Will Buying Automation Apps Save You Money?

I’m a major cheapskate by nature. Any non-pizza purchase over $40 takes at least three days of soul searching. So I understand anyone’s aversion to purchasing software. The anxiety, the ambivalence, I get it 100%. “Will this be worth it? What if I don’t use it enough? I could buy how many burritos down at Adelita’s?!”

Although understandable, that mindset is holding you back and actually costs you money. In today’s post, I hope to convince you that automation software will completely pay for itself and then some.

Your Time is Money

Every minute you spend at work costs money. Whether you’re talking to clients, cleaning a spreadsheet, or writing a proposal, there’s a meter silently ticking upward at a rate of $Not Enough/hr. Personally, I think your time is far more valuable than what you’re paid per hour, but for simplicity’s sake let’s use it as a base line.

If automation software can save you time you could consider that a savings of money. If you accept this logic, then let’s do a little experiment.

The Road to 116

The most expensive app I recommend, Keyboard Maestro, costs $29 after a 20% discount. A $15/hour wage works out to $0.25 every minute, so at that rate you need to save 116 minutes to consider the app “paid for” by time savings.

KM has a neat metrics feature that tells you how many times a macro has been triggered and estimates how much time it has saved you. Let’s take a look a few of my most used macros and see how long it takes to earn back $29 at $15/hr.

Inline Links

Here’s the metrics for a macro that streamlines the process of creating inline text links in Evernote. I still use it a lot, but this reading was taken when I was a research associate.

Inline link macro saved me 79 minutes in 3 months in 2015

Metrics for time saved making inline links

Oh Damn! It says it saved me 79 mintues. All that macro did was shave a few seconds off a mindless process.

Do you trust this estimate? Do the math and it comes out to 3.4 seconds per use. I trust that. Done manually it takes 5 seconds and 2 seconds with keyboard shortcuts. Since humans don’t do everything as fast as possible every time, I’m willing to call that valid.

So we’re at 79/116. This is going faster than I expected…

Paste as Plain Text

I Frequently pull text from the web and paste it into Word or Evernote or whatever. The problem is that its source formatting comes with it, like font, color, size, emphasis, and line height, which is a pain to fix.

Demonstration of time it takes to fix formatting

Demonstration of time saved with style clearing macro

The KM action “Filter System Clipboard with Remove Styles”, strips all formatting from text, so it pastes cleanly. Let’s take a look at the metrics.

85 minutes saved with Remove Styles macro

Oh damn again! 85 minutes saved in the last two years.

This estimates it takes a smidge under 11 secons to fix formatting manually. The demonstration above proves that that’s probably an underestimation.

Experiment Done

164/116 minutes. Just between those two basic macros that shave 2-10 seconds off a common workflow.

Sold Yet?

Those were the first two I pulled up to make this post. I thought it would take more to prove the savings, but there you go.

How much other time am I saving through automation? Some things I don’t even think about anymore becuase they’re so second nature. Things like:

  • Using text expansions to type out long phrases or whole paragraphs, code blocks for me
  • Remapping common keyboard shortcuts so they’re the same in every app
  • Searching specific websites and databases instantly without having to go to their search bars first
  • Complicated macro processes spanning two dozen or more steps, boiled down to one keystroke

My time savings can be quanified, albeit fuzzily, but my relief cannot. Every minute that was saved by these macros was a minute not spent slogging through boring work. My brainpower was saved for the stuff I really wanted to do.

Think About it This Way

Imagine this. You’re at work and this week you’re on a big complex project. The ideas you’re exploring are exciting and you feel that challenge you crave, but there’s a problem. There are formatting issues throughout your writing. There are ugly naked links and you have to rename ten dozen files. This project would be more fun if you didn’t have to deal with all that.

“Hey,” Says an office gnome. “Don’t worry about all that boring stuff. Just focus on shifting synergizes or promoting paradigms or whatever it is you do. I’ll fix all the formatting and pretify your links and deal with all the tedious crap for you. I just ask for a little money.”

Periwinkle the office gnome is offering you a buyout from your tedium, so you can focus on what matters. Would you pay him? Well Periwinkle is always there, he’s always making the offer. Cough up the $29

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