Automate the Boring Part of Life

Why Automate?

Because boring tasks should be automated, duh!

No matter which browser you use (Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer), everyone should learn how to use iMacros by iOpus, an automation tool to optimize the repetitive things you do on your computer. Combine this with a few other tools and you’ll shave hours off of your weekly or monthly schedule.

At work, I have to fill out a time sheet every week, but it’s a laborious and annoying process. I need to specify exact arrival and departure times for work and even for my lunch breaks. Additionally, the servers are usually slow and overloaded on Friday, so I find myself waiting around for drop downs to populate, pages to refresh, and time entries to be added.

So, I automated the whole thing.

Now I click a button, and what used to take me 10 minutes takes 10 seconds. What’s even better is the social benefits of passing this along to your co-workers who share the same administrative frustration.

The wiki tutorial is really the best place to learn about the depth of iMacros, but I’ll also provide a brief overview of how it works in conjunction with some other cool (and Free) automation tools.

We’re going to back up through this process, starting with the most detailed part of automation (iMacros) and then moving outward to the bigger tasks (running your iMacro automatically and then opening your browser automatically).

Identify Your Boring Tasks

Think about the way you navigate your web browser. Do you visit the same 6 sites? Do you enter usernames and passwords over and over? Do you input online forms? Retrieve flight info or stock numbers?

Almost anything can be automated, but it’s only useful if it adds value to you. Once you identify something that fits the bill, it’s time to record.

Record Your Actions Using iMacro

What iMacros essentially does is record all of your actions as you click and navigate through your browser.

It stores inputted information, and you can even use wildcard characters to generalize a search or drop down selection.

So record your macro by navigating exactly how you want the computer to navigate automatically.

*Avoid keyboard shortcuts, even simple ones like Tabbing into new fields or using the arrow keys to scroll up or down. I find that clicking into specified locations and typing is the safest way. May take an extra minute for you to record but it’ll be a cleaner macro.

Once you’re done recording your action, you can replay your iMacro and watch the computer do everything on its own. It’ll likely take a few run-throughs to iron out your code and get it to the point where you can repeatedly achieve your desired results.

Configure Your iMacro to Run Automatically

After you’ve created a bulletproof macro, you can use Firefox’s Weekly Browsing Schedule┬áto automatically trigger and run your macro.

You do this by right clicking your saved macro (in the left sidebar), and saving the macro as a Local Bookmark.

Now, when you open up Weekly Browsing Schedule, you can trigger your bookmark to run at a recurring time and on a specific day(s).

Configure Your Browser to Open Automatically

So you have an automated macro, and you can trigger that macro to run whenever you want. Now you just need to make sure you have your browser open!

For Mac users, Cronnix does the trick. It’s a no-frills tool that will perform a command at a specified time and day – similar to Weekly Browsing Schedule, but this can open applications like your web browser.

Figure Out the Logistics

Using timesheet entry as an example, here’s the simple breakdown of events:

Cronnix: opens Firefox at 4:00pm every Friday

Weekly Browsing Schedule: triggers iMacro bookmark for ‘Timesheet Entry’ at 4:01pm every Friday

You’ll want to test the timing of everything before relying on this. But you can see the added benefit of automating things like this.

Other Examples

I’ve also used this to register guest vehicles in parking garages.

Since they require a guest vehicle be registered with the 3rd party parking enforcement at all times, I simply created a macro to register my car for a 7 day permit, and scheduled it to run every week. Eventually I added a dozen other entries so that any of my friends could come and go as they please.

Just took a little upfront work, but now my friends and I never have to worry about it again.

Contact me if you have something you’d like automated or need help with. I’m no expert but I love to help and love to learn.

And please comment below if you’ve used automation to simplify your daily activities as well.