Automation for a More Comfortable Afterlife

This isn’t about efficiency. It’s about your immortal soul.

Ever heardm people say, “you spend 3 weeks of your life in the shower” or “2 days are spent tying your shoes”?

You do a lot of little things throughout your day and when you add them up over a span of years or a lifetime. Let’s call those “cumulative actions”.

Cover of Sum by David Eagleman

Image from Amazon.com

In his fantastic afterlife anthology, Sum, author David Eagleman dreams that you’ll spend your eternity reancting your cumulative actions one after another.

You’ll spend a month waiting in traffic and when that’s done you’ll relieve every teeth brushing event, presumably while cursing yourself for a lifetime of immaculate dental hygiene, or thinking over your dentist’s down nose admonishments to spend more time brushing and taking solace that you got last laugh.

If this is really how it is, then how long will you spend opening Chrome, searching for a jackalope, and clicking on the image results for jackalopes to see a picture? It’s much, much more time than you might think.

Forgettable, non-thinky actions should be automated. Automation is all about freeing you from needless actions. Needless actions are no fun and you should reduce the number of them in your impending afterlife.

Even absent of Eagleman’s afterlife, automation is still valuable. Every second of tedious slog you cut from your workday is a second that you can spend applying creativity and full attention to the work that you actually want to show up for.

How Do I Prepare for a Better Afterlife?

If you’ve read anything on this blog, you know what a fan of the indispensible macro editor, Keyboard Maestro I am. I find new uses every day and whenever I’m faced with really undesirable tasks, I can always turn to it to craft a creative solution.

KM has a “Time Saved” estimator feature so you can marvel at how much time didn’t spend on the individual actions of the macro itself.

So let’s take a look at a few hours of truly annoying things I don’t have to do when I’m in Eagleman’s tongue in cheek Hades.

In Hell, I shall not spend:

Hours Futzing about Making Inline Links

I’m unreasonably annoyed by naked URLs. A domain name is fine and maybe one or two words after the slash is tolderable, but seeing an 80 character monstrosity full of query parameters and percent signs ruining the zen of my emails or notes, it makes my skin crawl.

Here’s the stats from when I was working part time as a research associate. Between Sep 30, 2015 and May 17, 2016 I made 1379 links (just in Evernote) saving me 79 minutes.

79 minutes saved

It’s probably triple that by now

Inline links are prettier than naked URLs

Naked URLs Bad. Inline Links Good.

 

40 Minutes Capitalizing Phrases

40 minutes saved using title case macro

I Make Needless Title Case Everywhere and It Bugs My Colleagues

 

Have you noticed how anal I am about formatting? If I make a heading—and I do make a lot of headings for some reason—it had better be in “Title Case” with each word capitalized. This macro filters my clipboard and pastes it in title case.

85 Minutes Fixing the Formatting of Pasted Text

Instead of watching two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I curse as the big, bold, alien font of the title of an article I found online crowds out the native typeface of Evernote or MS Word.

I just wanted to avoid typing the title, but now I have change all the damn dropdowns and selects so that the title matches everything else. Over and over I click the color well and change the text to black.

Remove styles macro saved 85 minutes

Plain text apps don’t have this problem

Demo of fixing formatting manually

This is a huge pain, don’t do it

 

Conclusion

You may not believe in the post-mortal vision of Mr. Eagleman, but the point is no less valid. You spend time performing actions that seem trivial in the moment but pile up into a giant ball of wasted time. You have better ways of spending that time.

The culture “productivity” is probably telling you to fill that saved time with more work. If you want to do that, have at it, but I didn’t start this blog to help people intensify their labor. I started it because I act as if Eagleman was right.

I care about how much of your life is challenging, rewarding, thoughtful work and how much is forgetable slog. You only have so much brain power and every corected character, every typed word, every hunted and clicked check box saps some bit of it, leaving less and less for what you care about.

Viewed in the context of Sum, the journey of the empowered user is the path to salvation. It’s a tough road, but oh so worth it when you work out the margins and realize how much more tolerable your stay in Hades will be. This blog is here to help you save your own soul.

Leave a Reply