ProTip: Use Gmail to pipe your RescueTime alerts to IFTTTPosted: January 17, 2013
We’re big fans of IFTTT (If This Then That), the awesome web utility that glues all your online services together via recipes that you create. You can use it to do all sort of things, such as:
- Save articles that show up in a Google Alert for your name to Evernote
- Backup pictures you post to Facebook in your Dropbox account
- Update your Twitter profile picture when your Facebook profile pic changes
- Text yourself the weather every morning
- Save your Foursquare checkins to Google Calendar
One of our users recently asked us about integrating RescueTime with IFTTT, and I think it’s a fantastic idea.
RescueTime Pro users can send themselves alert notifications by email or via a popup on their computer. Wouldn’t it be great if we could let those alerts act as triggers for events in other applications? Imagine the possibilities.
We’re exploring what would be involved in an official integration, but in the meantime, you can use Gmail to bridge your RescueTime alerts with IFTTT actions. Here’s an example based on our user’s suggestion of piping the timestamps of the alert notification to a spreadsheet so he can track the time of day he triggers the alert. For this example, you’ll need a Gmail account, an IFTTT.com account, and a RescueTime Pro account.
If you’d like to jump past the step-by-step, I’ve shared the completed recipe on IFTTT.com here.
Step One: Create a RescueTime alert, make sure it’s set to notify you by email.
If you’re a RescueTime Pro user, you can create alerts for time spent in any category or productivity level. We have one around the office for “More than 5 hours of Productive Time”. You have two options for how to be notified, either by popup or by email. You should make sure the “by email” box is checked. (whether you want to leave the popup notification checked is up to you.)
If you’d like to sign up for a RescueTime Pro account, you can do so here.
Now, let’s head over to IFTTT.com and create a recipe…
Step Two: For the trigger, choose the Gmail channel, and select the “New email from search” trigger
In the “search for:” field, put the following:
Note: You’ll have to tweak the subject line to match whatever type of alert you created. If you’ve received an alert in your email already, it would be a good idea to try that search string out in Gmail first and make sure you’re getting results from it..
Step Three: Choose an action
Here’s the really fun part where you get to be creative. Choose an action from the list of action channels. For the spreadsheet example, you can do something like this:
Now, when my alert triggers each day, I get a line that looks like this appended to a spreadsheet in my Google Drive.
That’s it! Er, almost.
One minor annoyance is that the “DeliveredAt” timestamps that IFTTT uses are in the format “January 17, 2013 at 05:48PM”. Google Spreadsheets have a hard time parsing that into a useful date or time, so it’s a bit difficult to do much with, like create a chart. Nothing that can’t be fixed by a couple spreadsheet functions, though.
You can extract a parseable date with:
You can extract a parseable time with:
Now, you have two columns you can use as the X and Y axis in a chart, like so:
I’m curious, how many of you use IFTTT? What types of things actions would you like to take based on your RescueTime data?
update: One of our users just pointed out that the formula above was broken because of WordPress converting the straight quotes to curly quotes. I’ve fixed that and hopefully everything works correctly now. Thanks Eddie!