This week, I am in the business of finding spare time. Or, rather I should say creating extra time.

It does not happen without a cost, though. All who practice the dark arts know you have to give up something of yourself, something human, to gain the advantage.

Of course, since I work with data and students rather than magic, the human part of me being sacrificed is my personal attention to each detail.  Let me explain.

There is lots of software and technological expertise possible that will allow a greater level of automation to occur. Even this blog is an example of a way technology and software combine to allow me to share my musings with a broad audience without personally calling each of you, my faithful readers.

New tasks, unfamiliar tasks, multi-step tasks are terrible to automate – the logic behind them requires a great deal of thought and must adapt. On the other hand, routine tasks, regular events – these are worth automating.

Do you often email the same people about the same standing meeting, just needing to make a tiny change here or there about topic or room? Outlook’s Quick Steps can build an email that has all the correct recipients and all the right boilerplate text with a single click.

Need to collect a lot of data from students or employees? SurveyMonkey or SurveyGizmo will email, collect, tabulate, and even start basic descriptive statistics on your data – papers and tally marks are not required.

I sometimes think, when we think of automation, the new technology, the learning curve, and the risk of something not being just quite the way it was all conspire to make it just a bit scary. I admit, the first time I had software visit the syllabi drives for each division, copy the syllabi away to our website, and share the links with our college information systems team I was a trifle nervous! In the end, VC now saves a lot of time, and we are more aware of syllabi and cv and our compliance with TX HB 2504. But this was a big task.

Generally, in my experience, automation works best when it helps us with the little, routine things that take up just a bit of our time, every day, every week, every year, over our entire career.

So, this week, my challenge to you is to spot that one thing in your life you find yourself doing on your computer every day. Look for that today. If you find a way to automate it after a quick Google search – share your results in the comments below! If you suspect there ought to be a way and want some help, let us know below all the same.

Automation can free up some time, and that is a noble goal worth spending a bit of time on, don’t you think?



Matt Wiley is a tenured, associate professor of mathematics with awards in both mathematics education and honour student engagement. He earned an assortment of degrees in computer science, business, and pure mathematics from the University of California and Texas A&M systems. He is the director of quality enhancement at Victoria College, assisting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive assessment program to enhance institutional performance outcomes. A programmer, a published author, a mathematician, and a transformational leader, Matt has always melded his passion for writing with his joy of logical problem solving and data science. From the boardroom to the classroom, he enjoys finding dynamic ways to partner with interdisciplinary and diverse teams to make complex ideas and projects understandable and solvable.

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