Applying the DRY principle to your automated workflows

Think about how often you repeat yourself in the tasks you do each day. The emails you send, the processes you complete, the data you constantly copy-paste.

What if you could cut out all that repetition?

Suddenly, you’re free to work on interesting tasks. The work you want to do, rather than must do. Your time is no longer eaten by repetitive actions or workflows. That is the driving force behind following the DRY principle.

So, what is the DRY principle, and how can you use it to reinvent your daily workload?

What is the DRY principle?

‘DRY’ is short for ‘don’t repeat yourself’. It relates to software programming and comes from Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas’s book The Pragmatic Programmer.

‘Don’t repeat yourself’ is an idea that programmers use to keep their code efficient and clean. The DRY principle suggests that you should avoid duplicating knowledge. That way, you avoid redundancy in your code.

In simple terms, the DRY principle is all about reducing instances of repetition. And this is where it can prove useful to the non-programmers of the office.

How to use the DRY principle

To get started on applying the DRY principle to your workflows, you need to first review your tasks and processes.

Keep an eye out for common pain points, bottlenecks or time sinks, and of course any repetitive tasks that you often repeat. So, this could start with the planned repetitive tasks. For instance, email admin or data entry — the routine and tedious processes you must complete each day.

Then, you can expand to include any common unplanned tasks that have you repeating yourself daily. These include things like customer complaints, social media mentions and so on.

With all the areas in which you’re repeating yourself identified, you can look for ways to reduce the repetition. A great way to get started here is by weaving in automation software

The DRY principle and automated workflows

Here are just a few examples of applying the DRY principle to your automated workflows.


Emails are a core element in almost every worker’s daily routine — and they’re painfully repetitive. Whether they’re incoming or outgoing, most emails eat up a huge amount of your time as you repetitively sort through your unread messages.

You can use automation as an email parser — meaning it will sort through your emails for you. With auto-alerts, it’ll alert you only to the emails that need real attention.

For the others, you can have your automation handle the repetitive actions for you. That might be to sort the data into a spreadsheet, or even to reply automatically with a pre-written template email.

Then there are enormous time-savers like updating your database or CRM with email data, so you don’t have to manually enter data. Not forgetting things like email translation, bridging triggered calls for escalated incidents, and general mailbox admin.

Document and data management

Or, you might find you’re repeating yourself most often while handling documents and managing data. For instance, receiving or sending any new file — like a CV or an invoice — might involve converting it into a different format. (Such as to PDF for security, or from PDF for editability.) Given the number of files that go in and out of your inbox, that’s a lot of repetitive file conversions.

Instead, don’t repeat yourself, let automation handle the file conversions for you. That way, you can get on with using the information those documents hold.

Further, many of the following steps in this document processing workflow will involve data entry. That is, extracting the data from your files and loading it into a database (which you then must maintain.)

The DRY principle applies here too. Why repeat yourself with these actions when you can outsource the task to automation? Automation software can act as an ETL tool. That is, it can extract, transform and load data from your documents into your databases. So, you have less repetitive manual data entry to worry about.

Supply chain

Automation can help you apply the DRY principle to your inventory workflows, too.

There’s little that’s more repetitive than continuously looking up rates from 3PLs and multimodal carriers. (Let alone how often you repeat yourself with the task of entering all your findings into your systems.) So, don’t repeat yourself, have your automation software automatically run rate lookups for you.

As another example, there’s the repetitive nature of monitoring your inventory and managing purchase orders.

You can use automation to reduce these repetitive tasks, too. You could set up an auto-alert for when your stocks get low. (No need to repeatedly check.) You can even let your automation handle order processing. It can route purchasing orders, check ERP data, or complete anything else your workflow always requires you do.

And so on…

These are just a few examples. But, whether you’re in customer service, marketing, finance, HR or something else, you can make use of the DRY principle. If you repeat it, you can probably automate it, and make your workload a bit less repetitive.

Don’t repeat yourself

It might have started as a coding rule, but the DRY principle can help you improve your productivity across the office.

With a little help from automation software, you can remove the repetition from your workflows, and work smarter, not harder.

Don’t repeat yourself, automate instead.

Haven’t got an automation solution yet? Stop repeating yourself today, with a 30-day free trial of ThinkAutomation.