Keeping on Task using Dead Man’s Snitch

Programming your To-Do list

To Do List by Adam Diaz is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

I’m a list maker when it comes to things that need to get done. So much so that my lists have lists. A sample of current list items include:

  • Bring clothes in trunk of my car to Goodwill
  • Practice MindWise
  • Bathe the dogs
  • Go through hall closet
  • Call grandma to make dinner plans
  • Look up instructions for (insert random Pinterest craft here)
  • Brainstorm new blog ideas for personal blog
  • Apply to be a Girls on the Run Coach

As you can see, some of these items don’t really have a due date per se, but just need to get done. I want to make sure I keep hacking away at my terribly long list, so I told myself I would mark an item off my list at least once a week. But what happens when I forget to do that? What will hold me accountable or even remind me if I forget?

Well, this is where I picked up a little inspiration from the talented developers in my office. Many of them regularly use Dead Man’s Snitch, one of our own products, for monitoring periodic tasks like cron or Heroku scheduler. How Dead Man’s Snitch works is you set up a snitch for every job, task, or process you want monitored. Each snitch then has a url associated with it that is pinged every time said process occurs. If the snitch fails to check in, you’ll get an alert letting you know about it.

To get Dead Man’s Snitch to work, I somehow need to get a snitch set-up to alert me if we forgot to mark a task off my to-do list every week. That’s where Zapier comes in. Zapier has a few to-do list apps connected to it and after looking at them all, I settled on Todoist .

So, to get things started, the first thing we need to do is go to Zapier and click “Make a Zap!”. From there it will ask you to “Choose a Trigger App” and that’s where you’ll do a search for Todoist. That’s because Todoist is going to be the trigger that pings your snitch’s url every time you mark an item off your to-do list.

After choosing Todoist as the Trigger App, select “New Complete Task” as the actual trigger. So, what we’re saying is, every time a new task is completed, the trigger is hit.

Once prompted, connect your Todoist account and load your project (or in other words, the list you want to be marking stuff off of). You should see a dropdown menu of all the lists in your Todoist account. I just have the one called “Personal”

The next window will now ask you to “Test your Todoist trigger by fetching an existing complete task”. So this is where things get a little wonky. Go back to the Todoist app, add a test item to your list and then mark that test item as complete.

Now go back to your Zap in Zapier and click “Fetch and Continue”. If it worked properly, you’ll see the window below.

Now we need to add our Action app which will be “Webhooks by Zapier” and you’ll want to choose the option that says “get”. That’s what is going to ping our snitch url every time the trigger (an item on our Todoist list is completed) is hit.

Next, it’s going to ask you for a URL. That’s where you’re going to put your snitch, so let’s head on over to Dead Man’s Snitch to create it.

I named mine “Check an item off your To Do list” and set the interval to go off every week since I want to be alerted every week if I fail to complete a task. Click “Save”.

Now, you’ll get your unique snitch url.

Let’s copy that url and head back on over to your zap and paste it there.

Essentially what we’ve just done is we’ve said, “Ok, every time a Todoist item is completed, use webhooks to hit this url (our snitch).” If the url is hit every week, Dead Man’s Snitch considers it a success. If it isn’t hit (aka I didn’t complete at least one item for the week), Dead Man’s Snitch sees that and will email me telling me about the missing check in.

Next, you’ll want to test everything by clicking “Save and Continue”. Zapier will ping the snitch and let you know the test is successful or not. Also, at the same time, you’ll get an email from Dead Man’s Snitch letting you know your snitch is properly reporting in for the first time.

Obviously this is just one of many ways to use Dead Man’s Snitch. I set up another one in Zapier that uses MapMyFitness and Webhooks to alert me if I forget to run every day. I’m training for a marathon right now and also attempting a #runstreak, so I’m hoping this combination will keep me honest! Are there any other unique ways you can think of to use Dead Man’s Snitch?

Photo of Sasha Wolff

Sasha leads the marketing, communications, and PR at Collective Idea. She also leads marketing efforts for Dead Man’s Snitch and Harmony. Sasha considers herself a jack of all trades and prides herself on learning new skills.