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  • Announcing The Winners Of The 5-Day Automation Challenge

The Automation Challenge ended 3 weeks ago and until today, we are still receiving feedback, as well as questions, from the Asian Efficiency community (new and old readers alike). Based on the emails and chats that we’ve been getting, a lot of you decided to delve further into automation now that you know that it’s simple, easy, and fun! We are happy that you were not only able to save time but also gained some peace of mind.

In case you want to revisit the challenge, here’s a recap:

The Personal Automation Challenge Winners

As promised during the start of the challenge, we will be giving away the following prizes:

  1. The Oura Ring (1x) – the best fitness and sleep tracker on the market. It’s better than an Apple Watch, Fitbit and other trackers we’ve tried. ($299 value)
  2. Apple AirPods (1x) – once you go AirPods, you will never go back to wires. A favorite gadget amongst all AE staff. ($159)
  3. Atomic Habits (3x) – one of our favorite (audio) books on habits and productivity. You can choose whether you want the audiobook or hardcover ($20 value).

And now… the lucky winners are…

Christian S. (The Oura Ring)

Christian Stenner

“I’m a pastor working for a Lutheran congregation in Germany. It may not seem like it from the outside, but there is a lot of paperwork involved in my job – not to talk about the daily email madness.

Before the challenge, I had been using automation tools like IFTTT, Zapier or Tasker for Android already. But what I realized was that I had only scratched the surface with these services. And I discovered many more tools and practices that helped me streamline my workflow and get my paperwork, scanning, and saving of files done in a fraction of the time I needed before. I’m excited to discover more ways to make daily chores easier. I’ve set up a Trello board where I collect all the ideas I have. As soon as I notice there is a redundant task that could be automated, I create a quick note. My planned workflow is to then set a time every month when I set up all the automated tasks I had collected before.

Automation not only saves me an hour a week already, but it’s going to save me much more time in the future. And it gives me back focus for the more challenging and inspiring parts of my job.

I’m really happy to have participated in the challenge and to be part of the Dojo. It’s a great experience.”

Dan B. (Apple AirPods)

Dan Byler

“The AE Automation Challenge was a fun excuse to continue honing my workflow, which I’m fairly intentional about optimizing on a regular basis.

In terms of time, I’d estimate that I save an hour or two every week by automating repetitive keystrokes, mouse clicks, filesystem navigation, etc. That’s a workweek (or more) every year that I can put towards higher-level work or spending time with my family.

Beyond the raw numbers, I think the real win is in my sanity, knowing that the time and effort I’m spending on my Mac are going towards productive, creative work, not rote mouse clicks and keypresses. When the robots finally rise, the only place left for humans will be in the creative sphere. So perhaps automation is about more than productivity gains here and there. Maybe it’s about survival itself.”

Tiffany N. (Atomic Habits by James Clear)

Tiffany Niles

“The automation challenge has helped increase my Efficiency at work. It helped me uncover efficient ways to navigate my day to day tasks that I had no idea even existed! Loved the challenge and found it very helpful. “

Bill J. (Atomic Habits by James Clear)

Bill Johnson

“The challenge saved me at least 2 hours a week between the quick access option in windows and automating using my keyboard shortcuts for efficiently.

Additionally, I have started to experiment with TextExpander and also learned to “pin” documents in Microsoft Office which will be become, significant time savers.”

Joel T. (Atomic Habits by James Clear)

Joel Thomas

“I had already been practicing the advice given on days 2 and 3 of the challenge prior to that point, but this gave me an opportunity to reassess those implementations to see where I could streamline or improve upon my pre-existent File Explorer and Journaling workflows. But day 4 was definitely the highlight for me though, because I took it upon myself to complete both the challenge issued to Windows users (a simple key combo to invoke an application of choice) as well as to Mac users (don’t just create a shortcut to open an application, but actually think about what menu / sub-menu / specific function of that app it is that you want to trigger with a custom keypress). So I went to work customizing how I use the browser – my most used application.

Configuring CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+C to create a Chrome window was easy enough using application properties in Windows. And of course, Chrome already offers CTRL+T to create new tabs in that new window, as well as CTRL+(SHIFT)+W to close (that window, or) tabs. But of course, all of those are pre-existent and not customizable… so I had to go a bit above and beyond the call of duty by utilizing extensions in order to complete the Mac side of the challenge (since there is no equivalent OS preference pane to specify menu items by name).

But now I have several additional custom keyboard combos that tap into various functions within the browser that I previously had to repetitively reach out from my keyboard to a mouse for. Configurations like ALT+(SHIFT)+P which lets me pin tabs on the fly, and depending on if I have the SHIFT key pressed while unpinning a tab it is placed all the way at the last position on the right end of the tab strip instead of the default behavior of un-pinning to index #1.

I also found a way to significantly improve my methods of tab migration. Prior to this challenge, I had a love/hate relationship with moving tabs around using the mouse since if I wanted to prioritize one or a few tabs worth of research and tried to drag them left/towards the front, I’d often accidentally dislodge that tab/that group into a seperate window by moving the trackpad mouse pointer just above or below the vertical threshold of the tab bar. But now, I can move a tab or even multi-selected tabs left or right with ease and with much more speed, precision and accuracy using ALT+SHIFT+ARROW KEY shortcuts.

These are all seemingly minor and innocuous operations that I’ve had to repeat countless times before, so much so that I’d barely come to think of the trackpad limitation as an inconvenience – it was just “the way it is.” But now that the day 4 Automation Challenge to both Windows and Mac users forced me to rethink my approach to these things, I figured out a way to configure my own custom combinations to actions that otherwise required me to lift my hands from the keyboard each time to manipulate tiny graphical user interface elements around with my finger pressed on the trackpad pointer. After almost a month of usage, I have to say that it’s hard to go back to that old sans-shortcuts mouse-only limited-access to functionality now.

So these are some of the ways in which the AE Automations Challenge helped me reassess how I approached my various toolkits and workflows.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in the challenge and we hope you join us again!


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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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