Aytekin Tank is the founder of Jotform, an automation enthusiast, and the author of the book, Automate Your Busywork.
Automation is one of my favorite topics in the world. We can automate so many things now. Why did you get into automation, and do you love automation so much?
Automation is another way to delegate things; you’re delegating things to automation instead of a person. Everything you do with automation should be similar to how you delegate to people.
I’m the founder of Jotform, an online form builder. Before I started Jotform, I was working for a company, and I had to do a lot of forms for them. And I wanted to find a way to automate this. That’s how I came up with the idea to create a form builder. That was 17 years ago. In the first days, I was also a solopreneur, helping people automate their forms.
I tell people that you can be busy being productive, but just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. We take the word “busyness” and think it correlates the productivity. Is what you’re doing moving you toward your goals? We all have to do this busy work; we all have to do admin work. It’s part of being a solopreneur. But you should spend at least 80% of your time doing activities moving you toward your goals. Would you agree with this?
Definitely! I developed a framework called the Automation Flywheel, a process of continuous improvement that includes three steps. The first is divide and conquer; During this step, you try to understand your busy work and how you spend your time. The best way to do this is with a time audit.
Many people have no idea get to the end of their day and have no idea what they did because they didn’t track what they did.
Exactly. And at the end of the week, you total up all the hours you spent, and you ask yourself two questions, what should I spend my time on? And the second question is more important, what shouldn’t I spend my time on?
As solopreneurs, we have to do everything ourselves. There are so many things that we shouldn’t be doing, and we should be working on growing our business, finding new clients, reaching out to lost clients, or growing our traffic.
Once you answer those questions, it’s essential that you try to automate things that you shouldn’t be spending your time on. Once you automate those things, you’ll have so much more time to do essential things.
When I work with clients, one of the things I hear a lot is, “I’ve always done this.” Just because you’ve always done something doesn’t mean it can’t be outsourced, delegated, automated, or eliminated. If what you’re doing is not moving you toward your goals, you need to think about that.
I believe in writing things down. When you do the time audit, if you write down how you spent your time, you can see how and where you’re spending your time doing unnecessary things in your business, where you can automate things.
One of the biggest forms of procrastination I see is the endless quest to find the perfect app, notebook, or planner. When looking for these things, you’re not doing what you should be. If you spend more than five minutes looking for a journal or an app, you procrastinate because you don’t want to do the work.
Yeah. So, that’s the first step in the Automation Flywheel, divide and conquer.
The second step is design and implementation. Here, you’re designing and implementing automations for your work. You can do this because you wrote down how you’re spending your time, and you were able to understand your busy work by creating workflow diagrams.
There is one more step to your Automation Flywheel framework.
The third step is, refine and iterate. You’re creating a system. In her book, Thinking in Systems, Donella H. Meadows says systems are everywhere in the world. If you want to make a difference, you need to understand systems. You need to apply force in a system in a place that can make a difference, like the feedback points, leverage points, or patterns in systems.
Your business is also a system in how you find new clients, grow your business, and ensure your customers are happy. These are all systems that you can improve. And once you start automating things, you want to have some metrics (KPIs – key performance indicators). You want to define these metrics to understand what’s happening in your business.
People don’t realize how many systems they have already in place. If you don’t think you have a system, you do. The problem is it’s not defined, it’s unintentional, and it’s inconsistent.