Thursday, March 18, 2010

Three automation experiments that worked

Time to read: under three minutes.

I actively detest shopping. I derive no satisfaction from department stores. When I was eight I got lost in Selfridges in London for what felt like three days.  I still experience flashbacks.  So no surprises that I love online shopping. There is nothing I like more than opening my front door on a Saturday morning and the nice men from Freshdirect handover boxes of fresh veg and goodies for the week ahead.  In fact I got thinking about other repetitive tasks that I dislike and what can be done so I never have to do them again.  Here are three New York experiments that I tried and really liked.

1. Socks. I recently signed up to Manpacks. Although it sounds like a dodgy online service for discounted viagra, it is actually a subscription service that delivers fresh new socks, boxer shorts and t-shirts to my front door every two months. Buying socks in a store is time I can never get back. I had already switched to using but now this is even easier. One ‘manpack’ every two months will, on average, replace my wardrobe over two years. Brilliant. 

2. Checking voicemail. For some reason I really dislike having to check my voicemail. I tend to do it about once every three weeks and delete all my messages at speed. I signed up to a service most excellently named: The product is called Phonetag and it automatically transcribes every voicemail you get and emails it to you.  I must admit that I love it. It transcribes about 90% of the message correctly and, if you are confused, it also sends you an MP3 of the voicemail. Importantly it always seems to transcribe phone numbers that people read out correctly. I pay per message and the cost is negligible.

Thinking about all the incoming "stuff" that bombards me made me consider all the other ways that I have to deal with incoming information. To the extent that it is possible, I have tried to make everything end up in one place – either my Outlook inbox or my Blackberry (which is also my phone). OK that's two places.  Here's where I am:

3. Never run out of toilet paper again. My wife and I signed up to Alice which automates the delivery of boring household goods to your house. It predicts when you will need various good like toilet cleaner or shampoo or recycling bags. Every few weeks a box arrives with stuff we need.  No longer to we have to having a soul destroying marital conversation about laundry detergent. Now of course you do have to tell the website how often you go through various products and then adjust it if you over or under-estimate your consumption. But now it sends me a new toothbrush every four months and I know it’s time to throw out the old one. I simply don’t have to think about it. Shipping is also free which is nice.
So nothing mind-blowing here but just a few (America-centric) experiments that worked.  And no reason to visit Selfridges or Bloomingdales ever again.

Tough questions
1. What are the most common repetitive tasks that you don’t enjoy?
2. How could you automate them or delegate them to someone else?


Gary O'Brien said...

Geez, I'd like to see some suggestions that don't involve paying someone to do these things for me. What I would like to hear is some useful advice on how to do these things myself.

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