Supercharge Productivity with Smartphone Reminders

Supercharge Productivity with Smartphone Reminders Did you set some New Year’s resolutions that you have yet to take action on? Well, dust off those goals and start making real progress with smartphone reminders! Your smartphone comes with a default reminders app that can help you build habits and routines. If you ask your phone’s personal Read More

Supercharge Productivity with Smartphone Reminders

White smartphone on orange background with exclamation point symbol on phoneDid you set some New Year’s resolutions that you have yet to take action on? Well, dust off those goals and start making real progress with smartphone reminders!

Your smartphone comes with a default reminders app that can help you build habits and routines. If you ask your phone’s personal assistant to set a reminder (“Set a reminder to call Bob at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow), that’s where you’ll find it. Note: I’ll be referring to iOS, but Android users have one too. Also, the information in this post will most certainly be outdated as apps come and go, improve or disappear, and technology advances overall. But the basic concepts are “evergreen.”

I use reminders to help me achieve annual goals and resolutions. Want to track your food intake? Set a lunchtime and evening reminder to keep you on track. Want to meditate every morning? Set a daily reminder. Do you forget to set out your recycling bin? Set a weekly/bi-weekly reminder for the night before pickup. Want to remember to record your odometer reading every January 1st? Set an annual reminder. It feels good to check off a reminder when you complete a task!

Reminders vs. Alerts set in Appointments

Are you confused about when to add a reminder and when to add an appointment? Me too, sometimes! Reminders are for things I need to do and alerts are notifications I set for appointments: places I need to be (in-person or virtual), or blocks of specific project time. If you have reminders for tasks that will take more than fifteen minutes to do, then blocking out time on your calendar would be a good thing, especially if you are trying to build a routine, a group of related habits completed in the same order each time.

When I create an appointment on my calendar (Google, Outlook, iCal, etc.), I always set alerts. For most phone appointments I set one for one hour before, and another for fifteen minutes before. For appointments I need to drive to, I enter the location and then set an alert for two hours before I have to leave and another for 30 minutes before I have to leave. This allows for traffic issues.

Why more than two alerts are helpful

Sometimes I want an extra alert for an appointment that requires extra prep time or that is very infrequent. For example, my dentist is in a town an hour away from me. Setting an alert one week prior gives me time to plan another appointment or errand in the area. I’ve found that the default calendar on my iPhone only has an option for two alerts, but I can add more if working from the app on my laptop. Google calendars offer unlimited alerts.

Explore and Customize Features for Smartphone Reminders:

  • Choose the day: If this is a one-time occurrence, just pick the day and time.
  • Set repeating reminders: How frequently do you want to take the action? You can choose daily, weekly, monthly, etc., or you can also customize the date to the 14th of every month, third Thursday, etc.
  • Set a repetition end date: If you no longer need this reminder after a certain date, then set an end date for the repetition. If you are setting reminders to build new habits and routines, then you can delete them when the habit is ingrained. Not sure how long that might take? Read about habits and routines in my post, Five Myths About Goals, Habits, and Willpower
  • Choose the ideal time of day: When is the best time of day to get this reminder? Would you get more benefit out of exercising first thing in the morning? Would a little yoga before bed help you sleep better? Set the reminder when you need the nudge, giving you enough time to complete the task.
  • Set a level of importance: I am not using this feature, but do set a level of importance if you have so many reminders you need to prioritize them.
  • Include emojis: One or two visuals can be a nice prompt. I added sunrise and sun emojis to my Morning Meditation reminder. 🙂
  • Set a location: Want a reminder to buy special stamps next time you are near your post office or to drop off a bag of donations when you are near your favorite charity? You can plug in the location and get a reminder when you are nearby.
  • Create lists: When writing this post, I realized I haven’t really used this feature. I just piled all my reminders into the one default list. In fact, I was going to write, “As much as I like the Reminders app, this is list overkill for me. I have so many other lists that I want to keep this simple.” But then I realized that I have soooo many reminders it was taking me a while to find the ones I need. So, I now use the default list for one-time reminders and created lists for repeating reminders. Whew! Clutter-free lists are a good thing. I no longer see my annual and “far into the future reminders” such as “Record odometer reading on January 1st“and “Renew my DBA in 2021” every single day. Here are the reminder lists I use:
    • Daily
    • Weekly/Bi-weekly
    • Monthly/Quarterly
    • Annually
    • Far off

Integrating Smartphone Reminders into your Calendar

Want to see your reminders in your calendar? For a time, I considered using Google calendar (it is awesome!) but that requires a Gmail account and the one I have is for personal emails. My work email addresses are based on my domain, so Google isn’t an option. So I use iCal and Outlook for my business emails. Since iCal does not include reminders in the schedule, I found that the Fantastical 2 app (as of this writing) allows me to also see all my calendar items along with reminders for the day, in order of scheduled time. Pretty cool! But also pretty cluttered. So the only thing I use Fantastical 2 for is duplicating and moving appointments, something it is excellent for.

