by Paul T. Cottey

If it is worth doing, it is worth automating

May 15, 2017
Consumer ElectronicsDevelopment ToolsProductivity Software

If you find you are doing the same thing every day, you should consider automating it.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Traditional joke from third grade

Endless repetition gets boring. If you find you are doing the same thing every day, you might consider automating it. I ran across an iPhone/iPad app called IFTTT, which stands for “If this, then that.” In a nutshell, it allows you to automate activities based on certain events. For example:

  • Email me if it is going to rain today.
  • Mail me the closing price of a stock.
  • Send me a neat picture from NASA every morning.
  • Email me yesterday’s airport delays.
  • Send me my position on a leaderboard.

None of these items alone are earth-shattering, but the ability to reduce the effort to get access to information is worthwhile. The examples above were all individually-focused items and, although they may make life a little more interesting, they were not game-changers for me. If the effort to automate a task is sufficiently low, however, then then value of the task does not have to be phenomenal.

I have no relationship with IFTTT other than as an end user. What struck me about IFTTT is that it makes the ability to automate a task simple enough that the task itself can be fairly mundane. IT people do a fair amount of repetitive tasks to keep the lights on, and so we like to be able to automate tasks. We automate tasks so we can either do other tasks or get some sleep.

IFTTT makes the process of setting up a “That” triggered by a “This” fairly simply. Think about how you could apply that capability to your work life:

  • Email me the ticket number of any customer service call that took more than 20 minutes.
  • Flash a USB light if a server or service is down.
  • Send me a text message if the door to the server room is left open.

These differ from simple reminders (“Today is your anniversary,” “Don’t forget to pay Vendor X”) because they are triggered not by the date or the time but by the occurrence of a different event.

Whether you use IFTTT or some other tool, take a few minutes and think about those things you could automate. If they are worth doing at greater effort, they are certainly worth doing at less effort!