For small business owners, there truly are never enough hours in the day. There’s always something that needs to be done: Whether it’s running payroll, reconciling your books, managing inventory, building relationships with suppliers, marketing your business, securing capital to expand, connecting with customers or a million other things–the list of “to-do’s” for business owners can feel endless. And while none of us can make the day longer than 24 hours, small business owners can save hours every week–effectively giving them more time every day, by embracing automation.

Automation is critical to small business success for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is that it means the business owner can make time for other life priorities such as spending time with loved ones, exercising or practicing other forms of self-care — something we’ve all learned the importance of in the past year.

By embracing automation, business owners aren’t merely saving time today, but are actually strengthening their business for tomorrow. Every minute that automation allows you to save today becomes more valuable the next day when a business owner has less to think about and fewer tedious tasks to do. This gives them more time to focus on building the business they dream about.

So how can business owners embrace automation ASAP and start reaping the benefits? Here are the three areas I recommend automating to make a business stronger and more efficient.

Managing Your Books

No entrepreneur starts a small business because they love keeping track of every last cent they earn and spend. In fact, more than a third (40%) of business owners said bookkeeping and taxes are the worst part of owning a small business.

But managing business finances is crucial to success. That’s why I highly recommend business owners automate at least portions of their accounting and bookkeeping processes. And there are tools that have made this increasingly easier. For instance, by simply taking a photo of a receipt, not only is that data now captured within QuickBooks — it can now be categorized, matched and reconciled in your bank account automatically and immediately.

Running Payroll

Another vital process that can now be automated is payroll. In 2021, there’s no reason for an employer or manager to be manually preparing, calculating and filing payroll taxes. Unfortunately, however, this is exactly what 35% of US companies still do! Luckily, there is a better way. By automating payroll, a business owner can effectively set it and forget it, meaning that payroll will be handled automatically for current employees, including calculating paychecks and taxes. The time savings this represents is huge, particularly since payroll is a process that has to be repeated continuously. In fact, according to a survey we conducted with Kelton Global, the average business owner spends 4.5 hours per pay period preparing payroll. Understanding this, it’s obvious why investing the upfront time to establish an automated payroll solution would be beneficial, as it will save a business owner nearly 5 hours every few weeks. What’s more, by automating payroll, business owners are also able to eliminate many costly mistakes that happen during manual data entry.

Integrating Wherever Possible

In order for automation to work best for you, it’s important that all the pieces of your business are connected. Look for apps and services that can integrate into your current technology mix so that you can take advantage of the automation that platforms like QuickBooks can provide. For example, when a payments app like syncs with QuickBooks Online, payments update automatically saving you time, reducing errors, and speeding up reconciliation. And putting in the time to set up these integrations can only help you in the long run. In fact, small businesses can save an average of 25 hours per month by connecting their bank or credit card accounts in QuickBooks. When all of your data across all apps and systems is right in front of you, you can make better sense of the business, which allows for better decision-making and more overall efficiency.

Automation provides the opportunity to build stronger businesses by opening up valuable time to focus on high-level, strategic and creative work, rather than handling tedious, repetitive tasks manually. For small businesses owners looking to reap the benefits of automation ASAP, I recommend getting started with accounting, payroll and app integrations to save time and drive value.

Jon Fasoli is the VP and Segment Leader of Small Business and Self-Employed Group at Intuit.

Automation stock photo my NicoElNino/Shutterstock