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 Also, the information in this post will most certainly be outdated as apps come and go, improve or disappear, and technology advances overall.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

Five Myths about Goals, Habits, and Willpower

Goals, Habits, and Willpower New research shows that some of what we have been told about goals, how long it takes to form a habit, and the willpower needed to get those things done may be wrong. Here are some of those myths and ways to flip your beliefs. The best way to achieve your Read More

Goals, Habits, and Willpower

New research shows that some of what we have been told about goals, how long it takes to form a habit, and the willpower needed to get those things done may be wrong. Here are some of those myths and ways to flip your beliefs.

The best way to achieve your goals is to tell people

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Goals, Habits, Potential

“Tell everyone your goals.” Going public with your goals has been a popular suggestion for years. But does it really make a difference? According to research by Peter Gollwitzer, Professor of Psychology at NYU, telling people your goals takes the edge off of motivation. It’s as if the act of telling people was the first step towards making progress towards that goal. So telling people you are going to lose 20 lbs by summer actually gives you a slight feeling of accomplishment and you may delay a relevant first step, like clearing unhealthy stuff out of your pantry.

Flip it: Keep your big goals to yourself but write them down and keep them visible in your planner and vision board. (Announce them to the world if you want when you’ve reached a milestone!

Start with the hardest, “worst” task first

Eat that Frog. Fit that big rock in the jar first. But is it a tasty frog? Is that the right rock? Should you focus on the hardest/easiest or the biggest/smallest? What’s important is to distinguish between the important/unimportant tasks. The hardest task may not be the most important task and vice versa.

So zero in on the most important task and break it down into micro-tasks. The satisfaction that comes from completing a tiny first step of an awesome (as in big and life-changing) goal is a feel-good motivator for getting things done. That accomplishment might provide just enough positive reinforcement to keep you moving forward with a harder/bigger task.

Flip it: Start with the smallest task of an important project. It may be the easiest, but it will give you a feeling of accomplishment that can provide motivation to keep going through the tougher ones.

It takes 21 days to form a habit

This idea originated from Maxwell Maltz, in his book, Psycho-Cybernetics (1960). 21 days is certainly a good start, but it may be just the beginning of making it stick. According to a research article in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take from 18 to 254 days to make a habit a… habit. Yes, 254!!

If you are new to meditating, hanging your keys on a hook, or making your bed every day, it may take a bit longer than 21 days. Consider that a 30-year-old who has never been the bed-making type will have been practicing the habit of leaving their bed unmade every morning for about 25 years (I’m giving 1- 5-year-olds a pass here!). That’s 9,125 days. So 21 days may not be the magic bullet, but it is certainly a milestone to be celebrated!

Flip it: Consider 21 days as a goal for a streak – an unbroken number of days you have practiced this new habit – and reward yourself with something meaningful. Note: “Meaningful” does not have to mean “expensive.”

We have a limited amount of willpower

Willpower printed on silver metal key tagGoogle “limited willpower” and you will see all three sides: It’s limited. It’s not limited. Have some sugar to get more. Ego depletion is the belief that we have a limited reserve of willpower. Deny yourself bacon at breakfast, a greasy burger and fries at lunch, and cookies and a Snickers bar in the afternoon and you are doomed to blow it all in the evening.

This concept gained traction in the late 1990s when Psychologist Roy Baumeister led a study on the topic. But more recently, another study has suggested this might not be the case. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck discovered that the subjects of Baumeister’s original project already believed that willpower was limited. Note: Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is one of my favorite books. I recommend it to all, especially parents who are trying to figure out how to support and motivate their children.

What does this mean? Henry Ford’s quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right,” may apply here. Belief may drive behavior.

Flip it: This is where positive thinking comes into play. When willpower reserves are running low, review your goals and your reasons why recognize your progress and give yourself a gritty pep talk to stay the course.

