What You Said: How Do You Set Reminders?

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By Jason Fitzpatrick on August 24th, 2012

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Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite tricks for staying on top of your tasks with timely reminders. Now we’re back to highlight some great reader tips (including a bit of software older than some of our readers).

Most of us have to-do lists longer than we can do in a given day (or week!) and a constantly changing set of demands and next-actions. Having a timely and effective reminder system is the difference between dropping the ball and getting things done; how exactly that reminder system plays out, however, varied greatly from reader to reader.

OJMDC sticks with analog reminders:

Sticky notes in the middle of my monitor and in my wallet. I’ve tried my phone apps but I typically disregard them.

While we love digital task management, we can hardly blame him for keeping things analog—there is something to be said for the tactile nature of writing down and crossing off a task.

Many readers use Google Calendar to schedule their reminders; Photon takes it one step further:

I use a second Google calendar for reminders. This keeps my primary calendar clean for events/meetings and also allows me to set separate alert standards for the reminders.

Frankly, we’re ashamed of ourselves for not thinking of this. We hate cluttering up our primary calendar with reminders but never thought to create a separate reminder calendar!

TheFu highlights his different systems for reminders and tasks, as well as the dangers of putting all your reminders in the same digital basket:

Tasks are very different from reminders for me.

Meetings, trips, and deadlines are placed into a Zimbra calendar with reminders. This will annoy me at appropriate “before due” time(s) for the specific reminder. Sometimes 3 days or 1 day or 15 minutes before if I expect to be in the correct location already. Zimbra is like Gmail, GTalk, Gcal, G-storage, G-contracts … but it runs on your own server accessible from anywhere on the internet. It is an MS-Exchange replacement and F/LOSS.

Tasks are usually for lower priority things. For most tasks, I use a GTD-based spreadsheet with different tabs for the @Contexts. I could put these into Zimbra too, but for me, the simplistic task management was not sufficient. Sorting based on priority, ownership, due date, and other criteria is critical to me. I’m almost 100% priority driven, since there are always 2-3x more tasks on the list than can possibly be completed. That spreadsheet can be PDF printed to a single sheet that folds up nicely to keep me on task for a few days away from the office.

After having a smartphone stolen in a foreign country at the beginning of a multi-week trip, you quickly learn to not trust anything someone else wants enough to steal. Nobody cares about the paper with my GTD lists, contacts and different addresses when on travel. This wasn’t my first trip that I needed to live without a portable device, so I’ve always had paper as backup for critical knowledge, contacts and appointments when away from home more than a day.

Having a smartphone stolen changes many other behaviors too. Think about all the data and access that your smartphone provides to anyone who gains access to it.

Finally, BigBird takes the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mantra to the extreme:

I use an old DOS program, very small, that runs from STARTUP at Boot. It is no longer listed by Google. It is called WILSTAR Reminder. I have uploaded it as a ZIP file to DropBox and will leave it there for a few days. It is excellent and has served me for well over 20 years now. Highly recommended.

Surely it exists somewhere in a Google search results page, we said… only to be proven wrong. Wherever WILSTAR Reminder is today, it’s certainly not floating around the web anywhere we looked. Thanks for sharing an old gem, BigBird!


To check out all the reader responses, visit the full comment thread. Have a question you want to put before the HTG audience? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com to log your vote.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/24/12
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