How to automate your most boring and time-consuming tasks, even if you don't know how to schedule

How to automate your most boring and time-consuming tasks, even if you don’t know how to schedule

Like almost any entrepreneur (and parent), my life is filled with mindless, time-consuming, yet essential tasks. Every month I have to electronically sign and send the same two PDF forms to my accountant. Every week I have to order and pay for my son’s school canteen. Every day I have (in a slightly neurotic way, I admit) to check the traffic statistics of my articles.

These are the kinds of boring, repetitive tasks that I, and just about every other busy professional out there, would like to magically disappear. But sadly, I have neither a personal assistant nor any programming skills. Am I stuck endlessly pasting signatures into documents and forgetting to download school lunch menus?

Automation for the non-technical

No, says tech reporter and author Clive Thompson in one of the most helpful posts I’ve read in a while (at least for us non-technical folks – experienced programmers can stop reading now if you haven’t. already done). While he talks to hundreds of programmers for his he book Computer programmersThompson confirmed the unsurprising fact that those with serious tech skills almost always automate this kind of tedious maintenance of life with miniature snippets of code called scripts.

“Some had scripts that checked their favorite TV shows on torrent sites every day and then automatically downloaded them. Some ran scripts to check their company’s Twitter or Reddit mentions daily and copy them to a spreadsheet. One had a script that he monitored the output of a solar panel and texted it to them every day, ‚ÄĚThompson reports.

Making machines handle boring, repetitive tasks in this way sounds like a super power to me non-technical, but Thompson goes on to explain that he too has learned to make his computer take care of its dullest tasks. He wrote a script to check and download his son’s homework, another to write international news headlines, a third to keep him informed about the progress of his he book on Amazon.

And this is where things got surprising, at least for me. Thompson insists that learning how to make these little helpers is a lot easier than the code phobics among us probably imagine.

“Some of the most incredibly useful code is often not rocket science. They’re as simple as these scripts. That’s why it’s low impact for amateurs and hobbyist programmers. Again, I’m the type of hacker who just learns enough – and no more – to solve a problem I have. But this turns out to be more than enough to automate a lot of boring things! ” he writes.

Code-free options for the completely code phobic.

It sounds tempting, and Thompson even suggests a free online book with a fantastic title Automate the boring stuff with Python, which can teach you the basics. I’m sure it’s a fabulous resource, but looking at Thompson’s little sample scripts and knowing my own incompetence I was still a bit dubious. That’s why I was even happier reading what Thompson will write next.

“You don’t even need to know how to code to do it. Nowadays, there are many low-code and no-code tools that allow you to eliminate all kinds of tedious and repetitive tasks. One of the most venerable is If This Then That, but nowadays there are many more, like Zapier or Workflow on iOS, or JavaScript snippets and filters in Gmail or Power Automate on Windows and Automator on macOS, “he continues.

Tech-savvy readers might laugh with laughter at those of us who aren’t using these tools yet, but I’m sure I’m not the only low-tech guy out there excited about this idea. These tools might save you just five minutes here and 15 minutes there, but that can add to a lot of additional sanity and productivity each week. I will personally take Thompson’s suggestion and try to automate some of my more boring repetitive tasks. And you?

The views expressed here by columnists are their own, not’s.

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