Greasing the Wheels of My Life
I’ve been thinking of all the friction points in my life and wondering what could I do to grease the wheels. I’ve been looking at the different areas of resistance I encountered and looked for workflows or systems to handle them.
Charles Duuhig has mentioned that our life is a series of habits that takes up 40% of our day. That’s a big chunk of tasks to think about! If an event happens at least three times, it’s time to create a checklist to refine the process. The Bookworm podcast discusses the book, The Checklist Manifesto. Eliminate decision-making ahead of time by creating a checklist. I no longer worry about missing a step and creating a mess that I have to clean up later.
Reviewing the checklist gives us a chance to see where we can refine the process even further. I like getting my friends’ input and let them see if there is something else that can be refined and I may have missed it. A fresh set of eyes can reveal other paths that I may not have thought of.
The Annoyance List
I keep an annoyance list with me. It’s a list of all the little things that bothers me. Perhaps it’s a leaking toilet. It might be a loose screw that keeps coming out of a device and I would have to screw it back in every once in a while. I had a friend whose car was always leaking power steering fluid in his junk car. He would buy a box of power steering fluid and keep it in his car trunk. He would occasionally add power steering fluid whenever his dashboard light turned on. I’m sure it irritated him but he didn’t want to take the time out of his busy to get rid of this nuisance. He probably didn’t have an annoyance list and he just lived with this annoyance. Keeping an annoyance list gives me a nice list of things that I should be taking care of. I create new projects and tasks to care of the small friction points in life.
Combining two unrelated tasks
I used to hate mowing my lawn. It was a brain-dead activity for me. But I’m changing my attitude towards brain-dead tasks by combining it with something I like to do.When I’m cutting my grass, I often start listening to podcasts and audiobooks inside my ear mufflers. Other times, I might just put on the ear mufflers and just let my mind wander. Those are the best times for ideas to spring up out of nowhere.
Simplify My Life
I have a lot of duties to take care of. And sometimes it overwhelms me and I bite off more than I can chew. I’ve recently started to simplify my life and dedicate myself towards projects and tasks that align more closely with my personal goals and values.
I automate tasks where I can. Automatic bill paying helps to take reminder tasks out of my task manager. Apps such as Keyboard Maestro, TextExpander, and AppleScript helps reduce time spent on tasks by automating repeated actions. Some of my favorite resources to learn more about automation are:
- Automators Forum
- Automation Orchard
- Keyboard Maestro Forum
- The Alfred App forum
- Omni Automation for Omni Group products
- Siri User Guide
- Macsparky Siri Shortcuts Guide
It is certainly worth the effort to learn a little automation. The initial investment may be heavy and intimidating at first but it can quickly build enough momentum to make the effort worthwhile. I don’t have to learn everything about Keyboard Maestro. When I have a problem that needs a Keyboard Maestro macro, I will find out what commands I need and build a macro that works for me. I can build on the first few simple macros and start creating more complex solutions. I have a nice handful of Keyboard Maestro macros and I’m sure I’ll level up and figure out more complicated scripts.
Letting go of responsibilities is a challenge I still face nowadays. Delegating tasks to others (if possible) also reduces the size of my task manager’s database. The less I need to track in my task manager, the happier I am.
Delegating tasks may also require initial investment and can pay itself back many times in the future. Training another person to take over your duties on an interment or permanent basis relieves me from one duty so that I can concentrate on another duty. It can be frustrating trying to teach someone the ropes but the dividends will pay off in the end.
Delegating even half of a process can shorten the amount of time needed to finish. If you’re a podcaster, delegate postproduction work to someone else. If you’re a manager, you don’t have to be the one that has to count all the coffee beans. Let someone else do that.
Master My Tools
As a beginner, I’m slow as molasses as I try to learn a new workflow or master a new app. I remembered trying to use OmniFocus. It was a monster. Hard to tame but once I got my hooks on it, it became a powerful tool in my fight against un-productivity. I am also interested in other tools of the trade that will make my life easier. Photography, Photoshop, carpentry, and Siri Shortcuts are other subjects that I’m interested in mastering. One way to master a tool quickly is through online tutorials. There are many available for free on YouTube and Vimeo But there are also some worthwhile resources to look into.
