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Red toy robot writing on a blackboard with chalk, with text A Simple Guide To Zapier on the blackboard.

Once you start to unleash the power of Zapier you will more than likely need to schedule a step to run at some point in the future.  For example, you might want to set up a cadence of sales emails to follow up leads.   You may want to automatically create project tasks to be actioned on a certain day.  Or you might want to send a reminder at a set time before a calendar event is due.

All of these things require you to express the date or time that you want something to happen, and this useful guide will give you a head start to show you how to express dates in Zapier so that you can become an automation superhero too!

 

Using specific dates in Zapier

If you want to specify a step in a zap to happen on a specific date (and/or at a specific time) then you can express that date in a number of ways.  Note that some apps use the 24-hour clock and others allow an am/pm qualifier.  You can also include the time zone if it’s different to yours.

Here are three ways of defining a specific date in Zapier:

  • MM/DD/YYYY HH:MMam/pm [TIMEZONE], e.g. 4/29/2021 10am GMT
  • Standard ISO format, e.g. 2021-04-29T14:45
  • UNIX timestamp, which is the number of seconds since 1/1/1970, e.g. 1619521823

You can find out more about ISO date formats here, and UNIX timestamps here.

 

Using relative dates in Zapier

Now although it’s useful to be able to set a specific date in a zap, what’s more powerful are the relative dates you can express.

For example, you may want to process any invoices on a Monday, so if you have an automation related to this then you can schedule it to happen ‘next Monday’.

Or you may want to automatically create a project task but for it always to be due the next day, so you can set the date to be ‘tomorrow’.

You can also use ‘next week Thursday’.

If you want to schedule something to happen in two hours then you can say ‘+2h’.  

Or you can set a date to be yesterday by setting it to ‘-1d’.

Zapier has an article on how to adjust dates and times which you can read here.

 

Relative date and time codes

Using the ‘+2h’ and ‘-1d’ codes is so useful, but you need to know all the codes you can use.  Although most are obvious, it’s important to know the codes for ‘minutes’ and ‘months’ otherwise the time conversions may not happen as you expect them to!

  • s = seconds
  • m = minutes
  • h = hours
  • d = days
  • month = months
  • y = years

You can also use multiple codes, for example, if you wanted something to happen in two weeks and one day then you would use ‘+2w +1d’. 

 

Time zones

If you don’t specify a time zone then Zapier uses the time zone from your account.  If you check the ‘My Profile’ page then you should have a time zone specified.  If it’s empty then choose the right one from the dropdown list.

 

Zap meta human

There is another useful date/time function in Zapier which returns the current date/time.  You can use it to insert the time a zap runs into a field – for display purposes maybe, or to use in another step of the zap.

For this purpose, you can use the function {{zap_meta_human_now}}.  It returns a human-readable date/time based on the default time zone in your profile.

There are other functions which return machine-readable timestamps for the current date/time, including {{zap_meta_timestamp}} and {{zap_meta_utc_iso}}.

Whilst these may only be used by more experienced Zapier users, it’s worth knowing they exist as they could come in useful one day.

You can find out more about how to insert the time your zap runs here including other timestamps which are available.

 

Changing the date format in Zapier

Now that you’ve learned how to express dates in Zapier, you may want to make them look nicer when they’re displayed to a human being, as ISO and UNIX dates aren’t very visually pleasing or user-friendly!  Even more normal dates might not be displayed how you’d like, for example, ‘2021-04-29T14:45’ might look nicer as ‘29th April 2021’.

Zapier has an inbuilt Formatter app that can convert dates and times from many different formats to others.  You can find out more here or download our cheat sheet which lists all the inbuilt Zapier functions which are brilliant automation shortcuts.

 

Want to learn more?

If you’re itching to find out more about Zapier then we are launching some Zapier courses in 2022 that will teach you everything you need to know about business process automation.  You’ll learn how to streamline your tasks so you can run your business on autopilot. You can get on the wait list below.

Read more about how our certified experts use Zapier workflow automations to simplify processes and increase efficiency.

Solvaa is a process and automation consultancy specialising in improving sales, operations and financial administration workflows. We help you to simplify and streamline existing processes, integrate your business tools to make data transfer more efficient and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. We are Zapier Certified Experts, Pipedrive Certified Experts and Xero Certified Advisors. 

Contact us today to discuss how Solvaa can help you simplify, improve and automate all aspects of your business with Zapier to save you time, reduce costs and keep you agile as you grow.

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