One major bonus of having a team versus running a solo business? Delegation. People have your back. When project A is taking longer than you thought and project B is due tomorrow, there’s someone else to hand off work to.
Not so much with a one woman (or man) show.
Unless you have robots. Robots rock.
Workflow automation is basically the solopreneur’s version of having a team to delegate to.
Whatever a tool can do – within reason – a tool should do. Don’t waste your time on tiny tasks.
Automating the Tiny Tasks in Your Business with IFTTT
Things like sorting through email, managing your calendar and to-do list, and scheduling social media slowly eat away at your solopreneur business.
You’re only doing a little bit at a time – not a huge chunk – so it might not be a priority for saving time. But one Hershey kiss every hour is still a lot of chocolate in a day – just easier to justify to yourself 😉 (I should know).
My point? A little bit here and there adds up.
These short, easy tasks are actually the best to automate. They’re usually simple, easy, and don’t require much human brainpower. Hell, sometimes a robot can even do it better than we can. (Can we make that a hashtag? #RobotsDoItBetter?)
Turn the 15 minutes you spend planning your day over coffee each morning into 5 minutes of planning and 10 minutes of uninterrupted, caffeinated bliss.
Send one email to set up your next Skype call, instead of 12.
Open up Gmail to 7 new emails instead of 70, with the low-priority and important items already marked.
Sound nice, right?
And you don’t even need a virtual assistant (unless you count a really virtual assistant – robots).
You just need IFTTT.
Enter IFTTT & Workflow Automation
If you’ve never heard of IFTTT, you can’t sit with us.
But you’re missing out so hard. I felt like an idiot when I realized how many things I was doing manually when it was totally unnecessary. Every time I think of all the naps and dance parties and Will & Grace marathons that could’ve filled that time, and I shed a single tear.
IFTTT, which rhymes with “gift” and stands for “if this, then that,” is a workflow automation tool that lets you connect different tools and softwares together.
It’s one of those things that once you’ve heard of it, you’ll get completely obsessed.
I have a not-that-great post of completely random IFTTT recipes from several years ago that I really need to update. But it still gets ridiculous traffic, considering the quality of the post. If IFTTT weren’t so mainstream and if I felt comfortable giving myself this kind of compliment, I’d say it has a cult following. 😉
So, How Does IFTTT Work?
First of all, here’s what you really want to know: yes, it’s free. Totally, always free.
The only money involved will be if you’re creating a recipe using a paid tool, which is more common with the business-oriented recipes. Obviously, you need the paid account to successfully integrate
It’s based on channels, recipes, triggers, and actions. They work together to perform “if this, then that.” So when something happens in app A, then it performs an action in app B.
- Channels are the different tools and platforms it connects to, like Facebook and Gmail.
- Recipes are full automations built from two channels, a trigger, and an action. For example, “if I publish a new post in my RSS feed, then post a new tweet to my Buffer queue.”
- Triggers are actions that set off the rest of a recipe. For example, “When I favorite an email…”
- Actions are the actions performed in the second half of the recipe. For example, “…then add it to my to-do list.”
A full IFTTT recipe would be something like “When I star an email in Gmail, add a new task to Project XYZ in Todoist.”
What Business Apps Can You Automate with IFTTT?
It integrates with over 250 business and personal apps, ranging from your Spotify account to your social media profiles to your business CRM. They also seem to be really getting into the internet of things, so if you have wearable devices (like my beloved Fitbit) or a smart home, there will be a ton of really amazing things you could do with it – like automating turning your home office’s lights off at 6pm to force yourself to stop working. 😉
And it connects to most of the popular productivity apps, so I can guarantee that there are are least 3 tools you’re already using that you could be automating.
Here are a few connected services you probably already have accounts with:
- Google Drive
It is supremely awesome. Definitely the only productivity tool I was blogging about 3 years ago and still want to write about today!
