The one thing that makes a smooth work flow process feel like driving on a bumpy road, is when apps don’t integrate not with each other.
Over the last 5 years I’ve tested countless apps for email, calendar, to-do lists and project work and my current selection works perfectly for my needs. I manage my tasks in Remember The Milk, my email in Gmail, my calendar in Google Calendar and any work related project work in Trello (more info on the resources and tools I use).
So, I became easily frustrated when each of the products offered exactly what I was after for that particular type of work flow but I wasn’t able to integrate some of the apps.
Let’s take a simple scenario: scheduling payment of a bill.
Step 1: I check my email in Gmail and see that I received the bill as PDF attachment.
Step 2: I create the task “Pay Electricity Bill” in Remember The Milk and schedule it for the next Saturday (which is when I batch process all my bill payments).
Step 3: On Saturday, Remember The Milk reminds me to pay the bill. I open my banks internet banking and process payment.
With two apps, I need three steps. If they’d integrate, I’d only need one.
An effective work flow needs less number of steps than number of apps used i.e. 2 apps used > 1 step desirable; 4 apps used > 3 or less steps desirable.
Now you might say that saving the reduction of this workflow by one or two steps is not much of an improvement. It isn’t. At least in the short-term it isn’t.
Think bigger: think about 10 of your daily processes. Think about the time saved automating these tasks over one month.Or over one year.
How to automate almost anything
After some research I finally found the solution that would be working wonders for me: If This Then That (IFTTT).
Here a few of IFTTT’s benefits (more details below):
- Works with many apps
- Provides workarounds if your app is not supported via your apps email-into-account function
- Other users create applets that you can use and tailor to your needs
- No costs
With IFTTT you create work flow processes called applets. You select the trigger and app (i.e. receive email in Gmail) and select the subsequent action and app (i.e. save attachment to Google Drive).
Every day the constantly growing IFTTT community adds new weatherproof applets. You can copy them easily to your IFTTT profile and tailor them to your needs.
IFTTT supports countless apps i.e. Facebook, Gmail, Trello, Google Calendar, Twitter, iPhoto and many more.
If IFTTT doesn’t support your apps, then you can use your app’s email function. When you open an app account most apps create a user account ending on the app’s domain address. When you send an email to that address the app translates the email’s subject and body content into an action within the app.
Check your app’s settings, FAQs or support for information on how to email into your account.
Where Zapier ($20 per month) and Co charge you money, IFTTT is completely free. Must I say more?
Applets I use
Bill Payments: If I receive an email from X in Gmail, then IFTTT sends an email to Remember The Milk that will create the task with due date, priority, context and duration.
Managing Project Tasks in Remember The Milk: If my project team assigns a card in Trello to me, then IFTTT adds that task to Remember The Milk (I prefer to manage all my to-dos in one single place).
IFTTT is the perfect solution when you want to automate some of your work flow processes or when you’ve decided on the apps but need to integrate them seamlessly.