Automate Your Workflow With IFTTT.com

Running my own one-man show has many advantages. I can set my own hours. I don't have to worry about personnel issues. I don't have to fight my boss about salary disputes. The list goes on.

It does, however, have one huge, glaring disadvantage. I am but one human being, and by nature I have limits to the amount I can accomplish in any given day. Since I don't plan on looking into human cloning (two of me would be terrifying), I have to find ways to simplify or automate my daily tasks.

This can be done in many different ways, and I'd like to discuss a few of them in the future. For today, let's talk about one site in particular that helps automate my work.

IFTTT.com

IFTTT stands for If This Then That, which is a great way to describe the point of the site. When you first sign up, you connect some of your most used web services and social media accounts. Then, through the creation of what the site calls Recipes, you answer the question...if this happens, then do that.

The site gives you a lot of ways to answer that question. This is accomplished with the connections you make. There are the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There are storage services like Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive. There are productivity options like Evernote, and even something as simple as date/time or the weather. In total, IFTTT.com supports 59 different “Channels”. The image above shows them all, at least as of the date of this post.

Each site has triggers, actions, or both. Triggers are the this and actions are the that. If you are using quite a few of these channels, you are suddenly faced with quite a few ways to combine 2 services to automate common tasks.

Examples.

It’s a bit hard to wrap your head around what this site does without some examples. Here are a few that I have setup.

  1. If I’m tagged in any photos on Facebook, download them to a folder in Dropbox.
  2. If I Star an article in Google Reader, save the post in Evernote.
  3. If it’s going to snow tomorrow, send me a text.

On their own, these aren’t tasks that are monumental. It’s not like I’m automating huge chunks of data entry, but it all adds up. The “Recipes” I have setup all represent small tasks that are really good ways to procrastinate throughout the day. Instead of checking the weather reports several times a day, I just know that I’ll get a text to warn me I should plug in the car tonight. Trying to track down and download all the pics I’m tagged in on Facebook could waste a lot of time. Now I just open up a folder in Dropbox once a week to see what showed up.

The site lets you browse through other people’s recipe, and lets you share your own too. When you’re just getting started, it’s a big help seeing how other people use the site.

The service is completely free, so there’s no financial harm in trying it out. If you already use it, or you end up trying it out, I’d love to hear about some of the recipes you come up with.

Eric Matthews

I'm a bookkeeper, husband, dad, music junkie, and general tech geek. When I'm a bookkeeper, I focus on cloud bookkeeping. I write at ThatBookkeeper.com, which helps bookkeepers and business owners move their books online. I work with apps like FreshBooks, Xero, Kashoo, Wave, and QuickBooks Online.