How to Get Started with Automation, Using Zapier

8 May 2017
8 May 2017
5 min read

One thing that I’ve never understood is why computers are still incredibly complicated. 2017 was supposed to be the year of flying cars and computers that knew what you wanted, yet a computer functionally works the same way as it did in the 70’s.

The Benefits of Automation

However, there is a way to make your computer smarter. The automation movement is growing, and with apps like IFTTT, Zapier, and Workflow, now is a great time to get into the automation movement.

How to get started

If you’re like me, you’ve gotten a slight introduction to automation either through a Macstories post, Workflow being featured on the App Store, or by finally checking out what all of the hype is about. And so you sign up for one of the apps mentioned above. After opening up the homepage/app you immediately get bombarded by tons of different options. “Should I use this app, or maybe I should use this other version? This is popular recipe but doesn’t apply, maybe this automation thing isn’t for me?” I think that this is a big problem with the current automation environment, and I plan on spending the rest of the article discussing how to use automation effectively. I’ll talk about the best way to get started with automation and give some advice on the best way to approach the idea of automation. To keep it consistent, I’ll also be using Zapier for this introduction post.

First, do a workflow analysis

The first step to becoming a successful automation expert is to examine your workflow. What are the tasks that need to get done and where is there dead weight? As an example, imagine that you were a small business owner; you probably have a website with a recommendations and suggestions section as well as email signup link. In addition, you like to send out an email after someone makes a purchase and you also have an overall sales funnel for business to business sales. As far as hobbies go, you’re kind of a running nut. Tracking your runs is something you’d like to start and have been looking to do so for awhile.

The second step would be to examine what apps you currently use and if it’s now time to switch to a more wildly supported application. To continue the above example, the recommendations/suggestions section could be hardcoded into your website. This could be changed to a specialized form, which means you don’t have to get your hands dirty adjusting the HTML on your page whenever you need to change the options available.

A far as email signups go, you heard about Mailchimp on a podcast forever ago and have been using it ever since, so you’re ahead of the technology curve there. However, in order to add a customer to the recently purchased list, you copy and paste the email from your sales software.1

Your business to business sales aren’t a huge part of your business (yet), so you’re currently okay tracking this part of your business with a couple excel spreadsheets. Finally, you recently got introduced to this running app Runkeeper on your iPhone and love it. However, you want to add your runs to a spreadsheet for further data manipulation.

Pain Point Evaluation

Now that we’ve gone through some of your business workflows, we can see areas where we can use automation to simplify the process.

  • By changing to a specialized website form builder, we can leave the option open for that to be automated.
  • Mailchimp has a Zapier integration, so there is definitely automation potential there. For example, if we can remove the manual cutting and pasting that would be a life saver.
  • If we could find a way to automate Runkeeper to backup all of your runs, that would be magical

Implement One Change

Now that we’ve examined some pain points, my advice would be to make one change. By making one change at a time, this will allow you to get your feet wet. Maybe you are unfamiliar with the syntax of Zapier or what to see how seamless this process really is.

The first change I would make would be to add your runs to a Google sheet. Both Runkeeper and Google sheets are supported by Zapier, and this has minimal impact on your business if you’re unsure of this “automation” trend.

Now that you have a plan, you can open up Zapier and begin the creation process. The process is as easy as searching for Runkeeper and then Google sheets. After select the triggers you want, your recipe should be good to go! As easy as that, you’ve automated something. Give it a test run 2 and see how it works out.

Rinse, Wash, and Repeat as necessary

Now that you’re a seasoned automation veteran, you can start automating your other pain points. From here, I would branch to Mailchimp and then the web form and sales funnel. Then it’s just being aware of any pain points that pop up as your business expands.

The True Benefits of Automation

Automation to me isn’t so much about the time savings.3 It’s mainly about reducing mental overload. That to me is the power of computers. By automating the busy work in my life, I really can focus on doing the work that matters and I avoid wasting time on the stuff that does not.

  1. Like an animal! ↩︎

  2. Pun absolutely intended ↩︎

  3. Which can be substantial ↩︎

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