You’ve had some tedious data munging task dumped on you. It’s not a big file, maybe a hundred lines or so; dig through this, pull that out, easy enough. But it’ll eat up 10 or 15 minutes of your day.
You should write a program to do it.
But that will eat up 20 or 30 minutes of your day. That’s not an effective way to spend your time. This is a one time deal, there’s no value in a program that will have no reuse.
That’s bullshit. The value is not in the time saved, or in a reusable program. The value is in the time spent honing your programming skills. It might take twice as much time to write this program, but next time you’ll be a little bit faster. Next time you may have some new skill or knowledge of a library that helps with this kind of tedium. Next time you might realize there’s a library here just begging to be written.
Your skills need constant honing. When you do the work of the computer you cheat yourself out of valuable practice time, you could be building up your skills and becoming a better developer.
There’s an entire book about keeping your skills sharp, it’s called The Pragmatic Programmer , you should read it. If you prefer shorter reads, maybe, you’ll find this post on Coding Horror interesting. It’s also about sharpening your stuff.