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How to automate tasks management, and not to forget about that f*****g task.

A bit of context

I wrote, no more than 3 weeks ago, my first blog post on DEV, actually my first blog post ever.

So, in few words, I am still, constantly striving for maximum planning and efficiency. And I am writing these few lines to let you guys know that, if you are looking for a solution to the same or a very similar problem (since the tools I found are quite flexible), then this might help you a lot. At least I would have sent myself a 5$ gift, at least.

The problem

I use Trello as main tool for managing my daily, weakly, repeating, un-deadlined tasks. But there was one task in particular that was bothering me SOOO much, because it has been sitting there for almost one year. I never had time to sit down and dedicate some time to it.


Basically, I wanted to develop a very small system that would, at least, move all my cards from TOMORROW to TODAY every day at 12:00 AM, and from any board to TOMORROW whenever there was only one day missing before due date.

Since I did not want to spend money with AWS or any other provider offering lambda functions, and since I did not investigate whether there were free alternatives, I was thinking to pull out of the closet my old Raspberry Pi, develop the scripts, schedule them with cron jobs, and leave it attached and running forever and ever.

The ACTUAL solution

Today, Mon 25.03.2019, after a very long time, I finally had a spare evening and, especially, the willingness to investigate the issue deeper. That is why yesterday, before going to sleep, I moved the card from the POOL list to TODAY. Now, I was forced by my self-control to take actions in order to move the card to DONE as soon as possible.

That is when I have made a bit of research, and found a solution which solves exactly the problem I wanted to solve, but with 0 lines of code produced (unfortunately 😥).

Step 1: Trello pumped up 💪

First, I discovered the amazing Trello power-up Butler. This already solves 80% of my issues. You can set triggers for newly added cards, expiring cards, or time-based actions on a daily, weekly, monthly basis at a specific time of the day. And it is free, since Trello allows to use one power-up in its free version.

So what I have done with this power-up, is to add 3 simple rules:

Trello card n. 1

Trello card n. 2

Trello card n. 3

With the first rule, which is a expiration date trigger, every day at 12:00 AM any card that is expiring in 1 day, meaning anytime the NEXT day, is moved from any list in the board to the TOMORROW list, which is a list I have made for the tasks (guess what) due the next day. So far so good.

The second rule is a pure calendar (or time) based rule that, every day at 12:00 AM, moves the cards from the TOMORROW list to the TODAY one. I AM SEEING THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL!

The third, and last, rule is an event-based trigger. Each trigger is activated each time a card is moved to the TODAY list. It just sets its due date to today at 11:59 PM (as it is supposed to be). Specific cards can be of course individually adjusted. Veeeery good!

But there was still one, major problem. If there are tasks that I am supposed to do very early in the morning, I would simply forget and remember too late. And I did not feel like setting a reminder or alarm on the phone, since that takes one more step (and I am soooo lazy).

Step 2: IFTTT (If This Then That)

For those of you who do not know what that is, it is just anything you have ever needed.

From the website:

IFTTT (if this, then that) is the easy, free way to get your apps and devices working together. The internet doesn't always play nice, but we're here to help.

Well, okay, the description is not super clear. But IFTTT is a website (which relies on the companion mobile app available for most of the platforms) where you can create many many automated tasks exploiting the APIs of many services, from Spotify to Facebook, from Telegram to Amazon Alexa. It allows, for instance, to get a rain alert from Weather Underground in the morning at a chosen time, so that you do not go out without an umbrella.

I was already using IFTTT for a bunch of other tasks (called Applets), like getting the NASA image of the day, or the Wikipedia word of the day, or the weather in the place I currently live.

But then, I saw that it has quite a good integration with Telegram, even though a not-so-powerful integration with Trello. It is not possible to get, for instance, a daily digest at 8:00 AM in the morning with all the cards in the TODAY list (which have been automatically moved by the Butler automation engine). But, on the other end, it was possible to simply setup a private conversation with the IFTTT bot, and receive a customized Telegram message every day at a specified time.

The result

The final result? I am just Telegrating myself every morning at 6:00 AM with a message that tells me to check the Trello board. The Trello board itself has been updated, over night, by the Butler power-up which I have configure to solve my specific needs.

I find this solution to work very good, potentially better than the alternative emails since (we all know) emails are quite ignored, especially in the morning.

Since Butler power-up and IFTTT are very flexible and offer a wide variety of customization, I think a setup very similar to this one might solve a very big set of similar problems, while still not involving any cost or any specific infrastructure/development effort.

Well, that was all from my side! I wish to hear from you how YOU guys have found the best setup to improve your productivity.


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