So, how can it help your solo biz? As you might know, I’m working on an ecourse all about it, so I’ve been digging into IFTTT even more than usual lately. I’m sharing general business recipes today, but I’ll be back later with recipes for different topics, like automating your blog or social media.
14 Handy IFTTT Recipes for Solo Businesses
Instagram + Twitter: tweet your insta pics…the good way
Remember when I mentioned originally finding IFTTT? That was the exact day the Twitter/Instagram integration started linking to your photos instead of uploading them as Twitter pictures.
RIP to that app friendship.
So this was the first IFTTT recipe I ever used. Instead of checking “post to Twitter” when you share a photo on Instagram to tweet the link, just let this recipe do its thing. It will upload the photo to Twitter for ya, along with the first however many characters of your caption. Holler!
If you don’t want to share every photo, add a filter to the recipe that only tweets photos with certain hashtags. Problem solved. 🙂
Google Calendar + Twitter: automate blog post sharing
Can’t afford MeetEdgar? Me either. But this recipe lets you hack together a pretty great substitute.
It tweets the event title of Google Calendar events at their starting time. Then uploads the event title description, whatever you tell it to. You can even add a photo.
By creating a calendar just for blog post automation, you can create a full social media content calendar. So sweet.
Power it up a little more by creating recurring events, like weekly or monthly blog post shares. 😉
FitBit + Push Notifications: remind yourself to meet your step goal
What I love about Fitbit is that its’s not just a fitness tracker for fit people, it’s a fit tracker for anyone – including the overworked side hustler or solopreneur. 😉 I’m not tryna run a marathon, just become a little healthier.
And when you’re on a computer all day or working from home, sometimes you need a reminder to get moving. For that, I use an IFTTT recipe triggered by my Fitbit steps. When I haven’t met my step goal by 7 pm, I get a push notification through IFTTT’s IF app. That way I know to walk around the block real quick – which of course, I’ve learned is about 1,200 steps and takes 9 minutes 😉 – or go pick up dinner at one of the further takeout places I like.
Use the Fitbit and other wearable channels to make sure that even as an online entrepreneur, you’re not too online. 😛 You could even get more creative and have IFTTT give you an insulting phone call.
Gmail + Todoist: create to-dos for replying to emails
As we know, I like my to do list to be actionable and specific. “Clean out inbox” or “Check email” ain’t gonna do it. First of all, the idea of cleaning out my entire inbox in one day is laughable. And secondly, not specific enough.
I don’t necessarily need to check every email today. Not all of them are high priority or any priority at all.
So a better to-do list item would be “Reply to _________.” Nice and verby. And IFTTT adds tasks for me based on labeling Gmail messages, pulling in the subject of the email to fill in the blank. I can also automate the task’s due date, description, and priority level.
I throw everything to add to Todoist into a “To Reply” Gmail label, but you could even set different recipes for different labels, to separate emails by priority level or due date.
Google Calendar + Evernote: take notes during calls & appointments
Usually, I used to spend the 5 minutes before a Skype call or meeting scrambling to create a document for the minutes and adding it to the right folder, setting up the right structure for it, etc. So hectic.
This recipes creates docs to take notes in during calls. As soon as there’s a new event on your calendar (and you can say “my ‘Meetings’ calendar only, please”), it’ll add a new note to Evernote titled to correspond with the meeting name. You can also edit the note body to follow a certain template. That’s awesome for creating outlines or templates for your notes.
Gmail + Slack: get desktop notifications for important emails
We all know that keeping notifications turned on for every single email is super distracting and a productivity killer. But there are some emails you need to know about ASAP.
Not all of those you’ll be able to predict, but others you will. You know the important email notifications you get, and who your most important clients or contacts are.
So set up labels and Gmail filters for your most important emails. Then this will send you a Slack message & notification when an important email comes in.
