What if your morning started itself? Like Doc Brown’s garage in Back to the Future, your coffee’s made, news delivered and dog fed automatically. Well, without all the clocks and burnt toast. But imagine that your lights and equipment turned on (or off) on schedule and all of your digital information was scrupulously, automatically sorted and archived.
IFTTT is a website and iPhone app that makes the Internet your Rube Goldberg machine. Use it to connect the individual services you already use into a useful network. The funny name actually stands for “If This Then That”. It’s a simple recipe that lets you trigger an action in one service when something happens in another. For example, I track my time spent on certain projects by sending a text to IFTTT. My time information is routed to a spreadsheet I can share with my boss. I could even create another recipe to let her know the the project was updated.
Automating some of your everyday tasks saves time and keeps you organized. IFTTT’s variety of information channels (stocks, email, ESPN, et al) lets you cull the Internet for the exact information you need to respond to. The intuitive app interface means you can easily automate the repetitive tasks required to respond.
Set Unique Notifications
Some of my favorite IFTTT recipes use SMS (text messaging) and your phone for customized notifications. Make a list of the news you check for every day. If you’re into the stock market, you might get a text when your favorite stock rises or falls to a specific point. Or get a phone call with a custom message when your company gets mentioned in The New York Times.
You can also have something sent to your Gmail, saved to Evernote, scheduled on Google Calendar, or even have your Philips hue light bulbs change color to celebrate. IFTTT encourages tinkering to get recipes that precisely match your ideas. Try creating custom notifications and reduce the time you spend checking websites and apps.
However, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. There’s a growing community of IFTTT recipe makers making seriously cool stuff. All of those pre-made recipes are free to make your own, too.
Stay On Top of Your Industry
Heard of Google Alerts? This service will search the Internet for you, automatically, and email you whenever something new matches your search query. Like a huge fishing net sweeping a bay crowded with fish (and old boots), this service is a rich source of data dumped in your Gmail. It’s one of the tools marketing and PR people use to listen for public opinion online.
You can listen too, without exploding your inbox, by using the IFTTT Feed trigger or any of the numerous info sources to provide your next need-to-know thing. Select specific sources, categories and tags to listen carefully for just the data you want. And IFTTT serves up notifications any way you want them. Just plug in a news source and an output like your phone or email address.
However, all those emails, texts, lights and sounds can become overwhelming. You might be thinking, “Gee, I’ve got plenty of things blowing up my phone already.” Well, IFTTT’s got you covered there too. Rather than get notifications as-they-happen, you can aggregate it all in one place to browse at your leisure. Use popular bookmarking sites like Pocket and Readability to save and read later.
And of course, automation tools like IFTTT should be used carefully. If you set-and-forget everything, something’s bound to go wrong. There’s a difference between automation and scheduling. Automate the repetitive, robotic tasks. Schedule things that need your personal touch.
Keep Your Receipts
We like to shop here at Roundpeg. Whether it’s ordering office supplies and equipment or subscriptions to web services, our admin ends up with a lot of digital receipts in her email. Most of these documents don’t have a paper version to file. Of course, you can print out all the email messages and add to your stack of banker’s boxes in the closet, but there’s another way.
If you use Gmail (you should), set up a filter to catch all your receipts and slap ’em with a label. Then set up an IFTTT trigger to generate a new note in Evernote that contains the receipt information. Your Gmail filter might also automatically move receipt messages to a folder upon arrival. Those pesky receipts won’t even see your inbox, but they’re stored and organized for later.
These are just a few ways to simplify your business routines with IFTTT. Feel free to invent your own and browse recipes from around the world for inspiration. There’s no right or wrong way, and that’s the best part.
Bonus: Like IFTTT? Wish it went deeper and integrated more business software? Check out Zapier. They’re building integrations to help your project management and sales team.