Automate First

Technology can make possible a degree of connection and cognitive diversity not otherwise attainable. Together, we can more effectively address complex challenges.

However, technology mediation requires the timely execution of many tasks. If you aren’t careful, you can be overwhelmed by the administrative demands of community management. Automate what should be automated in order to free your time to focus on high-value human interaction.

Eliminate, Automate, and Delegate

Personal productivity wonks advise us to eliminate, automate, and delegate. It’s not just about achieving a sense of control. Automation allows us to devote our scarce time and attention to the activities that matter the most.

  • Become attuned to the activities that fill your day. Are they adding value? If you can’t justify such activities, eliminate them. When you are cultivating a garden, weeding is a fact of life.

  • If you find yourself repeating a task, explore how to automate the task. Spending $20 per month on software is trivial when compared to the lost opportunity that stems from wasting your time on repetitive tasks.

  • Some tasks are too difficult or expensive to automate. Some simply shouldn’t be automated. When a human touch is called for, consider ways to delegate tasks that aren’t strategic.

Eliminate, automate, and delegate – in that order. Too often, community managers and hosts will skip over the automation step because delegation often seems easier. In the short term, it may be. However, premature delegation tends to create excess overhead, add management complexity, and exposes your business to the risk of turnover.

Effective Automation Requires Good Process

Applying automation to do a bad job faster isn’t much of a solution. Effective automation requires a clear understanding of how to do the task well.

But before you pull out your Gantt charts and take a course on how to use Microsoft Project, consider the under-appreciated checklist. No matter your expertise, a well-designed checklist can speed execution and improve outcomes.

There are lots of tools for creating and managing checklists. We are partial to Trello and Todoist. However, a piece of paper will do the trick. It’s less about the tool and more about the discipline.

Iteratively construct and use checklists to develop an understanding of good process. Then add automation. Your investment of time and effort will yield better, more consistent outcomes and free your time to engage in more interesting and valuable work.

Additional Reading

The Checklist Manifesto

Automation is a Mindset, Not Just a Tool