Too Busy? Automate More!

Woman busy on two phonesEvery day is packed with activities. Work to do, appointments to get to, events to attend, chores to get done and there never seems to be any free time. Our lives are too busy and all the technology we surround ourselves doesn’t seem to make it better. In a world with computers, dishwashers, washing machines and microwaves, how are we busier than our grandparents were?

The reality seems to be that nature abhors a vacuum. So, when we get more free time, we fill it up. Once the housework that was done by housewives was simplified by modern appliances and we started having less kids to take care of, families seemed to default to two incomes. After that, our reduced chores had to be crammed around two busy work schedules, thereby eating up our gains and then some.

Unfortunately, while we were filling up all our free time, we seem to have swung too far in the opposite direction. We get more done than ever before and make more money than we had, but we have less time. How can we fix that? We either need to do less or automate more. Doing less isn’t an option for me so, wherever I can, I try to automate. Here are a few places I do that:

  1. Email – This area is a gigantic time sink. I’ve created rules in my email client that sort emails into folders if they are either not time sensitive or of limited use. I check my regular email throughout the day, but once a day I quickly evaluate and usually delete the emails in my sorted folders. If something in one of the folders needs action, I take action. While I do still see all my emails, this system allows me to waste less time throughout my day and process emails faster.
  2. Bills – The vast majority of my bills are handled electronically and most are set to auto pay. That means that my wife or I just need to check the balance and allow the payment to be made. It’s a lot faster than envelopes and checks and saves stamps to boot.
  3. Backups – I have all my computers setup to do periodic backups automatically. They are also set to backup online automatically. This way, I never worry about backups and when I’ve had problems with hard drives in the past, I’ve always been able to get back up to speed in very little time.
  4. Social Media – This area isn’t so much automation as notifications. I’ve determined which services are important enough for me to check and which aren’t. On the less important social media services for me (like Facebook), I turn on notifications and only log in when something pops up that I need to handle. The rest of the time I avoid it, saving myself a lot of time.
  5. Events/Appointments – I don’t bother trying to remember when things are going to happen anymore or spend time checking my calendar anymore. When I find out about an event or appointment, I put it in my calendar app and add in all the pertinent information. Then I set alerts that will help me to prepare and add notes relevant to those dates. For example, 2 weeks before my son’s dentist appointment I might set an alert and an associated note to remind my wife that I need her to schedule time to take our son to the dentist. The day before I’ll have an alert to remind me that the appointment is the next day. An hour before, an alert reminds me to pick him up early from preschool, so that he will be ready when my wife swings by to pick him up.

Those are just a few areas that I automate that help me to wedge some gaps of free time between the tasks that occupy most of my day and that allow my brain not to focus on whatever other task I have coming up when I do get a momentary respite. I’m experimenting with a few others with varying levels of success, but if they do succeed, I’ll be sure to mention them in a future post.

 

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