How I Automate My Life
I believe you cannot really assist anything / anyone unless you are first walking the talk.
So, it has taken me a couple of years to write and publish this post. This stuff may seem obvious if you’re married, affluent, have a big family, or other helping hands. But speaking as a self-employed person in the big city, automating my life is one of the most helpful gifts I’ve given myself, so it is an honor to share my process with you.
Without concerted effort, the pressures of life can wreak havoc on your habitat, quickly devolving into chaos with an unkempt wardrobe, a stack of mail, dishes that need washing, and a fridge with nothing but lime juice and string cheese.
For me, this was no longer acceptable. I needed to figure out how to thrive, not just survive. Surprisingly, while going through this process, I discovered that a lot of my time was being wasted. I realized I could make things a lot easier if I could somehow consciously re-engineer my weeks to provide:
- Maximum time for creativity and physicality
- Reduction of stress by automating essential activities
… with a larger/meta goal of developing a daily routine (ritual) that would last a lifetime.
The Guiding Principle: Simplicity
As I set out on this life project, I promised myself that I would not rush the process, but allow it to unfold in its own natural way. This was maddening at times, as my ego wanted it now. But when I softly reassured myself that it may take awhile, it made the whole process more fun.
My guiding principle was simplicity, emphasizing the ease of things. I wanted a routine that would make me feel good, not stress me out. For me, the whole point of automation is to free up time to do things that give life meaning, and freedom to make a contribution to the world.
Organize and Re-balance
In order to consciously re-engineer my life, I made lists of everything I needed to do. I heard about an app called Priority Matrix, based on the Eisenhower method, and began to use it to re-organize my commitments. Today I combine it with Evernote to sort basic to-do tasks and organize projects.
My therapist told me about the Wheel of Life tool and I used it to check my own life balance. Finding myself low on social activities, she dared me to play a team sport, so I joined the Los Angeles Flag Football League and started playing on Saturdays, and attending a meditation group on Sunday nights.
Track Time; Define What’s Important
I needed to be more efficient with my time, so I began logging everything I did using iCal (and later, Sunrise). I was looking for patterns and omissions. Ultimately, every activity on my calendar fell into one of the following five groups: Mandatory, Regular, Optional, Indulgence, and Hateful.
Certain tasks require weekly attention, and by automating them, I realized I could save huge chunks of time and precious energy. By analyzing where I spent my time, I was also able to see what I wasn’t doing. (For example, I realized wasn’t writing or meditating as much as I wanted to, but I also wasn’t pairing my clean socks). These key observations helped me to automate my macro/weekly ritual. (Everyone has their own version of pairing socks).
At this point, I erased everything on my calendar and began to build my new automated weekly ritual, taking into account everything I had learned so far.
The first thing I did was replace my outdated vision board with a giant chalkboard wall in my apartment. I’m now a huge advocate of this idea. It’s not only useful, but creative types like me find it to be very fun. And it looks hella cool. I personally find it helpful to keep my more pliable and temporary weekly priorities drawn out in front of me, (along with other inspiring things and messages or quotes du jour).
The best part? You can erase it at any time.
Most large grocery chains offer delivery for a set fee, usually around $10 per delivery. In LA, there are also convenience services such as Yummy and Pink Dot which do the same thing on an ad hoc basis. I’ve used all of them before. But when Amazon boldly stepped into the grocery business with Amazon PrimeFresh, I gave their free month of delivery promotion a try. (I plan to cover my experience using Amazon PrimeFresh in detail in a separate post). The service costs about $3/week and all of my groceries are delivered free, sometimes multiple times per week.
Make Weekly Meals Easy
I began to think macro, wondering how I could optimize and automate my life, by preparing easy, healthy, weekly meals so I wouldn’t have to worry about optimal nutrition. This required some brushing up on my man-cooking skills.
I have now dialed down to about four lunch or dinner entrees that have few ingredients but are all high in protein and dense in nutrients. These include:
- Egg salad
- Chili Sin Carne Al Mole
- Salmon salad
- Protein pasta
I also wanted to “automate” breakfast. Three of my favorites are:
- Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s Micronutrient Smoothie
- Greek yogurt with nuts, banana and gluten-free granola
- Irish steel-cut oats with bananas and nuts.
Of course when I am running and “on-the-go” I can always default to my emergency breakfast, a protein shake over a shot of iced espresso.
I hate pairing socks; it feels like a complete waste of time. The only thing I hate more than pairing socks is having to look for socks when it’s still dark outside.
So God bless Maria and her sons, who run a fluff and fold service that for $5/week will wash and pair all of my socks and underwear. I am sure that Maria does not know how much time and stress this saves me every week. For people in other cities, there are services like Washio, which you can automate to pick up dirty laundry and return with clean clothes, 24 hours a day. (And they bring you a cookie!) for about $1.66/pound. I sometimes use Washio, (but only in cases when Maria and sons are not available).
I wanted a way to further improve upon my clothes by creating outfits ahead of time that were stylish, but also using my existing clothes. First, I had to capture all of my clothes, shoes and accessories on camera. This meant taking pictures of each item. (Grueling, I know, but I only had to do it once). I used recycled white foam insulation for the background, and shot the pictures using natural outdoor light with my iPhone. Once I had taken all the photos, I used ModMan to import my clothes and sort them into groups, after which I could drag and drop the items to create specific looks. No more struggle of figuring out what to wear, just consult my prepared looks, get dressed and go.
So these are the nuts and bolts. I can go into more detail on each of these things, but it’s pretty straightforward, it just requires an initial investment of time, and enough discipline to stick to the process.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, the larger goal of creating this automated weekly routine is to free up enough time and mental space to have a conscious, daily ritual. My next post will focus on how I “lived into” a daily ritual that works for me.