Building Tools to Automate Your Own ProjectsWritten by Jeffrey Bennett
Every once in a while, I have such a big project in front of me that coding everything by hand would be very inefficient and prone to errors.
That’s where custom-built tools to help you code makes things drastically better!
I’ll give you an example.
With this very blog, each and every image and video are responsive, and they all maintain their own specific aspect ratio.
To calculate this, you’ll need to get the original width and height of each individual piece of content. Naturally, this varies wildly between each one, so I can’t just use the same code for each one.
They all have to be calculated manually and one at a time.
And that in itself takes time. Time I would rather be spending writing more articles or coding more exciting projects.
So I built a custom tool for my own personal use within this blog. I simply drag an image into the browser, drop it, and it will automatically calculate the exact aspect ratio required and output the code specific to the image.
I even made it copy the code to my computer’s clipboard, to save a step!
This drastically sped up the insertion of my images and videos, and it reduced the chance of errors and typos. However, it took quite a bit of time to create the tool to do this stuff for me.
This was a trade off I was willing to make, because I am in this for the long haul. I knew ahead of time that this tool would make my life much easier once it was finished, and at that point, I can use it for life.
There are routinely ways to improve the efficiency and quality of your work. When you have a repetitive task, ask yourself this:
“Will spending time to make a custom tool to do this repetitive task for me be worth the time, or should I do it all manually?”
The easiest way to do it is to calculate the time it takes you to do each instance of the repetitive task. Then multiply that time by the number you need to do.
Time to finish task
Number of tasks
And then calculate the time it would take you to build the custom tool to help this process.
If the total time to complete the tasks manually is more than the time to build the tool, go ahead and build it!
If it’s close to the same time, I would still build the tool to help prevent typos and errors. But if it’s much lower, you’re better off finishing it manually, unless it’s mind-numbingly boring.
I’m a big believer that the quality of output is directly proportional to how much the developer enjoys creating it. If he/she is crying from boredom, they’ll want to get it done as soon as possible, no matter the details.