Increase your productivity: A guide to IFTTT

You may have heard a lot about IFTTT (short for If This, Then That) when it comes to advice about increasing your productivity. You may also have taken one look at it and dismissed it as too complicated or troublesome to set up.

Or perhaps you don’t even know what it is. IFTTT is a program that allows you to set up rules across a variety of apps, that will automatically make things happen if a certain condition is met. For example, if you use multiple social media apps for your business, you can set up a rule that automatically tweets anything you post on Instagram, or automatically shares your Facebook posts on Twitter. Or you could automatically save all Facebook pictures you’re tagged in to Dropbox or Google Drive. (Note the repeated word here: automatically!)

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Outside social media, you could get a weather report emailed to you first thing in the morning, or a headline summary emailed at the end of the day. The possibilities are endless, and I’d highly recommend browsing through the ready-made functions, or recipes, as they’re officially called, that you can implement with a click of a button.

Basically, IFTTT will automate all those boring, time-consuming tasks that are part of your day-to-day life.

But what if your needs are more specific than the recipes available, or you just want to create your own? Below, we provide an explanation of how to use IFTTT. It’s so simple, you’ll be sure to pick it up in no time!

How recipes work


All recipes are made up of two parts. First is the thing to look out for – the trigger for the action. IF my phone’s battery is low. IF I add a new note to an Evernote notebook. IF a new item is listed on eBay that matches a search term.

The second part is what happens if the condition is met. IF my phone’s battery is low, THEN should I get an email or text, or a notification on my smartwatch? IF I add a new note to my “Ideas” Evernote notebook, THEN should it also be copied to my OneNote notebook? IF a new item is listed on eBay that matches a search term, THEN should the link be added to my to-do list?

There are some incredibly creative recipes out there. People have created recipes to download all Instagram pictures with a certain hashtag to their Dropbox, tweet at a friend at a certain time each day, or add your location to a personal journal every time you check in somewhere with Foursquare.

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IFTTT also have a kind of automation called “DO”. Instead of waiting for an “IF” trigger, it lets you set up a series of actions (“THEN”) to perform when you use one of their three apps to press a button, write a note, or take a picture. You can only set up the actions from your phone, though.

Creating the trigger

IFTTT Triggers

If you want to create your own recipes, the first thing you’ll need to do is set up a trigger. The first thing you’ll need to do is choose a trigger channel, and a specific trigger within that channel. This is what will set off the series of actions. In most cases you’ll need to link to your account for the channel, before you can use it.

Triggers are limited by what each company chooses to provide – for example, Facebook triggers are limited to activity around your own posts due to privacy. You can’t choose a trigger that happens when a friend posts something.

It’s also worth noting that many of the channels are American-based, though there’s still a decent selection for those in other countries. But if you’re an Aussie hoping to be notified when an item goes on special at Woolies, you’re out of luck. Americans are in luck with Best Buy!

It all comes down to which companies decide to integrate with IFTTT, so if you have any apps or stores you love that aren’t on there, start campaigning now!

Once you’ve chosen a trigger, it will ask you to fill in any relevant fields. For example, if I want Facebook to do something any time I post from a certain location, I would need to specify that location. It’s incredibly simple, and when you’re done you just need to click Create Trigger!

IFTTT Trigger Field

Specifying the action

Creating the action is just as simple, and runs on exactly the same principal. What do you want to happen when the trigger is, well, triggered? Pick your channel, pick your action, fill in the details and away you go.

A little tip I love for anything that adds a message or a note: If you click into the textbox, you’ll see a little blue beaker icon appear in the top right. Clicking on this allows you to add what IFTTT calls Ingredients; that is, information specific to that particular trigger such as a file name, or the date something was created.

IFTTT Ingredients

And that’s it. That’s how simple it is to start automating your life. (Also, if you want to learn about other ways you can automate your life, there’s also the Get Your Life Back e-book available at our store!)

Favourite recipes

While it’s fun (and quite empowering!) to make your own recipes, there are many great ones that others have already shared. Here are some of my favourites – but I’d love to hear about yours in the comments as well!

I get a lot of my bills through email, and this recipe saves a list of them to a spreadsheet so I won’t forget about them!

Want to track how much time you spend at work, or at the gym, or at the shopping centre? (Maybe not the the last one!) This recipe updates my Google calendar every time I enter and exit a specified area. This is for Android users, and this is for iPhone users.

These days, we all have a few different social media accounts to keep up with. This recipe lets me be lazy by posting any tweets with a specified hashtag to Facebook.

Something big happening somewhere, like a concert, or convention, or (hopefully not) a riot? Get an email digest of all Tweets from that location so you don’t have to trawl through a ton of Tweets yourself!

This one’s just plain fun. It sets my phone’s wallpaper to NASA’s image of the day.


What do you use IFTTT for? Share with us below!