In the latest episode of Automators, David and I dived into our home automation setups and went beyond “I can control it from my phone” to find out what things you can really automate, because that’s the kind of automation nerds we are!
I have personally been using Home 3 a lot to amp up my automations – this is what lets me specify the night time routine should only run if the kitchen light is on, and more. These things aren’t available in the Home app that comes baked into your iPhone, but this app makes them available and doesn’t require you to run anything else on a server somewhere to make it all work.
Episode 17 of Automators comes to you live from PodCon!
TripIt – Automated Trip Itinerary
I personally use TripIt to create my itineraries – it actually automates everything for me. I could let it read my email inbox and auto create itineraries, but I prefer to choose which emails to forward to it. As I mentioned on the show I also have a filter in Gmail that marks and read and deletes all of the “Your TripIt Itinerary was imported” emails – I only need to do something if it didn’t work after all.
Bear Notes for Trips
David rolls his own travel schedule system – with Bear. The advantage of Bear is you can easily add attachments and text to a document, meaning everything is in the same place. You can even use a nice Shortcut to allow you to append a document or text to a specific Bear note: Append to Bear
Zapier Turning New Trips into OmniFocus Projects
This is an automation I mentioned that is a little hacky, but it works well for me. TripIt creates a calendar, or you can use any of your own calendars for this if you don’t want to use TripIt – you just need to get that calendar into Google Calendar. What we do is we watch this calendar for new events, then we filter – continuing if the length of the event is more than 23 hours. Then I use the text action to write up the TaskPaper I want to be added to OmniFocus, and URL encode it. The final step is to add a task to OmniFocus – this is accomplished via the MailDrop, and it has a URL scheme which looks something like omnifocus:///paste?target=/folder/Travel&content= -%202019/09%20-%20Amsterdam%0A%09-%20Organise%20Travel in the body – so when this task arrives in my inbox and I process it, I just tap on the URL to add the project. You can even run a Shortcut via a URL scheme (which I usually do!). The Zapier steps are:
Watch the specific calendar in Google Calendar
Only Continue If
Duration (hours)Greater than23
I typed my TaskPaper in here, and URL encoded it, if you already have the URL encoded text, or another URL you want to appear in the body of the task ready you can skip this step.
The title is “Set up project for trip Event Name“, which I also include in the Text action above. The body is the URL I will tap on when I process the task.
This series of steps is a pretty solid way to add projects and tasks to OmniFocus based on other events happening, I use it for lots of automations.
Rose’s Packing List Shortcut
I use a modular approach to create my packing list – along with an extra list of devices to charge! While I save this to OmniFocus you could easily modify this to work in any task management system, or just to create a PDF to print if that’s what you prefer to do.
Naming Documents with Scanner Pro
Scanner Pro is an app David and I both use to scan documents on the go – as well as when we’re on the road. It has built-in OCR, and Workflows which allow you to chain multiple actions together. Most of the time I use a Workflow called “Simple Scan” which formats the name to Scan Year–Month–Day, Time and saves the document as a PDF to Dropbox. I usually save to a specific folder in Dropbox which Hazel then watches and automatically files certain things or me.
Airmail Custom Actions for a Trip
Airmail is a mail app for power users, especially with its custom actions. I have a custom action which forwards the email to TripIt and then moves it to my Gmail account’s Travel tag, this allows me to find all my travel email quickly if I need it, and gets it into TripIt without me needing to remember to forward it as well.
Quickly Add Travel to your Calendar with Shortcuts
This Shortcut isn’t really generic, but hopefully, it will inspire some of you. To get to the airport I take a tram and then a train (at least most of the time). The tram normally takes 11 minutes to get to the train station, and then the train should take 16 minutes to get to the airport. While I could use the public transit API to get all of the information to figure out my route to the airport I prefer to look at the available times in the app and choose which one I would prefer to take – before adding this to my calendar. This Shortcut asks me for the departure and arrival time for each mode of transport (and automatically suggests the arrival time based on the departure time) allowing me to just input 2 dates and times most of the time. You can grab it here: Airport Travel.
Episode 15 of Automators has arrived – and with it our secrets for automating time tracking.
Time tracking is something some people are required to do, some people ought to do, and something everyone should try at least once just so you can see where all your time is going and how many of those “it will just take 2 minute” tasks really take 45 minutes.
David and Mike Schmitz talked about how to figure out what you shouldn’t be doing in episode 53 of Focused (formerly Free Agents), and that’s one of the things I’ve kept an eye on through my time tracking – things that are taking a lot of my time, that I don’t truly enjoy doing or that I know aren’t beneficial to me.
My Oversleeping Tracker
Now, depending on the day of the week, this should perhaps more accurately be called my “lazing in bed” tracker, I title it oversleeping by default – you could call it whatever you like. This is is a solid example of a tracker which should automatically start at a specific time.
To make it I kept things simple – the trigger is the schedule action, set for 6am in my case. I have set it not to run on Saturdays and Sundays. Then the actions are as follows: Toggl, start a time entry (not create!) – I set the workspace, project (called Personal), and add a description of “Oversleeping”. The final action is to send myself a Pushbullet link notification. I misremembered during the episode but I am actually triggering a Shortcut, the link is simply shortcuts://run-shortcut?name=Stop%20Toggl (you can download the Shortcut here, you’ll need to have the Toggl app installed for it to work), and the title is actually the description of the Toggl timer – so if I change what I put in the description later I don’t need to remember to update the notification name. If you’re on the free version of Toggl then you’ll have to skip the notification part.
That’s it! When the Zap runs it starts the timer, and sends me a notification – and when I open that notification it opens Shortcuts, which stops the timer. You could have it open the Toggl web page instead – or any number of things if you wanted to do so. (You could also run a different Shortcut, one which starts playing your morning playlist, tells you what events are on your calendar, etc., as well as stopping the timer.)
My Zapier Stop Timer Automation
This one does the opposite of the above – it stops a currently running timer at 10pm. The trick with this is you will need to use the Toggl API, and as such you’ll need a premium Zapier plan to do this (you could use Microsoft Flow if you’re comfortable doing the whole thing via APIs though, and that’s free!). So, how does it work?
Every day at 10pm is the schedule which triggers this, I have it run on weekends too.
GET – I make a call to the Toggl API. I call the URL https://www.toggl.com/api/v8/time_entries/current, and make sure to fill out the Basic Auth field with email|password.
Only continue if: the data returned by Toggl has a negative duration if the timer is still running, so if it’s less than zero I continue.
Stop Time Entry – using the ID captured from the GET in step 2.
Send a link via PushBullet. This opens the alternative Toggl app I’m beta testing so I can just continue the timer if necessary.
A note: while I am doing some of my Toggl automations through IFTTT that is via their Maker service and the API, it doesn’t have direct integration with Toggl itself.
Episode 14 of Automators is all about journalling – when David suggested the topic for this episode I jumped on it. I subscribed to Day One last year and have been trying to improve my usage of it, this episode forced me to go figure out some automations to make it easier – thankfully since recording I’ve been journalling more consistently than ever!
David made a short video breaking down how he does some of his automations too. I hope you enjoy the episode!