How to Automate Boring, Everyday Tasks

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We are living in the golden age of automation. In the past quarter-century, we’ve seen the mobile phone evolve from a one-trick pony that requires a leather carrying case to the end-all-be-all of pocket planners, capable of organizing and automating nearly every aspect of our lives. And it still makes phone calls.

But while we go about our business talking at Siri or Google Now, requesting song titles and setting meeting dates, we haven’t become very well-versed in how to automate boring tasks. Here are a few simple ways you can do more to automate your daily schedule:

Automate With Task Scheduler or Automator

You might not realize it, but Microsoft Windows has included baked-in automation features since long before the smartphone was even a thing. Apple operating systems have as well, and in addition to the out-of-the-box options, there is a host of free or inexpensive options that make it easy to simplify your workday by automating simple tasks.

Windows Task Scheduler has developed from a simple utility into a surprisingly powerful app in the most recent versions of windows. For Apple folks, the name of the game is Automator. It might not sound as appeasing as the windows option, but it’s every bit as powerful.

Auto-Open Your Favorite Apps & Tabs

One boring task that can be automated once and never worried about again is opening applications that you use all the time. It might seem like a small thing, but if you’re someone who needs to fire up multiple resource-heavy applications before you can begin your day, forgetting one can be a time-suck and an annoyance.

Taking this idea one step further, imagine the efficiency wins that come out of running this type of automation in a call center or small office where everyone uses the same apps. A single script can be configured to start these programs on every machine in a group, allowing everyone to be up and running more quickly, with the tools they use quickly at hand.

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Auto-Populate Forms

Automation doesn’t have to be about tasks. Think about how much time you and your teammates spend entering information into forms and typing credentials into login portals.

There’s a number of password management and form completion tools available that make these tasks quick and easy, saving valuable moments throughout your day. Dashlane, Fastpass and 1Password are just a few of the options available.

You can take this idea even further by using snippets through a tool like TextExpander to single-source commonly used contact information and even full-paragraph text.

Automate Online Reports

Big Data has become more than a buzzword in business today. Perhaps you’re responsible for a regular report once a week. What if there was a way to build out the report at a fixed interval, package it up and email it to your boss?

Even if you don’t have a powerful analytics suite like Adobe Analytics or Qlik, you’re probably familiar with Google Analytics, which is entirely free and offers actionable insight into web metrics. Even Google Analytics offers substantial automation features that can send you and your team members pre-packaged reporting in multiple formats at regular intervals.

If you do have access to additional and perhaps more powerful tools, consult your vendor for instructions about how to automate reporting. You’ll get consistent data delivery and save time and effort in building out your reports.

These are just a few ideas. There are so many other great tools available to help make the modern workplace more productive, in everything from social media posting and opening browser windows to notifying you about voicemail.

If you see the potential to save time and cycles, you owe it to yourself to spend a few minutes and see if there’s a way to automate it. Think of the potential hours saved!

 

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Kayla Matthews is the editor of Productivity Bytes and a regular contributor to VentureBeat, Motherboard, MakeUseOf and Inc.com. Follow her on Twitter to read her latest posts.

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