

However, a time management app might help you see that perhaps if you spent just a little less time scrolling Instagram, you could free up some time for more important things like sleep and self care. Maybe even responding to that email your old friend from college sent you three weeks ago, that you keep meaning to respond to. Just try tracking your time for a week and see how many hours you could claw back from less productive pursuits.

Declutter your life

The Marie Kondo method is all the rage these days but you don’t need to go through every item in your house, piece-by-piece, to weed out everything that doesn’t “spark joy” in order to declutter. For those of us whose joy is a little too easy to spark (you know who you are), clearing out some of the clutter can lead to a more efficient life and free up some time that you previously spent trying to track down that stapler that you just know you had. Give away the kitchen gadgets you never use, organize that messy desk of yours, and file papers away so you aren’t spending more time than you have on trying to find the things you need. A little time investment upfront will pay off in the long run. This also goes for digital declutter — unsubscribing from marketing emails and organizing your files both at work and home can help you find things faster and therefore free up precious time.

Oh, and one last piece of advice …

Put automation to work at the office

One Melio client increased their overall revenue by 30% and estimated that they save two hours every day using Melio to automate paying bills and receiving payments. Once payments come in, they’re seamlessly synced to your accounting software, saving even more time and trouble. Imagine what you could do with two hours a day. Two hours that aren’t spent waiting around for checks and chasing down clients. That’s one less thing to worry about, and surely we all need less to worry about these days.

These time-saving tips are brought to you by Melio, your partners in workflow efficiency. Save time and trouble with Melio’s full suite of A/R and A/P solutions.

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