The magic of making things happen automatically

The magic of making things happen automatically

“I need an assistant.”

Most of my artistic friends have made this statement at some point. There are so many things that need to be done if you’re selling/promoting/performing/showing your artwork in public. Sometimes, those things are repetitive tasks that take time away from what you feel is the “real work”.

But what if you can’t afford or don’t want to hire someone to do these things for you? There is another way: technology.

You don’t have to be a software or web developer or even know how to code, in order to automate some of the more mundane tasks on your list of things to do on the internet. I’d like to introduce you to two free services that can make you feel like you have an assistant.

Zapier

Zapier allows you to connect two web applications to each other – one of them will serve as a “trigger”, which signals a task to take place. For example, you can set up Zapier to save any attachments you receive in Gmail, to your Dropbox account.

It’s quite simple to set up.

  1. Sign up for a free account at zapier.com.
  2. Click on “Make a Zap” at the top of the page.
  3. Choose a “Trigger” app. Zapier will then show you what your trigger options are for that particular application. Choose one and connect your account.
  4. Choose an “Action” app. Zapier will then show you what your action options are for that particular set of applications. Choose one and connect your account.
  5. It’ll guide you through some steps to match the accounts to each other so they can “talk” – for example, if you’re setting up two accounts to sync contacts with each other, you’ll need to indicate where the “First Name” field is found in each account. Sounds complicated, but they make it easy. Anything that is marked “optional” you can skip.
  6. Turn on the Zap. With the free account, you are allowed 5 free zaps, and up to 175 tasks per month.

It’s worth it to explore the site, because there are just so many applications you can connect. I use Zapier to automatically follow any new Twitter followers, and to automatically post Instagram images with a certain hashtag to a certain Facebook page. You can automate social media tasks, saving photos or other files, creating archives of things in Evernote. Even though I admit I’m pretty geeky, I was giggling when I discovered this service. It feels like magic. And then you can forget about it, and it still does its thing, which is even better than magic.

IFTTT

IFTTT, which stands for “If This Then That”, is a very similar service to Zapier. While Zapier focusses on productivity tools, IFTTT’s area of specialty is on “the internet of things”– the connection of wireless speakers, lights, etc. to your phone or other web applications. IFTTT is simpler to use, and offers some of the same application compatibility as Zapier does. Sometimes, I have found it offers slightly different things, so I tend to use both. It also allows you to maximize your automation potential, especially if you’ve exceeded Zapier’s limit of 5 free zaps!

Here’s how it works.

  1. Create an account at ifttt.com.
  2. Click on your username at the top right, and select “Create.” Note that IFTTT also highlights suggested “Recipes” (their version of Zapier’s “Zaps”) that can be very helpful as a starting point.
  3. Click on “THIS”, highlighted in blue. Choose your Trigger application, and choose a Trigger. Click on “Create Trigger.”
  4. Click on “THAT”, highlighted in blue. Choose your Action application, and choose a specific Action. Fill in any Action Fields and click on “Create Action.”
  5. You’ll now have an option to receive notifications when the action runs, and you can name your recipe here, as well.
  6. You’ll have to give IFTTT permission to access the applications you are connecting.

I have used IFTTT to give me a wake up call every morning with the weather forecast, upload any of the photos in my Dropbox to my Flickr account, and text me in the morning if it’s going to rain. It’s also like magic, but for some reason IFTTT feels like more domestic magic than business magic. And that’s really nice too.

All my love,

Rebecca Woodmass

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