What Can You Automate?

Make your life easier…delegate, delete and reassess.
By Elizabeth Cutright
© 2012 The Daily Creative Writer

As regular Daily Creative Writer followers know, I’ve been working my way through Timothy Ferriss’s book, The Four Hour Work Week.  The book’s focus is helping you find a way to streamline your life so that you can indulge in richer moments without necessarily needing to be a millionaire.  After all, time is money – except that you can never re-earn the time you’ve wasted on things, people and tasks that ultimately are not worth your while.

So what does any of this have to do with creative writing?  There are some obvious parallels: after all, how much time do we waste online, jumping from website to website, absorbing useless information and delaying start-time of our creative endeavors?  How much time do we spend complaining about all the inferior areas of our lives (the annoying neighbors, the annoying boss, the annoying barista), instead of working towards solutions or way to get over the stuff we cannot change.  How much time do we spend worrying (answer: too much!), instead of letting go, living without and taking action whenever possible?

We all get caught up in the details, and while details are fundamental to your writing, in the real world they may have little to do with how effective you can be or how much enjoyment you get out of your life.  I’m speaking from experience here, as I’ve found myself continually derailed recently because I’ve been focusing on factors outside my control (those annoying neighbors again) instead of releasing myself and allowing events that I cannot influence occur (or fail to occur) without any concern or energy exerted on my end.

It’s hard not to care sometimes.  And I’m certainly not advocating ignoring real issues or denying help or aid whenever possible (we should all try to be a little nicer, for example, and even when we can’t spare change a smile and a kind word can go a long way).  But what I am saying is that in order to live fully in the spheres of our lives that matter most, we need to work hard at cutting the bullshit, pruning away the chafe and dross, and putting our focus where it can be most effective and move us – and our creative projects – towards excellence and (hopefully) resolution.

Ferriss’s book provides several tools and suggestions to automate your life, including using virtual assistants whenever possible and finding ways to automate income.  But what if a virtual assistant doesn’t make sense, or you’re just not ready to earn any income from your writing, let alone automate payments?

Virtual assistants can take a number of forms.  In Ferriss’s book, he describes his experiences with a variety of different companies, including online firms located in Canada and India.  You can also search Craiglists or Google to find an assistant closer to home.  If you’re like me, you probably can’t justify outsourcing your daily tasks right now (most of my daily to-do lists require that I personally attend to their implementation and completion), but there are some automatic shortcuts that can help tremendously.

For example, I’m currently testing out Grammarly right now to see if online proofreading can cut down on the time I spend going over the content I create here and in other freelance venues.  I also use my iPhone for reminders to write, for contest and submission deadlines, and to dictate story notes and ideas.  In my personal life, whenever possible I use online banking and automatic bill pay (I’m still working on streamlining my meals and my housecleaning duties, so if anyone’s got suggestions on those fronts, I’d love to hear ‘em.)

At work, I’ve followed Ferriss’s advice and created auto-responses for certain repetitive email requests that I get, and it’s cut down on a lot of the back-and-forth that can suck up time with little payback.  I’ve also changed my office voicemail to clarify further what queries should be submitted via email, and what other questions I can and cannot answer.

The next step is to find a way to farm out some of my inconsequential annoyances and worries so that I can free up even more mental space for writing.

We are always going to be battling petty demons and time-sucking monsters.  When we let them gain ground, they muck up the synapses in our brains and drain energy that would be better spent on flights of fancy, pages of prose or even diligent activity.

So commit today to streamlining your life as best you can.  Make a list of all those “to-do” items that never get crossed and then prioritize, eliminate and classify.  Which of them are necessary and nonnegotiable, and which can be ditched at the side of the road?  Of those actions that must be done, can any be automated or delegated?  Hopefully, once the analysis is done, you’ll find yourself with a smaller, more doable, list of tasks – and once those checkmarks start you’ll pick up steam and feel able to tackle bigger projects.  Eventually, showing up at the page (and showing up at life) will be a little easier because you’ll be carrying less baggage with you.

And we all know, when you travel light, you’re better able to enjoy the journey.

All original content is the sole property of Elizabeth Cutright and The Daily Creative Writer. If you are reading this blog on another website, it has been reposted without the author’s permission in violation of the DMCA. © 2012 The Daily Creative Writer


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