They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. I tend to agree with those people.
Anytime I see a repetitive task, the first thing that comes to my mind is “There’s got to be a better way to do that.” And by better I mean a faster and more efficient way. The benefits of this are two-fold: First, it requires less attention/time/energy on my end, which frees up my attention/time/energy for other things. And second, it removes the element of human error. We aren’t robots, and so as we continue to do the same process over and over, there is higher likelihood that we would accidental miss or overlook a step in the process because of lack of focus and attention to detail. But now that we all own robots1, we can hand these processes over to them and make our lives
easier more effective.
By making the trivial things automatic, it frees up our time and talent to focus on the stuff that matters.
Some things shouldn’t2 be automated. But for everything else, it’s totally worth it. It takes a little time, effort, and logic to get things set up initially, but the payoff is immense.
One of the biggest ways that I need automation is in the social media realm. It’s a conversation between myself and others, and the content I share are the beginnings of that discussion. I categorize my content into two categories: created and curated. Created stuff would be images I take, blog posts I write, etc. And the curated camp would consist of links, articles, and other stuff that I find around the web. My goal, then, is to share this stuff with as many people as possible with as little time and effort on my part to get the same result/impact.
It used to be that if I wanted to share something, I would write up an email and send it to someone. If I wanted to share it with a lot of people, I would send it to a group mailing list. And then came things like facebook, twitter, instagram, google plus, pinterest…it never ends. All these networks are areas where people would like to get my content3, but its a waste of my time to individually duplicate the same content to each network. For the distribution part, I have a couple tools that make everything work out beautifully (for the most part) for me.
Content curation is where I automation shines brightest for me, so far. Here’s a general process:
- I see a couple articles that I want to read, and save them to read later. After I read them, I mark my favorites saying I want others to read them. Throughout the day, these articles get posted to social media for others to read, while I’m out creating images, playing with my daughter, or having dinner with my wife.
How do I do this? Let’s restate the scenario with a little more detail, and list the apps that I use along the way.
- I’m scrolling through my twitter feed and see an article someone shared. I favorite that article, and it gets sent to Pocket. When I get some downtime, I go through my Pocket list and read the articles. If there is something that I think others should read, I star it in Pocket and archive it. When it gets starred, it gets loaded into my buffer queue, and adds the hashtag #fb. From there, buffer sends out my content twitter and facebook at pre-defined intervals.
The backbone of all of this automation is my favorite online tool: IFTTT. The acronym “IFTTT” stands for “If This Then That”, and is the foundational logic behind everything. The beauty of IFTTT is that as long as apps give other people access to do stuff, IFTTT can do it. So what I do is I tell IFTTT that when I do a standard action in one program, and have it affect another. Here are the logical steps I used in the previous scenario that is run by IFTTT:
- “IF I favorite something on twitter THEN add that link to Pocket”.
- “IF I star an article in Pocket THEN add it to Buffer with the hashtag #fb”.
- Buffer then posts to twitter on the intervals I set
- “IF I use the hashtag #fb on twitter, THEN share the same thing on facebook.”
The steps I physically make only take fractions of seconds, but the results save me a ton of time.
This is very high-level, but I hope it gets you thinking. There are so many areas of life that can be automated to make things much easier. There are only 24 hours in a day, and everyone second in that day is precious. I’d rather not be dealing with mundane tasks and focus on my time elsewhere: spending it with my family, hustling in my career, sleeping…you know, the important things.
The big question I ask myself is, “If there isn’t any added value by me personally performing a task, why am I doing it?” If I can make an inanimate object do those things, I can use my time and talent for even more.
What types of stuff do you automate, or wish you could automate in your life? What would you be doing if you had even an extra 30 minutes to an hour back in your day?