IFTTT Productivity

Today, I am finally getting the blog post that Eric Kline, Vice President of TEAM ITS, LLC , gave me well over a month ago to publish. Eric Presented this at our monthly Tech Leaders lunch and I thought it would be a great topic for the blog. ~Mindy

Productivity apps are all the rage, but do you really need another app in your life? Well, instead of a productivity app, what about a free service that makes your other apps more productive? Sounds like a mind bender? Well that’s because this utility isn’t marketed as a productivity app, but used properly, it can help organize your life and bring symbioses to the myriad of online tools we use day to day.
If This Then That, commonly shortened to IFTTT, is a free web service that allows you to chain together apps using commands that you specify (or pick from a wide list of pre-created “recipes”). Following the name, “If This, Then That”, IFTTT lets you trigger actions in many of your cloud-based services automatically based on some arbitrary action or scheduled task from another service. This even includes your smart phone and various IoT devices.
The name comes from a common programming paradigm which uses the same terminology to describe actions. Thankfully, IFTTT doesn’t require you to be a programmer to use it. The interface is simple, and all “recipes” are created with a simple structure that has you select the app that you want to trigger an action (ie. I receive an email to my Office365 account with the title “Urgent”) and then you specify what you want to happen as a result (such as, send me a text with the message body).

This feature alone is extremely powerful, but we were talking productivity, emergency emails are not my idea of a productive day. For some better examples, let’s look at how IFTTT can make us more efficient:
I use IFTTT to call my cell phone for important email reminders. I don’t always catch a calendar notification when it goes off on my phone, however, receiving a call that reads the appointment to me ensures that I’m cognizant of my appointments.

This next tip is one that is somewhat career dependent, although it works very well for someone who works from a different location, or even at multiple locations in a given day. You can use IFTTT to log your location using Wi-Fi connections to a google spreadsheet. This allows you to easily track time spent at a given client or office without you needing to lift a finger. There is talk of using geofencing with actual GPS data in IFTTT which would make this solution even nicer, however it does not appear that is available at this time.

An extremely productive use of IFTTT is to automatically update social media whenever you make a new blog post. You can also use it to sync posts across social media platforms without using a paid service. This can seriously reduce the hassle of alerting your followers to new content on your website.

Image result for social media icons through buffer

Along with the previous use-case, something else I find extremely productive, and dare I say fun, is to have IFTTT update you when a post that is relevant to your interests is created on various platforms. I follow a lot of niche subreddits and can monitor for posts on pages that don’t receive daily posts so that I can learn something new or keep up on projects in real time. You can even use this for news articles.
The final note I have on productivity is something that I know the DIYers will appreciate. You can use IFTTT to connect to various smart home appliances/DIY projects (such as Raspberry Pi systems). This means you can use it for Home Automation. Something I’ve wanted to try is turning on my lights when my cell phone connects to my homes Wi-Fi. Now, this is not something I have had a lot of time to play with, but there are a lot of prebuilt recipes on IFTTT for this sort of automation. There’s even integration with Tesla cars!

I’m sure this is barely scratching the surface of using IFTTT for productivity, but its greatest strength is its flexibility. I’ve used it for many things beyond what I’ve described in this article. Here’s just another small list of (not necessarily productive) uses:

Use it to silence/unsilenced your phone if lost.
Use it to set your phone background depending on weather
Use it to automatically turn off Bluetooth on your phone when you disconnect from a Bluetooth device
If you’re a programmer, you can use it to receive notifications when issues are raised on Github.
Get the heads up about deals, minus the spammy coupon emails, for stores that you frequent.
The list goes on. You can sign up for a free account at https://ifttt.com/ using your preexisting Google or Facebook account. Alternatively, you can simply use an email address.

If you still aren’t convinced, here’s a (highly incomplete) list of platforms that IFTTT supports:
Android
Google products
Office365
Evernote
Smart appliances
Robot Vacuums!?!?!?!
Social media
Services such as Mailchimp (really helpful for mailing lists)
Wolfram
Various productivity apps
Slack
Tesla cars even (that’s not scary)
Raspberry pis/arduinos
Github
Webhooks
Education and government apps
Finance apps
And far too many more to list in a single blog post.