As the deadline to submit my HST starts to loom, I find myself dreading the day when I have to spend several hours sorting through and making sense of all my expense receipts. There are many tasks, usually quite small on their own, that we tend to always push to a later date. The problem is, once time runs out we’re faced with a daunting pile of boring work. If only our past self was clever enough to spend 30 seconds replying to that email when it came in or properly filing that receipt as soon as the job was finished. So what sorts of things can we automate, add to our routine, or simply get done right away to prevent such pileups?
Set It and Forget It
There are certain things that take a little extra effort to set up once, but will save you a lot of time in the future:
Data Backups – If possible, set your backup program to run on a schedule (every day is best). Just be sure to look over the files once in a while to make sure everything is running properly.
Photoshop Actions – Is there a task you find yourself constantly performing, perhaps formatting images to go on your website or blog. Create an action that will do all the necessary steps for you and in the future you’ll be able to batch all the needed images with a single click.
Presets – For Knock Twice, the size of our front page images is always the same. To save time, I’ve added a preset in Photoshop to create a blank canvas with the needed dimensions and profile. Whenever I’m forced to upload a post from another computer it takes me more than twice as long because I have to find out the image size and do everything manually.
Email Auto Replies – Being a photographer people naturally (and wrongfully) assume I know all about the latest cameras. After growing tired of explaining the pros and cons of DSLRs every few weeks, I’ve created an email template (using Google’s Canned Response feature) with all of the basic information. What would take half an hour before, I can now do in three clicks.
Bookmark Folders – There are certain tasks I do online that always require the same pages to be open, I’ve started creating what I call Action Folders. For example, whenever I write our newsletter I use Mailchimp (to make it), Instapaper (for web articles), Gimmebar (for featured artists), and Knock Twice (to pull our articles). I’ve created a folder called Make Newsletter and put bookmarks to all the sites in there. Now I can open all the sites I need with one click!
Do It Right Away
Some things you can’t automate, they’re just small mundane tasks that need your attention. However, if you spend a minute dealing with them as soon as they come in, you won’t have an ever growing pile of minutia that will eventually take hours to tackle.
Invoice / Deposit Cheques – This is one I used to be really bad at, but have come around in the last year. As soon as you’re done a job and delivering it to the client make sure to invoice it as well. The sooner you invoice the sooner you’ll get paid. The same thing goes for depositing cheques, I would have cheques lying around waiting until I would “conveniently” be near a bank. Believe me, it’s a lot more convenient having the money in your account. As soon as you get a cheque, go deposit it.
Download Cards – You’ve finished a long shoot, came home, and just want to rest. It’s tempting to just download your cards the next day. All is great until you can’t remember where you’ve put a card or what order the images go in, or perhaps the card becomes corrupted (all have happened to me). As soon as you get back from a shoot, download and back up your files.
Quick Reply – More often than not, emails require only a single sentence reply. “That day works for me.” “No I cannot get the images to you yesterday.” “Sorry, I cannot accept $50 as a day rate.” We often check our email on our phones making a note to reply later. I’m trying to get into the habit of replying immediately to short requests. Even for longer emails, it’s a good idea to email the person back saying you received their email and give an exact day that you’ll respond by.
Expense Receipts – Why is it that 99% of receipts have such horrible design that you can’t easily decipher the date or even how much tax is on it? It’s good practice to label expense receipts with the associated job, the date, and the total amount. Not only will you be able to sort them easier, but many receipts fade in places over time so it’s good to have the basic info up top. Similarly, when expensing jobs, photocopy all the receipts onto a single page once the job is done. This way if one goes astray, you’ll have a back up of all the info.
5 Minute Clean Up – This one comes from my dad. My desk often gets cluttered during the day with different sheets, coffee cups, snacks, external hard drives, etc. Then when everything gets to be to much, usually a few weeks I would spend an hour or two cleaning up. My dad shared with me many years ago that in his office, he spends five minutes (often less) tiding up right before the end of the day. Throw out any junk that’s accumulated, file things away properly, pack up your gear, etc.
There are many more examples where a bit of foresight saves lots of time later on. Please let us know in the comments how you save yourself time in the future!