There’s a lot of creative productivity hacks out there. But as you’ve probably found, most of them are totally impractical. Sure, you could wake up an hour earlier—but then you’re ready for bed an hour earlier as well. Or you could work in 20-minute chunks with 5-minute breaks—but inevitably, those breaks stretch into 8 minutes, then 10.
Instead of trying and failing weird productivity advice, master your time the right way: with IFTTT recipes.
IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That.” Its site has thousands of “recipes.” These recipes are automated processes that are designed to make your life simpler and are triggered by pre-selected actions or events.
While it’s worth browsing through the full list of recipes, here are my 18 picks for being more productive.
Most professionals will tell you email is their biggest time-suck. Luckily, there are a couple ways IFTTT can streamline your inbox.
Note: Most of these recipes require a Google account.
If you’re constantly receiving files, this recipe is a great choice. You’ll never again have to dig through your email for that Word document you know your co-worker sent you a couple months ago… Plus, if you’re away from your work computer and need to look at a file, you’ll easily be able to access it.
We’ve all opened emails and decided not to answer them right away; unfortunately, we’ve also all forgotten to ever reply to said emails. With this recipe, you can safely postpone answering messages by starring them.
Maybe you consistently receive messages with useful content in the body, such as tips, project feedback, phone numbers, etc. Quickly preserve these emails by forwarding them to Evernote.
It doesn’t matter whether you work from home, a cubicle, a local coffee-shop, or all around the world, these recipes will make you more efficient.
There are so many times it would be helpful to quickly tell someone where you are. Maybe you’re constantly traveling, and you need to keep your colleagues updated on your location. Or you’re running late to a meeting, and you’d like to let the other person know you’re close.
Speaking of meetings, this recipe is an ingenious way to escape from an unproductive one.
Maybe you’re running out for lunch or a cup of coffee, or heading home early. Whatever the case, if your co-workers know that you’re gone, they can react accordingly—and you won’t come back to a billion “Where’d you go?” messages.
If you’re an entrepreneur, remote worker, or freelancer, this will allow you to see how much time you’re actually spending on your projects.
To indicate that you don’t want to be interrupted (without ruffling any feathers), turn on the “do not disturb” recipe. Your Google calendar will show that you’re busy for the next 60 minutes. We recommend sharing your Google calendar with the other people you work with to get even more use out of this one.
Taking notes by hand is underrated; not only does it help you remember information better than typing your notes, but it allows you to focus on the person who’s speaking without being tempted to look at texts, emails, social media, and so on. But handwritten notes are inconvenient to reference later. Easily solve the issue by uploading yours to a cloud service, like OneNote.
This recipe is brilliant. As the maker explains, “It gives you an easy way to count events that happen throughout the day, whether that’s the number of cups of coffee you drink, how often you get up from your desk, or how many times you laughed in a day. Each time you press the button, it will be stored in a Google Drive spreadsheet.”
We suggest using the recipe to stay focused. Just press the button every time you find yourself getting distracted. Or use it to track your finished tasks; seeing them stack up in the spreadsheet might be just the motivation you need.
For most of us, social media has transformed from something we do in our off-hours to something that’s instrumental to our careers. These recipes relieve some of the pressure of constantly publishing new, relevant, helpful posts.
Get two posts out of one by syncing up your Instagram and Twitter accounts. Even better: This recipe is the only way to get your Instagram shots to show up as full pictures (rather than links) on Twitter.
Many professionals keep up with their favorite sites by subscribing to their RSS feeds via Feedly (and if you don’t, give it a try!) Now, you can automatically share your reading material with all your followers on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Another two-for-one deal. Of course, you should only install this recipe if your Facebook page is a professional one.
You don’t always have time to check out individual Twitter profiles when you’re on-the-go. With this recipe, you can create a self-curated list of accounts to potentially follow.
With these miscellaneous recipes, you can remove a couple of “pain points” from your life.
This recipe will save you hours come tax season. Quickly take a picture of a receipt, and it’ll automatically be saved to your Evernote account. You can then categorize your expenses (for example, “Business Expenses,” “Personal,” “Charity,” “Travel,” etc.). You can also search them.
It’s always a good idea to stay up-to-date on the business world. However, you can customize this recipe to work with any New York Times section, from Technology or Books to Your Money or U.S.
Asking to receive a notification before an event requires several extra steps in Google Calendar—but when you do it through IFTTT, you’ll receive a text for every entry.