Spotify: save your Discover Weekly playlists
I don’t know about you, but I’m equally creeped out by and in love with how well Spotify knows me. And my new favorite feature is definitely the Discover Weekly playlists.
But that damn thing gets updated every week and all my new favorite songs go bye-bye. Same with Spotify’s #TBT playlists. That sucks because as anyone who’s watched a movie knows, the soundtrack is everything. You need the right one to run your business.
When Spotify finds the perfect song for your blogging or working groove, don’t lose it. This recipe will archive #TBT or Discover Weekly playlists as a separate, permanent playlist you can listen to later. YASSSS.
MailChimp + Google Drive: automatically track email marketing stats
Raise your hand if you wish you were better at tracking your business’s online marketing stats.
I’ll wait. If your hand isn’t raised, I’ll assume you’re just not being honest with yourself.
We all miss a session or two, or could probably spend more time actually analyzing the numbers we note down.
And on both of those fronts, IFTTT can help you if you use MailChimp. Monkey hooray!
This recipe automatically records campaign stats in a spreadsheet for you. You can even choose how long after the campaign’s send to log the numbers.
Feedly + Twitter: tweet tagged articles
You spend time reading blog posts. You spend time curating content for social media. Doing those two things separately is completely unnecessary.
Feedly IFTTT recipes can easily send content straight to your social media channels – I use this with Twitter since it’s where I’m most active, but you could just as easily connect Facebook, Pinterest, or Buffer in these recipes. Just create a Feedly tag for anything you want to share, activate this recipe, and tag things as you read them.
And if you’d like to be able to edit the shares before they go out, just make sure to send them to Buffer so you can go in and edit the posts in your queue after reading time. 🙂
Gmail + Google Sheets: track your finances
If you suck at managing your finances as much as I do, if you’ve ever spent April digging through your inbox for business receipts, you need this recipe.
It automatically scans your email for receipts by using a few keywords like “receipt” and “your order” and logs them – and the PDF attachment! – in a spreadsheet for you.
Reminder + Slack: create an accountability buddy
It can be hard to find an accountability buddy as a solo show. Further, it can hard to find a regular time to meet with one when our schedules are anything but normal.
This is like my favorite idea ever: create a robot accountability buddy.
Use IFTTT’s daily date and time trigger along with a Slack notification to prompt yourself to reflect on your day.
Ask yourself what you got done. You can go even further and ask yourself multiple accountability questions, like how that compares to your goals for the day.
Have I mentioned I love this one?
WordPress + RescueTime: highlight your awesome blogger productivity
Do you have RescueTime automating your time tracking for you? If not, that’s a post for another day.
But if you do, and you ever struggle with dedicating time to content creation, this is definitely for you. By connecting it to your WordPress blog through IFTTT. It works with both self-hosted and WordPress.com blogs. And IFTTT also connects to Blogger, Tumblr, or just a regular RSS feed.
Track your progress with content creation by creating a RescueTime highlight whenever you publish a new post.
Instagram + Buffer: add your Instagram photos to Buffer
Anyone else hate cross-posting Instagram photos straight from the app? It’s never really optimized for wherever you’re sending it off to. On Twitter, the images don’t even show up (unless you’re using the above recipe, obvs).
Cross-posting your pics through Buffer first gives you more control. You can log in quickly and edit the text or hashtags, but more importantly, it’s posted according to the sharing schedule you carefully optimized.
Twitter hashtags + Twitter lists: curate your community
Do you have any branded hashtags?
It might be for a conference, Twitter chat, webinar, podcast, product name, blog name, slogan…you see where I’m going with this. You could have a hashtag for pretty much any part of your business.
And you need to keep track of the people using it. They’re your people. Your community.
Automatically create a Twitter list of people using a certain hashtag using this IFTTT recipe. Then you’ll have a handy list of your community and customers, and can easily follow their tweets.
Start Automating Your Business with IFTTT
Do you already use IFTTT to improve your productivity? Which of its integrated apps are you already using?