Like Clockwork: How to Wrangle Your Recurring Tasks with Zapier

Matthew Guay
Matthew Guay / February 9, 2016

Apps aren't very well behaved. They ding at all hours of the night, pop up during presentations, and remind you of a forgotten task after the deadline has passed. We might call our devices smart, but the technology running them can still be pretty dumb.

Apps need to be tamed. You shouldn't have to babysit your smartphone, or remember to turn on Do Not Disturb.

Zapier already automates the movement of data between your apps, so you don't have to copy and paste from one tool to the next. Our new Multi-Step Zaps can get as many things running at once as you want, and Code and Formatter Steps make it simpler to tweak text and crunch numbers as data passes through Zapier.

Zapier's Schedule tool does the rest. It tames your apps, limiting automation to a cadence controlled by you. Combine Schedule with favorite apps, such as Slack, Trello and Gmail, and you can begin to get daily reminders for recurring duties, spin up a weekly checklist of tasks, and build a monthly reporting routine in your inbox.

Apps When You Want Them

Zapier Schedule

Zapier helps you automate workflows with the tools you use, from web and mobile apps to online software and services. Whenever something happens in one tool—say, for example, a visitor to your site submits a form entry—Zapier completes a set of actions in other tools—it adds the visitor to your CRM, sends them a welcome message, and reminds a sales team member to follow-up.

It's likely that many of your current projects, reports, emails, and notifications are bound to an event that occurs in another app. A new customer, client, bid, blueprint, or another item is often the trigger that sets off a task.

But not always. There's something else outside the control of an app that has far more influence on what we need done: time.

So we harnessed it. The Schedule tool in Zapier triggers every day, week, or month, at exactly the hour or day you pick. As time passes, it executes time-centric tasks for you automatically.

Set up Zapier Schedule

Say your team start work on a new project each week. You need time to prepare for the upcoming week, so each Thursday you open Trello and start a new board for your project. Then, you email the project link to your team, so they can prioritize tasks and start discussions. And, perhaps, you log the new project in a spreadsheet, start a new folder for that week's files, share the project in a team chat app, and more.

It's not that much work, but it adds up.

Those are the tasks Zapier's best at—the tasks that add up over time and keep you from being productive. So instead of repeating your Thursday routine this week, make a Zap with the Schedule trigger, choosing the day and time when you usually send an email about the new project to your team.

A few clicks later, and the new project will be made and shared via email. Next week—and every week after—the Zap runs automatically, greeting you with an email every Thursday morning at 8 o'clock.

You'll have more time to start on next week's work, with one fewer annoying task to take care of each week.


How Teams Manage Recurring Tasks With Zapier

We each have some similar routine tasks, little things we're likely to forget without some nudging or more time consuming things we hate doing every time a new project starts. But sometimes, it's hard to figure out what routine tasks to automate. When you're so accustomed to doing them, the tasks are second nature even if annoying.

Here are some ways teams around the world have already put Schedule and Multi-Step Zaps to work for them, eliminating little routine tasks and making sure they stay fed—and don't kill their plants or themselves.

Build Finance Reports

Keeping track of expense reports, bills, and other random bits of financial information is easy in theory. The hard part is making sure everyone remembers to log every financial record.

Calvary Church IT specialist Shawn Ross fixed that with a Zap. To make sure their team could turn in completed monthly financial reports on time, he made a Zap that emails everyone on the team with a reminder to send in their expenses and other financial data. Then, the Zap adds a task to his Toodledo account, as a reminder to turn that data into a financial report.

finance report email

We're sometimes the weakest link in our own workflows—but Schedule's got your back, and will make sure you don't forget those crucial tasks.

Order Lunch

Have any rotating tasks in your team, where someone different needs to do the task each day?

Business design firm Arcus does a lunch rotation, where a different team member is responsible for ordering food each day. Schedule makes sure they don't forget.

Each work day, a bit before noon, the Zap checks a Google Sheet spreadsheet to see who's responsible to order food that day. Then, it sends them a message in Slack, just in time to make sure they don't forget to order lunch.

Arcus Slackbot
The Arcus team's friendly Slackbot reminding them to order lunch

It's a simple little way to make the team work together better, without any nagging—or missed meals!

Assign Routine To-Dos

Routine tasks are important—even if they're mundane, basic, and easy to forget.

Petroleum chemist Ryan Pichulo has a few of those crucially important tasks in his laboratory. "I have been trying to get my fellow technicians to start using Trello to keep track of what tasks need to be done as well as who is working on what," says Pichulo, and Zapier's Schedule tool has been a crucial part of that.

Each day, their lab needs to run quality control evaluations. Each week, they have to verify analytical balances. And each month, their smoke detector needs checked—something you likely should do even if you don't work in a lab.

Trello board for lab maintenance

A handful of Zaps keep the lab running smoothly today. A Schedule Zap adds a card for each of those tasks, and then when the card is moved to the completed list, another Zap logs the date, time, and person who completed the task into a Google Spreadsheet for their records.

It may be something small compared to the lab's other projects, but it does help. "If each Trello card had to be generated manually, the project would operate at an efficiency deficit," says Pichulo.

Water Plants

Sometimes it's the littlest things in life that are the easiest to forget—like renewing your car registration, getting your oil changed, and watering your plants.

