Seagyn Davis
The cost of automation

The cost of automation

Reading time of post 2 min readDate when post was published29 November 2018
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click on one of the links and purchase an item, I may receive a commission. All opinions however are my own and I do not accept payments for positive reviews. This is just a little way for me to monetize the time I spend writing for you.

These days we want to automate everything we can - from our driving to small daily tasks. Automation can be a wonderful thing and can make your life really efficient giving you more freedom to do the things you want to do. However, have we stopped to consider the actual cost of automation?

I feel like there are at least two majors costs to automation that people often don't see because they're blinded by the romance of automating everything they can.

1. Time cost

So let's say you have a task that takes you 20-minutes two or three times a day. You find a tool that allows you to automate those tasks in 45-minutes. The return on investment will be seen in one day and you'll save yourself an hour a day forever.

Now let's look at another task. Let's say this one takes you 5-minutes every day and you have to do it first thing in the morning. The big pain is that it has to be done religiously every morning. You do your research and find that the best way to solve it is to get something developed (either by you or by a development agency).

The cost of automating that 5-minute task (as much as it seems laborious) will greatly outweigh just continuing to do it. If an hour of your time is worth $48 (roughly R550 at the time of writing) then that 5-minute task costs you $4 every day. If it takes you 30 hours to automate the it will take you over a year to recover the $1440 you just invested in automating it. Is it really worth it? Maybe in the long run but then it must really be worth it.

2. You never free up time

One of the biggest attractions to automation is that you can "free up time to do the things you love like spending time with family". Whilst I'm all for that having a family of my own, I've rarely seen automation actually allow for that.

I think that deep down inside, we're actually automating to increase our capacity rather than free up our time. When I see people automate a small or big task, they're basically opening up a gap which they can fill up with more work. Now this is a double edged sword.

By automating small things, the work we actually do can be really valuable and the automated tasks enhance that (a blog post is coming soon with more on this). However, when we have a ton of automation running in the background and things suddenly stop being automated (let's be real, things break) then your world is about to come tumbling down.

This is especially true if you're in-demand and under pressure already when your 20 10-minute tasks stop being automated. You now have to manually spend almost four hours manually doing the tasks and an unknown amount of time fixing the automation (this is why SaaS is sometimes a better option).

So do you automate or not? Well, it is really up to you. I like automating as much as I can especially if I can make it a non-event however I always check if it's worth it first. If it isn't, I just suck it up and get the job done.

What have you automated lately? Did you decide to not automate something?

Be right back. Just going to automate the trash taking itself out on Sunday nights for the Monday morning garbage collection.

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