Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Between the dings, the buzzing, the whirs and the beeps, reminders are everywhere. Each one of them shouts, “Look at me!” And unless we are very careful (or singleminded in ignoring them), each one of those reminders has the potential to pull us off track…
Even if a reminder pulls us out of our chain of though for only a moment, it will take much longer to get back to where we were, due to the cognitive penalty we pay as our brain switches gears.
So what’s a modern person to do in the face of these distractions? Streamline your reminders.
Sources of Reminders
Before I get into how to streamline, I want to point out all the places that reminders come from. You might not be aware of some of them.
- Phone messages
- Task software
- Other people
- Calendar software
- Other phone programs
- Other computer programs
- Alarm clocks
- Outside services (doctors, dentists, etc)
There are two steps to streamlining reminders: assessing what the reminder is and how valuable it is to you, then either eliminating or redirecting those reminders. I am going to walk you through how I streamlined some of mine.
I use Google calendar, which syncs to both my iPhone and my iPad. When a calendar event is set to have a reminder, I will get up to three reminders: one each on my iPhone and iPad, and a pop-up in a browser if I happen to have the calendar open.
Assess: I really only need audio reminders on my phone.
Take action: Since I have never been able to find a setup in Google Calendar to turn off the popups, I only have the calendar open when I am entering many items at once. On my phone, I adjusted the reminder notifications to play a sound. On my iPad, I turned off all notifications.
I use Remember The Milk as my task software. It has the option of reminding me on my iPhone, iPad, email and phone (it does differentiate between iPhone and SMS; both are different ways of notifying).
Assess: I really only need to be reminded of tasks that have a due time on my phone, through the RTM software (why get a text message, when I can use the built-in?)
Take action: I adjusted my RTM settings so that it only sends reminders to my iPhone. I also adjusted the iPhone setting so that I get sounds, banners and icon notifications. On my iPad, I turned everything off.
Just about every game I have on my iPhone has default alerts. Do I really want or need to know when there is a new thing to throw at a zombie (Office Zombie)? Do I need to be reminded that I haven’t played Boggle? Do I need a beep in the middle of the day to be prompted to start a Word With Friends game with someone I barely know? Some games are social, though, and the alerts could notify me that it is my turn.
Assess: only from the social games will I accept alerts. These are only installed on my iPhone.
Take action: However, I did turn the sounds off, after a jarring alert happened at 3 in the morning letting me know it was my turn to play Words With Friends. (That happens when you are playing with someone on another continent.)
Other People, Outside Services
Reminders can often come from other people. Whether it is in passing , or in the form of a phone call or email, these are reminders to do something.
Assess: there are two types of reminders that come from other people: reminders about tasks, and reminders about appointments.
Take action: As I went over in Streamlining Requests the reminders that are for tasks to be done, I ask that people email me or leave me a message on my phone. Once it is in these forms, I am less likely to lose site of it. For appointment reminders, I ask that people leave a message on my home phone, unless they are like my eye doctor or vet (yay!) who email the appointment reminders. Many offices are switching to email reminders; ask if you can convert yours.
Other Phone Programs
I have to regularly go through the notifications on my iPhone, because many programs default to sending notifications.
I was puzzled one day by the sound of an opera singer coming from my iPod. I wasn’t playing music at the time, and I no longer listen to opera. When it happened the second day, I realized it was coming from a female cycle tracking software, letting me know that it was peak time to conceive. Just what I want my co-workers to know…
Needless to say, after that incident, I take time near the beginning of every month and clean out my notification center on both my iPhone and iPad.
Adding in Reminders
It is very easy to decide that you want to turn off all your reminders, and do so with some unexpected consequences. I regularly purge my notifications on my phone, and was startled to discover that one of my timer programs wasn’t ringing because I had turned off the sound notification.
There might be reminders that you want to add in as well. In order to make sure that my elderly cat gets his medicine on time, I have alarms set every twelve hours. Without those reminders I am not regular in his dosing.
I also have a reminder set at work to remind me to wrap up, write up my tasks, submit my time and get out of the office. Without that reminder, I can get caught up in my work and end up rushing out the door as I try to get home to meet the school bus.
I was much happier when I got rid of all the extraneous notifications. No longer was I having my iPhone and iPad ring with appointment reminders within seconds of each other. My audio notifications are now limited to weather events, phone calls and timers. Everything else is either limited to badge icons or nothing.
How many reminders do you have pinging at you every day? Are they helpful or distracting? Can you cut them down? Share below.
Photo by Marc Lagneau. Licensed under Creative Commons.