You may have heard a lot about IFTTT (short for If This, Then That) when it comes to advice about increasing your productivity. You may also have taken one look at it and dismissed it as too complicated or troublesome to set up.

Or perhaps you don’t even know what it is. IFTTT is a program that allows you to set up rules across a variety of apps, that will automatically make things happen if a certain condition is met. For example, if you use multiple social media apps for your business, you can set up a rule that automatically tweets anything you post on Instagram, or automatically shares your Facebook posts on Twitter. Or you could automatically save all Facebook pictures you’re tagged in to Dropbox or Google Drive. (Note the repeated word here: automatically!)

Outside social media, you could get a weather report emailed to you first thing in the morning, or a headline summary emailed at the end of the day. The possibilities are endless, and I’d highly recommend browsing through the ready-made functions, or recipes, as they’re officially called, that you can implement with a click of a button.

Basically, IFTTT will automate all those boring, time-consuming tasks that are part of your day-to-day life.

But what if your needs are more specific than the recipes available, or you just want to create your own? Below, we provide an explanation of how to use IFTTT. It’s so simple, you’ll be sure to pick it up in no time!

How recipes work

IFTTT1

All recipes are made up of two parts. First is the thing to look out for – the trigger for the action. IF my phone’s battery is low. IF I add a new note to an Evernote notebook. IF a new item is listed on eBay that matches a search term.

The second part is what happens if the condition is met. IF my phone’s battery is low, THEN should I get an email or text, or a notification on my smartwatch? IF I add a new note to my “Ideas” Evernote notebook, THEN should it also be copied to my OneNote notebook? IF a new item is listed on eBay that matches a search term, THEN should the link be added to my to-do list?

There are some incredibly creative recipes out there. People have created recipes to download all Instagram pictures with a certain hashtag to their Dropbox, tweet at a friend at a certain time each day, or add your location to a personal journal every time you check in somewhere with Foursquare.

IFTTT also have a kind of automation called “DO”. Instead of waiting for an “IF” trigger, it lets you set up a series of actions (“THEN”) to perform when you use one of their three apps to press a button, write a note, or take a picture. You can only set up the actions from your phone, though.

Creating the trigger

IFTTT Triggers

If you want to create your own recipes, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up a trigger. The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a trigger channel, and a specific trigger within that channel. This is what will set off the series of actions. In most cases you’ll need to link to your account for the channel, before you can use it.

Triggers are limited by what each company chooses to provide – for example, Facebook triggers are limited to activity around your own posts due to privacy. You can’t choose a trigger that happens when a friend posts something.

It’s also worth noting that many of the channels are American-based, though there’s still a decent selection for those in other countries. But if you’re an Aussie hoping to be notified when an item goes on special at Woolies, you’re out of luck. Americans are in luck with Best Buy!

It all comes down to which companies decide to integrate with IFTTT, so if you have any apps or stores you love that aren’t on there, start campaigning now!

Once you’ve chosen a trigger, it will ask you to fill in any relevant fields. For example, if I want Facebook to do something any time I post from a certain location, I would need to specify that location. It’s incredibly simple, and when you’re done you just need to click Create Trigger!

IFTTT Trigger Field

Specifying the action

Creating the action is just as simple, and runs on exactly the same principal. What do you want to happen when the trigger is, well, triggered? Pick your channel, pick your action, fill in the details and away you go.

A little tip I love for anything that adds a message or a note: If you click into the textbox, you’ll see a little blue beaker icon appear in the top right. Clicking on this allows you to add what IFTTT calls Ingredients; that is, information specific to that particular trigger such as a file name, or the date something was created.

IFTTT Ingredients

And that’s it. That’s how simple it is to start automating your life. (Also, if you want to learn about other ways you can automate your life, there’s also the Get Your Life Back e-book available at our store!)

Favourite recipes

While it’s fun (and quite empowering!) to make your own recipes, there are many great ones that others have already shared. Here are some of my favourites – but I’d love to hear about yours in the comments as well!

I get a lot of my bills through email, and this recipe saves a list of them to a spreadsheet so I won’t forget about them!

Want to track how much time you spend at work, or at the gym, or at the shopping centre? (Maybe not the the last one!) This recipe updates my Google calendar every time I enter and exit a specified area. This is for Android users, and this is for iPhone users.

These days, we all have a few different social media accounts to keep up with. This recipe lets me be lazy by posting any tweets with a specified hashtag to Facebook.

Something big happening somewhere, like a concert, or convention, or (hopefully not) a riot? Get an email digest of all Tweets from that location so you don’t have to trawl through a ton of Tweets yourself!