They are well worth the price of membership. It’s like having a personal coach who can jumpstart your nascent talents. The initial cost is more than made up when you can reduce the time needed to learn a new skill and get you on your feet and running quickly.
Keyboard apps such as TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro, and Drafts can create templates at the stroke of a key. I love having automatic responses available at the touch of my hand. I have macros to automatically type today’s date, my address, canned responses, and help me fill in oft-repeated forms. I use Drafts to quickly create OmniFocus projects and fill in details such as name, start date, due date, and a few other details. TextExpander has a nifty little statistic panel that shows you how many hours and keystrokes you’ve saved by using TextExpander.
Document my workflows and create a script
It is easier to follow a script than it is to try to improvise on the spot. Using the Checklist Manifesto idea, I document a lot of my repeating workflows for my co-workers. I have been recording and refining many of my office routines. If I ever get sick and can’t come into the office, I know that I have a prepared work manual for others to follow and the office won’t skip a beat. My co-workers won’t need to guess at what I did because I already have detailed instructions for them.
Every day, I set aside 20 minutes to work on documentation. I write it as if I’m writing for a 6th grader. A typical U.S. newspaper is written at the 7th or 8th grade level. This ensures clear instructions. If a 7th grader can’t read it then I know I have some issues and need to rewrite it.
A call operator at a call center will have an app or binder filled with scripts. When the customer replies to a question, there are detailed scripts that allows the call operator to follow along on multiple branches. When they hit a dead end, they can call a supervisor for further instructions.
When I perform a repeating task, I take notes of possible obstacles and what I did to overcome them. Any possible issues and problems that may be encountered along the way are easily answered. I update my workflow documentation quite frequently because I will always encounter a new situation that requires adaptation.
For more complicated matters, I’ll record a video detailing the steps. You can see many examples on YouTube. You can learn how to change the toilet, how to maintain a bicycle, and even how to efficiently peel a hard boiled egg on YouTube. Everybody has a different learning style. Some people may gain more benefits from watching a video instead of reading an outline of steps.
Planning for tomorrow
I like to do a daily review at the end of day to update my task manager, look at tomorrow’s schedule, and try to schedule a few MITs (Most Important Tasks) and a Big Rock project. Having a game plan for the next day gives me comfort. I know what I want to do tomorrow and I put time blocks into tomorrow’s schedule. Friction comes from trying to decide what to do next. I don’t want to spend any more time trying to figure out what the next “best task” to work on. I don’t worry about it anymore. I hit the ground running tomorrow morning and know what I will be doing. That’s such a breath of relief instead of wasting time trying to figure out the next task to tackle.
Trying to grease the Wheels of My Life can be tough to start in the beginning. There is some initial startup costs in terms of money or time spent but they repay dividends easily.
Create checklists for routines.
Keep an annoyance list of all the things that bug you. Identifying the enemy is the first step in taking action towards defeating it.
Combine two unrelated tasks can ease the friction with doing an unpleasant task.
Simplify my life with automated actions such as auto bill-pay.
Simplify my life with automation apps such as Keyboard Maestro, TextExpander, Siri Shortcuts, and AppleScript to speed up tedious repeating processes.
Simplify my life by delegating duties and responsibilities to others. Train others to do some of the work that is your responsibility.
Master my tools by using online resources to teach me new workflows and techniques that will improve my final product.
Create pre-prepared templates for e-mails, correspondences, or notes. Reduce the time needed to prepare with templates.
Creating scripts and workflows. Documenting the steps needed to complete a process opens up the doors to delegate some of your duties to others.
Prepare tomorrow’s schedule so that much of the decision-making is taken out of the day.
I’m always looking for ways to make my life easier. If you have any ideas of what you can do to reduce your friction points in life, comment below!