What do you do when automation breaks? That’s what we’re talking about today.

I’m a fan of automation. It performs repetitive tasks for us. But there are times when it can break.

Today, we’ll talk about two very helpful automations, what happened, and how I’m fixing them. I’m composing this post in case you use the same automations or want to start using them.

Automation #1: Frank’s Journal

First, I have a very important Evernote note called “Frank’s Journal.” It’s a log of things that happen during the day, calendar events, and a record of future calendar events that I add on that day.

The automation happens through a service called If This Then That. “IF I send a text message to myself, THEN that message is appended to Frank’s Journal” with the date and time stamped. If you like this idea, I did an entire post with a video demonstration on it. It’s called “How to Journal With Your Voice Using Evernote.”

I have two other applets. One says, “IF I add to my Google Calendar, THEN append it to Frank’s Journal,” and another says, “IF an event is starting on my Google Calendar, THEN append that information to Frank’s Journal.”

So, in one place, I have a date/time-stamped snapshot of the day, including events that happened, events I scheduled, and little happenings during the day.

Automation Surprise #1: The Applets Quit Working

Seemingly without warning, all three IFTTT applets ceased to work…or they worked sporadically. As it turned out, they were working or failing with 100% predictability. You’ll see why in a moment.

Automation #2: TaskClone

Let’s say you’re in a meeting and you’ve opened a new note in Evernote to take notes. It’s a common thing. During the course of the meeting, you start thinking of some to-dos. The thing to do is to put those tasks right in the body of those notes. Put a checkbox in front of the tasks to help them stand out as something needing action. That’s so much easier than trying to go back and forth between your notes and your task list.

Later in the day, review your notes. At that point, copy those to-dos and paste them into your digital task manager. But if you have TaskClone, that happens automatically. You put a checkbox in front of the task. I can add attributes to the task such as the due date, priority, and tag. Then I tag the note “TaskClone.”

TaskClone looks for notes with that tag, looks for the tasks within them, and enters them into your digital task manager. It also inserts into the task a link back to the original note in Evernote.

When you start to do the task, you have a link back to your information in Evernote. Once it clones the task, TaskClone puts a little “TC” beside that cloned task and removes the “TaskClone” tag from the note. That lets you know the task has been cloned and keeps TaskClone from cloning the same task over and over.

I’ve been using this service since 2013, and it works like a charm.

Automation Surprise #2

When I looked at my digital task list, some tasks were appearing two or three times.

So what’s behind the surprise?

The cause turned about to be another automation. Evernote recently introduced “real-time editing,” allowing two or more people who are sharing a note to edit that note at the same time.

It turns out that when you open a note, no third-party application can write to it as long as that note is open on any device.

So if the note called “Frank’s Journal” happened to be open on any device, it prevented IFTTT from adding anything to it.

And, if I tagged a note “TaskClone,” TaskClone could clone the task, but it couldn’t edit the task to add the “TC” and remove the tag.

Consequently, it would look at the same note again and clone the same tasks repeatedly.

The solution is simple

When I’m not actively working in the note called “Frank’s Journal,” I need to close that note. “Automation Surprise #1” is solved!

And, as soon as I add tasks to a note and include the “TaskClone” tag, I need to close the note immediately and avoid opening it again for a couple of minutes. The TaskClone website provides that advice. This time window gives TaskClone the opportunity to clone the task, add the “TC” beside the checkbox, and remove the “TaskClone” tag. “Automation Surprise #2” is solved!

If you’re facing similar issues while using these services, you may find this information helpful. If you’re not using Evernote, TaskClone, or If This Then That, perhaps you’ve discovered something here that will encourage you to start.

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