SmartWatch Notifications

If you have a smartwatch, one that will vibrate when you get a reminder, then it is “smart” to turn on notifications for that device. I absolutely love this feature, because I hate the sound of a ringing phone! Hate is probably too strong a word, since a wonderful person may be calling me, but the sound jars me out of whatever task/creative thinking I am involved in. So, the sound AND vibration on my phone are always off. A big plus to this is I never have to worry about my phone ringing in meetings, movie theatres, medical offices, etc.

An embarrassing story…

I’ve never told anyone this story until now. It’s especially embarrassing because I worked for over a decade in human resources and hired over 500 college students!

When I got my first smartphone, the technology was a bit overwhelming, but I was so happy to have all the features of a small computer at my fingertips! I’d been let go from a job after the company I worked for went bankrupt and five months later I had finally landed a job interview. Yep, it took five months!

Right before I met with the manager of a company I really wanted a job with, I dutifully turned off the sound on my phone (I had learned that much!), but midway through the interview, I realized with horror what I’d forgotten to do. My purse began buzzing, loudly, and started vibrating on the nearby table. I’d forgotten to turn off the vibration notification feature for phone calls and someone was calling me.

Maybe it was so loud because the phone was rattling next to my keys. Not sure, but what I was sure of was I had no idea how to turn it off! The interviewer looked a bit annoyed and I mumbled something about a new phone. The buzzing finally stopped. The interview ended. I did not get the job. I blame the phone. And my (now ex) husband, who had been calling me to see how the interview was going. Okay, maybe not his fault, but I digress… The point is, a ringing or even vibrating phone can be noisy and distracting. A vibrating smartwatch, not so much.

Sample List of Smartphone Reminders

Screen shot of reminders lists on smartphone including, Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Annual listsHere are some of the smartphone reminders I have set:

Daily

  • Morning meditation
  • Mantras
  • Daily plank
  • Check Thumbtack (7:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m.)
  • Evening routine: floss, vitamins
  • Record meals in MyFitnessPal
  • Cycle for 15 minutes

Weekly/Bi-weekly

  • Take out the trash
  • Take out the recycling
  • Schedule gym workouts
  • Update meal kits
  • Update mileage in MileIQ
  • Update Quickbooks
  • Update client files
  • Schedule networking events
  • Update websites

Monthly/Quarterly

  • Choose Audible books
  • Use Verizon rewards
  • Resend newsletter
  • Pay rent
  • Pay bills
  • Change air filter
  • Check Google Ads performance

Annual/Semi reminders

  • Record odometer for the new year
  • Change smoke alarm batteries
  • Look for tax forms (Amazon Affiliates, Acorns)
  • Schedule annual medical appointments
  • Schedule dental checkup

Far off…

  • Renew my DBA fictitious name
  • Renew driver’s license
  • Renew domains

What tasks have you been forgetting or putting off? What habits do you want to build? If you are ready to be more productive, reach your goals and stay on top of tasks, then grab your smartphone and add those reminders!

Need help with productivity? I am happy to help you create your last filing system ever! Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for business or residential organizing, life and productivity coaching! I’d love to help you get organized so you can live the life you desire.

Barbara Trapp, CPO®, Certified Professional Organizer®, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®  and Zen Your Biz™
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

It’s National Checklist Day! (But you need to use checklists EVERY day)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making Read More

Photo of checklists on a clipboard. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Checklists are great productivity tools! (photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

Once upon a time, I was on a small plane that was about to take off from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Bahamas for a working vacation. Ahhh…that sounds awesome (note to self: plan another one of those). Okay… so I was a little nervous because a recent small plane crash was still making headlines and this plane was packed with gear and suitcases right down the center of the aisle. Although the sky was a cloudless, beautiful blue, I’d brought a John Grisham novel along just in case I needed a distraction while flying over the ocean.

