Workflow Automation: The Secret to Scaling Your Time, Projects, and Team

Aug 28, 2018
Post Masthead

You ever see those mugs, posters, t-shirts that say, “You have the same amount of time in a day as Beyoncé?”

Or Elon Musk?

Or Gary Vaynerchuck?


I call bullsh*t.

Purely because you do have the same amount of time in the day as them, but you don’t have access to their resources, or their near 24/7 team of people.

To get the most out of your day, you need to be able to scale yourself. The most traditional solution is through hiring employees, training them, and having them carry out tasks.

But for normal people — the project managers, marketing managers, and department heads out there — you kinda need something different and more accessible than Beyoncé’s dedicated team of back-up dancers, videographers, songwriters, choreographers, and Jay-Z.

The secret to scaling yourself, your team, and even your business?

Automating just about everything — including your projects.

The Power of Workflow Automation

We’ve seen the power of automating daily tasks and processes both first-hand from our customers, fellow entrepreneurs, founders, and leaders alike.

What’s cool about automation is that it’s not limited to any one type of person — literally anyone can take advantage of it.

It doesn’t matter what kind of project or business you’re running.

You could be running a solo venture like Brittany Berger:

“One major bonus of having a team versus running a solo business? Delegation. People have your back. When project A is taking longer than you thought and project B is due tomorrow, there’s someone else to hand off work to,” says Brittany Berger — solopreneur and content marketing unicorn.

“Not so much with a one woman (or man) show.

“Unless you have robots. Robots rock.

“Workflow automation is basically the solopreneur’s version of having a team to delegate to.”

But automations aren't reserved for solopreneurs.

They're powerful for virtually any kind of leader.

Automation can save time, money and headaches — automation tools are more accessible than ever before — yet some companies have been slow to adopt the technology,” says Mike Galarza in his article about saving time and money using automation.

“As a founder and CEO myself, I get it.”

How to Identify Manual Processes and Shortcuts

As you read this, you may be wondering exactly how you can get started.

You might be thinking about the things you or your team does each day.

We become so comfortable with the processes we do each day that we may not realize how painfully time-consuming they really are.

Or we recognize the pain, but think there’s no way to save time or be more productive.

Secret: there absolutely is a way to save time through automation.

We just have to do a bit of soul-searching for ourselves, and soul-searching with our team.

So how do you know which processes to automate?

Think about the parts of your projects that are repeated often — especially if they take two, three, or even five steps.

Write those things down.

This could be reviewing content as soon as it enters the “Review” stage, or assigning a writer a blog post after it’s approved by your content marketer.

Maybe you’re doing a lot of onboarding for new clients or customers, and there’s a specific checklist of things that need to happen every time, no matter what.

Take some time to think about these questions:

  1. What am I or my team doing every day?

  2. What are the most time-consuming tasks?

  3. What are the primary steps in every type of project?

  4. Are any of these repeatable or ad hoc?

  5. Where does my process lag or drop-off?

    1. Why does it drop-off? Communication or perhaps a separate process they have to follow?
  6. What are the things I or my team forget to do when completing tasks?

  7. How many applications do I need to perform X number of tasks?

These questions are just a start, but they open up a certain amount of self-awareness and team-awareness in a project.

A great example of a repeatable task that can be automated?

Data entry.

I have seen so many PMs and team members waste so much time simply taking data from one app and copying and pasting it into another.

Those are the tasks we really don’t give much thought, but if you calculate the time these mindless tasks take over a month, it can add up quickly.

So, write down the things you do each day, consider how many apps you use, and see what steps can be automated rather than manually done every time.

A Real-Life Example of Workflow Automation

Here’s an example of how automation can make a world of a difference.

We’ve got a fairly lean marketing team, so time is naturally of the essence.

Our own internal content marketing process is also about what you would expect: we plan about a month in advance of what we’d like to produce, and then we source a few writers to help us with interviews and production.

We manage all of our writers and the content creation process through Rindle.

The high-level process and its steps look kind of like this:

  1. Discuss internally what each post in the next content sprint is going to look like
  2. Write and create prompts for each of those content items
  3. If interviews are required to write the post, head of marketing will schedule and record the interview
  4. Head of marketing will review and assign them to a writer
  5. In special cases, the head of marketing will provide the writer an outline
  6. The writer does their thing
  7. Writer notifies the team the post is ready
  8. Team reviews the post and makes edits
  9. Then we stage the article in WordPress
  10. Create a few graphics for the article
  11. Add the article to our social media posts

That’s a lot of hand-off between teams.

And for many us, the amount of hand-off and steps is totally the norm.

But we lose a ton of time if the right people aren’t notified at the right time. A blog post that might take a week to produce could easily turn into several weeks if tasks fall through the cracks.

This is where we automate as much as we can.

We’ve got a few automations set up to notify the right people at the right time when statuses of the task change.

In Rindle, this looks a lot like the classic if-then statements you might already be familiar with if you’re using tools like Zapier or marketing automation:

But since we want to make sure that the proper notifications are set, we have a setup that looks a lot like this:

Through Automations, we can also say exactly where we want notifications to happen. In this case, Slack is our preferred notification channel.

Except we've got dozens of these setup.

This means Asia spends a whole lot less time stressing about where every single task is (and a whole lot more time being baller at marketing) because she knows Automations have her back.

Automations ensure that our marketing is aware of what’s going on with content as it progresses through the process, and gets the status updates she needs so if something’s blocked, she can jump in right away and manage the process.

That saves the team massive amounts of time, and hacks the process to create content to be faster than if we let it go manually.

So how do you automate internal processes with your team?

Team-Driven Processes

As a PM, my number one passion was process driven by the team rather than the individual.

When documenting and designing a team-driven process, I would hold team meetings and brainstorming sessions.

In those meetings, I would go around the room—or via video chat—and ask each team member what was taking them the most time.

I used to do this because as a PM, you don’t necessarily know or understand what a team member is working on, or how long it takes them (or what processes are running in the background).

I used to like asking my team members these questions in order to better understand what they were working on, and figure out how we might be able to automate their tasks to make their jobs easier.

This can be incredibly enlightening.

You will likely realize that team members will begin to say the same things over and over. For example, “Oh! I email this person. Then I wait for them to reply. Then once I get the reply I...blah blah blah.”

This five-step process now spans over the course of two days.

Why can’t we speed that up within 30 minutes and automate it—saving time and also increasing accuracy?

I believe that automation always fits well within the team process. I was always a fan of that kind of experience.

Automate with Rindle

The power of workflow automation isn’t reserved purely for Zapier gurus and technicians.

Anyone can take advantage — especially if you’re using a project management tool like Rindle.

I’m naturally biased and would encourage you to check out Rindle since I and my co-founder built it ourselves.

Sign-up for a free trial today and see how automating everyday tasks will instantly save time and money, and increase productivity.

At the end of the day, “I absolutely love wasting my precious time” is something no person has ever said.