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Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better by Gina Trapani

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Chapter 7. Automate Repetitive Tasks

Thirty years ago, we thought that by 2008 we'd all have personal robots doing our laundry, cooking meals, and cleaning our houses — like the Jetsons' robot maid, Rosie. Although that scenario hasn't become reality yet, your personal computer can perform certain menial tasks, automatically and unsupervised, on a schedule you set. Your PC isn't as advanced or charming as Rosie, but it can clean up after itself and take the work out of repetitive computing jobs.

Let's face it: computers are built to relieve us of dull work, not create more work. Refrigerators switch on and off to maintain a certain temperature. Your paycheck gets deposited directly into your account without your having to visit the bank. Streetlights snap on at dusk so that humans don't have to canvass the neighborhood flipping switches. And you can automate personal computing tasks to run in the background automatically.

If you examine your work processes over time, you'll notice that certain activities come up repeatedly, whether it's filing certain email messages into the same folders, starting up those same three programs first thing in the morning, deleting old files you don't need, or downloading new songs from your favorite bands' web sites. The first step is to identify those repetitive actions. The next step is to program your computer to perform them so that you don't have to do them by hand again.

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