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You might have heard of automation and how it’s great for saving time. Most people who follow us have heard of it, but what surprised us after surveying AE readers is that very few people have automation running in their lives. Just like most of us know that massages are good for us, but very few go get one regularly.

Recently we gave Asian Efficiency newsletter subscribers a free copy of our introductory guide to Personal Automation which you can also download here. Personal Automation is the 21st century way of freeing up time and honestly, the best way to do that.

The old school time management books might say you need to put everything on your calendar, maximize every minute of your day, and budget your days according to what you need to get done. Most of that stuff is good in theory but outdated in many ways. The best way to save time is to automate repetitive tasks you already do daily. This is where you can save the most time in a day.

Just think for a moment what you repetitively do at work. These tasks could be things like:

  • Copy and pasting client information from one document to another document to an email
  • Replying to emails with the same template (changing the name, invoice number, etc)
  • Creating a document from a template where you change minor details (name, address, phone number, etc)
  • Paying bills and updating records
  • Sorting, renaming and organizing photos
  • Downloading documents onto your computer, renaming them and moving them to the right folder
    for future reference

When you do this every day, multiple times a day, you don’t even think about it anymore. It’s “what you do”.

But this is where there is a golden opportunity to free up lots of time. A lot of these tasks can be automated. The examples of the above are tasks I used to do myself manually and take up 1-2 hours a day. Now I have them automated and it has given me hours back every week that I never thought I had.

This is possible for you too. A few weeks ago, we emailed Asian Efficiency readers and asked them one simple question:

What’s a task you would like to have automated?

We got hundreds of replies and I read every single one of them. This took me a few days and once I was done, I was surprised what people wanted.

I went to my team and I said: “We need to change our blog content schedule!”

There was an overwhelming demand for automation. Everyone likes the idea of automation, but most people seem to be put off by the fear of touching anything technical. If you wanted to automate something in 2012 then you needed to be a coder, read a 500-page manual and be willing to browse through online forums with tons of jargon to figure it out.

In 2019 that’s not the case anymore. It’s simple now and with touch interfaces, you can easily automate a lot of things in a few minutes what might have taken you hours to do a few years ago.

To show you how simple and powerful automation is, here are five examples of automation that Asian Efficiency readers asked for. Lots of you asked for ideas and inspirations of what is possible. Well…we created them for you! Watch the demo videos below and you’ll see what is possible. More importantly, you’ll realize how simple it is that non-coders and laymen like you and me can do this.

All of the demos below are part of Automation Academy – our new online course that will show you how to automate repetitive tasks to free up 5 hours a week. It comes with 15+ pre-made workflows that you can download and instantly use to save time so you don’t need any coding or technical expertise to use it.

Let’s move on to the demos!

1 Organize and Sorting Your Downloads Folder

Is your Downloads folder a mess? Do you sometimes have trouble finding the right files and documents amongst the other hundreds of files that are in there?

One of the most popular requests by Asian Efficiency readers was to automate the task of organizing and sorting the Downloads folder. Inside our upcoming course Automation Academy, we have a whole video that will show you how to do it. We’re going to give away this training video for free by including it below.

It’s about 30 minutes with actionable tips and information that covers both Windows and Mac. If you only use one of the operating systems, you can just skip to the relevant section by tapping on the three bars in the bottom right corner of the video.

If you don’t have time to watch it right now, bookmark this page and watch the other demos below that are much shorter.

2 Finding and Opening Any File Within Seconds

Every day you need to find files and documents and sometimes it can be frustrating when you don’t remember where they are. You end up browsing around, getting frustrated that you can’t find it and sometimes you end up sending the wrong file to someone only to start this annoying process all over again.

If you deal with a lot of files, you want to automate this process to save time. Luckily, there’s an easy way to do this. You can find any file you want within seconds by using the built-in search function on your Windows and Mac. It’s one of the most under-utilized features, but once you learn one simple trick, it’ll save you a lot of time and frustrations going forward.

Here’s how to do it on Windows:

Here’s how to do it on Mac:

These videos are a snippet from the full training video of our new course Automation Academy (coming out in September). The full video will also show you how to use Alfred (Mac) and Wox (Windows) to make sorting, finding and accessing files even easier and automated.

3 Organize Your Emails in Less Time With Email Rules

What if you could automate the task of dealing with emails? That might sound impossible, but this is possible with Email Rules! This hidden feature comes with all major email clients, but most people don’t know about it. It’s one of the most powerful features to save multiple hours a week. Here’s an example of how to implement it in Outlook:

This is an edited training video of our Automation Academy course where we also show you how to set this up in Gmail and Apple Mail with examples of other email rules that will save you time, such as VIP Filters, finding emails that need a follow-up and more. In the meantime, if you use Outlook you now see how powerful email rules can be and we encourage you to create one yourself today.

4 Process Emails Quicker with Text Expansion

Most of us spend too much time dealing with email. One easy way to cut down on email is to get more efficient with replying to emails. Have you ever noticed that you type the same phrases and keywords when you reply to emails?

With Text Expansion, you can go through your emails very quickly by automating what you type. Here’s a demo video of that:

This is only a portion of the full training video inside our Automation Academy, where we also show you 10+ different examples of email templates you can use to save time. The workbook that comes with this video contains even more templates, examples, and snippets that you can download and use.

5 Organize Your Desktop

Just like your Downloads folder, the Desktop can get cluttered very quickly. You might temporarily store a file or two on your Desktop and before you know it, you now have hundreds of files on there.

At this point, you don’t have the time and energy to sort and organize it even though you know having a clear desktop makes it easier to avoid distractions. What do you do then?

There’s an automated way to clean up your desktop and to keep it organized. Below is a full training video of our Automation Academy course that will show you on Windows and Mac how to keep your desktop clean and organized.

Wouldn’t you get less distracted with a clear and organized desktop? So start implementing it today!

What To Do Next

Now that you’ve seen how powerful yet simple automation is, you might be wondering how you can do this.

Next week we’re launching the 5-Day Automation Challenge on the blog. Each day we’ll share with you a specific tip for automating your first task. By the end of the challenge, you will have freed up at least an hour a week through automation.

Whether you have never automated anything before or you use a Mac or Windows…we got you covered. Even my tech-phobic mom could go through this challenge.

When you join the challenge, you’ll also be able to win prizes. More on that later!

We offer reminders for people who want to get notified about the upcoming challenge and get extra tips on automation.

Just leave your name and email behind and we’ll remind you. An optional thing is to leave your phone number behind to get text message reminders about the challenge.

Enter the Automation Challenge Giveaway

Get 5 daily emails about the automation challenge and get a chance to win great prizes:

The challenge starts on Monday, August 26th. Subscribe now and we can’t wait to have you join the challenge!

Don’t forget to download our free introductory guide to Personal Automation.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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