Don’t repeat yourself: 5 ways to build a smarter workflow

Last updated on 
August 17, 2020

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If you’re trying to become more efficient, and do more in less time, you might benefit from utilizing the DRY Principle. The DRY Principle prescribes one very simple rule: Don’t Repeat Yourself. Many people waste more time than they realize doing the same thing repeatedly – whether it’s rewriting the same emails over and over again, or spending hours repeating the same daily admin over and over when it could easily be outsourced. If you’re looking to build a smarter workflow and protect more space to produce new value, here are five everyday ways to leverage the DRY principle.

1. Streamline your email

Email is a breeding ground for menial repetition, which is why streamlining it is one of easiest ways to implement the DRY principle. You can make writing out the same few sentences or paragraphs repeatedly a thing of the past by using templates. Airmail is especially good for this: just write an email once and save it as a template – then you can re-use it at any time instead of retyping it. If you use Gmail, take advantage of their canned responses feature to help you get through your inbox faster, without repetition.

If you regularly send emails to people outside your company and always waste time trying to track down email addresses, make it easier on yourself by using Clearbit. Forget scanning the contact page of company websites, or trawling through LinkedIn hoping people have included their email address; Clearbit provides you with the correct contact details from the get-go, saving you hours of time.

Other helpful tools include SaneBox, and Boomerang, which use AI to get familiar with your email habits, make smart suggestions to save you typing things out, and create natural response templates.

📩 How can we make email more productive?

2. Automate repetitive daily admin

Most of us have to deal with small but annoying and repetitive tasks in our jobs. Whether it’s logging time sheets, preparing invoices or exporting information from one tool to another, these tasks are low-value and time-consuming – but they do need to be done. Automating these tasks is an easy way to stop repeating yourself and boost your productive potential.

If you need to track your time for billing or productive purposes, Timely can save you hours each week. It automatically captures every second of your working day, and uses AI to draft accurate time sheets for you. When used with teams, it also shows you employee capacity, workload, and activity. This means you don’t have to duplicate effort by canvassing individual employees or jumping between other tools when trying to coordinate resources and manage priorities; all the key information you need is pulled together for you.

If you have a ton of meetings, get Otter – it uses AI to track voices and creates accurate digital records of everything that was said in meetings, and by whom, so you don’t have to take notes during meetings and write them up afterwards. Zapier is another solid choice; it automates your workflow by connecting all your apps and then moving data and information between them automatically. It’s also able to finish routine tasks automatically and complete actions for you, so you can focus on important work. To save time on project management, Trello’s project scheduling and file sharing automation can make things that bit quicker and easier.

All these apps legitimately automate processes for you, but a lot of tools out there don’t. Be weary of apps that claim automation, when they really only simplify manual processes.

⚙️ How to automate unproductive work

3. Create templates for everything

It isn’t just email that benefits from templates. These days there are time-saving templates for everything and anything – think regular reports, contracts, branded company presentation slides, project pitch skeletons and scoping documents, as well as surveys and project timelines. You can also use templates for more personal areas of your life, like appointments, fitness or job hunting. There are many decent template sites that can help you with business tasks. A few of the best include:

  • PandaDoc: There are more than 450 templates designed to help kick-start your sales and marketing efforts, and find and connect with new clients. Simply scroll through different sales agreements or proposal templates, and then personalize it to suit your needs.
  • Todoist: Todoist offers templates that help you stay on top of projects and meetings – as well as more general areas of your life – e.g. there are templates that help you pack for business trips, get more deep work done and better manage your clients.
  • Simply Docs: If you spend too much time drafting up legal business documents, head over to Simply Docs. Whether it’s contracts, legal forms or business agreement templates, for a small annual fee you can download all the business templates the site has to offer.
  • Template. There are 4,776 documents on the Template site – all of which are professionally designed and easily editable. From invoices to acknowledgment letters and budget proposals, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find the template you need here.

4. Outsource meeting scheduling

Scheduling a meeting should be quick and easy – but anyone who’s ever done it knows that’s not the case. There’s often an inordinate amount of back and forth involved: you have to factor in different time zones, individual employee schedules, and department commitments, and hope there’s a convenient overlap in the attendee calendars. With that in mind, outsourcing your meeting scheduling is one of the easiest ways to save time and end scheduling ping pong.

The best meeting scheduler apps don’t just find a blank space in your calendar – they consider everyone’s time preferences to choose the optimum meeting time for everybody. Apps like Dewo take this a step further by using AI to learn your productive patterns and reschedule poorly timed meetings. Just tell it who you want to meet with when, and Dewo will suggest the best time for a meeting – as well as sending invitations, adding calendar entries and automatically managing any email back and forth.

📅 The best meeting schedulers are automatic

5. Set up browser and computer shortcuts

You might think that browser and computer shortcuts can’t make things that much easier, but little saves really add up over time. Shortcuts can boost your productivity and cut down on frustration. There are plenty of shortcuts that work for all web browsers, from opening new tabs, zooming in and out, scrolling, searching, and checking word count.

Frequently come across content you want to read or watch at an inopportune time? Try apps like Pocket and Evernote which stop you going back later and fruitlessly searching for articles or videos. These apps act as online repositories, saving the page you want to return to and ensuring you always have plenty of great, shareable content to hand. Finally, think about access – if you waste time trying to remember or locate passwords, an extension like LastPass will keep all your passwords secure in one location.

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