How to increase your Productivity using IFTTT? A beginner’s guide

Automation can greatly enhance our Productivity. But we need to make it work for us. The tools have to be easy enough for us to automate. IFTTT (pronounced iffitt) is an automation service that you can easily use in your every day life. It is becoming popular by the day.

Let’s explore how you can sky rocket your Productivity through IFTTT . Before we plunge in to IFTTT, let us understand the concept of automation in layman’s language, in the physical world.

A non-technical Introduction to automation

Imagine that you are a busy person. Let us say you receive loads of postal mails in your home’s (physical) mail box. You dread processing them all, but you wish you had the time and ability to do so.

You know that only a few of them are really important that require your attention now. The remaining things are routine reminders say for bill payments, notifications of upcoming events, weather alerts, coupons, news reports etc., They may all mean some tasks or work for some day, but not right now. You wish someone automatically processed these; they added added relevant tasks to your todo list or calendars with a specific due date, or alerted you through text messages or reminders, so that you can promptly get them done.

Let us say some one gifted you a Robot. You don’t pay for the Robot’s services, but you have to open an account to his services by registering yourself. You need to define some rules to him in more or less an English like language or visually. They are of the form, if you see this condition being met, then you do that.  You also have to connect your various services to him, by providing your credentials for those services, so that he can execute those rules against those services.

For the Robot to access your mail and your SMS (text) services, you have to give the key of your physical mail box, and your phone number, to him. You define the following rule to the  Robot: “check my physical mail box from time to time.  If I receive an mail from the Doctor’s office for an appointment,  send a text message to me“.

The Robot will faithfully do so. When there is a mail from your Doctor’s office, then you will get a text message immediately . The Robot will also write a log that says what he did, so you can review his actions later.

If you are able to understand this, then please accept my Congratulations for doing that! You have understood the concept of automation, as it applies to IFTTT.

What is IFTTT and how can you use it?

In the above example, replace the physical mail box, with your google or yahoo or office 365 mail box. The Robot is IFTTT. The various (cloud based) service providers such as email (google, yahoo), SMS, news rooms (e.g. Newyork Times), weather services (e.g. Weather Underground), task management (e.g. Trello), or notes management services (e.g. One Note) are called Services. The rules you define in the form of if this then that are called  Applets.

You can register yourself at IFTTT or download their app in Android play store or itunes 

IFTTT seamlessly integrates these (cloud) services to make them useful, in a way that they (the services) individually can’t .Please note that ifittt works only with those service providers who publish their services through ifittt. That means you can use IFTTT to write applets against those service providers who are available through IFTTT catalogue.

How does IFTTT improve Productivity?

On the face of it, IFTTT may not look powerful . However, if you understand this concept well and put it to good use , you will realize that it can exponentially increase your Productivity. For e.g. IFTTT can multiply the power of gmail several fold, by seamlessly integrating to your notes management , or task management software with gmail.

For e.g. Say you religiously use a task management software like “todoist” (which is a service to IFTTT), to get your tasks done. You can define an applet that says, if I receive an email in my gmail inbox from some one (say your boss’s email id), add that as a task in “todoist”, with a certain due date, IFTTT will do it automatically.

Note that even without your having to open your inbox, you got  tasks added to your task management software. The more email your boss sends, the more tasks for you to process, but it is all automatic. Of course, you should do the task. (Note: you need to provide both your todoist credentials and google credentials to IFTTT for the above applet)

Similarly you can define IFTTT applets to do numerous useful things. Note that you don’t have to be technical or know programming to write the applets. There is a visual interface through which you define them.

Let us see just a few example applets here. For e.g.You can ask IFTTT to —

  • Send you a text, when there is going to be snow in your zip code (if you live in US)
  • Send you an email when NY times when there is breaking technology news
  • Add a task in your task management software when you get an email from some one or with some subject or under some conditions
  • If there is an email in your inbox with label Recipe, then create a Page in “One Note” notebook with the contents of the email
  • Automatically mute your Android phone when it is bed time
  • Send you a text alert, when the price of a certain stock drops below a threshold

You can discover a world of publicly available applets here, that would stimulate your thinking.

Why should you sign up for IFTTT?

In the examples above, we have barely scratched the surface of the usefulness of IFTTT. You may come up with plenty of useful applets, that no one can imagine. They can take your Productivity to a new level altogether.

IFTTT has become so popular now, that more and more companies are vying to add their services to IFTTT.  There are hundreds of companies right now publishing theirs. These are companies or products that provide valuable services such as Evernote, Todoist, google,etc.,It is highly likely that you are using many of these already. See the complete list of services here.

Disadvantages?

(1) There are some privacy concerns because you provide your user id and passwords of many services to IFTTT. What IFTTT does with the data, and what they can is questionable. If IFTTT is hacked, that means your other services are also compromised. Read their Privacy Policy here.

One way to work around this is to not provide your primary email id to IFTTT, but create a secondary email, that doesn’t contain or receive any sensitive information. Then share the secondary email with IFTTT. You can also use plenty of services that don’t require any personal information. Also, you need to make sure not to write applets that compromise any of your private information.

(2) You should stay essential and not go overboard with IFTTT. You should define and use only a few applets that you find good use for. If you link too many services you can get overwhelmed,confused and less effective. Keeping up with the passwords is another messy affair.

(3) IFTTT operates in 15 minute intervals. If you need something quicker, it is going to be a challenge. But I think it is not a deal breaker in my mind.

I hope you found this useful. Let me know what you think about this post in the comments section.

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