Why automate?

Computers are wonderful at doing repetitive tasks quickly and consistently. Humans in general are not. And Personally, I'm awful at them. I try and automate anything I find myself doing over and over again.

The goal of automation is to get computers to do all the heavy lifting, copy-and-pasting, and other low-value things. It's a huge part of making minimal, light-touch workflows. It supports me in being more consistent as well as getting stuff done quicker.

Automation examples


I template pretty much every document I create. I do this so next time I don't have to think about layout, I can focus on interesting content. I also template in Dendron so that new notes are consistent. I take a lot of notes in a hurry, during a call or meeting, so it's very easy for me to forget important things.

Scripting and macros

Many applications support scripts or macros. These are sequences of commands which you find yourself following over and over again. They are recipes which you can ask the computer to follow without having to do it all yourself.

It can be daunting to start this process. Start with an application you know well and look for scripts that already exist. Adapt those to your needs rather than writing completely from scratch.

Automation gotchas

Automation can be dangerous. Computers just do what you tell them whether or not it's a good idea. It's important to automate in small steps on well-known tasks.

One big gotcha in automation is the tempation to speculatively automate. This means going to the effort of building an automated workflow before knowing that the workflow actually works.

It's important to figure out what you need first, and only then to automate what you're doing.