Intro to Automation and What is IFTTT?

Many times on this site you will see reference to or IFTTT. This is pronounced like “gift” but without the letter G and it literally stands for “if this, then that”.  IFTTT is one of a growing number of online services that are helping everyday people do amazing things by bringing together other online services.

But What exactly is IFTTT?

IFTTT icon It is simply, as said above, an online service that connects things together, or more specifically, If some event happens, then IFTTT will do something else for you – it’s that simple. And it’s that powerful!

It is simply an online service that connects things together, or more specifically, If some event happens, then IFTTT will do something else for you – it’s that simple. And it’s that powerful!

Only your imagination is the limit

Every day I hear about amazing “recipes”, which is what IFTTT calls these rules that you set up.  Some of these recipes are truly amazing!  And these recipes are made of up of a combination of a “Trigger” and an Action” from various “channels”.   Ok so lets define that confusing sentence…

  1. Recipe: The overall rule of what is to happen the “if ___ , then ___”
  2. Channel: Channels are the other services that IFTTT can connect to, that have actions within them.  These are things like Evernote, “Date & Time”, Twitter, Gmail, Instagram and countless others
  3. Trigger: The first part of the recipe.  Or the “THIS” in your “If THIS, Then That”, it is what the IFTTT service is looking for to start running the recipe you created, literally the recipe’s trigger.
  4. Action: The second part of the recipe.  The “THAT” in your “If This Then THAT”, it what is going to happen! This is things like “send a tweet” or “save a photo to dropbox” etc.

A quick example

I understand if you are still a bit confused, this is a unusual concept to be sure.  To help clarify things, let’s put together a quick example to stoke the fires of your imagination.

In an article I wrote just the other day for example, I explained how, for various reasons, it’s important to keep track of what and when you send out a tweet. Of course, you can copy and paste into a spreadsheet and if you are really fancy you know the keyboard shortcut to insert the current date and time (“control + ;” or “control + shift + :”). But still this is several extra steps that are also easy to forget and extremely inconvenient if you want to tweet something from your mobile phone.  Anyway, lets say we have identified this mind numbing task as a prime candidate for automation with IFTTT.  This is the “problem” and here is how we think about automating a solution.

The problem defined, now to automate a solution!

First of all I know that IFTTT can tie into twitter.  And even if I didn’t know many of the other services that could tie into a quick glance on their side I see that there are a number of options that would help me document this.  Personally I like Google docs spreadsheet.  But I see that Evernote is also available and that would be a good option as well – maybe I’ll try both!

Looking at the options that IFTTT provides me for twitter I see that a “trigger” could be when I tweet something with hashtag.


I won’t get too technical here, you can go read the article after all with lots of screenshots and very step-by-step and super easy to follow.  I’ll use #quotes and now everytime I tweet out a quote i’ll add on the #quotes to the end and boom – its automatically added to the spreadsheet along with the date and time I sent it.

So now you see that in my real life I had a problem that was a simple “when I do X I need to do Y too” that was a clear flag for me to be able to use IFTTT to automate this repetitive task.

Not just online services either

You can have date and time as a trigger, or you can connect to various physical devices such as a switch that you plug into the wall, The Belkin WeMo Motion Sensor to trigger various events.

Here is a great video from CNET that shows you some of the uses of IFTTT in the physical world:

Think about your day, what can you automate?

Think about what you do throughout the day, be conscious of procedure lists or especially anything that has a required follow-up task always associated with it.  Chances are very likely that if you can describe it in a “when I do this task this other thing also needs to be done” there is a good chance it can be completely automated for you!

Let me know what sort of tasks you come up with and we can work together to help you become more automated, be more productive, have more free time, and in general be more successful!  Or as I like to put it, automate your way to prolific success!




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