4 Easy Ways to Automate Your Everyday Life
I once had a colleague who ate the exact same lunch every day: an apple, a carton of yogurt, and a handful of crackers.
When I asked him if he got bored with the sameness of his daily lunch, he explained that he used to pack sandwiches and leftovers for lunch every day — and found himself gaining weight. He realized that if he ate the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, then he could eat whatever he wanted for dinner and maintain his weight without having to think about it.
What my colleague had discovered was the importance of automation in achieving goals.
Our brains have a limited amount of bandwidth for making decisions, leading to a phenomenon known as decision fatigue. When you are forced to make small decision after small decision each day, you have less bandwidth available to make the big choices that will help you achieve your goals. If you are able to free yourself of the small decisions through automation, then you are much better equipped to make the decisions that cannot be automated.
If you struggle with productivity, organization, or time management, try one of these surprising automation hacks. You'll be amazed at how much more you can get done.
1. Daily Uniform
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits to owning twenty identical gray, scoop-necked t-shirts so that he does not have to think about what to wear each morning. Similarly, Apple's Steve Jobs was famous for his uniform of black turtleneck and jeans. Adhering to these personal uniforms allowed these extremely influential men to focus their attention where it belongs — on their products.
Of course, it can be difficult to wear the same clothes every day without attracting attention. For instance, Zuckerberg has often come under fire for his t-shirt and hoodie style.
However, Saatchi & Saatchi Art Director Matilda Kahl recently wrote an essay for Harper's Bazaar explaining how she decided to adopt a chic personal uniform. While she has experienced some pushback (people have asked if she was part of a religious sect), she has found the uniform to be freeing, particularly when it comes to allowing her to express her creativity at work, where she really needs it.
2. Automated Meals
Wise Bread readers are certainly familiar with the benefits of meal planning and once-a-month cooking. But you can become even more automated in terms of meal prep if you take a page from my former coworker's book and create a schedule.
For my former colleague, that meant he ate exactly the same meal for breakfast and lunch each and every day. Not only did this mean his weight maintenance was easier, but it saved him time and money at the grocery store each week since he always bought the exact same breakfast and lunch foods.
Even if you are unwilling to eat the exact same food every day, you could plan four different weeks' meals and alternate the weeks. That way you'll know you need shopping list #1 during the first week of the month, list #2 the next week, and so on. Rather than spending time creating a list each week, that work is already done for you.
3. Toilet Paper Subscription
Do you ever have to make an emergency run to Target for toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant, dishwasher detergent, dog food, or dryer sheets? These are the regular use items that it's easy to run out of before you remember to buy more. That's why it's a great idea to subscribe for delivery of household items.
Amazon's Subscribe & Save program allows you to schedule such regular deliveries. Amazon offers you 5% off anything you buy through Subscribe & Save, and a 15% discount if you put at least five items on subscription — and shipping fees are waived. You are e-mailed a reminder about the shipment a few days before it ships, with an option to cancel, and you are not charged for the items until they ship.
Signing up for a subscription means you will no longer make emergency runs to the store or ponder whether you need more paper towels every time you go grocery shopping (hint: whether you decide you've got enough Brawny at home or that you need more, you'll definitely be wrong).
4. Checklists for Daily Life
No matter how many times a pilot has flown a particular airplane, he or she still refers to a checklist in order to make sure each necessary step is taken in the proper order. Atul Gawande of The New Yorker describes the original implementation of the checklist for takeoff this way: "[It] was too complicated to be left to the memory of any pilot, however expert."
Critical-care specialist Peter Provonost has proven that implementing checklists in hospitals can save lives and reduce medical care costs. In both the flight and medical worlds, checklists prevent expert practitioners from overlooking or skipping a basic step, which is very easy to do when you are focused on something bigger, like taking off in bad weather, or a patient having a seizure.
Though skipping basic steps in your daily life likely does not result in life-or-death consequences, you can still streamline and automate your life by using checklists.
According to Brett McKay of The Art of Manliness, the best way to implement checklists in your life is to look for the essential items that you regularly overlook and create checklists around them:
You don't need a checklist that lists every single step on how to complete a task. That renders a checklist useless. Instead, just focus on putting down the 'stupid' but essential stuff that you frequently miss. Your checklist should have no more than nine items on it. The shorter the better.
For instance, if you have trouble remembering to take your medication each day, you could create a morning checklist listing the name of each medication and post it on your bathroom mirror. There's no need to remind yourself to shower beforehand or brush your teeth afterward. Presumably, those activities are already automatic.
Think Less to Be Smarter
It's so easy to get bogged down in the small daily decisions that must be made to maintain your life. There are many days when your brain becomes a hamster wheel of little choices that don't really matter to you. But automating those little decisions can help you to stay focused on the goals you really care about.
What parts of your life have you automated?
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