27 May 2008

Six things about which you may not realize you need reminders

I'm working hard on getting as much detail and detritus out of my brain and into my organizing system as I can. My calendar/to-do list combo (for me, on the iPhone) is working well enough that my mind is clear enough to detect other, less obvious details I've been forgetting for a while.

Here are a few things I've recently moved off my plate by making a note in my calendar and asking it to remind me when the time comes:

Gift ideas and purchases: You see the perfect gift for someone, you buy it, you store it in "a safe place," you feel smug that you've taken care of gift-buying so early, and then you forget about it and waste money on a duplicate gift. Set a reminder for around the time you want to give the gift with the name of the gift, the recipient, and where it's hidden.

Delegated tasks: You're so excited to get something off your to-do list (and onto someone else's) that you forget to follow up to find out if the task was actually finished. For example, set a reminder to check your credit card statement for returned item credits.

Irregular paychecks or reimbursements: If you're a freelancer, you don't always know when to expect payment (and the folks who owe you money aren't necessarily going to remind you). Set up a reminder to check your mailbox around the time your next paycheck is due.

Obscure home maintenance chores: Changing your furnace filter (every three months!), cleaning your refrigerator coils (every six months), cleaning the dryer vent (once a year), etc.

Warrantee and service expirations: I have a Sears service contract for my washer and dryer which includes one preventive maintenance visit every year. My contract expires next week. Good thing I had a reminder set up -- I would have missed out on service I had already paid for. (And may none of us ever know the disaster that is a broken washer or dryer.)

Automatic renewals: I just got burned on this one. I forgot to set up a reminder about an online subscription that renewed automatically, and then wondered about the weird charge on my credit card. (They were willing to credit me, but I had to spend time on the phone.) Check your accounts and donations, then set up reminders for a week before the renewal dates so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to keep them going.

Do you have any "sneaky" reminders to share?

Related: Use Google Calendar to remind yourself to get a life

Your comments

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This is a great set of tips. We have just bought a new car, so I did the same thing - a reminder a month before the manufacturer's warranty/roadside assistance expires and then amended my already set up yearly reminders for tax/servicing etc. It means it gets done (with no fines if late) and also it does clear your mind - you do not have to remember them.

Love the idea about setting reminders for already purchased gifts!

I have reminders set up to confirm reservations for our upcoming summer vacation (FYI, if you rent a 12 person van, confirming the reservation is crucial).

I'm not much of a gardener, but my neighbor is-- when she tells me that I should prune something in the fall, or divide it in the spring, I put it in my calendar.

It's depressing, but I also have reminders for when people died. I'm not going to remember these days on my own, but I don't want to be an inconsiderate jerk.

I have a list of all the foods/recipes I make and on Sunday afternoons check the grocer ads and come up with my dinner choices for the week. This way I only have to go to the grocery store once a week- saves money because I dont buy extra items on extra visits, plus I know what my meals are for the week and can unthaw stuff in the freezer the night before.

I would plug Cozi here again. Free online calender that you can log in from anywhere including your phone. They also store your shopping lists and will text it to you. I don't work for Cozi, but it has made my life easier. You can even hand off tasks to other people.

use coupons before they expire! Recently wasted a free movie ticket, free $5 at Petsmart, and things like that. How do you keep track of those?

I have reminders in my tickler file to flip the mattress every 3 months. I have a drawing of the mattress ("flip from 'this' to 'this'") with the mattress tag as a reference point, and a notation "file in July" or whatever. You could do the same with rotating your car tires.

It is recommended that you change your smoke detector batteries when the time changes, although twice a year seems too often to me. Something I do find I need to do about twice a year is change my wiper blade inserts, and I tend to use the time change to remind me to do it -- the week before or the week after the time changes I get down to the dealerships to pick up the replacements and viola, clean windshields!

Oh, jeez, I spelled it "viola"! Heehee. I meant "voila!"

I can't even tell you how many reminders I have on my Google calendar... I have scheduling a haircut for me and my son every 6 weeks, cleaning leftovers from the refrigerator every week, taking donations to the thrift store every 4 months, and more. Whenever I think of something to do once, I automatically set it to repeat at an interval that seems appropriate for the task. I have newborn triplets, so the less thinking I have to do, the better.

My grandmother recently died, and as many people do, I immediately regretted not calling her enough while she was still here. This inspired my husband to put a reminder in his calendar to call his own grandmother every month. If calling every month is a daunting prospect (I personally have a phone phobia), you could create a reminder to mail a handful of recent photos (my grandma did not use the Internet) or a notecard with a drawing from the kids.

In addition to using both Sandy and Google Calendar, I also have a Google spreadsheet entitled "maintenance". One tab is for Automotive, the second for Home. I keep a record of the last time I performed each type of service. In addition to the items mentioned above, I have:
Rotate tires and inspect brakes, backup computer files and defrag disks, flush sediment from water heater, clean gutters and downspouts, etc. etc. The Automotive tab lists a maintenance schedule and the Home tasks are categorized as Monthly, Annually(Spring) or Annually(Fall)".

I don't know if this sneaks up on anyone but me, but my hair appt. is my problem. I don't bring my calendar with me to the salon and my hair looks great, until... it doesn't. And then I need a cut IMMEDIATELY, but can't get it with my stylist for another two weeks.

Even better than google calendars, http://www.lifeontime.net/ is exactly for these kinds of reminders. Check it out today!

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