“Raise the speed!” the trainer roared, increasing the load on the spin bike. It was a typical morning at the gym. Sweat beaded down my forehead because I wanted to push harder and pedal harder. I started burning my legs and lungs from all the effort.
Wanting to distract myself, I thought about the book I was writing. Many of my friends, colleagues, and readers told me they were fighting an ever-growing to-do list and losing the battle. They were burned out and overwhelmed. And they felt like they were failing at their job. I knew automation was the answer, but how could I and my team share what is now an informal, mostly intuitive process?
My eyes settled on the bike’s front disc. wait, that was it! The proverbial light bulb lit up in my mind. Automation is not a matrix or linear process. It’s a flywheel. It takes a little more force to start the wheels, but you gain speed and efficiency with every turn.
After training, I picked up my phone. The moaning notes I recorded quickly became the core of my new book, Automation Flywheel. Automate busy tasks: work less, get more done, and save your brain for what matters. Flywheel is a system that can be applied to automate any busy task, from simple shortcuts to multi-team workflows.
Getting off the treadmill on your to-do list gives you valuable time and mental space to do the work that really matters: the work that only you can do. These are projects that can transform your business or career. We’ll show you how to use the flywheel to make repetitive and tedious work easier, but first let’s take a look at the power of automation.
When I launched Jotform in 2006, digital forms weren’t the most popular. Sure, we were steadily gaining users, but there was still room in the market. Two years later, Google tackled the problem. Soon more competitors arrived and I reached a crossroads. We needed to stand out, but as a self-started company, we couldn’t spend our time in the spotlight.
We realized that the same automation that powers our product could be our competitive advantage. Our team started small and automated simple tasks like bookkeeping. As I gained experience, I tackled larger, multifaceted workflows such as threshold-based server backups and security notifications. Today, our team is fluent in the word automation and works really calmly and sanely. There is time to dig deep. And we strive to spend our time on meaningful projects.
What is meaningful work? Of course, the answer is different for each person. But it’s probably the work that lights you up. It can also stimulate flow. Flow is “a state of mind in which there is no cognitive bandwidth left for other things,” says Beata Sauders. write for positive psychology. “At this level of immersion and focus, people feel connected to the activity.” Working with flow feels easier and improves performance, says Souders. .
Meaningful work does not necessarily induce a state of flow, but in my experience it promotes focused relaxation. This is rarely the case when sending back and forth DMs, drafting emails, or uploading overdue expense reports. Automation is the best way to eliminate this hectic work, allowing you to spend more time in your professional sweet spot.
Automation saves time, prevents errors, formalizes processes, reduces costs, and overcomes human limitations. Even if you understand the benefits, getting started can be difficult. If you try to do everything at once, you may get frustrated and give up. That’s where the automation flywheel comes in. It is a systematic approach that divides each process into smaller manageable steps.
Most importantly, the flywheel is durable. Technology evolves at a dizzying speed. Automation that looks revolutionary today will soon become commonplace. If I wrote a how-to book, it would already be hugely outdated. But Flywheel is a pattern that can be applied to everything from scheduling social media posts to automating HR onboarding processes, now and in the future.
The automation flywheel has three steps.
1. Divide and Conquer
Start by finding out what makes you busy. What does it look like? Where does it come from? who is involved? As you track and identify the manual tasks that eat up your work day, a clear pattern inevitably emerges. Maybe you are drowning in email. Or maybe external approval is holding back your forward momentum.
Once you know what’s wasting your time, you’ll be able to identify your workflow. Even the simplest task, like signing a document, is really a workflow, with interdependent steps and contingent elements. Understanding the workflows that underpin your busy work will help you choose and prioritize your automation projects.
2. Design and implementation
Next, plan each step of automation. You can use pen and paper or simple software to draw and label each part of the process. Imagine you want to send a loyalty program email to new customers. The workflow begins when a customer makes a purchase and ends when a personalized, segmented email is guaranteed to arrive in your inbox (rather than stuck in your spam folder). What happens in between is the workflow diagram.
To implement, build automation using free or low-cost digital tools. There are thousands of great products out there, and more are coming every day. To find the best tool for the job, do a quick search online or visit integrated review sites such as G2.com.
3. Refine and iterate
Now that you’ve built your automation, it’s time to set key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and measure results. Whether you look at speed, accuracy, time savings, or other metrics, you can determine what success looks like. You can then revise and repeat. The goal is to make automation more effective with every turn of the wheel.
For those unfamiliar with automation, the flywheel sound may sound a little… harsh. But I promise. Time invested upfront pays real dividends down the road. Use your curiosity and start with a project that feels worthwhile and relatable, such as automating calendar appointments. Keep it simple and you’ll feel more confident as you go along.
Automation is the most effective way to get rid of low-value work and focus on what matters. Take advantage of this to kickstart your career and be the best in the world. Now more than ever we are need your skills and talents. We need you to unwind from the hustle and bustle of your work and tap into your most strategic, creative and innovative thinking.
Go slowly and be patient with yourself. you got this