Keeping tabs on upcoming tasks

Keeping tabs on upcoming tasks Get familiar with dedicated reminder service that works across devices

Alexandra Samuel

When you’re choosing a time for your reminder, think about when you’ll have a chance to act on it

When you’re choosing a time for your reminder, think about when you’ll have a chance to act on it

Whether you have an effective way of managing your tasks, or if you’ve never been able to get the right tool for the job, making smarter use of your smartphone can make your life a lot easier.

After nearly a year of phone-based to-do management, I’ve developed a few tricks and best practices:

Choose a dedicated reminder service that works across devices.

If you are an iPhone-wielding Mac user, you can simply use Apple’s default Reminders service to stay synced across all your Apple devices.

If not, you can still customise your set-up to receive reminders on all your devices so there’s no chance of missing one because you’re away from your desk. Choose an application that runs on your work computer and phone, and any personal devices (including your tablet, if you have one).

Just as important, you need to be able to add new reminders from any device.

Always associate a reminder with a specific time. The whole point of a reminder, as opposed to a task list, is that it comes back to haunt you. So make sure that whenever you enter a reminder, you include a specific time when you want to be reminded.

Set reminders for the moments when they are actionable. When you’re choosing a time for your reminder, think about when you’ll have a chance to act on it.

Snooze liberally. Once you start using reminders to keep track of most of your bits and pieces, you’ll have reminders popping up throughout the day and evening. This is only tolerable if you cut yourself a lot of slack to hit the snooze button.

The point is not to get each thing done at a specific moment (if you were doing that, you’d use your calendar) but rather, to keep them from falling off your radar altogether.

Snooze smarter. If you’re dependent on snoozing to exert control over when you actually act on your reminders, you’ll soon find that two or three different snooze durations (like 15 minutes, one hour and one day) just don’t cut it. Customise your snooze options with add-ons that give you more granular snooze control: I love a little Mac utility called SnoozeMaster, which I’ve used to create 20 different snooze options for my Apple reminders, ranging from five minutes to six months.

The most useful snooze durations for me have turned out to be four hours (which means, in effect, “later today” or “when I get home”); 16 hours (“tomorrow, but still during business hours”); and two weeks (or “I’ll deal with it once I’m past this big project deadline”).

Use “do not disturb” during presentations and conference calls. One hazard of the reminder-intensive lifestyle is that those reminders can pop up on screen at the most awkward moments – such as when a presentation is interrupted by a reminder to pick up a particular medication at the pharmacy.

– (Copyright Harvard Business Review)

Alexandra Samuel is vice-president of social media at Vision Critical, a market research technology provider. She is the author of Work Smarter, Rule Your Email.

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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