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The Benefits of Automation

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The Benefits of Automation

Photo by RalphBijker

    Automation is the use of control systems to control processes, reducing the need for human intervention. Putting this into context, automation is having technology do things for you so that you don’t have to.

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    Automation is all around us. When you’re at a set of traffic lights, there isn’t a traffic light operator that decides when to change the light from red to green. It is done automatically. The street lights come on at night automatically. There are no lamplighters running around turning each light on anymore. We can apply this same idea to our own life. Granted, most of us can’t create complex control systems, so we will have to do our best with what is available, but having the most mundane tasks automated will help free up some time.

    The advantages are clear. If every time you checked your e-mails, all the messages had been sorted into folders before you logged on, you save time that you would have previously spent. If your Twitter account posts a message every time you update your website, you save time because you don’t need to do it yourself.

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    If you spend an hour a day doing small tasks like these, you’re wasting a considerable amount of time. Automating these tasks will allow you to be able to work on what you consider is important. All you have to worry about is the technology working…

    A good starting point is to automate the things that we don’t want to spend time doing. Sorting e-mails into folders, de-cluttering your hard drive, updating all of your social media profiles. These little monotonous tasks can begin to take up a significant part of our day.

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    Automating your e-mail sorting is a good first step for many. It is easy to do and there are tutorials for all the e-mail applications that you can think of. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, Mail. Find a tutorial on Google and apply it to your computer.

    There are many, many tutorials on automating tasks. From having Gmail automatically sort your emails with labels, or having a program record what you do in Microsoft Office and then repeat that when necessary. Any task that you can think of that is repetitive can be done with a computer. That is one of the purposes of a computer. Carrying out repetitive monotonous tasks so that we don’t have to.

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    A web application that I find very handy is Twitterfeed. Everytime I post an update to my site, Twitterfeed automatically creates and publishes a message with a link to the post. All of my followers are given a link to my blog post without me having done more than publish it. This can be expanded further, as Facebook has an application that will update your Facebook account with your Twitter messages. So when Twitterfeed updates your Twitter account with the post, the Facebook application (named Twitter) will update your Facebook account. Again, all done without any input (apart from the initial setup).

    Ask yourself how you can apply the same idea to all aspects of your day. What do you spend your time doing that you could automate? Free up some time and you could be spending it doing something worthwhile. Let technology do things for you while you get on with the things that are important.

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    After you get one task automated, you’ll find others that you can automate too. Having all those small tasks automated will really affect the amount of free time you have. That’s time you can spend doing something you want to.

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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