Automate repetitive tasks to improve your business performance

Jurek Skowron
Jurek Skowron IT Specialist

Read time: 9 min

Sep 18, 2020

As it was presented in the previous article, people and organizations benefit from repetition because of its importance in learning. But there is also a negative kind of repetition, hurting individuals and organizations. You can deal with dull repetitive tasks by reorganizing them. Nowadays, digital work and processes are ubiquitous for many of us, therefore, automation of digital tasks is also a powerful tool. There are services, like Zapier, which provide you a way to create automation workflows and integrate various computer tools, with no programming required.

Dealing with repetitive tasks

There are some ways to deal with tasks, which turn us, or our employees into mindless zombies. Some of the solutions are:

  • altering routines,
  • delegating tasks to contractors and virtual assistants,
  • recycling projects using templates, organizing flows for such tasks, with setting daily reminders, milestones, and deadlines.

Some essential tasks can’t be delegated, then the only way is to figure out how to make them more enjoyable.

But in today’s digital world, we are also equipped with a powerful tool, or better to say, the wide range of tools provided by automation.
Artificial intelligence is the present, and businesses are adopting it. But it is not just AI. There are many more ways to benefit from automation.
Automation is an example of how technology has fundamentally changed the way we live and work. We use it every day, e.g., when using auto-paying bills, creating calendar notifications, even setting a washing machine or coffee pot.
For work, nowadays, there are many code boilerplates, scripts, applications, macros, etc., which are convenient solutions for many monotonous jobs.

Automation of digital tasks on your own

Not always, there is a ready solution for the automation of digital tasks. Then, in many cases, we can construct our own. If you think “code!” programming your solution - yes. But wait! Only sometimes.

I am sure you are acquainted with Jeff Atwood’s quote “the best code is no code at all”. Reinventing the wheel is a good idea when you are learning how the wheel works or trying to disrupt the wheel technology. But for productivity, whenever possible, it is better to use a wheel already made, well tested in various scenarios. And to focus on this part of our job that adds value, changes/ saves the world, earns money (whatever your reasons and motivation). Thus, getting back to automating tasks before coding your solution, you should consider an easier and faster way.

It brings us to automation tools that connect different applications and services without coding or relying on developers to build the integration. Using these tools resembles building with Lego bricks. They provide us functional blocks that you can join and combine into your integration workflows. Among these services are Zapier, Automate.io, Integromat, IFTTT, and many more.

In the next article, I will show a use case of an automation task I solved for Bravelab. After research, I decided to use Zapier to integrate Slack with Google Drive/Docs/Sheets. Let me then briefly introduce the tool to you.

What is Zapier?

In my research on how to automate the task I was given (I will elaborate on it in the next article), I found that the most common solution is to use Zapier. As you can read on its website, "Zapier is an online automation tool that connects your apps and services. You can connect two or more apps to automate repetitive tasks without coding or relying on developers to build the integration."
I have also found Zapier as easy to use and experiment with. What is more, it offers a free plan and gives us a 14-day trial of the premium plan, which enables us to check whether it is the right tool for our needs.

Creating a Zap

In Zapier, you create Zaps, which are workflows containing two or more steps. You can create your Zaps or use some already predefined in Zapier.

Here you can see the overview of Zap I created:

Creating a Zap

​As shown above, the workflow is created with steps. The first step is always a trigger, which watches for new or updated data, and starts the Zap execution (see the introduction to Zapier). Then, you define steps with actions that are performed whenever the trigger is invoked.
As you can see on the screenshot, steps are visually represented as boxes, representing functional blocks, which you join to create a workflow. Every phase is configurable, with options specific to its type and application it handles. You can use actions related to specific applications (e.g., Google Docs, Slack, Todoist) or special helpers (for actions like conditions, delays, changing how data is formatted, or even adding your Python or JavaScript code).

A use case of tasks automation in Bravelab

Unproductive, repetitive tasks are ubiquitous in the digital era. Thus, there are many attempts to deal with the problem, and Zapier is not the only automation service for digital tasks. But it fits great for the integration of Slack and Google Drive/Docs/Sheets I made for Bravelab.
The use case I will present in the next article.

Stay tuned. And automate to have more time for people and things that matter.

Jurek Skowron
Jurek Skowron IT specialist with experience in cultural and medical companies. Programming hobbyist turning his career to web development, who is passionate about “learning how to learn” and incrementally organizing his life to be more valuable, effective, and happy.

Read time: 9 min

Sep 18, 2020

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