Automation Life Hacks You Can’t Live Without

We've all seen those DIY projects. We've also seen those fail utmost miserably (see below).

lipstick robot fail gif

These life hacks we’re bringing to you today stem from real people, and are ideas we found to be genuinely helpful in improving your life. Whether it’s for home, work, or just in general, there’s something useful for you here. You may be wondering, what exactly is automation? Nothing too fancy here — just using technology to automate something without human assistance. While some automation requires programming or higher level coding skills, we’ve kept these tips reasonable and doable by anyone who can Google search something.

After receiving streams of awesome tips and advice, we went ahead and added the extensions, downloaded the apps, and tested them out for you. The ones that truly, positively impacted our lives were selected as the clear winners — check ‘em out below!

1.) Type Faster on Mobile with Text Replacement

text replacement apple screenshot

The simplest of them all — and perhaps one of the most useful tricks here — is to set up some text replacements on your phone! AKA, typing shortcuts that’ll save you a few seconds and loads of irritation.

Android: Settings > Language and input > Google Keyboard > Text Correction > Personal Dictionary

iPhone: Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement

Use characters and letters that your phone will autocorrect to what you want. Here are some shortcuts we deemed most worthy:

  • @@ =
  • ## = your phone number
  • addr = your home address
  • brb = be right back
  • cya = see you soon!
  • ctrn = can’t talk right now, one sec!
  • omw = on my way!

The list goes on, but this should be enough to get the wheels churning. A few things to consider — try not to use symbols that would disrupt a normal phrase. Using only one ‘@’ would be a nuisance if it kept autocorrecting before you could tag someone in a facebook or twitter post. Spelling out ‘add’ for ‘address’ could get in the way of a normal sentence as well. Other than that, this is a swell place to start automating!

2.) Email Smarter with Boomerang & Sanebox

text replacement apple screenshot

Boomerang & Sanebox. This deserves a 2-in-1 because this pair works together like Batman and Robin to help you achieve Inbox Zero. Boomerang is a google chrome extension that can be added to your gmail and can be used to schedule future emails and set up various reminders.

This is super nifty when you have to reach people in different time zones, or you’re in the sales realm somewhere and sending out an email cadence with precision is essential. You can schedule an email anywhere from one minute into the future to any infinite number of years away — mostly it’s convenient for anything you’d like to send within a week or so.

Sanebox is an incredible email management app that analyzes your current emails to determine which ones are important, and which ones you can read later. You can also send emails into a Blackhole from certain senders so you’re never bugged again, or be notified by another folder that an email you sent hasn’t been responded to yet.

While there are countless other apps similar to this, we especially enjoyed how simple and effective this one is, and how accurately it filters through emails. While Boomerang is free, Sanebox offers a free 2-week trial and then a choice between three subscription plans. As they claim to save you over 100 hours a year rifling through pointless emails, it may be worth the buy!

3.) Find your phone — and more with IFTTT

IFTTT logo

This one was a personal favorite among us, and may appeal to the slightly techier audience. IFTTT specifically means If This Then That, and is a service that lets you make simple conditional statements — known as applets — between your apps and devices.

For example, we’ve all had that heart-attack moment when you suddenly can’t find your phone. We wished for a clap-on feature or a case with a magnetic pull to your voice. Something a little less ridiculous, and utterly brilliant, is where IFTTT’s applets come in. Specifically, the Google Home Find My Phone one: when you ask Google home to find your phone it turns the ringer up to 100% and places a VOIP call through IFTTT. (Alternatively, there’s the Hey Alexa, call my device.)

Check out all kinds of fantastic pre-made applets, and even make your own. From getting a notification for birthday events in your calendar to turning your lights on/off with your phone, not only is this genius, it’s free! We say sign up immediately.

4.) Never Schedule a Meeting Again with Calendly

Calendly logo

The only thing you want to do less than your taxes… is set up a meeting. The emails back and forth, the apologetic last-minute cancellations, the incorrect time zones. The list goes on and on.

