Among the several technology tools on my “to explore” list, has been If This Then That. And FINALLY, I’ve gotten around to digging into how it might save me time and improve my solopreneurial efficiency.
What is it?
If you haven’t yet heard of If This Then That (IFTTT), it’s a free tool that allows you to set up “recipes” by which you specify causes and effects across the various online channels that you use.
“If This Then That” really says it all about as simply as anyone could: You prescribe that if THIS happens, then THAT happens.
So how can it help you as a solo-professional? IFTTT allows for automation of certain tasks and can aid you in getting and staying organized.
With 59 different channels to choose from, IFTTT can be a tad intimidating at first glance. But like any other new tool, the more you experiment and familiarize yourself with it, the more it will make sense. Just a few of the platforms that IFTTT lets you prescribe recipes for include: Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Facebook Pages, Evernote, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Hootsuite and more, more, more.
How does it work?
After you’ve signed up for IFTTT, you get to choose which channels you want to activate and use as part of your recipes. Choosing any channel as a “trigger” means that it will be the platform at the start of your recipe. Basically, you’ll be defining that if something happens on that channel, you’ll want something else to happen on another channel (the “action” channel) according to certain details (“ingredients”) that you specify.
A sample of what it can do…
For each channel, there are a number of conditions or actions you can choose to spark other specific actions on another channel. For example, in choosing Gmail as a trigger channel, I’ve specified that if I “star” an email, it will automatically be sent to a notebook in Evernote. My master plan for that particular recipe is to have a more efficient way of moving emails related to client projects into Evernote notebooks. Rather than forward each individual email into Evernote, now I need only click the star and the email will automatically copy over into an “IFTTT Gmail” notebook from where I can easily move it to the appropriate project notebook later.
I’ve also created recipes using a “Date & Time” channel whereby every year on specific dates, an email will arrive in my Gmail to remind me that family members’ birthdays are a week away. This one will allow me to impress my loved ones because I’m historically quite awful at remembering important recurring dates!
And though I haven’t yet set up specific recipes for the purpose, I’ll also start using the Date & Time Channel to remind me to send monthly invoices, pay certain bills and take care of other tasks that need to occur on regular intervals.
The possibilities are nearly limitless…
If it seems a tad overwhelming to set up your own recipes, fret not! There are virtually countless public pre-made recipes by others that you can activate. You might have interest in or find the following amusing…
- “Everytime an email is labeled as “ToDo”, create an event on GCal as a reminder.”
- “Text me if it’s going to rain.”
- “If a new link is posted on my Company’s Facebook Page, post the link on LinkedIn”
- “When Facebook profile picture changes, update Twitter profile picture.”
- “Track Foursquare check-ins (w/Maps) in a Google Drive Spreadsheet” – This might be a great way to track business mileage. For security/anti-stalker reasons, I suggest checking in when you’re preparing to leave the address.
- “Creates an Evernote every time you “star” an item in Google Reader.” – I’ve activated this particular recipe to see how I’ll like it in comparison to using the Evernote Web Clipper extension in Chrome. Both save and keep top of mind articles that I want to refer to later.
- “Rescue me from a meeting” – You send a text to IFTTT, and IFTTT will ring your phone to summon you away. I would NEVER use this one – but found it entertaining and worth mentioning .
Though there’s a slight learning curve with IFTTT, overall it’s intuitive and easy to use because of the many existing recipes available for the many different channels the platform connects with. I’m currently far from having mastery of it, but I’ll keep you posted as I discover additional ways to save precious time and improve productivity while becoming more experienced with it.
Your turn! Are you using IFTTT? What recipes have helped you the most while running your small business?