The side door closed and the engine sputtered to life. A few feet in front of me in the cockpit, the pilot was peering over a checklist in a large black ring binder. After a minute he slammed it shut. What I saw next got my attention. On the front was a cover sheet with these words in large black print: “HOW TO FLY A PLANE.” Our pilot had a sense of humor. I kept my nose in my book for the entire flight.

The History of Checklists

Humor aside, it was a real-life catastrophic plane crash in 1935 that launched the widespread use of checklists. Although the plane was in perfect condition, the flight crew had forgotten one simple, but crucial step: they had neglected to release the flight control gust locks. By the time one of the pilots realized the mistake, it was too late. As a result of this preventable accident, the “check list” was developed and is still required in all aircraft today.

Checklists Today

Checklists are essential for everything from preparing for takeoff in a plane to closing down a restaurant kitchen at the end of the day. They prevent critical steps from being missed and are one of my favorite organizing and productivity tools to create and use for complex tasks that need to be repeated. I love them because they free up memory space and allow me to focus on whatever is in front of me. I’ve created checklists for myself and clients to help with a variety of activities and projects such as:

  • Onboarding employees
  • To-do lists
  • Hurricane preparation
  • Contractor vetting
  • Weddings
  • Job fairs and vendor booths
  • Birthday parties
  • Community events
  • Garage sales
  • Presentations
  • Research/comparisons for purchasing a new car or RV
  • Setting up audiovisual equipment
  • Shopping (standard lists for different stores, customized grocery lists)
  • Packing (different kinds of lists for conferences, camping trips, extended vacations, cruises, summer camps, international travel)

What checklists do you currently use to help you stay organized? What activities of your life and work could be more organized with a comprehensive checklist? The objective eye of a professional organizer and productivity consultant can help you create the checklists you need to keep you and your family and/or work team on track.

Need help creating checklists and other productivity tools? Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing, productivity consulting or life coaching. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

Barbara Trapp, Professional Organizer, Productivity Consultant, and Life Coach
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO

It’s National Simplify Your Life Week: 4 Ways to Declutter Your Life

Just a week to simplify your life?? With the right mindset, you can make some real progress! Here are four suggestions to do just that: Schedule Chores and Errands In his book, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, Chris Bailey outlines his year spent conducting numerous productivity experiments on Read More

Just a week to simplify your life?? With the right mindset, you can make some real progress! Here are four suggestions to do just that:

Schedule Chores and Errands

In his book, The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, Chris Bailey outlines his year spent conducting numerous productivity experiments on himself. One concept, scheduling blocks of time for various household tasks, proved to be a winner. It may not sound fun and exciting, but you might try this for a month. Instead of scattering tasks throughout the week, schedule a block of time for all your errands (grocery shopping, gassing up, etc.) and another for chores (laundry, vacuuming, cleaning). You’ll simplify your life and might free up some time in the process!

Keep ONE calendar

Simplify your life! A road sign with complicated simple words on sky background
Simplify your life!

A young college student contacted me for help with scheduling, time management, and general organization. Her first semester of school hadn’t gone well and she’d failed two courses. Her second semester would be a “do-over” – she needed to improve her GPA for nursing school.

I asked what planning system she was using if any, and she proudly produced four colorful paper planners with calendars, each for a different area of her life. I asked if that was working for her and she admitted it wasn’t. She spent more time updating her various planners (or looking for them) than actually getting assignments done. I encouraged her to select one planner for everything.

Recently I asked a new Baby Boomer client the same question. She also used four calendars! A large calendar pad covered the top of her small desk. She carried a decorative 5′ x 8′ planner for personal appointments and lists, and a larger, more serious looking planner for her new home business. She also used a digital planner. She too had hired me for help with time management.

Do you see a theme here? Both clients were trying to use multiple systems and still needed help with time management. Systems should serve your needs, not the other way around. Using just one calendar/planner instead of several can simplify your life.

Digital and paper planners and calendars

For individuals (middle school age and older), I recommend using one planning system. If seeing a “big picture” view is important to you (as it was with my Baby Boomer client), then select a paper planner with a two-page-per-month spread insert or, for digital planners, select the “month” view on a larger screen. Busy families and couples may need a shared calendar. A large wall/fridge calendar with everyone’s appointments is one solution. Or, for the tech-savvy, appointments can be shared by “inviting” others to the appointment.

