Tooltip Thursday - Tooltip #2 - Reminders

IMG_2449Maybe you've got an iPhone, maybe you don't.  In either case, your smartphone likely has some kind of reminders app.  Today's tip is to start putting this to use. There are two crucial components to any effective task-management system:

  • Lightweight.  A good system must be fast and easy to use.  We want to spend less time dealing with the system, and more time using it.
  • Trusted.  If we don't trust our system, we create a bunch of extra overhead to manage the fear that things will slip through the cracks, and that ultimately leads to more clutter and overwhelm, rather than less.

From my background in GTD, I liked having a lot of metadata about my tasks.  How long did I estimate the task would take?  What was the context for the task (was it something I would do while driving around?  Did it need to be raised with a certain person?).  I liked collecting all of this data, but discovered that it ultimately led to a lot of overhead, and me spending more time inputting things into the system.  It was heavy to use.  And so I resisted it.

We resist the things that aren't fun.  Have you ever bought a new gadget, and found that the interface was a huge pain in the ass to use?  Odds are that that gadget lasted about as long as the initial novelty did.  Once the gadget's shininess wore off, you set it down and walked away.

I'm an iPhone user, so I'll speak to Reminders.app specifically, but there are almost certainly analogs for Android and Windows phone users.  Here's why I think a Reminders is a fantastic tool:

  • Extremely lightweight.  Thanks to the integration with SIRI, inputting data into the Reminders system is as easy as it can be.  Hold down your home button until SIRI pops up, and tell it "Remind me to call Jim at 9 tomorrow morning".  Confirm the reminder, and it's in your system.
  • Integrated across platforms and the cloud.  These days, you want your system to be synchronized across all your devices.  What good is a system if you can't access it from wherever you currently happen to be?  Reminders syncs with the cloud without you having to do any extra work.
  • Trustworthy.  Reminders does what it purports to do.  It reminds me when I need to do something, either by a popup on my computer, or an alert on my phone.  With the new ability to set up geofences and be reminded when you arrive at or leave from a location, it's become even more powerful, while remaining lightweight.  (Note that the resolution of geofencing is still wanting, and so you sometimes don't get the reminder until you've driven away for a few minutes.)

Whether you choose Reminders or another system, the starting point is identifying all of the places that you are currently using to keep your "stuff".  Gather all of your notes, all of your stickies, all of your calendar items that aren't really calendar items, and everything else.  The more places you are storing reminders or todos, the more likely you are to experience overwhelm.  Gather all your data, then simplify and put them into a trusted system.

I've had an experience of people throwing up their arms and saying "Sounds great, but I can't figure out how to make that happen".  Great news - it couldn't be easier.  Turn on SIRI in your settings.  Then, hold down the home button, and ask it to remind you of something.  You're done.  Your Reminders should automatically sync with your laptop (which also has a Reminders.app), and with your cloud account.

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