Back in December 2016, the outgoing Obama administration put out a report entitled “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy” in which it was estimated that in the coming years, automation might threaten (or at least change) 2.2 to 3.1 million jobs. While most of these were jobs in the cross-country trucking industry, it nonetheless points to a huge trend toward automation in our daily lives.
And while the robots aren’t coming for all our jobs, they are in many ways already here in the form of automation software that can actually be harnessed quite easily to make your life as a freelancer or small-business owner run much more smoothly. Let’s take a look at some of what’s out there and see where we can’t shave off a few minutes, or add a few dollars.
One of the most common places businesses use automation is in their marketing efforts. Recently. Mailchimp has really been pushing this feature on its platform, and like most of its user experience, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of. Schedule repetitive tasks like abandoned cart notifications (if you run an e-commerce site) or create personalized drip-marketing campaigns. It’s also all available in the free version.
There are so many things you can do with Google Alerts that it probably warrants its own post, but here goes. You can set up an alert for anything from your company’s name to business leads. Let’s say you’re interested in what’s been happening with cryptocurrency lately. Set up an alert for “Ethereum” or “Bitcoin” and you’ll get a notification when these terms pop up in the news. Don’t worry, there are lots of options when it comes setting location and source filters for your alerts. It’s also great when you’re looking for full- or part-time work. Just create a job alert for your field in a particular location and let the Google robot do the rest.
Use Zapier to connect all the apps you use in tandem with others. With Zapier, you spin up a workflow thusly: Set a trigger, such as “any time I get an email.” Then assign actions to those triggers. For example, you can work it out so that every time you get an email, Zapier will automatically copy the attachment to DropBox and notify you in a specific Slack channel.
Don’t worry, it’s cool… we all have shameful inboxes. Millions of newsletters we don’t unsubscribe from, tons of junk mail — it’s a jungle in there. But Unroll.me can help. Use this simple automation tool to unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters en masse and roll those that you do want into a handy scheduled digest.
Trello is an awesome task-management tool that can work on many different levels. Organize your personal to-do lists in any way you see fit, or share those lists with a team or a client in order to promote a communicative environment. You can also automate many of your productivity apps to work with your Trello tasks as well.
If you use social media a lot for marketing purposes, you might want to look into Hootsuite. Among other things, it’s a unified platform for all things social. Schedule posts, manage your campaigns, track engagement… it’s a powerful tool that has lots of automation options.
Schedule All Your Bills
This last one might have actually been the first thing I ever automated. I remember years ago filling out checks and mailing them to Citibank. Or rather, I remember forgetting to fill out checks and incurring mountains of late fees. Pretty much everything you pay a bill for these days can be linked to your bank. (That’s certainly a goal for us.)