What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when founding your first startup?
For me, it’s this: the worst prescription for burnout is more work.
Entrepreneurs tend to assume hard work can solve anything. But burnout is different: The more time stressed-out founders put in, the more detached and exhausted they feel. Founders may not like to hear it, but the real solution is rest.
If you’re leading a startup, though, you can’t just take days off whenever burnout strikes. Instead, automate. Technology can take many of those tedious, time-sucking tasks off your plate and free up your calendar.
The following are prime candidates for automation to help you work smarter, not harder:
How many emails do you send in a day?
At even a dozen emails, it becomes difficult to keep track of whom you’re awaiting a response from. And if email is a major part of your sales funnel, a forgotten follow-up or two might mean thousands of dollars out the door.
Email workflow automation tools take the stress off. Look for one that lets you not only delay responses, but also schedule email sequences depending on whether the recipient has replied. That way, you can keep a promotion on your prospect’s radar without letting the conversation clog your brain.
After email, scheduling might be an entrepreneur’s greatest time suck. AI scheduling software can send invites, conduct back-and-forth communications, request contact information and more. Across meetings with managers, freelancers, sales leads and colleagues, that adds up to several extra hours per week.
Be careful with scheduling software to set up your preferences correctly. If you don’t integrate it with all your calendars, you may find yourself double-booked. Add “never ever” hours, like 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to ensure you don’t find yourself committed to a work meeting during your outside of office hours, like when you should be sleeping, or during breakfast.
If you’re in the B2B space, you’re used to hashing out contract details over the phone. If you don’t already, transcribe those calls so there’s no question what was agreed upon. If you’re in the B2C space, you should transcribe service calls so your team knows exactly what was promised to the customer.
Not long ago, transcribing a call meant listening to and typing it out yourself, or asking someone else to do the same. Automated transcription tools aren’t perfect, but they make fewer errors than they once did (or most human transcriptionists do, frankly). And if you do have to go back and listen to one in 20 calls, you’ve still saved yourself loads of time.
Audience data collection
What’s your average customer’s age? How educated is she? Does she own pets? Use automated phone surveys to enrich your customer profiles. Although they work best with “yes” or “no” and numerical questions, built-in text-to-speech engines allow you to ask qualitative questions, as well.
Augmentation is the best approach with these tools. Especially if you’ve never had an in-person conversation with your target users, spend the money to convene a focus group. Extended face-to-face conversations give you the chance to dig deep. Use surveys to follow up and confirm focus group members’ responses with your broader market.
No matter how you collect it, your data isn’t going to be perfect. Although purchased data is particularly prone to errors, even first-party information isn’t fool-proof. People lie about things like household income. Especially when put on the spot, they forget data like dates and past addresses.
Invest in automated data cleansing. AI tools can identify missing demographic details and collect them online. When they stumble on repeat entries, they can consolidate them. To make meta-analysis more effective, they can even eliminate outliers. Just don’t expect perfection; every database deserves a periodic human review.
There may not be an automated solution to every stressor you’ll face as an entrepreneur, but AI can do more than you might think. Use it to fight burnout, and you’ll be back to your sharpest, happiest self sooner than you’d expect.