As you may know, I produce about a dozen different podcasts, most of them weekly, and keeping track of all the tasks of pre-production, recording, editing, distributing, and promoting them is challenging for a one-man operation like myself. Some shows I host, while others have their own hosts. Some shows I edit, while some have their own editors. It’s a lot of moving parts and if I don’t track every step, it could quickly fall apart.
I use Omnifocus, a Mac-based application, as my project management tool of choice and that’s where I keep all of the individual tasks that need to be checked off. Meanwhile, I use AirTable, a web-based database, to keep track of the shows, their episodes, who’s involved, and what stage of production they’re at, among other things. Since the steps to produce an episode of each podcast is pretty much the same every time, that means this process is ripe for automation. What was missing was a way to connect the AirTable and Omnifocus parts of the process because I was finding that I’d enter an upcoming episode of a show in AirTable and forget to setup the Omnifocus project. I needed some way to trigger the project creation from the first step of a new episode. Enter Zapier.
Zapier is a web-based automation tool that lets you connect various web-based applications in interesting ways. What I wanted was a way to have Zapier monitor my main AirTable podcast database and when it sees a new entry, trigger the creation of a project in Omnifocus. The solution required not just Zapier, but also Keyboard Maestro and Hazel, two other Mac-based automation tools.
Here’s how it works. I create a new entry in AirTable. Zapier is monitoring the Podcast Editorial Calendar base for the particular Views based on each show. When it sees a new entry in a show, it takes a template I’ve created in Omnifocus-friendly TaskPaper format for that show, replaces certain variables in the template with data from the AirTable record, such as show title, episode number, recording day and/or time, and release date. It then creates a text file and puts it in a particular Dropbox folder.
Meanwhile, Hazel is running on my Mac, constantly monitoring that folder. When it sees a new text file there with a name that begins with the three-letter abbreviation for the show, it then runs a Keyboard Maestro macro associated with that show. The macro opens the text file, copies the text, opens Omnifocus, navigates to the correct place in the correct show, and pastes the new project in. Meanwhile, Hazel has deleted the text file. And it all happens without my intervention apart from creating the AirTable entry.
This is just one of the many automations I use to help me manage this complex network of shows mostly by myself and I would not be able to do it without lots of automation.
I should note that a lot of the inspiration and foundation of this workflow came from “Using Drafts 5 Taskpaper with OmniFocus” – Rosemary Orchard, Automators 24: Automating with AirTable – Rosemary Orchard, and the assistance of the Automators forum folks in this thread: Create new Omnifocus project triggered by new Airtable record – Web – Automators Talk.