Simplify your life: Life hacks to automate your responsibilities and duties, to make your life easier
In my quest for the simple life, I have removed so much from my life that whatever is left can be considered really important. Even life-affirmingly important. Unfortunately, there are still a few things left that, although important, are not that important that I want to spend my decision-making powers on it. Things like paying bills, deciding what is for dinner, and remembering who has their birthday when. Fortunately, there is an easy way to deal with many of these small “annoyances” and errands – automate!
What is automation?
According to Market Business News:
“Automation is the use of electronics and computer-controlled devices to assume control of processes. The aim of automation is to boost efficiency and reliability.”
Although this refers more to business and process automation, the same applies to automating your own life and processes – it will also lead to an increase in efficiency and reliability. Automation simply makes our lives easier, less complicated and much easier to navigate. Also, should the need arise it is a lot easier to delegate responsibilities if parts of it are already automated. You make your life better, and yourself happier.
So basically we are streamlining? The meaning of streamlining
In a nutshell, yes. Streamlining refers to making something as efficient as possible, so in effect, you are shaving off or removing any items, processes or expectations in order to make it easier and simpler. When we are considering automating some of our chores or responsibilities, we are streamlining our lives.
The value of automation: combating decision fatigue
Surely I don’t have to tell you this, but our lives are full of decisions, and our minds simply cannot keep up. We are able to only successfully handle that many decisions in any given time period. Once we reach our limit, we start to experience decision fatigue. Basically, that means our brains are tired of making decisions, which makes us more prone to making errors or choosing the wrong choice.
For the same reason that you should not trust an exhausted pilot, or entrust a tired surgeon with a scalpel, you should not allow yourself to make decisions when suffering from decision fatigue. Although not always poor, it just makes it more likely that you might make a bad decision. So when faced with too many things that you need to decide on, automate the ones that are the least important, or where the smallest margin of error is possible. This way we save our brain’s decision-making capacity and decision-making space for the more important things and reduce decision fatigue and errors.
How to automate life’s decisions
1. Think about everything that you have to decide. Evaluate if all of these decisions are really necessary and if not think of ways to eliminate some of them.
Even deleting one decision can ultimately help you streamline your life.
2. Establish routines
If you know when to expect something, or when to do something, you eliminate the need to think about it. For instance, get into the habit of making your bed in the morning, drinking your vitamins before you brush your teeth, and putting in a load of washing before you make your morning coffee means you eliminate the need to think about these things. You also avoid having to questions whether you did something or not – if it is part of your routine you most probably did do it, even without noticing.
3. Organise your home
Make sure everything in your home and in your life has a place. So when you tidy up or have to bring something new into your house, you already know where it will go without having to think about it. This also means you make it easier to find when you need it, no having to scratch your head or waste time searching.
By eliminating small, unimportant decisions, putting routines in place and having a place for everything in your life you leave yourself feeling mentally fresh enough to make good decisions when important.
Once you have eliminated the unimportant, here are a few ideas on how you can automate the rest.
Life hack tools to save you decision-making energy:
1. Bill payments
Load debit orders as far as possible, and for those payments that you have to do manually, try and get all the payment dates on the same date so you can do all of them at the same time.
2. Subscription services
From your favourite magazines to entertainment subscriptions, to things like food box subscription services, confirm them either annually or quarterly so that you don’t have to remind yourself not to forget to order, pay or even cancel.
3. Email automation
You can reduce the number of emails you receive by making use of a service such as Unroll.me (https://unroll.me/) [my life saver!]. You can batch unsubscribe, or choose to receive 1 email daily with a summary of all the emails you received. For emails that you want to receive, set up automation rules to sort through them. Set-up automated follow-ups using the Boomerang extension on Chrome, or make use of an extension such as Canned Responses to automatically answer frequently asked questions. Make use of your tags within your emails, and again – folders!
4. Social media posting
For everyone who relies on social media as a way of doing business, social media posting automation is crucial. You take time out to schedule all of your posts for the period ahead, and they run in the background leaving you free to focus on running and growing your business. Talk about taking the pressure off. Great apps to try: Later.com, Hootsuite, Smarterqueue and Buffer.
5. Your house
Have your lights on an automatic day-night switch, your sprinklers on a time switch, etc. You can even program your air conditioner to turn on at certain times.
6. Your digital world
Folders are your best friend. Make folders with subfolders for all of your documents and other digital files, and make sure you back them up to one of the Cloud-based services. This way you can access them from wherever, you can find things that you are looking for, and even if the worst happens like your computer gets stolen or crashes you won’t lose any of your work. A wonderful tool to use - Dropbox.
Although not always possible, there are things that you can do such as buying a Roomba or at least making certain activities part of your routine. If you make it a habit to load the dishwasher and put your clothes in the laundry basket you make the actual chores that much easier.
8. Routines and habits
While it is not possible to automate everything, you are capable of creating new habits that can serve you as well as automation. Things like making your next nail appointment as you arrive for the last one, turning your wardrobe into a capsule wardrobe and meal planning all serve to lessen your stress and increase your productivity.
Whether this is time batching (planning to do similar tasks back to back to make it easier for your mind to focus) or errand batching (doing this that are in the same area or close together on the same day to save on time commuting as well as transport costs), doing like-minded things together will save more than just your sanity.
Lately, there seems to be an app for almost everything. There are great to do list apps out there, and most of them will give you a reminder of what must still be done. You can also use Google Calendar – the auto schedule tool is wonderful, Google finds space within your busy calendar to schedule whatever you need to be done.
These are a few of the ideas that you can try to automate unimportant or uninvolved decisions. Most of these automations will cost you nothing, and you have the chance of simplifying your life. Isn’t that worth the initial effort to get everything up and running?
Experiment to continuously improve – the Kaizen method
Of course, just as life changes, you need to adapt your lifestyle, routines, habits and automations. This should be a continuous process of improvement. This continues assessment and improvement is referred to as Kaizen in Japanese. According to this system of belief, you have to be aware of all tasks that you do daily, weekly and monthly. You then determine if there is a way that you can do them faster, or eliminate them altogether. Tasks that you cannot eliminate, you can divide into two groups – those that are important, so you have to give 100%, and those that are not that important so you do not have to give your best. Often it is these tasks that you can automate. Delegating is also an option that you can consider. To them, automation is not a once off thing, but rather something that you need to revisit often and adapt as needed.
The idea behind simplifying is that by eliminating the unnecessary and the clutter in your life, you can have more time to focus on what is truly important and enjoy more calm and less stress in the meantime. Automation is one tool that you can use to get closer to that ideal.