As technicians, we often have a wide range of tasks, from estimates, invoices, and contracts, in addition to the actual tech work we perform. This involves customer relationship management solutions, billing solutions, software tool updates, and much more. If you haven’t given much attention to your workflow, you might be jumping from one unrelated task to another and wasting a lot of time and effort in the process. The well known adage ‘time is money’ applies quite well here, so let’s take a look at some ways you can maximize your workflow. In fact, an easy way to remember the tips is simply the acronym ‘IDEA’.
Integration is a key element to maximizing your workflow. This suggestion can be implemented in so many ways, so don’t limit your integration ideas to what I mention here. For instance, do you have one CRM solution for billing, another for invoicing, and another for inventory? Is it possible your time could be more wisely spent by integrating all your paperwork tasks into one CRM solution that takes care of everything? There may be an additional cost, but if you remember that cost is also measured by the amount of time you spend switching from one solution to another, copying and pasting information from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, double checking, etc, you might find that the extra cost may be worth the extra time you gain.
Are your communications integrated? That includes email, texting, and phone numbers. In this age, you can have email alerts for missed voicemails, text alerts for emails, and many other integration options that can save you from missing customers who are trying to contact you. If you’re heavily into social media marketing, there are social networking account integration options in many software suites that make it easier to publish updates to multiple networks at the same time, and published at a time you specify. Can you take advantage of those integration options to streamline your marketing strategy?
Integration will help you consolidate your related tasks into one larger task, freeing up your time and leaving you less scatterbrained for other important tasks. That’s an important step towards maximizing your workflow as a technician. Let’s move on to consider another important step in maximizing your workflow.
If you’re the business owner, and have employees or partners who you can assign tasks to, delegation is an important key to maximizing your workflow. Many say that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, but that’s not entirely true. If you have capable individuals that are willing and able to do tasks properly, delegate tasks to them. I’m not saying you should have them do all the work for you, and this may take a bit of discernment, because everyone’s experience and capability varies widely. If there are certain tasks or jobs you need to focus on, but you’re held up by needing to cover some minimal tasks to do it, delegating will free up your time to focus, and you’ll perform much better.
If you’re the only one in your business, and you do absolutely everything yourself, there isn’t much you can do with this suggestion, as there really isn’t anyone to delegate anything to. You can, however, delegate tasks to certain time slots. For instance, instead of doing your paperwork tasks during the work day when you could be covering appointments and service calls, consider doing it at the end of the day, or at the early start, depending on when you are most likely to be in heavy demand by your client base. The same applies to your social network marketing strategy. While related to the integration suggestion, you could delegate your network update tasks to time slots that are more favorable to the task itself rather than time you could spend on other tasks.
Elimination can help maximize workflow? Yes, it can. How often do you run to the nearest hardware store to pick up a common item that you use all the time? Eliminate that extra time spent by stocking up the next time you need one. What else can you eliminate? Are you still tied down to paper receipts and filing cabinets full of papers? Can you eliminate old paperwork that isn’t required any longer? Can you eliminate most of your paper needs and store receipts digitally, only printing off a copy when you need one for records?
Elimination doesn’t just apply to tangible items. As I mentioned, you can eliminate extra time spent running for hardware items, but you can also eliminate unneeded processes in your task workflow. For instance, some technicians use a tool for this, and another tool for that, and then another tool after that… This may not always be the best option, but in certain cases, you may be able to use tools that consolidate all the needed tasks you perform in one utility. If there isn’t one now, check back in a few months, and you may be pleasantly suprised to find exactly what you need. It’s happened to me several times. When I can’t find what I need, I implement the next step.
Automation is one of the most important keys to maximizing workflow on the tech side of things. Just as a simple example, I was heavily involved some time back with WIMAX installation and troubleshooting. Some of the equipment didn’t actually have a web interface. That’s right, you needed to configure it via Telnet. At first, I didn’t mind sitting there hitting single keys and navigating the menu system to configure the equipment. I began to realize, however, that I was spending a lot of time just sitting there waiting for menus to load, and manually typing in the commands. Every single piece of equipment was configured the same way, except for a few variables. I didn’t need anything complex, all I needed was something to automate key presses for the Telnet utility.
Using AutoIt, a very simple but powerful BASIC-like scripting language, I configured a script that used a text configuration file for the variables, and in next to no time, I could simply change a few variables in the text file, run the executable, and go do something else more important for a few minutes, such as check my work email, or messages. The time it took me to put the script together is nothing compared to how much time it saved me every single time I needed to configure another piece of equipment for a customer.
Automation is provided in a lot of technician tools now. For example, in some utilities, you can have one maintenance task performed after another, and you can have everything automated so that you can focus on other tasks rather than sitting there counting how many minutes each bar on the progress meter takes to appear. If you can make use of such utilities and tools, it can save you a lot of time and help maximize your workflow.
In closing, there’s one other thing you can do to maximize your workflow. Or rather, one thing you shouldn’t do. Procrastinate. Here’s a simple illustration: If you have a garbage disposal unit in your kitchen sink, do you wait until you have a five gallon bucket of kitchen scraps before you drop it down the hole? Well, you can, but meanwhile those scraps will rot, grow maggots, and stink to high heaven. And when you finally do try to shove it all down at once, because you need more bucket space, you’ll probably end up stressing the unit or breaking it. Don’t let tasks rot on your desk, they’ll back up, and just like those kitchen scraps, they’ll cause discomfort every time you see them or remind yourself that you need to do them. If you do procrastinate, and you need to do everything at the last minute, you’ll burn yourself out, and probably end up having to forego scheduled appointments just to cover something you should have done long ago, and could have done, easily.
I hope these tips helped you with some ideas (acronym intended) for maximizing your workflow. If you have any tips from your experience, drop a comment below. We’d love to hear them!