What’s the difference between a planner and calendar? A planner may have both a calendar and a to-do list. I record all my appointments in my digital calendar so I can use alerts and GPS map features. My to-do lists are in a paper planner because ultimately, I am a paper planner person.

Stack Your Habits

Want to form a new habit quickly? Try habit-stacking. Let’s say you want to develop a new habit of taking a vitamin D pill every morning but you keep forgetting. You have no problem remembering to brush your teeth every morning because it’s an ingrained habit. To form the new habit of taking the vitamin, you put the bottle near your toothbrush. Then when you brush your teeth you will see the bottle, reminding you to take the vitamin. You’ve stacked a new habit on top of an old one! The strength of your strong habits can help you create new ones. Habit stacks create routines. Routines can simplify your life.

Here’s my morning routine:

  1. Turn on the coffee machine (old habit) and while the water is heating, empty the dishwasher (new habit).
  2. Fix my coffee (old habit) and make a glass of iced lemon water (new habit).
  3. Bring my coffee and water into the living room (old habit) and while the coffee cools a bit I meditate (new habit).

There are many books on the subject. Try Habit-Stacking by S. J. Scott for a huge list of examples.

Have Less Stuff

Numerous clients have become wistful over magazine layouts of uncluttered designer homes with nary a scrap of junk mail or tchotchke in sight. One client admitted she would be happy just living in a hotel room. Another took me to a relative’s home to show what they wanted their own home to look like. Nothing was out-of-place. Each room had what it needed to function and nothing more. The difference? Less stuff. They had simplified their home.

If you truly want a zen-minimalist-sparsely-decorated home but every existing space is filled, you will need to do some serious downsizing to achieve your dream. Stuffing the excess in storage units, closets and attics is not the same as downsizing.

Ready to simplify your life? I offer nonjudgmental help to busy and overwhelmed women like you! Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® .

Barbara Trapp, CAPM
Professional Organizer
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO

12 Signs You Need a Professional Organizer

Why Hire a Professional Organizer? You don’t have to qualify to be the subject of a reality TV show, such as Hoarders, to benefit from the help of a professional organizer. Beyond the clutter and chaos, there are other non-obvious signs you may need an expert to help you create and maintain order in your Read More

Why Hire a Professional Organizer?

Large cluttered office with several desks. A professional organizer can help.
A professional organizer can help.

You don’t have to qualify to be the subject of a reality TV show, such as Hoarders, to benefit from the help of a professional organizer. Beyond the clutter and chaos, there are other non-obvious signs you may need an expert to help you create and maintain order in your life.

Just as you may hire other professionals to prepare your taxes, clean your home or do your dry cleaning, a professional organizer can provide a valuable service, freeing you up for activities that are important to you. Here are some of the signs and effects of disorganization, lack of systems, or systems that just don’t work for you. Any of these can disrupt your sense of well-being and peace but combine several and you have a recipe for chaos:

    1. You immediately feel stress and unease when you enter your home.
    2. Your bed is piled with things, therefore you sleep elsewhere rather than uncover it.
    3. You are often late for, or forget appointments.
    4. You buy birthday cards labeled “belated,” if you remember to send them at all.
    5. You miss opportunities because you can’t find “that paper,” email, etc.
    6. You frequently extend or miss deadlines.
    7. You don’t socialize much because:
      a) You have too many unfinished projects.
      b) You would be embarrassed to have anyone in your home.
      c) It would take too long to get ready.
      d) All of the above.
    8. You often pay bills late, because you lose track of them.
    9. UFOs (Unidentified Food Objects) are in your refrigerator or pantry.
    10. You regularly lose your keys, wallet, kids, money, and sanity.
    11. You have a storage unit for mystery things that are not business-related.
    12. You save things on your computer, but can’t find them, or you print everything because you don’t know how to save things.

Next Steps

Perhaps this list has prompted you to identify other examples of effects of disorganization in your life. So what to do? List the three items that concern you the most, have the most negative effect on your life and if solved, would make the biggest positive impact. Then share your list with me here, or call me at 904-500-SORT (7678). Together we will create a plan to tackle it!

Barbara Trapp, CPO
Certified Professional Organizer
Zen Your Den®
Professional Member, NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals)
Residential Organizing Specialist, NAPO
Workplace Productivity Specialist, NAPO
Life Transitions Specialist, NAPO