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Automate Your Virtual Assistant and Outsource Your Outsourcing

By November 28, 2012 Links, Posts 7 Comments

Going power mad with

Going power mad with (Photo credit: deusx)

IFTTT has done it again. It started with a simple question to my FancyHands virtual assistant last week…

“Find out how to automatically submit new blog posts to StumbleUpon”

It’s pretty atypical to stump a FancyHands assistant but the response I got back was, “There is no current method for automatically submitting blog posts to StumbleUpon.” I held my breathe for the briefest of moments and then my mouth pulled into a smile. I like challenges like this. I didn’t realize this would open a completely new realm of outsourcing for me. I’ve written before about using a non dedicated virtual assistant service for recurring tasks (something you normally can’t do when you’re tasks are assigned to different assistants each time) by having a reminder from with the task instructions sent to you at a certain interval, which you simply forward to the assistant. If I do say so myself I thought that was a pretty slick solution but still required a moment of your involvement. The issue with Resnooze is that it’s not trigger based, just an interval. So the task might say, “Add new posts from the past week” but it couldn’t say “Add the post that JUST went up.” I once attempted to create a forwarding filter through Gmail but the resulting email does not originate from your own email address so most virtual assistant routing services don’t recognize it and reject the task. So I approached the task backwards and on a very basic level.

How can I assign a task to my virtual assistant without having to initiate the request at all?
In a way this is the holy grail of outsourcing, the perpetual motion machine of the outsourcing world if you will…I wanted to outsource my outsourcing.

Since mind control of Gmail doesn’t exist and wouldn’t be a realistic solution anyway (why use my mind for that?) I started to scratch my head. I remembered that IFTTT has a Gmail channel, which I’ve never used before. You can create triggers based on searches or starring an item, but you can also send an email. But wait, does this sent email originate from your own email address? YES IT DOES!!!

I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, and that’s when I created the first IFTTT recipe that has now resulted in 32 outstanding and amazing automated actions that I never have to think about again. It couldn’t have been more simple, If a new post (based on the RSS feed for my blog) is created, Than send a Gmail email message to [email protected] and say “Visit this {FEEDURL} and submit this newly published post to Stumbleupon.” IFTTT gives you several options for automatically propogating information so FEEDURL is replaced with the most recent post address. That’s all there is to it. According to the 80/20 rule I should only be focusing on the things that only I can do, like creating original content for the blog. EVERYTHING else if possible should be taken care of by someone else.

IFTTT has about 50 channels at this point, most of which can cause an email to be sent to your virtual assistant. I setup a trigger so that ever friday morning my assistant gets an email telling them to create my “Interesting Things of the Week” post based on my Delicious links from the past 7 days. You may ask, why not just tell your assistant once to create the post every Friday. You can’t do that if you don’t have a dedicated assistant, and if you do have a dedicated assistant, what happens when that person gets sick or takes a new job. Doing things my way makes you futureproof, bombproof, and idiotproof. Think how much fun you can have with this. How about every time you take an Instagram picture of a cool product and tag it with the word buythis, your assistant gets an email telling them to find it at the best price and order it. Maybe on days that it’s raining you decide to indulge in an Uber car instead of walking to the train so you set an IFTTT recipe that checks the weather and if rain is predicted, send an email to your virtual assistant asking them to order you a car to take you to work. You could get creative and say that if you check in on Foursquare at a place categorized as an airport, your assistant gets an email asking them to contact family and work colleagues to let them know you’ve arrived safely.

The more you can make things happen based on the things you are already doing, the less stressed and more productive you’ll be.

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Great idea Ari. Way to tackle a seemingly impossible task :)


Awesome idea! You're such an innovator when it comes to this stuff.


Which other blogs do you have?


  1. […] I love If This Than That because it goes along with my favorite concept of “Set It and Forget It.” The idea of automating things once and then never have to think about them again is obviously very appealing. You can do basic things like automatically sending a tweet at a certain time every day to market a product, or adding every Foursquare checkin to your Google Calendar for a contextual record of where you’ve been. You can also get more complicated like getting a text message alert anytime you get an email from an important person (great for when you don’t want the distractions of an open inbox or if you are travelling internationally) or the holy grail of automation, outsourcing your outsourcing. […]

  2. […] Tibbets of the other day and I was really excited because as I’ve written before, IFTTT is one of the most useful productivity tools in existence. By allowing you to create simple […]