This one’s just plain fun. It sets my phone’s wallpaper to NASA’s image of the day.

 

What do you use IFTTT for? Share with us below!


The first question many people have is: why automate? The truth of the matter is, we can waste a lot of time using technology, whether it’s checking our social media, viewing YouTube or Vimeo files, or just general internet surfing.  Setting up an automated system can save you a lot of time and effort, not to mention you won’t have to do all those boring, repetitive tasks!

But there are also good reasons not to automate. Setting up a system is like setting up a new habit. If the system doesn’t match your personality or way of doing things, you won’t stick to it, no matter how much someone else tells you that you will!

There are some things you should look out for if you choose to automate your personal life:

1. Devices will fail you. Your smartphone might run out of battery, you might lose your tablet, or your laptop could break down. If you rely on them to manage your life, you will find yourself at a loss while you scramble to find a replacement.

2. Data won’t always sync perfectly. There is nothing worse than trying to go to an appointment, only to find that not all the details are in your calendar – or in the worst case scenario, none of the details are in your calendar.

3. You rely on automation too much. I’ve found that sometimes, if an even isn’t in my digital calendar, then it doesn’t exist. This causes issues when you are expected to be somewhere (and forgot to reply to the invitation or didn’t the data!).

There is no shame in finding alternate ways to manage your data. Many people have gone back to using physical diaries, and making notes on paper instead of on their phone, because technology has failed them before.

But if you decide to automate your personal life anyway – because, let’s be honest, it does save a lot of time – here are two simple suggestions to get you started.

Personal finance

In this past year, our family has been trialing the use of personal finance apps. One of these apps is Pocketbook. This is an Australian app which helps you to manage your personal finances and check where your spending is occurring.

Simply download the app from the App Store (iOS only) and then create a new account via your desktop. It’s much easier to set up Pocketbook on your computer, and create the set categories to manage your finances. For me, the most valuable personal benefit is seeing where spending is going each month. I can also check how much money is in our personal bank account (and yes, I know there are the separate bank apps, but this ties everything together).

The other benefit is that Pocketbook detects bills, especially if they are on a recurring basis. It will even inform you whether you have enough money to cover them!

Calendar events

Another main area of automation is for calendar events. I use an app called IFTTT (IF This, Then That) to automate these tasks. IFTTT is a web and app service that lets you create what they call recipes, based on a trigger (something that happens) and a resulting action. I’ve mentioned it in previous automation articles as well.

Here are three of my favourite recipes for Google Calendar:

  • For those individuals who need to log their work hours, use this recipe in conjunction with Google Calendar.
  • This is a ‘DO’ recipe. It allows you to quickly create an event in Google Calendar simply by entering the information in a natural sentence such as “Meeting with Sam at 7pm”.
  • If you use Reminders on your iOS device, then this recipe automatically syncs them with Google Calendar so you get reminders on all your devices!

Thanks for reading the series on automation. We’ve also previously covered home automation and work automation. What do you use to help streamline your personal, home and work life? Let us know in the comments!

Check out Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.

photo credit: iPod Touch add events


If I told a room full of people I could save 4 hours in their working week, most of them would be queuing up afterwards wanting to know the secret to lost time. One of the hardest struggles sometimes in our working lives is how to squeeze out more work in less time, or ‘How can I work with less hours but be more productive’?

Technology isn’t always the answer and it’s interesting to watch a retrograde going back to design with pen and paper rather than using a digital source. But since this article is about automation, here are some key ways of being productive in the online world.

Automate your Email

Lately, I have been using a program called Mailbox, which is both an Android and an iOS app. This helps you to manage your emails by allowing you to choose a time to view them. Sometimes it’s not important to answer certain emails right at that very time, you can choose a time in which they appear at the top of your inbox.

Automate your Social Media

Lately, I have been experimenting using both Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule my social media. The benefit of using automation tools is you can access the analytics for each of these platforms and schedule your posts so they appear during the ‘ideal’ time to post.

Another product on the market at the moment is Meet Edgar which is another social media management tool. It collects your social media content into a library, which can be then re-shared later on.

Automate your Images

When you are creating images either on your iPhone, Android device or via social media, it’s a good idea to be able to save them without individually backing each photo up. This is where a tool like Zapier or IFTTT comes in handy. I love creating images for Pinterest and Instagram and often want them directly saved to Dropbox.

IFTTT uses what they call recipes–rules that tell your apps what to do. There is a ‘trigger’ (what starts the process) and then an ‘action’ (what happens afterwards).