Calendly is a beautifully-designed and simple site you may send over to help schedule those meetings in one message. Individuals fill out the quick form with basic info, select a time from your previously-input availability, and voila — a google calendar event for the two of you has been created.

It’s so easy it almost hurts. While this tool is also subscription-based, try it out for free for 2 weeks.

5.) Forget Repetitive Tasks with Zapier

Zapier logo

Now this one may sound familiar. Zapier was founded a year after IFTTT and works by connecting two or more apps to automate tasks, and is more so workplace-oriented. Similar to applets, Zapier lets you create zaps, or workflows, that bring the apps together. Or you can take a look at the many previously made Zaps and use those.

This is awesome for when you find yourself doing repetitive tasks for work. Perhaps you get important order information via gmail, so you set up a Zap to save gmails with specific traits to a google spreadsheet. Maybe someone unsubscribed from MailChimp, and a Zap sends them a Gmail message. With over 750 apps that can be made compatible with each other, there are plenty of opportunities with Zapier to make work a bit more efficient.

6.) Write emails and more even Faster on Desktop with aText

aText screenshot

Now this is a great one if you find yourself writing the same phrases, paragraphs, or messages over and over again. (Ahem, sales). While Mac-specific, this text expansion app has a one-time cost of $5, and a lifelong value of accelerated typing.

aText takes abbreviations and spins them into just about anything you like. Use typing shortcuts to create fillable forms, embed images, and even include rich text without spoiling formating. Not only that, but you have multiple options in choosing when and how to expand your text and in what context or app. For example, you can set up aText to only expand abbreviations in Microsoft when you add a forward slash at the end. Or an asterisk. Or a space.

Really the impressive thing with aText is its customizability. You can even organize the snippets into different folders or categories and search through to find them easily. Adding a date, signature, or time stamp can be done instantly. This is really one automation that’s worth the bang for its 5 bucks.

7.) Rest easy with Philips Hue Lights and Hue Pro App

Philip Hues logo

This is an immensely popular one. IFTTT has several applets for the Philips Hue lights, most of which have over 100K users. Adding these to your home make a huge difference — these lights have endless hues, and a very robust light control through their app. You can take control from individual light bulbs to entire rooms.

Program these lights with IFTTT to turn on through Alexa or Siri, have the colors loop when you press a button, make the lights automatically turn blue when it’s raining, have the lights turn off when you leave your home, and more. These may not seem essential, but you never have to worry about accidentally leaving lights on or trying to set a mood — letting you go about your day and night with ease.

8.) Read Faster Online with Spreed

Spreed screenshot

Speed + Read = Spreed! This wonderful little hack is an easy-to-download browser extension that takes any text you feed it or highlight on the web, and trains you to read faster by scrapping the subvocalization that often slows us down.

Basically, one word at a time shows up on the screen, with one letter highlighted to keep the eyes focused. On average, humans read at 200-words per minute. With Spreed you’ll quickly find yourself at 400 words per minute, cutting reading time in half! We found that having to read so quickly, there isn’t time to get distracted or let your eyes wander and mind daydream… this is certainly one tool that’s staying locked in the toolbar. All of those articles you have saved in pushbullet and emails you’ve sent to yourself to “read later” can finally be read.

Trying out these automation hacks were a blast! Special thank you to the following individuals who contributed ideas:

  • Sumit Bansal, founder of TrumpExcel for recommending Boomerang
  • Brandyn Morelli, growth at MojoTech for recommending SaneBox
  • Nikolay Trifonov, Digital Marketing at VIP Sapdes for recommending IFTTT
  • Stephen Gibson, founder of VYTEO for recommending Calendly
  • Cristian Rennella, CEO & Founder of MejorTrato for recommending Zapier
  • Jordan Harling, Interior Goods Direct for recommending Philips Hue & Hue Pro
  • Christopher Durr, for recommending Spreed