Before Automating Anything Else… Automate Yourself

No – I'm not suggesting implants so you can become like that cyborg guy from the Justice League movie.

I'm saying that of all the tools, tricks and methods out there to maximise your time, the one that you can benefit most from is to work on yourself first.

It's the future – deal with it

I completely understand the attraction of automation.

Especially for a profession that considers its time to be a premium commodity, the thought of being able to do certain tasks faster or semi-automatically using technology is worth exploring.

But before we get enamoured with the tools, tactics, apps and gizmos which have the potential to help us out, there's an important first step.

Automate Yourself First

Here's the big (but fairly simple) idea: the tools are only as good as you let them be.

So let's say you get an “email inbox” app to help you manage your inbox emails, sort them and prioritize.

With rare exceptions, the app's going to rely on YOU and YOUR DECISIONS in order to function properly.

Which means that, as handy as the app might be, you still need to develop the habit of using it.

And automating yourself is all about habits.

If you don't have the desire, and ability, to develop new habits (or kill off old ones) then no amount of automation is going to help you accomplish anything significant.

It's Actually Quite Boring

Of course the reason people don't like this idea is because it's fairly dull.

It's much more fun to buy a new toy than it is to actually dedicate yourself to constant improvement on a daily basis, right? Why just spend time and effort developing a consistent, high quality blog when you can spend 1000 hours googling how the pros do it instead?

And if the new toy costs enough money, then it must be really really good.

But we can test this theory easily enough with a few simple questions:

  • how many gizmos, apps and tools have you purchased that you don't use?
  • of the ones that you do use, do you use them to their best advantage or do you struggle to get the most out of them?
  • how many articles do you read about what “successful” people do, and how many of those things have you actually implemented?
  • do you spend more time reading about new toys and how to improve things than actually working on improving?

Don't worry – you're not alone.

You Can Start Now

As un-fancy as it might seem, it's also not that difficult.

  1. Decide what you want to do (manage my email inbox)
  2. Pick the first thing you need to implement (delete/sort existing emails)
  3. Set aside time at the BEGINNING of every day before there is any prospect of distraction – put this time in your diary as “busy” (10 minutes each day at 7:30am)
  4. Do the task from (2) at the time in (3) every day at the allocated time, without fail, until its done
  5. Pick the next thing you need to do (manage latest emails)
  6. Repeat steps 1-5.

It's not exciting.

But it works.

And over time during that 10 minute period you'll become more and more productive, achieve more and more on task X, and ultimately you'll have the habit of X down.

Then you can move onto Y.

What do you Want to Automate?

What's your task? The thing you KNOW you should be doing but just can't seem to find time to get done? Or can't stick to?

Try this method – commit to doing something in the comments, then report back your success.

  • Good point Chris – it’s all about the habits!

    I’m just trying to build the habit of consistently posting two practical tips about patenting software in Europe on LinkedIn (each Tuesday and Thursday). The first two weeks went well and I hope the ideas keep coming.

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