Today I woke up to the alarm I set on my phone. My bedroom curtains opened automatically, triggered by the alarm. I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth. On my mirror, which has a 40" LCD hidden behind it, I saw my agenda and noticed that one of my coaching clients had booked a session for Monday.
I made myself some tea, packed my bag, and headed out to the airport. As I left, my door and security door locked themselves, my water heater turned off (valve and power), the thermostat adjusted its setpoints, and the lights turned off. I hit one button and my vacuum left its dock and started vacuuming.
In that half hour, a lot of things happened automatically.
I haven't tracked it, but I'm guessing that having my curtains open automatically makes me get out of bed faster. It's much easier to pop out of bed when the sun is streaming in than when room darkening curtains are drawn. Let's say that saves me five minutes.
I built a whole system for coaching that notifies clients when they should book their next session and syncs it with my calendar, both by showing my availability and by adding appointments to my schedule. Because I see it on my mirror (and phone, where it sets a reminder), I don't have to ever check my calendar manually. And I don't have to go back and forth finding available times. Maybe all together that saves 10 minutes, mostly of emailing. It's also much more convenient for clients, so it saves them time.
If I didn't have all the home automation stuff, I'd probably spend three minutes making sure everything was off and locked. And maybe I'd also be paranoid that I forgot to lock up, so it saves me some worry.
Vacuuming saves me a good twenty minutes or so. The robot takes an hour, but it's slower than if I did it on my own.
There are also a lot of other things that are happening in the background that can't really be nailed down to a specific time. CruiseSheet is constantly writing its own copy for different cruises and checking to make sure itineraries are valid. Scripts are checking to see if there are any flights I might want to take or free shows I might want to see as a Vegas local. My credit cards are paid automatically and money is invested automatically.
Without counting those fuzzier things, I saved thirty eight minutes of time in half an hour. It didn't feel like saving time, it just felt like normal life. I also lowered my stress level by not having to think about doing all these little things and by not having to worry about my home being unlocked or flooding (water sensors, plus closing the water heater valve help).
I also spent time and sometimes money setting these things up, of course. That makes this more like an investment than a free lunch.
I love one-time investments that pay off over the very long term. The reason I call my books Superhuman _______ is because you can often achieve results that look superhuman just by setting up lots of easy systems. You don't look like a superhuman when you set them up, but once they free up your time, money, focus, or other resources, you do. And you get to keep those benefits for a long time with little or no maintenance.
I used to think that everyone should learn to code to earn an income. It's still a good way to go if you're interested in that, but now I think the best reason to code is to automate. With a modest investment of effort you can save hours per day, lower your stress levels, and get better results. Sometimes it feels like cheating.
I don't really know how much time I save due to automation, but maybe I'd estimate 1-2 hours per day. Let's call it 90 minutes. Thats 550 hours per year, or a full thirteen forty-hour work weeks! These little things I've set up give me 25% more time than most people. It feels that way, too. In general I feel like I do whatever I want with my time and still produce a lot of output and get a lot of quality time in. I'm also the least stressed person anyone knows, and I'm sure automation plays a big part in that.
Make a list of things you do every day, then order that list by how many minutes it takes. Then search google one by one for automating each item. You might be surprised what's been automated. Once you have your list, pick one that seems to be a decent return on money or time. Then do another. It becomes addictive after a few months because you feel the impact of the saved time, and you can then use that saved time to automate new things. Just like compounding interest.
Photo is another shot from Valley of Fire outside Las Vegas
I've always been obsessed with automation. When I had a house I had automatic robot lawnmowers to mow my lawns and a matrix of motion detectors to control my lights. These days I have a simpler life that doesn't necessitate such extreme solutions, but I still benefit from automation.
There's a saying among programmers: if you have to do it three times, automate it. That may be a bit extreme for non-programming tasks, but maybe the equivalent is: if you have to do it every week or more, automate it. Here are a few interesting automations that I have set up.
I invest mechanically according to filters I've set up. Before automating it, I had to log in every day, see if I had money available, see if there were investments available, and then invest. This only took a few minutes a day, but even three minutes a day is an hour and a half per month.
Last week, I wrote "On Getting More Done – Top-down, or bottom up?" -
I described two strategies of getting more done. The first way is to take on a lot of unbreakable commitments and follow through on them, and you'll naturally be forced to optimize to make all of your commitments. So if you play a competitive sport, work full time, study full time, and are helping run a charitable project - well, you'll naturally move fast and optimize your time. If you're the kind of person that always sees unbreakable commitments through, this can work quite well.
The downside is that you risk burning out or crashing. And that's a very real downside.
The other strategy for getting more done would be to gradually reclaim parts of your life. This would be identifying where your time is currently going, and gradually transitioning that time from activities you'd like to do less of into activities you'd like to do more of. I elaborated on this in "Want to read more? Okay, here’s a few ways to do so" -
What does it take to read? Well, you need a book or some sort of words or something. Some light. And – time.