We're all bad at remembering, and there's no shame in getting Zapier to help out. That's how the Arcbot team keeps their office plants alive—Schedule reminds them in Slack once a week to water them.

waterbot

"No wonder they stopped drying out every month," says López Romo.

Run Weekly Meetings

Meetings take far more work than just adding a new event in Google Calendar. Enough, in fact, that the Arcus team turned to another Schedule Zap to run their meetings.

"We hold a one hour meeting every Friday at noon," says Arcus CEO Emilio López Romo. "Since it’s our only programmed meeting and we have to cover everything from marketing and sales to operation and special projects, we are very strict about having it completely planned out beforehand."

Schedule in Zap

To carry out that strict routine, each Thursday afternoon a Schedule Zap checks a Google Sheet spreadsheet to see who's responsible for the meeting that week. It then creates a new event in Google Calendar, invites the right people, then sends everyone involved a Slack message reminding them about the meeting.

"There’s no way they miss it," says López Romo.

The Arcus team uses Schedule for the rest of their routine tasks, too, including starting new quarterly projects and running feedback sessions . They even set up Zaps for their clients to help them track their own contacts, projects and more.

"Before Zapier, we used to set reminders in Apple's Reminders app," says López Romo. "We had too many reminders, and it still meant that we had to set them up manually every month." Scheduled Zaps have cut out that manual work, giving them more time to work on real projects—and keep their plants alive.

Reflect on Work

It's great to get things done, but don't just automatically jump into your next tasks. Sometimes it's better to reflect on what you've accomplished, celebrate wins and learn from failures, and then start planning your next big goals.

Weekly Reflection

SumoMe marketer Nat Eliason uses Schedule to reflect on each week's work. Every Friday, a Zap adds a new reflection note to Evernote, with prompts to highlight accomplishments and list other big things that happen. The Zap also creates a Trello card, as a reminder to add weekly reflections to that Evernote note.

And to make sure he learns from what he's written, the Zap adds one more Trello card, this time as space for a goal he wants to accomplish in the upcoming week.

Reshare Messages

Have something important on your website that you often re-share to your social network accounts? Zapier CEO Wade Foster tries to make sure everyone sees Zapier's Jobs page with a monthly Tweet.

It's not the most popular thing he posts to Twitter each month, but the Tweets do get a steady stream of views and shares. And they don't take him any time to post, either, since a Schedule Zap automatically publishes it for him on the 15th of each month.

Odds are, most of your followers don't see the majority of the things you post to social networks. But if you use Schedule to re-post the most important links, you'll up your chances and perhaps find that perfect candidate for your next job opening.


Go Beyond Schedule

Schedule is great for daily, weekly, or monthly tasks, but all of our recurring tasks don't fall under those categories. Some tasks need done a month after a project starts—and your projects start at random days, so you can't predict when a month after every project start would be. Others need done on a regular basis, but perhaps only once every other week.

Here are some extra tools in Zapier to fine-tune your apps' schedule.

Filters

Filter in Zapier

Have something that happens only once every other month, twice a year, or on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Schedule runs every day, week, or month, so you'll need something a bit more fine-tuned.

A filter can do the trick. Add a filter to your Zap, and have it watch for the days, weeks, or months when you do or don't want the Zap to run. You could filter based on the name or number of the day or month—whichever is easier for you.

Schedule on a Calendar

Add Asana Task to Google Calendar

Some tasks aren't due on a recurring schedule—they're tied to a project due date, event deadline, or some other thing. Your app could likely notify you the day the item is due, but what if you'd like a notification earlier?

A little Google Calendar hack with two Zaps can save the day. First, make a Zap that adds a new event to Google Calendar when you add a new task, appointment, meeting, or anything else you want a reminder about, and set the event date as the due date for that item (or, perhaps, add -1d to the due date for a reminder a day early). That'll save the item in Google Calendar as soon as you create it.

Then, make another Zap which watches that Google Calendar for upcoming events, and have it send you a notification when the event from that app is coming up.

Voilà, you've now got customized notifications for any app with Zapier.

Delay

Delay by Zapier

Maybe you don't need to make notifications for everything—you'd just like to delay some tasks for up to a week. Perhaps you'd like reminded to contact a new customer the day after they make a purchase, or want to send a Tweet 3 hours after your article is published.

Zapier's new Delay tool is perfect for that. Add it as an action to any Zap, and you can delay the Zap for up to a week. You can either delay a Zap until a date or time you choose, or have Zapier delay the Zap for a length of time you pick. Either way, it's another handy way to tame your apps and get them running exactly when you want.


Give Zapier Your Routine Tasks

Whether you're running a lab or just trying to make your personal life a bit more productive, there's no reason to manually create new notes and projects and folders and more each week.

Ready to jump right in? Here are some pre-made workflows to help you start running your favorite apps automatically with Schedule.

Daily

Weekly

Monthly

Visit the Schedule tool on Zapier to see more pre-built Zaps, or jump in and make your own Schedule workflow with as many steps as you need. We'd love to hear in the comments about the routine tasks and frustrations you automate away!

Photo of Lawrence Watkins

“Zapier helps me build processes and automation into my business like a programmer without having to learn to code.”

Lawrence Watkins, co-founder of Great Black Speakers

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