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06 Mar

Automating something (more)

Datum: 2017-03-06 08:47

If we are keep­ing track of all the things we need to do, have orga­nized the mate­ri­als we need, and man­age our flows of infor­ma­tion so sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly that we feel on top of things, rather than way behind, and we pri­or­i­tize con­scious­ly accord­ing to what is impor­tant rather than urgent — then the next nat­ur­al step is to get as many tasks as we can done automatically.

The more things we get done with­out exert­ing effort and spend­ing time, the more ener­gy and space we will have left for what we actu­al­ly and tru­ly wish to ded­i­cate our­selves to. Bare in mind, I am not refer­ring to a future feared by some in which our work has been com­plete­ly tak­en over by robots, I am talk­ing about sim­ple automa­tions we can do right now, today.

The tyran­ny of the lit­tle things
You should still do those cen­tral, advanced tasks that require your exper­tise and which put your core com­pe­tence and skills to good use, but most of us do a whole lot of tiny tasks and oper­a­tions dai­ly which are nei­ther very inspir­ing, nor par­tic­u­lar­ly depen­dent on our exper­tise to be com­plet­ed. We save some­thing, move some­thing to anoth­er fold­er, print some­thing, rearrange a few cells, orga­nize some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly, write the same things down in sev­er­al places, log in some­where and post something.

These tedious, nev­er-end­ing tasks might be small, but they take time as well — espe­cial­ly when some­thing goes wrong right when we were just going to do this one lit­tle thing”. We can­not find the fold­er where it is sup­posed to be, we can­not remem­ber where we were sup­posed to log in, we let go to ear­ly in a drag-and-drop-move and have to start all over again. It is when the lit­tle things do not flow smooth­ly that frus­tra­tion aris­es, the min­utes go by and we get increas­ing­ly stressed by all these lit­tle things get­ting in the way of the impor­tant thing we had to do.

Help that’s already available
There are usu­al­ly sev­er­al automa­tion-func­tions and fea­tures that help us elim­i­nate some of these small, dis­tract­ing tasks in our email­ing pro­grams, office pro­grams” and oper­at­ing sys­tems which are fair­ly easy to learn, but I rarely see peo­ple using them. So, let us acknowl­edge their usabil­i­ty right now.

These func­tions can for instance be called macros”, rules”, quick steps”, quick parts”, scripts”, VBA”, Automa­tor” or the likes. With rea­son­ably sim­ple means we can allow these to do the small tasks and oper­a­tions for us, with­out hav­ing to acquire any new pro­grams or hav­ing to ask some­one’s per­mis­sion to do so.

It is easy to teach your­self how to use them since the inter­net is teem­ing with tuto­ri­als and instruc­tions — both offi­cial” guides as well as videos and instruc­tion­al blog­posts cre­at­ed by enthu­si­asts. Here is for exam­ple the edu­ca­tion cen­ter for the Office series, and your can do search­es to find instruc­tions to oth­er pro­grams. You do not have to learn every­thing at once. I rec­om­mend you start with one way of automat­ing and you will at least make your work a tad easier.

Do this

  1. Decide to learn some­thing new about the inte­grat­ed automat­ing fea­tures and func­tions in the pro­grams you already use this week. You do not have to know exact­ly what you want to auto­mate before­hand, you will fig­ure that out as you learn more about the oppor­tu­ni­ties that are avail­able to you.

  2. Now search for a rel­e­vant com­bi­na­tion of tuto­r­i­al”, guide”, overview”, macro”, rules”, script”, automa­tor”, vba”, office”, lotus notes”, out­look”, os x”, win­dows” or some­thing else.

  3. Choose a video or blog­post that seems inter­est­ing and watch or read it right away, or write a to-do-task that entails you doing so.

  4. If this inspired you, then do anoth­er search for a com­bi­na­tion of words describ­ing the task you first though of as a poten­tial automat­ing-can­di­date you would want to take off your own to-do-list. 

A lit­tle nudge at the right moment
If you learn more about the inte­grat­ed automat­ing func­tions that are already avail­able to you on your com­put­er or in the pro­grams you use, and apply any of them (even if it is just one), you will rid your­self of a few small tasks that pre­vi­ous­ly required some of your time and focus. Instead you will now get to enjoy see­ing it done auto­mat­i­cal­ly. Get­ting tasks done auto­mat­i­cal­ly always gives me the feel­ing of get­ting unex­pect­ed help from some­one that real­ly wants to help me.

Even if we still have the more exten­sive, advanced tasks left to com­plete, it will still be worth hav­ing made the effort to learn some­thing new in order to get these lit­tle nudges for­ward by being helped with the lit­tle things.

How have you auto­mat­ed small­er tasks?
What have you done to auto­mate small­er oper­a­tions and tasks recent­ly that you are par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py about? Share in a com­ment below.