Identifying opportunities for automation
When trying to figure out what tasks you could automate using workflows, it’s helpful to spend some time reviewing your current habits and processes.
Take some time to observe how you use your devices throughout the day and the tasks you accomplish with your iPhone or iPad (or might not – yet). You’ll start to find moments throughout your day-to-day where something you want to do on your device takes too long, can’t be done with existing apps, or is just too obnoxious to even think about.
You’ll find that you start to see these moments as opportunities to create workflows, especially once you’ve explored all of the available actions.
When deciding if certain moments in your day are worth augmenting with workflows, it can be helpful to take note of:
- how often you do a task,
- how difficult it is to do on mobile,
- your mental load for completing the task, and
- other workflows from the Gallery or community.
The most obvious opportunities for creating workflows are in tasks that you do multiple times a day on your iOS devices. Rather than making one complicated workflow to solve a problem you rarely come across, it’s often better to identify repetitive tasks that don’t change often – the habits and routines of daily life.
Consider the following:
- If you’re a student, you could create workflows to manage homework and exam reminders, study with flashcards, generate example problems, or translate text between languages.
- If you commute daily, you could create workflows to open transit times, review your meetings for the day, or read aloud the top news headlines.
- If you’re health conscious, you could create workflows for logging what you eat and drink, your exercise activity, sleep, or reproductive health, or to analyze your Health data and draw conclusions.
- If you’re an avid music listener, you could create workflows to add songs to playlists, pull up lyrics, share your favorite songs, or look up how to play a song.
- If you love eating out, grabbing coffee, or visiting pubs, you could create workflows to find directions to nearby venues, invite people along, place orders over the phone, or log what you thought.
- If you often communicate with loved ones, you could create workflows to send templated text messages, edit your photos, quickly place phone or FaceTime calls, or create and share GIFs.
- If you share expenses with friends, you could create workflows to send or request payments over Venmo.
And these are just a few examples of the many capabilities of workflows.
Another opportunity for automation is around tasks that are more difficult to accomplish on mobile devices, either because they involve too many taps or are just not possible with other third-party apps.
Reducing the number of taps to reach your goal is key for making truly useful automations. Compared to desktop experiences which have keyboard shortcuts or menu options for performing tasks, iOS is primarily touch-based, meaning your fingers end up doing most of the work.
Since most actions on iOS tend to operate on links and documents one-at-a-time, passing multiple items into Workflow and acting on them all at once can save a lot of taps on your iPhone or iPad. For example, you could extract all the links from a webpage and them to your Reading List rather than adding each link manually, one-by-one.
Some tasks may be difficult on mobile simply because other apps available on the App Store don’t exactly meet your needs. Normally, you’re limited to the choices that app developers make. The benefit of building a workflow is the customization and tweaks you can add to make your tool just the way you want it.
Another way you can create powerful workflows is by automating tasks that cause a high mental load. Whether a task takes a lot of formalized or repeated steps, requires extreme or tedious attention to detail, or is simply something you don’t want to do yourself, finding ways to automate this process can save you valuable time and energy.
One of the best ways to eliminate mental load with workflows is via prompts. For example, you can set up Ask for Input actions with pre-written questions about the goal you’re trying to accomplish. That way, when the workflow is run, you only have to read the question and answer that one portion of the task. The workflow can save each result and follow up with the next question.
For example, you could prepare a workflow that asks a few questions about your day and fills the answers into a Day One journal entry, like this Dear Diary workflow. Or, a more complicated workflow could have prompts to fill out each portion of an email template and combine it all together to send, like in this example workflow.
Sometimes, if you just can’t think of what type of workflow to build, it can be helpful to pop over to the Gallery in the app and check out the newest collections for inspiration. You can also search the whole Workflow Gallery to find more examples – just search for a keyword and see what comes up!
With some potential workflow ideas in mind, let’s dive in to Creating a new workflow.