One of the best work and life hacks is to automate the repetitive. This concept is so powerful that Tim Ferriss has made a career out of it. His book The Four Hour Work Week (brilliant by the way) is a treatise on identifying the things that steal time, and then using outsourcing or automation to accelerate the task and get your time back to do the things that provide fulfillment, and where you add value.
Yet people don't. Probably for a couple of reasons:
The concept is so simple we take it for granted.
The inertia to learn a tool, setup an automated process, or educate an outsourcer outweighs the effort of a single instance. E.g. the 4 hours to set-up a mail merge for sending newsletters outweighs the 1 hour it would take to just send them manually. Despite for the next infinite number of newsletters your time to execute is now just 30 seconds.
The perceived cost is too high for current cashflow. E.g. A Virtual Assistant might cost me $200 per month, which I don't have at the moment because of late fees on a corporate card, because I never get my expenses done on time.
Ignorance of rapidly changing technology means we simply don't consider how we can automate something.
Which one of those holds you back?
So Automate Already
Right now take 2 minutes (no longer, the trick is not to over think this) and write down 9, yes 9, things in your life that you could automate. Jot them on a blank canvas (paper, mindmapping tool, Scapple, Paper by 53 on the iPad/iPhone, or whatever tool you like.)
Then take another 2 minutes, preferably with a friend, and write down just one way you could expand each of the 9.
Connect ideas that have similarities if you like.
Then automate your life.
Here's one I prepared…
PS If you do anything in technology, you should be automating. Your presentations, emails, spreadsheets, documents, publishing schedules, calendar, server builds, test schedules, meeting agenda. Every task where you do the identical thing more than once, can, and should, be automated.
There are many reasons for using a tablet on an aeroplane:
Learning – and –
As an entertainment device, the iPad Pro has no equal. The screen, both from a real estate and resolution perspective, is phenomenal. Also the brightness. I was next to someone watching a movie on a Surface Pro today. He asked me to close the window shade because of screen glare. The Pro was plenty bright enough to not need this.
Then there’s the battery life, which even without in-seat power on my recent SYD-SFO flight, lasted the whole flight.
Quite apart from purchasing iTunes movies and TV shows, you can get the OPlayerHD App, or VLC, or any number of video players. Simply copy movies in any format to the device, and et voila, your movie collection comes to life.
It is true that the iPad lends itself to creative tasks. Just today on two short haul flights between Sydney and the Gold Coast (1 hour flying time) on the iPad Pro I:
Used calligraphy to handwrite a thank-you note
Edited photos, and
Of course there’s plenty more I could’ve done from creating music to building websites.
Here Udemy, iTunesU, Kindle, Kahn Academy, DuoLingo, and iBooks are my friend. So many options for learning, there is no longer an excuse for not finding the time to learn your next skill.
Ok, the biggie. Can you really do real work on the iPad Pro, in an economy seat on an aeroplane?
Of course, that’s determined by your definition of real work. So let me say, for me, the compute tasks I need to do to conduct my work when travelling include:
Reviewing & authoring documents (PDF’s & Word)
Reviewing, creating and delivering presentations
Research, both primary (mostly Interviews), and secondary (mostly Internet) which I need to collate, synthesise and share with colleagues
There is administrivia, like timesheets, expenses, booking travel, the leave and payroll system, and occasionally procuring equipment. All of these systems are web-based, and even with last years 108 days of travel, I can do these back in the office (or on a PC at home)
In the last two weeks I’ve flown 4 times – two 14+ hour flights to and from San Francisco, and two 1 hour flights to and from the Gold Coast.
On the Qantas 747-400, there is no problem doing serious work in economy. Both flights I was on the aisle (44C and 48H), in a seat behind another (so people reclined seats onto me). With the seat reclined, it was tough to use the iPad Pro on the in-seat table. There’s not quite enough room to extend your arms for the keyboard, without standing the Pro upright. However, there’s no problem at all with the keyboard on your lap.
If the seat in front is upright, the table is the way to go.
On the Virgin 737-800 I was in a window seat (29A) and found it pretty cramped. Once the seat in front reclined, there wasn’t really enough room to type comfortably. On the Embrauer 190, however, also a window seat (9F) there was room to type comfortably on the table, even with the seat reclined. I think the extra elbow room on the E190 contributes to this.
On all four flights I cleared my email, mostly before take-off.
