If I had to pick one, I’d take the robot maid over the flying car.

Considering the way people drive on controlled roads, I don’t think flying cars would be a very good thing. However, the futurists have promised mechanical servants for the past 100 years and we still don’t have a robot to do the dishes.

We do, however, have some droids under our control that aren’t doing all they should.

Since it looks like the economy is slowing down, we managers will have to speed up. When the belts tighten, more is expected from everyone. It’s time to look at squeezing more work from the robots we do have.

Outlook. Email can be the single biggest time waste AND the single biggest time saver in a single day. You can email that important quote to the waiting client at the speed of light. But for some reason, the joke video from your retired uncle Ray takes 20 minutes to download and another 5 minutes to watch and still another 5 minutes to send uncle Ray a polite reply which will only encourage him to send you another PowerPoint presentation of the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and a Great Dane sleeping with a kitten.

Outlook, however, has a built-in robot that few people use. The “Rules Wizard” can do amazing things to save you time. It can sort all incoming email to appropriate folders. It can respond to specific people—uncle Ray? It can even separate out emails about a particular project. Outlook ought to be your personal assistant. If it’s not, think about learning more about what this powerful tool can do for you.

Is your website a billboard or a valuable member of your marketing team? It’s a new world. If your website is still in the “Welcome to our website” phase, it’s time for a change. Your website should be marketing your business 24 hours a day. Is Pepsi running the same commercial they ran in 2001? Why should anyone visit your site more than once? Give them a reason to keep coming back.

Digital cameras can do a lot for a business but rarely do people have a clue about how to use them. Almost all businesses have a digital camera neatly stored in the original box. It shows up at important events like when someone retires. Tip: Digital cameras do not require mylar balloons to work properly. Get your camera out of the box and make sure everyone knows how to use it. Then put the thing to work as your own graphic artist. Want a graphic for the website to show that you provide great service? Take a picture of your business providing great service. Combine a series of images to create a time-lapse movie of a process or event. That’s an eye catcher. (Visit one I made for AMtec Industries, Inc., www.amtec1.com).

Maybe when we master the robots we already have, they’ll make us some new ones.

Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
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