Automating Habits

Automating Habits

Shortly after my wife Lee and I married, she began telling me that I would spend my last nickel on a Hostess Twinkie.  Truth be told, I do love Twinkies. And, I struggled to save money, especially in the years when money was tight. That all changed one day when I decided that if I could not create a nest egg through discipline, I would do it by taking it out of my control.  Since that day, I have had various schemes set up to automatically take money from accounts and paychecks and transfer it into accounts that are difficult to access.

When I first created this complex scenario, I was embarrassed by the fact that I had to do it in the first place.  I felt bad that I could not just put money away like other people.  I have since found out that many other people struggle with this as well.  I also felt bad that it left me cash-poor even though I was earning a decent income.  But, the process worked well. Over time I was able to save money for emergencies, and home renovations and accumulate the resources that will make retirement possible. 

Another challenge that I had was paying bills on time.  I often had a stack of mail piled up that I was trying to “get around” to.  When automatic bill pay came out, I saved a small fortune in late fees by adopting that service.

I now have an automatic delivery setup on household products from dog food to toilet paper and even frozen foods. I even make charitable contributions in an automated manner. There are endless ways to automate your life.  You can even automate blog posts like this and social media postings to post when you are busy doing other things. 

When you can automate habits to meet your priorities and values: 

  • You live more purposefully
  • You create the outcomes you intend and don’t suffer from distractions
  • You reduce stress and worry
  • You increase your security and confidence and ultimately your self-image

How to Get Started Automating Your Life

I expect you are doing some of these things already, but here is a good list to consider when you start to automate your life.

Start with Money.  Begin by directly depositing your income.  If you have a W2 income, ensure you are set up for a direct deposit.  If you have a business, find the best way to automate payments to yourself on a schedule wherever possible.

Once your income is automated, move on to savings. If you have access to retirement plans, such as a 401K, you are probably on a payroll deduction plan.  If not, be sure to investigate that.  The same goes for any company stock purchase plans. Then, plan to automatically move any additional savings from the account your direct deposit goes in, to another account for savings.

After savings, you will want to automate paying your bills and making charitable contributions.  Paying these according to your income schedule will make it simpler to automate. 

When money is taken care of, it is time to find ways to save time.  I like to automate consumable purchases I need to get regularly and items that I might forget.  Toilet paper, paper towels, prescriptions, dog food, and even our people food are good examples of items that we can save time on by having a standing order.  Amazon has a great subscribe and save program for this as do many other retailers.  I also order things like air conditioner filters and water filter cartridges to arrive on a schedule that ensures I don’t forget to change them.

Another way to automate is to add calendar appointments and reminders for things that you need to do on a recurring basis.  These can be scheduling medical appointments, making phone calls, dealing with expiration tasks, or anything else you want to ensure that you do not miss.

Depending on your email software, automating your inbox prioritization can be a very useful tool.  With a few simple steps, mail from key contacts on key senders can automatically be moved to special folders that you can deal with in a more focused manner before attending to your general email inbox.

I would love to say that I have automated everything that I need to automate, however that is simply not true.  Like everyone else, I am a work in progress and I continue to do everything I can to get better at this.  But, a few hours of planning and configuration can go a long way to automate habits and allow you to provide a disciplined approach to key areas of your life and business with a higher level of successful adherence.