Travelling to San Francisco saw me reviewing some 10 deep technical abstract papers, and summarising these for a calibration workshop. I also worked on a client PowerPoint presentation, and another client PoC Proposal (Word).
On the flights too and from Coolangatta I continued work on the Word proposal, and the PowerPoint presentation.
Of course it was hard to review anything without Internet Access, but I did read the pages I had clipped into Evernote prior to the flight.
I’m collaborating with others on both the Word and PowerPoint files, and as soon as I connected to the web again, MS Office365 OneDrive synced my changes to everyone else.
There are five added bonuses for using the Pro as a travel work device:
As it’s not a “laptop” you don’t need to remove it from your carry-on at security
As it’s not a “laptop” you can use it (in airplane mode) from gate-to-gate
LIghtning Connector – you can charge it in-flight on most long haul carriers. Not to mention everyone has a Lightning cable, and on the odd occasion you sit next to an Android Afficionado, you can pick up a cable in every airport. If you start with a charged device, you won’t need this on all but the longest flights
No fan noise, or overheating.
Integrated 4G means you can stay connected until the doors close, and reconnect as soon as you land, allowing you to send all of those queued emails, and post those blog’s.
There are a couple of drawbacks:
That damned Pencil design. I’ve lost the magnetic lightning connector cap. It came off in a seat-back somewhere over the pacific, and is no more.
Also, the Pencil dropped during a meal, and rolled back 2 rows. This saw me using my iPhone torch at 3am somewhere to try and recover the device. (I recovered it). Seriously Apple – A CLIP WOULD BE NICE.
None of the Office Products are fully featured. This is particularly irksome on PowerPoint, especially if you’re trying to create graphics. Word is okay-ish: It’s ok for most text styles, and even tables. Just not ideal for graphics (e.g. No aligning function, no multiple select etc.) The workaround is to open the documents in Pages, or Keynote, and edit them with the rich tools there, then save them as Office formats. Either that or only do work that requires limited editing functionality.
I took both the laptop and the Pro with me for the last two trips, and didn’t need to use the laptop for all but the most obscure reasons.
Ultimately you have 2 resources that you can spend: Money and Time, or rather, your Attention. Whilst money is something that you can, and regularly do, regenerate, your time is an inelastic, limited resource. Your time, what you focus you attention on, is simply your most valuable resource.
A couple of years ago I wrote 2 posts to help manage one of the largest parasites to this limited attention: Email deluge! You can read them here:
I recommend reviewing both posts. Become a jealous, ruthless master of your time.
Some 4 years later and email is no less demanding, but now has to compete with other digital channels, IM and Social Media, for your attention. What if you could reduce your inbox by 50% or more, in one fell swoop?
Simply unsubscribing from all of those websites, distribution lists, groups, and even businesses will dramatically reduce your email load, and free up hours every week that you will direct elsewhere.
What may surprise you is just how many Distribution Lists, websites and groups you are subscribed to. It’s likely to be in the hundreds, here’s mine:
To click on the unsubscribe link, and follow the disparate process for each of these sites would take, well, far too long.
Fortunately there’s a phenomenal tool that not only will parse your email history to determine all of your subscriptions but also allows you to:
Non-destructively unsubscribe. I.e. You don’t get the email, but your name is still on the email list. This means you get the benefits of a subscriber (discounts etc) without the constant deluge of email. This also means you can re-enable the email flow at a later time without having to re-subscribe.
Collate into a daily digest. Instead of getting 17 emails from different lists at disparate times during the day, you get one digest email with the content from the lists of that day. This consolidates all of your “perusing” to a single time in the day, to a single email in your inbox.
Keep important emails in your Inbox, that you can “roll-up”, i.e. consolidate to daily digest, or unsubscribe at any time later.
After an initial parse you’re presented with a list of senders, which you can simply click to Unsubscribe, Roll-Up, or Keep in Inbox. This first session can take a little time, but far, far less than doing this manually.
Then everyday, in your roll-up email there’ll be a number of new, or unrecognised subscriptions for you to deal with. This you can typically do once per week in a couple of minutes.
Sign up. Run on your (cloud based) Inbox. Set yourself free.
* No, as a free service, there is no affiliate link. I derive no material benefit from recommending Unroll.me to you. But you definitely will.
I also recommend going through all of your social media accounts, work email distribution lists, podcasts and anywhere else you’ve signed your attention away to some bot. Cull. Cut. Be ruthless.