Chocolate chip cookie to illustrate developing good work habits

Developing Good Work Habits: Automation

Developing good work habits starts with understanding how habits are formed. In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, author Charles Duhigg explains that a habit is made up of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. 

The cue is what triggers the habit; the routine is the behavior that follows; the reward is what makes the routine worth keeping. For a habit of eating cookies, the cue might be anxiety, boredom, knowing it’s 4 pm, or walking past a bakery. The routine is having a cookie. The reward is the pleasure you get from eating it.

Now think of a task you dread but frequently have to do. Think of the routine you’ve created around that cue. Do you constantly put it off? Do you complain about it? If so, you might want to create a new routine around it: automating the task. The rewards of automation—freedom, extra time—far exceed those of procrastinating and complaining.

Building the habit of automation 

Like flossing and writing things down so you don’t forget, automating tasks and workflows can—and should—become a habit. Here are the steps to building and maintaining a habit of automation:

Discover what you can automate

According to automation software platform Zapier, the tasks that people most frequently automate are:

  • Sharing blog posts to social media
  • Turning notes into to-do’s (and to-do’s into notes)
  • Collecting data from forms
  • Sending survey thank yous
  • Creating email lists

Notice that they fall into one or more of the categories below:

  • Tasks you do frequently or on a schedule 
  • Tasks you find annoying or distracting
  • Tasks that involve moving information between apps
  • Tasks that don’t require creativity, problem-solving, or high-level thinking

Using the list above to identify tasks you can automate is useful, especially as you’re getting started with automation.

If you’re interested in automating with TextExpander, check out Kerry Provenzano’s excellent tips on when you should create a TextExpander snippet, or use the snippet suggestion feature, which recommends snippets to create based on your typing habits. 

Make time to automate

Once you’ve identified tasks that can be automated, make time for setting up your automations. Make sure you don’t put this off for fear that it will be too time-consuming or difficult. Setting up an automation usually doesn’t take more than a few minutes. Using Zapier, you can build an automation even if you have no experience or coding skills. Zapier also has thousands of ready-to-use automations, or Zap templates, that you can simply activate to use.

To automate typing, use TextExpander. TextExpander enables you to create shortcuts for frequently used text, so you can add words, phrases, and entire paragraphs with just a few keystrokes. 

Iterate

After testing an automation, you may find that it needs a little tweaking so it’s just right for your needs. Let’s say you set up an automation to notify your team on Slack when a post gets published on your WordPress site. Once the automation is active, you might realize that you want the notification to appear with a different text, or get sent to a different channel. No problem: you can make these edits in a matter of seconds, test again, and keep iterating until you’re happy.

The same goes for TextExpander text snippets—if you find that a shortcut is causing confusion, or that the text needs to be improved, you can quickly pull up the snippet and edit it.

Track your automation metrics

Automation saves you time, frees you up to do more important work, and eliminates friction, distraction, and frustration from your workflows. That’s awesome, but you can get an even bigger dimension of the benefits of automation by tracking metrics around your workflows.

Before automating a task on Zapier, you might want to track how much time you spend on it so you can find out how many hours you saved a month or year after automating it.  

On TextExpander, you can skip this step. TextExpander calculates how many hours you save each month (based on the number of characters you didn’t have to type) and sends the stats straight to your inbox. You can use them to discover ways to get even more out of TextExpander.

Build upon your habit of automation—and keep developing good work habits 

Developing good work habits such as automation will make you more focused, efficient, and productive, so you’re likely to want to continue automating.

To support your amazing new work habit, keep track of ideas for new automations as they come to you, then block off time in your calendar to set them up.

You may want to take inspiration from TextExpander’s public snippet groups and templates and this list of popular ways to use Zapier to discover more ways to get things done with less effort.

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