To automate your images, there is a recipe called save your ‘Instagram’ photos to ‘Dropbox. It does exactly what it says it does. It’s just one of many ‘recipes’ already available for you to use. Or, you can also create one yourself. There are many other things you can automate beyond images, so explore the recipes to find out what else you can do!

Automate your files

Did you know there are some great tools that can help you organise the content on your computer whether these are files or images? Sometimes there are files that need to be archived or other tasks to schedule.

Mac

For Mac, the application is called Automator. It has been a way for Mac users to automate repetitive tasks with Apple software, such as Safari, iTunes and Calendar. Now, other third party products such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and text editors work.

This is a great tutorial on how to use Automator.

Windows

There is a similar app for windows called Action(s). Here are some great tutorials for automation with Action(s) that don’t require any technical knowledge to create. One of my favourites is to batch rotate images, which can rotate all your portrait images in one go. There is nothing worse than taking photos and then having to manually turn them all around!

Windows also has an inbuilt tool called Windows Task Scheduler. This requires a bit more technical know-how, but there are some great tutorials for various tasks. You could use it for auto-launching programs when you log on, for example, or clearing your downloads folder weekly.
Featured image: A Murder of Drossels-06

Download Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.


Have you ever heard of the Internet of Things (otherwise known as IoT)? It’s the idea of all objects having electronics, software, sensors and internet connectivity, so they can talk to each other and we can control them remotely. I had a chance to hear David Rose, author of ‘Enchanted Objects’, at a recent conference in Melbourne. He spoke of things like umbrellas turning blue when it was going to rain–and this was just the start of ‘Connected Things’. This idea of Connected Things all ties into the world of home automation.

Previously home automation used to be so complicated, expensive and time consuming that it was only for those who had a lot of cash to spare. The IoT has changed that with thanks to big shifts in technology lately. This means that everyday people like you and I can reap the efficiency benefits of increased automation in our lives. Below, I’ll share 3 different ways you can automate your home and make a difference to your daily life.

HomeKit (To use with Apple Devices) for Home Automation

In Apple’s words, “HomeKit is a framework in iOS 8 for communicating with and controlling connected accessories in a user’s home”. Or in layman’s terms, HomeKit is Apple’s way of making it easy for product manufacturers and developers to bring physical creations into the IoT, which will allow you to control a lot more of your home from your iOS device no matter where you are.

On Monday, at WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) an announcement is going to be made regarding HomeKit. Apple has released a support guide in preparation for helping customers implement these new ideas. At the moment, these are the products that will integrate with HomeKit, as well as instructions on how to set them up. To get started using HomeKit, you will need an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch with iOS 8.1 or later. As time goes on, more products will join the Home Kit system. Stay tuned for more details!

Stand-alone Home Automation products and IFTTT

There are home automation products that can still be controlled via your mobile device, but don’t require you to buy into a whole ecosystem. These include the WeMo products that are available both in stores and online. They have light bulbs, switches (to control products), light switches, cameras with night vision (to track what your pets get up to or even kids) and much more. WeMo integrates with a free app called If This Then That, or IFTTT. IFTTT is an app and web-based program that controls two programs or objects, and can also automate many other processes beyond WeMo. For example, here is the #WeMo channel. There are many great ‘recipes’ which consist of a trigger and an action–the basic principle of IFTTT. One I would recommend is ‘Turn a Device off after it’s been on for __ minutes today’. Great for when you are going away on holidays–you could have one of the WeMo switches plugged in and a light plugged into that. No more timers set for when you’re away! There are also triggers for things like ‘when the sun sets, turn the light on’. Go on and explore IFTTT’s wide range of recipes, we’ll wait!

Professional Home Automation Systems (installed by an electrician)

If you have cash to spare, there are also home automation systems that can be deeply integrated with your house. These will be more efficient and ready-to-go once installed.

Push by Schneider Electric is a home automation system that can be controlled by Android or iOS devices. It will have to be installed by an electrician (see here for stockists and installers in Australia). It was featured last year on ‘The Block- Sky High’ to control AV, Lighting and Security. Imagine not needing separate remotes to control your TV, DVD Player or sound system (take back control from your kids)! There is also HoneyWell Total Connect ™  System that lets you operate security cameras, lighting in the house, heating and locks.

Featured image: KOTY2010_12 via photopin

This is the first in a series about how  you can increase your efficiency through automation. What do you think about home automation? Is it creepy or cool? How would you use it to increase your efficiency? Share with us in the comments!

Download Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.