Taking Tasks to the Next Step with IFTTT

To do lists are fine, but for me, they mostly serve as reminders of all the things I haven’t done yet (and probably won’t get to for some time). What if you could automate some of your tasks – set up a simple chain of events that you put in motion once and then never really have to think about again? If this idea appeals, then If This Then That (“IFTTT”) might be just what you are looking for.

The application is conceived and executed by setting up triggers and actions in channels. Channels are essentially the web services that you may manually use every day, but with this app you can define certain triggers (the “if”) and then assign an action to the trigger (the “that”). The “if” can be something like “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook” or “someone mentions me on Twitter.” The “that” can be “send me a text message” or  “create a status update on Facebook.” Your triggers and actions are limited to the channels available on ifft, but there are more than enough to choose from to make the set up worth your time.

You can have up to 20 active tasks set up and running at any given time.

You select the channel for the trigger, define the trigger, then set the channel for the action and define the action. For example, see below:

You get the “picture.”  When you pick a channel, you are given a limited number of options for triggers and tasks, such as “add in” language for tweets, but there are many combinations. Follow the steps, define or describe your task and you are all set up. There is a date and time trigger as well that will allow you to initiate tasks at a certain time and date. Tasks can be turned on or off and when they are resumed they pick up right where they left off. Tasks poll for new trigger information every 15 minutes or so, so the results are relatively current.

Another very cool aspect of ifttt is the community involvement in task creation. Task “recipes” can be created and shared with other users on the site. So, while you are certainly free to create your own little cause and effect loops from scratch, you can also forego the heavy lifting and check out some of the other great recipes put together by clever ifttt users.

I believe ifttt is simply brilliant. Set tasks up and watch them go, with no further interaction from you. While it might not be appropriate for all of your online actions and interactions, there are plenty of tasks that simply do not need oversight. Save yourself some time and effort with this fantastic tool.

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Turning Gmails Into Tasks with Taskforce

Despite the advent of mobile devices, specifically-targeted applications, and multi-style messaging systems akin to unified inboxes, people (particularly business people) still love their email. I know I am still tied to it – a large chunk of my time is spent sifting through my five or so main email accounts.

I have been a proponent of Gmail for some time now – largely due to the fact that I can avoid the hefty downloads of messages onto my computer via my local email client. Gmail also allows for multiple messaging formats – I can access Google Chat and Google Voice right from my Gmail page.

You can collapse yet another function into Gmail. Check out Taskforce, a browser add-on that lets you manage and coordinate tasks within Gmail. Taskforce enters public beta today. Simply install the add-on, currently available in my three browsers of choice  – Chrome, Firefox and Safari, and see a toolbar appear on your Gmail page.  The bar includes “tasks”, “activities” and a + sign for adding a new task outside of a specific email. But the truly cool thing is the addition of two buttons on an given open mail item – “add to an existing task” and “convert to new task.” When you click the later, Taskforce goes to work creating a “task” for you from the title of the email and a few prompted questions. Add contacts to the task and you now have a task-based “filter” of communications or “comments” pertaining to the task. You can add due dates. the “activity” button shows a feed of all of your outstanding tasks, offering an overview of your Gmail-based “to do” list. Further organize yourself with task folders.

There is a desktop version of Taskforce, and it appears to work with email systems other than Gmail. There is also an iPhone optimized interface – check it out here.

 

I see this as a great add to Gmail – since many emails are the genesis of some call to action, why not turn them into tasks with a simple click of a button? If you are into tracking tasks in a medium other than your brain, Taskforce seems like a no-brainer.

iPhone Apps for Writers

PenA couple weeks ago, a writer friend who also has an iPhone asked me about apps for writers. I explained that, with more than 85,000 apps in the App Store, there are more than a few that fit the bill. Thought I would share with you the list I sent to her. These apps are not lawyer-specific, but certainly would help a writer of any ilk.

Wikipedia – encyclopedia by crowd consensus. Free. Or its more readable counterpart, Wikiamo.

Dictionary – word resource that includes both a dictionary and a thesaurus. Free.

Quickword – word processing app, Microsoft Word-friendly. $12.99

Evernote – note-taking app that works well for collecting research. Syncs with software on your desktop (free download) and on the Web (also free) so you can take your notes anywhere and add them into virtual notebooks. Can store notes in many forms, including pictures, digital drawings and voice recordings. Can’t say enough about how great this app is. Free.

Stanza – free ebook reader, with access to paid ebooks but better yet, access to Project Gutenburg online database of free ebooks of the classics. Free.

Goal Tender – simple goal setting and task app for organizing and getting things done. $2.99

Story Tracker Lite – tracks your writing submissions to various publications. Free.

SimpleMind – mindmapping (brainstorming) app. Free.

WriteRoom – a notetaking app that works much better than the one of the iPhone for writing. Can sync with a version that stays on your computer, so you can write while out and then sync it back into your computer. Loads of special features that make it great for writers. $4.99

Happy writing!