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The Automation Mindset

05/11/2012

in Productivity, Travel

Whenever you have to do something, how do you approach the problem?

I grew up as a programmer, starting to program when I was about 10 years old, and the act of programming instilled the idea of automation within me. If you can do a task once, a programmer will do it by hand. If a programmer has to do a task ten times, they will start to consider writing a script to do it for them. Once it increases past ten times, well, there is no way a programmer will continue to do it by hand.

However, most people never wrap their heads around the idea of automating a task. I have friends who work inside of spreadsheets and have done the same repetitive tasks, every day, for years. If they knew how to program, they would be able to automate their entire job out of existence.

I was browsing reddit yesterday when I landed on this thread: Reddit, my friends call me a scumbag because I automate my work when I was hired to do it manually. Am I?

Now, you can debate whether or not the author was a scumbag, but the fact is that there is a lot of power in automation. If there is something that you do often and repeatedly, then there is definitely space to make it automated.

How do successful people get more done?

One awesome article I read at my favorite blog pointed to a Harvard Business Review article about successful people: How do they get so much done?

The answer, surprisingly, is not that they have more will or discipline than you do. The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy.

Habits are a perfect example of automation. If you automatically go to the gym every morning, without thinking, then you can free up the space in your brain to think about other things—and conserve your willpower as well.

Apart from habit change, what other tasks can you automate?

Automate your entire business process

One of the most influential books I’ve read recently was Work the System. The author, the founder of a business in Oregon, found that he was working at his business up to a hundred hours a week, spending most of his time putting out fires. Suddenly, he had an idea—what if he began documenting all of his processes, making it foolproof to complete the tasks that he commonly did?

Suddenly, his employees were able to put out the fires for him. If everything was followed to a tee, then everything worked perfectly—and if not, the employees could find which step wasn’t followed and fix it accordingly.

If you are running a business, definitely check out Work the System—it will help you understand the idea of building a self-propelled business.

Automate your finances

Using ING Direct, I always automate my finances to allow me to enjoy guilt free spending. ING Direct allows you to set up multiple sub-accounts, and create automatic transfers that occur on a specific day, every month.

Using this tool, I manage to save up for goals of mine (DJ Equipment, travel, plane tickets, etc) automatically, every month. The money is transferred from my account at the beginning of the month, and by the time the remaining money arrives in my bank account, all of my savings goals have already been met for the month—leaving me with an amount for guilt-free spending.

Learn more about this from a guest post by Ramit Sethi on the Four Hour Workweek blog.

Automate your cooking

Are you following a specific diet plan? Often, one of the biggest problems is cooking the right food, or knowing exactly what to eat. When you are tired, coming home from work, you might find it easier to stop over for fast food, rather than cooking a healthy meal.

Fortunately, there are ways to automate your cooking. I’ve seen two pretty successful ways.

1) Hire a personal chef on craigslist to cook a week of meals. You can easily find a chef on Craigslist or TaskRabbit who will cook for you, often for reasonable rates. You can work with them to determine a meal plan, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor.

2) Sign up with a company that delivers an automatic diet, directly to your door – I know someone who is working on achieving fitness goals. Rather than think about cooking, they simply have the Zone Diet delivered directly to their door. They don’t have to think about what they will eat—whatever shows up, they consume, and nothing else.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can automate your life, allowing you to focus on the most important things. If something isn’t your core competency, should you really be doing the task? Or should you find a way to automate/outsource it?

What are some tasks that you have or want to automate?

{ 7 comments… }

RS Amblee October 2, 2013 at 3:21 am

Automation is the future. However, it needs skills. This the challange the world is facing. There is not enough of it.
Few automation ideas are at: “The Art of Looking into the Future: The Five Principles of Technological Evolution”

Reply

Joe May 14, 2012 at 12:34 am

I actually hired a business coach to help me automate my job (I own a small business that employs 14 people in NYC). I was able to move to Israel, work whenever I wanted, and travel any time. I went from working 100 hours a week to less than 20, and work only when I want to.

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Stanley Lee May 12, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Maneesh,

You sound more like eliminating the cooking in the last section of this article. How do you think lousy programmers think about the automation concept?

Stanley

Reply

Hugo Melo May 12, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Hmm…
It means making a great habit, like a morning ritual, automatic and easy to do.

It means leaving my guitar out so I jam more often.

It means tossing out shitty food so I eat shitty food less often.

It means tossing out my TV so I’m a mindless blob less often.

It kinda like making success inevitable.

Neato :)

Reply

Dilanka May 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Yo Maneesh,

Sam’s book look’s interesting – what’s the biggest takeaway/thing you learned from it? I am going to kindle it tonight.

D

Reply

maneesh May 13, 2012 at 7:58 am

biggest takeaway was the idea of documentation—document every step in a process so even an idiot knows what to follow, then delegate.

Reply

Stanley Lee May 13, 2012 at 10:32 am

I believe that’s the whole point of doing yourself to the point knowing the process well enough to document this way.

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