The calendar-reminder conundrum
Late last year, after many years of being a satisfied Android user, I bought a new iPhone SE. Why? Boredom, mostly. I hadn’t used an iPhone since the iPhone 4, and thought to myself: I wonder what iOS is like these days.
I also took this move as an opportunity to clean up my mobile phone usage habits. And wean myself off a persistent tendency to stuff my phones with dozens of apps, many of which are rarely ever used. Apps that learn languages, remix music, bad games, multiple podcast clients…
Instead, I thought: Why not use the stock iOS apps as much as possible?
And you know what? It has been great fun. I’ve particularly enjoyed using the Reminders and Calendar apps. Let me correct that. I’ve particularly enjoyed rediscovering these apps. Especially now that Siri works so well.
And that brings me to the main topic of this edition of the Untangler: How do you solve the Reminders-Calendar conundrum?
In other words, what goes into your Reminder app and what goes into your Calendar? Do you even need to use both?
Time management is an intensely personal thing. And readers will each have their personal protocols. Still, let me outline a set of generic protocols that might help some users get more done, with two apps used effectively.
First of all, think of Reminders as the active app, and your Calendar as the passive one. Reminders hang around hectoring you to get things done, while Calendars serve as archives ready for your reference. What this means is that you don’t want your Reminders to clog up with stuff. Tasks should move in and out of your Reminders speedily, the list refreshing constantly throughout the day. Calendars, on the other hand, should be thought of as slow and lumbering. Not so good for the punch and counterpunch of everyday work. But great for the weeks and months. Thus Calendars are best used for things that repeat—birthdays, anniversaries—and for things that are scheduled to take place in the distant future (I like to think of this as anything more than a week from today). Calendars are also best for events that have finite time and space requirements. For instance, a dentist appointment is a Calendar item, because you cannot do anything else, or be anywhere else, at that time, but “Call the dentist to make an appointment” is perfect for Reminders because that can be done within the next day or two whenever time permits.
Thus, Reminders for things that need to get done in the short term, with some flexibility of time and space, and that need constant “reminding”. Calendars for everything else.
So how do you systematize this? As any expert in personal productivity will tell you, the trick is to find a system of Record-Recall-Review that is as efficient as possible. What do I do? I use my Reminders app as a task inbox. Throughout the day, I put everything into it—from “Repair pressure cooker” to “Driving Classes on Monday at 10am”. Mostly, I use Siri to bark commands into my Reminders app.
Then, each morning, as I sit down to work, I review this inbox. Things that can be done right away are completed, things that need scheduling are scheduled, and anything more than a week out, or “Calendar type”, are moved to my Calendar. I also keep a close eye on things in my Reminders that have been pending for more than a week. For instance, “Consider investing in mutual funds on 12 March 2016.” That either needs to get binned, or changed into an entry in my Calendar for a future date: “February 1: Family meeting about finances and investments at 8pm.”
This is a simple method to start with, readers can fine-tune it to their own requirements and circumstances. And if you can get it done just with stock apps, splendid. The trick is to find a simple workflow.