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Make your Life Easier with Task Automation

If you’re like me (probably not) you are constantly thinking in terms of cause and effect. This is how I dissect every logic problem that I come across. If this happens, do this, if not then do that. This logic just makes sense when trying to automate processes and sculpt the user experience of any application in an effort to be rid of some of the monotony and repetitive tasks that we deal with and gloss over every day.

Tim Ferriss’ book, ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’, speaks heavily to this topic. It’s also an area where we tend to just go with the mind set of ‘well, we’ve always done it that way’. This happens way too often, particularly in product, sales and marketing roles. Most (or all) of a company’s development resources tend to be geared toward customer facing products and features. The fact is by investing in automation of repetitive and mind-numbing tasks we vastly improve our productivity and creating automation for internal purposes can be as or more impactful on the bottom line than building customer facing features.

Two products which are available to everyone make this type of automation extremely simple and anyone can set it up without the help of a developer and with zero knowledge of how to make an API play nicely. I am currently testing both and have found that both have some great, easy to use features.

Zapier

This tool has a huge number of integrations already built so that you can create an Zapier profile and have integrations setup within minutes. Some samples include tasks like adding your new MailChimp subscribers directly into your HighRise database or auto-posting your Tweets to your Facebook Page. All you need is your API keys or to grant permission to Zapier from the service you’re requesting to integrate (this is all step-by-step and can be done by anyone). This can be used for personal accounts but is slightly geared more toward business integrations.

Pricing: Plans start free and go up to $99 per month depending on the number of integrations (Zaps) you setup and the number of times each one is triggered within the given month. If you’re just using the service to send your Tweets to your Facebook page you’re fine with the Free plan unless you’re Tweeting more than 100 times per month.

Plan Price Tasks/mo Zaps Syncing
Business Plus 50,000 $99/month 125 5 minutes
Business 15,000 $49/month 50 5 minutes
Basic 3,000 $15/month 20 15 minutes
Free 100 $0/month 5 15 minutes

Services: Most of the major players are included, with some being only available to higher tiers (more expensive plans). Most of the Google products are included (Gmail, Drive, GTalk) as well as many other instant messaging and task related services as well as website monitoring (Pingdom) and payment services (Stripe). A few examples of both commonly used free tools and some more advanced applications are listed below.

AWeber MailChimp Gmail Twitter RSS feeds Wufoo
Facebook Pages Github PayPal Stripe FourSquare Dropbox

Zapier Website

IFTTT (If This Then That)

The If This Then That service is very similar to Zapier, except that it is still 100% free. That’s right. Free. It’s likely to become a Freemium service shortly as they have noted that Premium Accounts are on the way. As of now (March 2013) the services available are quite limited; which means many of them may be ready but they are waiting to release the Premium version to give everyone access to them. Creating a Recipe for the Twitter account of this website to auto-tweet every time that a new item appears in the RSS feed took about 1 minute. So instead of Tweeting every time something is posted (and remembering when items are posting) it will all happen automatically.

The setup and user interface is extremely plain and easy to navigate. I found IFTTT easier to use than Zapier when creating a new integration and automating a task. The only I’ve run into is attempting to setup tasks for multiple accounts for the same service (my personal Twitter Account versus the Twitter account for this website). It seems once you’ve added an account it becomes the default and you don’t have the option to change it for a new Recipe.
IFTTT Website

Keeping it all in once place

Most of these integrations have been possible for while. However, every integration involved a specific setup and yet another login. Nevermind the various integrations I couldn’t even remember the third party that I’d used to setup most of the automated tasks. This keeps it all stored in one place where I can monitor the tasks and adjust them from a single console. Yet another time-saving feature.

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