Bring on the machines to your life!

ATPM: An Automation Task Prioritization Matrix

ATP What?

Time is money and more importantly time is the biggest asset of our era. We love everything that saves us time, so we can spend it pursuing activities that we love.

One challenge we took on this year was to automate as many repetitive tasks as possible. An example is a Weekly Report Email. When your work requires you to send weekly reports, that’s the perfect use-case for a task that can and should be automatized. An arbitrary rule of thumb we have is that every task that you’ll do more than three times per month should be automatized.

How? Automatization doesn’t always require you to write code and yet it definitely helps. Here is an example we’ve put together in Zapier.

Screenshot of a Zap that automatically creates email drafts using a Python script to pull Trello data.

In this case we wanted create an automatic email report based on the status of our Trello cards.

What we are trying to solve

Cool, right? At least that was our thought until we asked ourselves, which tasks are we going to automate and why? The list of ideas is endless, it could be anything from juggling data from one system to another, to automatically filling data in spreadsheets or upload files to dropbox based on the label of an incoming email. So we started discussing a few ideas:

  • Create todos from certain calendar entries (e.g. to prepare for a meeting)
  • Keep customer data in sync across multiple systems (Salesforce etc.)
  • Schedule cross-posting after article was released in the original system

While pitching those ideas, we thought about which task to automatize first and how we will actually determine the impact if it was worth spending 4 hours automating a task.

The idea was simple, we wanted to create a matrix that reflected a deterministic way to prioritize which tasks to automate first. To do so we created a list of dimensions that we wanted our automatizable tasks to be evaluated against.

The Automatization Task Priority Matrix

To make sure we are automating the right things, we created the following matrix with the following dimensions:

Dimension of the ATPM

Our goal was to create a deterministic formula that would return a score (ATPS: Automation Task Priority Score) that helped us choose the right task to automate next.

ATPS Formula

Each dimension can be assigned a different coefficient (c) depending on your skills and needs. For instance if you are a great coder, the coefficient for Coding Needed might be lower than someone who has more difficulties programming. In addition, if your main goal is to save time the coefficient for Time Spent can be substantially higher than the rest.

We took four tasks we want to automate from our daily job. For more context we work for a SaaS company.

ATPM wit real-life examples

Our goal is to build reusable workflows and save time. Thus we picked a higher value for Time Spent and Reusability coefficients:

Our own ATPM coefficient values

After running our ATPM we got the following results:

ATPM final results

Feel free to use our template:

Start automatizing your life

Once again we love our time. Starting to think and being more aware on what we spend it on, helped us to prioritize to do the right things. Creating a deterministic way to prioritize the tasks we want to automate helped us further to use our time most efficiently. You’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), that’s the whole point.

Start by automating a single task and see if it works for you. Use our template to decide which tasks to select.

This article was co-published with Rafa Aviles.