Think only of positive outcomes

I will be the first to encourage people to think positive,  happy thoughts! Positive thinking reduces stress and keeps you motivated to be productive. Negative self-talk, on the other hand, is self-defeating and non-productive. When I am anticipating a win or loss for myself, I hope and plan for the best, but… I also imagine the worst-case scenario. Why? Because it forces me to do a little risk analysis and imagine plan B or any actions I need to take to ensure a great outcome. It’s not that I’m planning for failure; I’m preparing for success! And rarely does the worst-case scenario happen!

Flip it: Think positively, but also analyze the worst-case scenario. You might identify some quick fixes that will help you realize your ideal scenario. Just don’t stay in the pit of negativity too long!

Do you need help with goal setting, habit-building, and accountability? Life coaching can help! Call me at 904-500-7678 (SORT), message me, or just go ahead and schedule your free consult for life coaching or organizing! I’d love to help you simplify, amplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

,

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

Make Your Bed for Self-Care, Productivity and…Wealth?

Make your bed for good self-care It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research Read More

Make your bed for good self-care

Photo of made bed and side table (Photo by Christopher Jolly on Unsplash)

It may seem pointless, especially if you live alone. I mean, who will know if you leave your bed unmade this morning? And you’re just going to crawl back in tonight anyway, right? From an efficiency standpoint, this may be one task you can let go of. But research shows that if you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ll be more productive the rest of the day.

In the evening I (usually) come home to a neatly made-up bed ready for a fresh night of rest. How considerate of “morning me” to take the time to straighten the covers and plump the pillows! On the other hand, if morning me skipped making the bed in exchange for a little more time looking at social media, I come home to a disheveled bedroom. It’s a bit of a letdown and it means more work for tired “evening me.” Unless I’m sick, I’m going to straighten the covers and arrange the pillows before I get in regardless.

Why didn’t morning me think enough of evening me to do this?

When I wake up and head to the kitchen, I (usually) see an empty sink with dishes in the drainer, having dried overnight. It’s a morning habit for me to put them away while making coffee. It requires no concentration and very little time. But occasionally, there is a pile of dishes leftover from dinner and a dirty pan on the stove. Wow, dried-on kale is stubborn. And rice is the worst! This is going to take awhile.

Thanks a lot, evening me. Now I might not have time to make your bed. So there! (I see a little tit-for-tat going on here.)

When I make my bed in the morning I am practicing self-care. “Morning me” gets a little rush of adrenaline after checking that first chore off my morning to-do list, also known as my morning ritual.

I’m on a roll here! What’s next?

Next thing I know, I’m lining up my shoes in the closet, taking out the trash, and watering the plants.

What experts are saying

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” This is what retired Admiral William H. McRaven, author of the book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World*, said at the 2014 University of Texas at Austin Commencement. It is just one example of many habits that shaped him in his career as a Navy Seal that he applies to everyday life and work.

In his book, The Power of Habit*, Charles Duhigg refers to making your bed in the morning as a keystone habit. Make your bed (keystone habit), and then put away some clothes. Brush your teeth (keystone habit) and then floss. One habit prompts the next habit.

Can making your bed make you rich? In a  CNBC article,  7 Rich Habits of  Highly Successful People, Socio-economist Randall Bell, Ph.D. is quoted as saying, “those who make their bed in the morning are up to 206.8 percent more likely to be millionaires.” Hmmm. There may be something to this bed-making thing.

Three reasons to make your bed in the morning:

    • It’s an easy task – low-hanging fruit that gives you the feeling of accomplishment.
    • It starts a chain of neatness habits.
  • Evening you will thank you (and maybe even clean up the kitchen).

If you think making your bed takes too much precious time, set a stopwatch. You’ll probably find it takes a smaller amount of time than you expected. And if it takes more than a minute to make it, you may have waaaaay too many decorative pillows on your bed. Put the ones you don’t actually sleep with somewhere else until you have guests to impress.

So get up, make your bed, and get going, you fabulous morning you!

Need help getting organized and building good habits for a productive life?  Call me at 904-500-SORT (7678) or message me here for your free consult for organizing or life coaching. I’d love to help you simplify and Zen Your Den® (and your life).

Barbara Trapp, CAPM
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

*We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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