Tell me if this sounds familiar: You have an eye for the future, so you have goals that you are working towards. However, you’re also constantly adding new goals and refining existing ones, as you regularly come across things that you know can be done better. You think through the pros and cons and come up with a plan to achieve the new goal. You are confident that the plan will be successful and you even walk away excited and energized by the fresh opportunity.
And then…nothing happens.
The plan that everyone agreed to sputters out before it gains any momentum. The excitement around the initial plan quickly fades and the problem is swept under the rug only to resurface at a later date. Whether personally or professionally, we’ve all been there.
Ideas are Easy. Execution is Hard.
Why does this happen? Well, there are many reasons. However, one of them is due to the simple fact that ideas are easy, but execution is hard. Doing something different or new typically requires a lot more effort than reverting back to the status quo.
That’s why I’m a huge fan of automation. Whether it’s for my clients, my business, or in my personal life, whenever there is an opportunity to turn a manual process into an automatic one, I usually jump at the chance.
Not only does automation save time (the one thing we can never get more of), but it often saves money as well. More importantly, automation makes it easier to implement a plan and then virtually guarantees that it will be executed exactly as intended. Ultimately, this leads to far more successful outcomes. Below are ways that I automate myself and my business to be more successful and have more time to execute on the right goals.
Automating Your Personal Finances
As a financial planner, I come across a wide range of opportunities every day to put automation to work to more efficiently use time and to benefit financially. Whenever possible, I encourage my clients to implement components of their financial plan in an automated way to make their lives easier and to stay on track.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
- Paying bills – Few of us enjoy spending time on the weekend writing checks or making online payments for credit cards, utilities, phone bills, etc. So instead of doing that, I set up every single bill that I have so that it is paid automatically, either from my bank account or from a credit card. This ensures that I never have a late payment and it saves me at least an hour or two every month. That said, I still review all of my charges to ensure they are accurate.
- Retirement plan contributions – The vast majority of employees today have access to a retirement plan, such as a 401(k). Not only do workplace retirement plans offer you a tax benefit and the possibility for a match from your employer, they also help you to save in an automated way. Once you choose the dollar amount that you want to contribute, your employer takes care of the rest. Keep in mind, however, that your 401(k) plan isn’t the only opportunity for automated retirement savings. You can also set up automatic periodic contributions to an IRA or brokerage account.
- Tax payments – If you work for yourself, you know that your taxes are a bit different than a typical employee. One of the key differences is that you may not have taxes withdrawn from your paycheck every two weeks. Instead, you have to make payments each quarter to the IRS and the state based on your estimated annual tax bill. Rather than doing this manually, I recommend setting up an account through the federal and state tax web sites to do automatic payments. This saves me a few hours a year and guarantees that I’m not late with my payments (trust me — you don’t want to upset the IRS).
Automating my Business
Likewise, as a business owner, I’m always looking for techniques to better use the limited time that I have to get more done. My primary focus is to spend as much of my time as I can advising my clients and as little time as possible on administrative tasks. Simply put, the more I can increase my client vs. administrative time ratio, the better off everyone will be. Here are a couple things that are critical in helping me do that:
- Nimble CRM –The primary reason I was attracted to Nimble (over the dozens of other CRMs out there) is because Nimble automates two critical tasks: 1) Nimble crawls social media sites in order to “automagically” (to use Nimblespeak) populate contact records for you. 2) Nimble automates the typical “schedule a reminder” process by allowing me to assign a “touch frequency” to a contact. For example, let’s assume I want to check in with a prospect at least once a quarter. If it’s been too long since I last talked to someone (which Nimble knows since it integrates with my email), the system will alert me that I need to get in touch. Both of these features save me a ton of time that would otherwise be wasted on manual effort.
- PaySimple – Recognizing that this post appears on PaySimple’s blog, I’ll try to avoid gushing on about how awesome the software is. Instead, I’ll say this: Thanks to the beauty that is automatic recurring payments and invoicing, the time I spend on billing is a tiny fraction of what it otherwise would be. Instead of manually sending invoices one at time and then having to follow up to remind clients to pay, I set up the software once, add new clients as they come on board, and then let PaySimple do the rest. Not only does this allow me to spend more time focused on my clients, but it also ensures that the time I do spend with them is centered on advice instead of billing. That is a win-win.
I could go on and on with examples, but I think the point I’m trying to make should be pretty clear. If you haven’t proactively sought out to automate your life and your business, what are you waiting for? You’ll get more done and open up more of your time for the challenging things that can’t be automated. Most importantly, you’ll actually see the plans you’ve laid out come to fruition.
Jonathan K. Duong, CFA, CFP® is the president of Wealth Engineers, an investment management and financial planning firm based in Denver, CO. Wealth Engineers specializes in working with busy professionals, entrepreneurs, and athletes. Jonathan helps his clients navigate through unique financial challenges and works with them to build a more confident path to achieving their financial goals. You can contact Jonathan at JDuong@WealthEngineersLLC.com or by visiting WealthEngineersLLC.com.
Image Credit: Wealth Engineers