In part one of this post, I shared three big things that can help you increase the efficiency of your online business so your business can be more profitable, and allow you to experience and deliver more happiness.
Part 2 of this series will continue with more time-saving tips to help you get things done faster in your online business.
1) Use Skype video whenever possible.
If you have a team of people that you work with, and if you’re not all in the same physical space while you’re working, one of the most efficient ways to communicate is via Skype video.
If it’s possible and easy to get together in person, that’s great. Nothing beats working live with people to get collaborative work done quickly.
If it’s not easy, Skype video is the next best thing to working live.
When you do a Skype video chat with someone, being able to see their facial expressions and body language can greatly help in the efficiency of communicating ideas and can also help you connect on a deeper level.
2) Use google docs to collaborate on documents with other people.
If you need to work on writing something for your business with another person, one of the fastest ways I know of to do this is to use Google documents.
Using it to collaborate on writing projects means that you don’t have to continually send each other the latest version of the document, because the latest version exists in each of your Google doc accounts.
Because you can see other people typing live, the writing process can happen a lot faster because you can instantly give feedback on a sentence by sentence basis.
For example, if you’re working with a copywriter to create new sales copy for a product that you’re about to launch, the back-and-forth feedback process around the writing can happen in real-time, if your copywriter is open to working like this.
3) Look for processes that can be automated.
Watch for anything that you do in the process of running your business where you repeat steps over and over and see if there’s something that can be automated.
For example, if you find that for every blog post you put up on your site you have to resize, crop, and optimize a photo in the same way, the steps in order to accomplish that can likely be automated in your photo editing software.
If you’re using a program like Photoshop or Adobe Fireworks, you can set up a batch process where you specify a number of steps to be automatically done on any photo, or collection of photos, that you select.
Instead of it taking 15 steps and two minutes to resize, crop, and optimize a photo, the same process can happen in under one second with just a couple clicks by using a batch process.
If you have 20 photos to do this same process on, it only takes a few seconds longer for the batch process to run on all of them.
Another area where you can greatly speed up the rate at which you do something in your business is in email responses.
4) Use text snippet software for common replies.
If you find that you often create e-mail responses that are nearly identical, you can save the most recent e-mail response and put it into a program called TextExpander, if you’re on a Mac.
If you’re on a PC, there’s a similar piece of software called Phrase Express that does the same thing.
In either case, you create a snippet in the software and set a trigger for it. The trigger might just be a short word.
As long as the text expander software is open, wherever you type the trigger word will insert the entire e-mail.
This means that instead of having to retype the same kind of e-mail every time a particular situation arises, you simply open up a blank e-mail, type in the greeting to this particular person, and then type in the trigger word for the body of the e-mail, and you’re done in a few seconds.
5) Use the find feature in you browser when looking for something specific on a web page.
This one is a quick one, but can save a lot of time each day if you’re doing research on the web.
After you search for something in Google, when you open up any of the websites in the search results, the fastest way to find if a given webpage has the text content you’re looking for is to press Command and the letter F on your keyboard, if you’re on a Mac, or Control and the letter F if you’re on a PC.
This will open up an extra search bar in your browser. Depending on what browser you’re using, this extra search bar might appear at the very bottom or somewhere near the top.
Type in whatever keyword you’re looking for, and hit return. The browser will highlight any instances of that word or phrase on the webpage.
You can then toggle through the multiple instances of that word or phrase on the page by pressing Command and “G” on a Mac, or Control and “G” on a PC.
6) Use time tracking software.
You can greatly increase your productivity by using an application called Rescue Time to see where you’re spending your time and how productive you are compared to other people.
If there’s a chance that you might be spending time during your work hours doing things that are not so productive, such as getting lost in reading through your Facebook update stream, Rescue Time can help you become aware of this and help you be more productive.
Rescue Time runs in the background on your computer and tracks what sites you go to and what applications you use on your computer.
It then allows you to to see aggregate data at the end of the day, week, or month so you can see how productive you are.
And don’t worry, if you use Facebook mostly for business networking purposes and you’re actually being productive on it, you can tell Rescue Time that any time you spend on Facebook (or any other app or site) is actually highly productive work time.
7) Whenever possible, use keyboard shortcuts.
User interfaces of software programs, meaning things like drop-down menus and buttons, make using software a lot easier than it used to be before user interfaces were invented.
However, for many things that you commonly do when using software there are almost always keyboard shortcuts that you can use to speed up the process of controlling the software.
At the end of the day, the time savings from using keyboard shortcuts may be small, but the perception of the speed at which you can get things done is quite a bit faster when you use them.
Yes, you have to memorize these shortcuts in order for them to save you time, but once you do, things will start moving along a lot faster.
Here’s a list of common keyboard shortcuts that can come in handy:
Note: The Command and Control keys are the same key. The command key is used on a Mac keyboard, and the control key is used on a PC keyboard.
Command/Control-T opens a new tab in browser.
Command/Control-C copies whatever you have highlighted to your clipboard.
Command/Control-V pastes whatever is on your clipboard.
Command/Control-S saves a file.
Command/Control-W to close a tab or a window (works in browsers and most applications.)
Command/Control-Z undo the last operation you did.
Command/Control-Y redo the last operation.
Command/Control-A selects everything in current window or application.
If you’d like to learn more shortcuts have a look here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_keyboard_shortcuts
8) Use online scheduling software to let your clients schedule themselves.
If you have a business that involves scheduling time to meet live with people in some way, you’ll end up spending a lot of time scheduling and rescheduling meetings.
You can remove a large amount of time that’s required to schedule live meetings by allowing your clients to schedule themselves on your website using scheduling software.
9) Use big displays.
If you’re working on a small laptop, you’ll end up spending a lot of time opening and closing windows because you can only see one window at a time on a small display.
Consider buying an external display for your laptop, if that’s your main computer, that’s at least 20 inches. Bigger is even better.
Usability studies have shown that having more screen real estate allows you to work much faster because you can see and access more open windows at once without having to open and close them.
10) If you write blog posts as part of your business, try using a dedicated writing app instead of a word processor for your writing.
Writing apps will block out everything else on your computer screen except the page where you’re writing.
It basically gets your computer out of the way so you can focus on writing.
11) Increase your reading speed with the Reading Trainer app.
If any part of your business involves doing anything online, you’re going to end up spending a lot of time reading, whether it’s reading things like emails, blog posts, or articles.
If you can learn to increase your reading speed substantially, you’ll get through your work on the web much, much faster.
My favorite app for training one’s reading skill is Reading Trainer. It’s only available for the iphone and ipad, but if you have either of those devices, I highly recommend trying this app. It’s allowed me to increase my reading speed by about 30% or 40%.
And that’s it for this round of tips on making your business run much more efficiently.
There are plenty of other things you can do to increase the efficiency of your business, so just keep an eye out for ways that you can save time and spend it doing the other things that you love to do aside from running your business.
Got any productivity tips you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below. I’d love to learn about them!