I am a sucker for automation. I spend a lot of time in a variety of tools that help to automate some of the more mundane tasks that I have to accomplish on a daily basis. While we will talk about all of those tools in the future, today we’re going to focus on just one, IFTTT. For those of you who have not yet been exposed to IFTTT, it stands for “If This Then That” and it is useful to pretty much anyone who uses…the internet. Seriously, if you do anything online then odds are you can put IFTTT to work for you. I have been using it for some time now, and today im going to talk about some of the “Recipes” that I find the most helpful.
Before we get into specifics, lets talk quickly about the process of creating a recipe with IFTTT. The first thing that you’re going to have to do is specify a trigger. The trigger is the jumping off point for the recipe. Its what lets IFTTT know that you want something to happen. Examples include: new RSS feed item, new favorite tweet, calendar event starts, time and date, etc. Once you’ve settled on when you want something to happen you have to specify the action to take. Actions could be things like: sending you an email, creating a note in Evernote, saving data to a spreadsheet, or sending yourself a text message. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of different triggers and actions. Today we’re only going to touch on a few, but hopefully we can get your createive juices flowing and you’ll be able to envision exactly how you might want to utilize this service in your own life. Lets get started.
1. Trigger – New event gets added to my Google calendar Action – Create a new note in Evernote
This is one of my favorite recipes because it allows me to streamline the note taking process for all of my meetings that get put on my calendar. As a software engineer my meetings consist of things like: standups, sprint planning, retrospectives, client kickoffs, and code reviews. Before I had this process I would take notes on whatever app was open at the time: Sublime text, stickies, text edit, sometimes Evernote, or simply not take notes at all. With that system I was able to take notes (for the most part) but I rarely had all of the the context necessary to make them as useful as possible. Things like: start/end times, other attendes, original description, etc. So what does this recipe do? Well as the title implies, everytime I accept a calendar invite, IFTTT creates a note for me in Evernote that includes all of the basics, as well as a place for all of my notes. No longer do I have to worry about taking notes in my text editor, and putting them in Evernote. Now whenever I have a meeting, I open up Evernote and boom, there’s a meeting note waiting for me that I can work off of. As an added benefit I can use these notes as part of my timeline to see what I was doing on a given day.
2. Trigger – New Foursquare checking – Action – Create a new note in Evernote
I went over my lifelogging process in detail here, but heres the long and the short of it. I use Swarm (formerly Foursquare) to check in everywhere i go. From Best Buy to Peter Luegers and everywhere in between, if i’m there, I check in. Once I do that I have IFTTT automatically create a note that contains all of that check in information. This is great for looking back at where you’ve been and what you’ve done. I also double down on this recipe and have IFTTT create a new calendar event in my Google calendar for each checkin. This allows me to more easily look back at where i’ve been when perusing my calendar.
3. Trigger – New “How I Work” post – Action – Email me
I LOVE the Lifehacker.com “How I Work” series where they take people from all industries and ask them to bare all with regards to how they do what they do. If you’ve never checked it out before I highly recommend reading some of the past posts. You’re all but guaranteed to pickup something from each one you read. Given my love for these articles this recipe should come as no great surprise. I have IFTTT monitor the Lifehacker RSS feed and whenever an article is posted that includes the words “How I Work”, IFTTT emails me to let me know that a new one has been published. This lets me get right into the content without having to constantly check their site to look for the latest in the series.
4. Trigger – New Automatic trip data – Action – New row in Google spreadsheet
As a proponent of the quantified self movement I am a big fan of the Automatic. Automatic is a devices that plugs into your cars onboard computer system and monitors your trips and alerts you when you’re driving in a way that is not gas efficient. With this recipe everytime I complete a trip IFTTT creates a new row in the Google Drive spreadsheet that I have for my Automatic. This allows me to more easily go back to look at trips, and is especially helpful for longer distances so that I can see how much it cost me to drive from A to B. Automatic is constantly improving their product and if you haven’t tried it yet I strongly recommend picking one up.
5. Trigger – Fitbit Daily Summary – Action – New note in Evernote
In case you haven’t noticed, I love Evernote and I try to put as much stuff in there as possible, this recipe is an extension of that. I currently wear a Fitbit flex and with IFTTT I am able to take the data that it collects and put it into my Evernote at the end of each day. This serves to give me even more context when I look back at notes for a given period in time.