Your computer is probably the most useful device you own. (Your smartphone is a pretty good candidate, too, if you ignore all the Facebooking, Snapchatting, and Instagramming that happens on it!) We all use our computers for web browsing, for doing research, for watching Netflix, and for other hands-on tasks. But did you know that there are some chores that you can outsource to your computer in order to save time and minimize hassles?
There are a few things that people can still do better than computers, of course. But there are still plenty of routine and repetitive tasks that we often complete ourselves even when we don’t have to. Ahead, we’ve collected some of the annoying tasks that you may be doing yourself but should really let your computer do for you.
1. Watch the web for new content on your favorite topics
Many of the topics you care about are probably covered extensively every day by your favorite sites. But others are more niche subjects, and keeping track of the latest news can be hard to do. Put your computer to work and set up Google Alerts, which will help you monitor the web for relevant content. That way, you won’t miss any important news, and you also won’t have to remember to run a manual search each day or each week to look for updates.
2. Back up and organize your files
We all know that keeping our files backed up and organized is a good idea, but not that many people will really remember to back up their files regularly. A great solution is to let your computer do the work for you. Every desktop operating system has a feature or a utility that can automatically schedule backups for you. So use it! You can select what you want backed up, and when. You can even have your computer notify you if the backup fails for some reason, so you’ll always know that your files are safe.
3. Automate repetitive tasks you complete across apps
We all have those tasks that we complete on a regular basis using our favorite apps and websites. But did you know that you can actually automate many of them so that they happen without your input? Using a platform like IFTTT (which stands for “If This, Then That”), you can link together your favorite apps and services and have things happen automatically, behind the scenes.
4. Filter out spam messages from your important emails
Many people prefer to download their emails to their computers where the messages can be stored and accessed offline. But one reason to switch to accessing your emails online is that you’ll often get better spam filtering options through the web version of your chosen email service, says The New York Times. There’s no reason that you should be wasting your time manually sorting through unwanted messages, whether they’re true spam or are of the mailing list variety. By opting for a powerful, web-based email platform, you’ll get access to tools that can automatically sort and categorize your messages — which makes triaging an overflowing inbox a much easier task.
5. Send your tweets and share your Instagram posts
Some of us only post on Twitter or Instagram when we think of something funny to say or snap a photo that seems worth sharing. But others plan out their social media feeds, whether they’re trying to maximize the engagement they get from their audience or are just trying to keep things looking clean and balanced. Fortunately, your computer is more than capable of posting to Twitter or Instagram for you. Just pick a service — like Later — and put it to work. You can get organized, schedule posts, and even create cohesive campaigns or series.
6. Find your next flight
Booking a flight often involves a lot of searching. You have to choose the best airports to fly in and out of. You need to determine when it’s the cheapest to fly. You probably open tabs for multiple airlines and travel sites and do your best to find a tolerable flight that isn’t exorbitantly priced. But you should really let your computer do all that hard work for you. Use Google Flights or ITA Matrix to quickly find the best flight, and try to take advantage of advanced (though airline-discouraged) tactics like hidden city ticketing.
7. Update your software
We all know that we should keep our software updated. But for many of us, regularly checking for updates (or remembering to act on a notification that there’s an update available) isn’t the highest priority. There’s a simple solution to keep your system running as smoothly as possible and to safeguard your security. Just find the setting that enables your computer to update its software for you. Turn on automatic updates, and you’ll never have to worry about missing an update or leaving your system vulnerable to security risks.
8. Set reminders
Many of us set reminders for ourselves on our smartphones. But you can do the same thing on your computer, particularly if the reminder is relevant to the work that you’re doing on your laptop or desktop. You can get your computer to remind you of something at a specific time, or simply the next time you log in to your machine. If you need to make sure that you get the reminder at a specific time, no matter whether or not you’ve turned on your computer, your smartphone may be a better choice. But for routine workday tasks, a reminder from your computer should do the trick — and it should keep you from scribbling reminders down on pieces of paper that you’ll inevitably misplace.
9. Do your shopping
Every household has its own set of essentials — like the paper towels, coffee filters, shampoo, and snacks that you don’t want to be without. But if you’re a busy person (and, let’s face it, who isn’t?), it’s relatively easy to find yourself running low. Take advantage of recurring delivery options from big retailers like Amazon. You’ll just sit down at your computer once to select the items that you want delivered regularly, and then choose the schedule that works best for you. That way, you’ll receive the items you need without having to remember to check your stock and order in advance.
10. Search for your next job
Another task that takes you a lot longer than it probably should is searching the latest job postings. Whether you’re out of work and looking for a job or looking to make a career change, there are numerous job boards and job-hunting websites to check. To reduce the amount of time you spend at the computer checking to see if there are any new matches, you can sign up for automatic alerts from the job boards where you find the best leads.
11. Do your taxes
When tax time rolls around, plenty of people opt to file their taxes on their own. But it’s almost always a better idea to turn to computer-based software to fill out the forms, rather than filling out paper versions yourself. Tax preparation software will do all the calculations for you (which means that you won’t make any errors by punching the wrong key on the calculator). And it can also step you through a variety of different questions and situations so that you can be confident that everything is categorized correctly and filed using the right forms. That kind of confidence isn’t as easy to come by when you’re sitting at your kitchen table with a stack of unfamiliar forms.
12. Check for drug interactions
Let’s start with an easy disclaimer: You shouldn’t be making decisions about your prescription drugs on your own. And your doctor or your pharmacist knows a lot more about your prescriptions than you do. But if you’re worried about a new prescription interacting with drugs you’re already taking, the best way to put your mind at ease is to do a bit of research. Instead of resorting to an anxiety-inducing Google search, use one of the several reputable tools online, like Medscape’s or University of Maryland’s, to check interactions. None of the information you see online should take the place of advice from a medical professional. But these tools are a great way to put your mind at ease.