What You Need To Know About Automation With Mike Knoop of Zapier

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Productivity software is a rapidly growing industry. According to an IBIS World report, revenue of productivity software for 2018 is projected to reach $82 billion, up from $76 billion in 2017. And that’s in the United States alone.

Technology helps in enabling us to accomplish more faster but also hinders because it’s distracting and time-consuming.

More than once, I’ve caught myself wasting an idle 30 minutes tweaking the look and feel of an app just because I could.

I wanted to learn how productivity software can help us focus on what matters. So I spoke to Mike Knoop, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Zapier.

Founded in 2011, Zapier is a web-services company that automates tasks by connecting the work apps you use every day. Ideally, it should help you spend more time working on your business goals and projects and less time on software or routine tasks.

In other words, it’s a prime example of the productivity software IBIS references.

Control Your Notifications

Software notifications are often more distracting than helpful. It feels like some software developers create these features to encourage people to spend more time using a particular app or service, much like they would play a video game.

Knoop said, “A lot of modern software seems to steal our attention more than it gives back. This is especially true as more and more software is brought into the workplace, where constant context switching leaves you wondering ‘where has my day gone?’”

Many apps and tools today have “do not disturb” and “offline” modes for this reason. And if they don’t, you can always activate airplane mode.

Knoop said, “Fortunately, there’s a growing trend to simplify software with features like Slack’s “do not disturb” and Apple’s new “screen time” management. I expect we’ll see this trend hit the zeitgeist in the coming years.”

Automate Repetitive Tasks

Productivity aficionados recommend delegating, deferring or automating nonessential tasks. However, if you’re new to this way of working, deciding what to automate is often a challenge.

“Automation keeps you from having to think about or get distracted by small, repetitive tasks, so you can stay focused on the most important parts of your job and do them even better,” Knoop said.

“I suggest automating any task that’s repetitive. A question I like to ask is, ‘What are you copying and pasting over and over?’
“Computers can automate a lot of mechanical processes like scheduling, automatic follow-up, reminders and moving data from one place to another.”

Ideally automating tasks like moving data from your email list to your CRM should free you up for more creative thinking, for example working on your business strategy.

Prepare For Disconnecting

What’s the point of becoming more productive if you can’t switch off come Friday evening or holidays?

Again, a lot of today’s apps and tools complicate disconnecting for extended periods thanks to the constant feeds, updates, and clamors for our attention.

For this reason, I’ve removed email and social media apps from my phone. However, this approach isn’t suitable for everyone.

I worked as a social media manager for a business-to-business company several years ago, and removing these apps would have culminated in neglecting my responsibilities.

“The ability to unplug successfully largely depends on the team, tools, and processes used at work,” Knoop continued.

“For example, teams that are transparent and document their work in a shared, easily accessible place are going to have an easier time unplugging.”
“When I’m out of office for a week, I turn off Slack notifications on my phone, and when I get back, I’m able to catch up in one day because all the past week’s work was written down and shared on our internal blog.”

Much like a golfer who uses a particular club for an important shot, technology will help you achieve your goals faster. The trick is to know when you need a particular tool and when to put it away.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by + 379,938 people.

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