By Leo Babauta
As many of you know, I’m a big fan of simplicity. I don’t like doing a million tasks a day when half a dozen important tasks will do. I believe in effectiveness, not cranking out endless tasks and emails.
To that end, I’ve automated a lot of things on my blog and with my business. It’s saved me hours of work and tons of headaches. I’d like to share some things I’ve done, in the hope that it will inspire you. It’s not a step-by-step guide, as not everyone will be able to put these all into practice, but just a series of examples that show it’s possible, and to help you take a look at what you do and how it can be simplified or automated.
1. Selling ads.
When I started selling ads on Zen Habits, I set up an automated process. An advertising page on Zen Habits outlined my criteria for ads, as well as the process. I set up a Paypal button so the advertiser could just buy the ad automatically, and gave them a special email address to send the ad image and link url after they bought the ad. All I had to do was add the ad to my site once a month. Note: I don’t sell ads anymore — I simplified further by eliminating.
2. Selling ebooks.
My entire ebook selling process is done through e-junkie.com … I upload the ebook to e-junkie, set up a few settings, and then e-junkie handles the rest. Money is deposited in my Paypal account and I don’t have anything to do after that.
Moderating comments can be a hassle — especially with so many spammers these days. I used to use a couple of different WordPress spam plugins, but once I got large enough the spammers got around them. I ended up getting rid of comments, and saved myself a lot of time, but another approach would be to allow readers to mark a comment as spam (several plugins can do this), so you don’t have to do it yourself.
4. Email filters.
Don’t spend a lot of time sorting through your inbox. If you get regular types of email that you don’t really need to see, set up filters or rules in your email program (I recommend Gmail) and get those emails out of the inbox automatically. Social media notifications are a good example, although changing the settings for these sites so they don’t send the notifications in the first place is an even better idea. In Gmail, you can also set up filters that will automatically respond to a certain keyword in the subject of an email with a canned response — so anyone asking about guest posts might get an automatic reply about your guest post policies, etc.
5. Post your policies.
Another good idea is to post policies on your site, and have them easily found in your sidebar/navigation bar, or on your About or Contact page. Policies could be about anything — advertising, guest posts, commenting, buying ebooks, contacting you, etc. This saves a lot of time answering repeat requests.
6. Post an FAQ.
Similar to posting policies, answering Frequently Asked Questions on a page or post on your site is a great idea (See the Zen Habits FAQ). It also helps cut back on answering the same questions over and over.
7. Set up a guest post login.
If you regularly accept guest posts, you can do what I did: set up a limited login for WordPress for guest writers, and only give the password out to someone who you’ve accepted to write a guest post. This allows your guest writers to login, put in their post, and format the post as needed. Regarding formatting, also consider using a style guide, as I have on Zen Habits. It saves a lot of editing.
Anytime you find yourself doing repetitive tasks for your blog or business, ask yourself whether it’s really necessary. Almost 100% of the time, it’s not — you just need to think of how you can automate, eliminate, or preempt those tasks.
Doing these things has made my business and blog almost hassle free, so I can work more on creating powerful content and connecting with friends.