How do you remember a date years in the future?

Amazon: Brownline 2012 Daily PlannerI've talked quite a bit about my reliance on my calendar and to-do list to get me through a given week, so Amy's question struck a chord. This is one time when adherence to an organizational system can create its own special kind of anxiety:

I'm a regular calendar user, and can't live without my digital calendar synched at all times across multiple devices.  But how do you remember something that won't happen for years?

I just renewed my passport, and in 2022 I need to remember to renew it again. I added a reminder event to my Google calendar, but will I still be using Google Calendar in 2022?

I have the passport renewal problem for five family passports (all with different dates), driving licenses, ID cards (we live in Europe), health cards, etc.  I'm overwhelmed just thinking how many things have expiration dates long in the future, and for which I can't expect to receive a reminder from someone else. What do I do?

I FEEL YOUR PAIN. I'm so dependent on my "system" for reminders that the thought of having to keep something like that in my head brings on a headache.

But I don't think there's much cause to worry. Here's why:

You can take your digital data with you.

Export is your friend. 

Someday, when Google Calendar is as aniquated as a stone tablet, whatever Modern Whizbang Productivity System you're using will have an Import button that will slurp in your dates, reminders, and everything else.

In practical terms, here's what I would do:

Continue plugging in everything for which you need reminders, including far-off future events.

Set up another reminder to do a periodic, full export of your productivity system. Monthly, quarterly, yearly — whatever feels right. 

You should be doing this anyway as a backup, but at-least yearly exports will also guard against the dreaded floppy disk conundrum: the scenario in which your backup is in an old enough format that future imports get complicated.

Corrolary for those of you still looking for the "right" digital productivity system: choose a tool that exports data quickly, easily, and in a standard format.

What about you, Parenthackers? How do you remember dates that are far off in the future?

Got a problem you think Parenthackers could help solve? Ask us for advice.

More: Hacks for sending yourself reminders


  1. says

    I just started using I [heart] it. You send an email to [reminder time] I imagine it would work well for this application, IF you use that email account in perpetuity or forward to your new account.

    Super long range stuff (like the yearly eye exam or the quarterly tax due date that is next YEAR), I tend to rely on the large format paper calendar we use for my husband’s sake. I write this kind of stuff on the back page, or tape in a blank page for this purpose. Then I carry over that info every year like I do with birthdays, etc.

  2. Jo says

    I use a paper diary, so it’s just a matter of adding far off things as a note in each year’s diary until it’s time to fill it in on a specific day.

  3. Alan Shutko says

    I’ve successfully migrated my calendar through multiple devices for about five years. The first real test was my driver’s license renewal after five years. It worked perfectly. Also worked for MY password renewal, actually.

    The vcalendar/icalendar format is very standard and supported on almost everything, from Google Calendar to Outlook, iCal, iPhones, Android, whatever. Since I’ve migrated successfully, I trust the system much more than I do paper.

  4. says

    I would do two things, one electronic, one paper-based. First, continue plugging those dates into your electronic calendar, whatever form that takes. Hopefully, Google Calendar will still be in use in 10 years. I bet it will be.

    Next, type up a list of all those items that need to be renewed: passport for each person, drivers’ licenses, etc. Next to each item, type the date that it needs to be renewed. List each item in chronological order on your list. Paperclip that list to your paper calendar to the month of December. Put a Post-It note on the list that says “Paperclip to next year’s calendar and write all relevant dates in that calendar” to remind you of what you are supposed to do with that list. Then once a year, you just take that list and paperclip it to next year’s calendar, year after year.

    Both methods used in tandem will make sure no dates get forgotten.

  5. Isabel King says

    I have put those types of reminders on Jan 1st with a note to keep repeating the reminder. When you get to that date you see the reminder and decide if it needs to be repeated on the following Jan 1st (if it is more than one year into the future) or if it needs a closer reminder – and then I move it to when it should be.

    I am currently carrying remiders for passports, major wedding anniversaries of family, etc.

    It really works.

  6. Amy says

    First, thanks for posting my question. I think I’ve settled on a combination of two digital mechanisms. One, a reminder every 6 months (actually reminder email from my Google calendar to me) with a chronological list of the important expiration dates (Note: Google’s search function easily allows me to find this reminder entry if I need to add a new item’s expiration date). Plus, for each date, I have a reminder 6 months in advance. Hopefully these, in combination with future migrations of all my calendar data, will ensure we don’t miss an important expiration, no matter how far out in the future it is!

    BTW, sticky notes in my house become our 3-year old’s doodle papers. She can’t resist adding her own “notes” to any note we leave around! Creative, yes. But this creativity significantly reduces the life and usefulness of sticky notes around here!

  7. renee says

    I am the only living person who still uses a paper calendar, and this year, when my stationery store stopped stocking the refills and refused to order one for me, I made an amazing discovery: you can reuse them! For some reason I save all my old datebooks, and I have ten years of them in my desk drawer. What the hell am I saving them for if not to use them again? For non-leap years, there are only seven calendar configurations anyway. So I’m set forever! (This year, I reused 2006 for Jan-Feb 28, and 2007 starting on March 1. On Feb 29 I was calendarless.) So, that said, if I had a date to remember in 2022, I would just figure out what year that would repeat and write it on that calendar.

  8. says

    Using digital reminders is one of the greatest advancements of the hi-tech age! Day-Timer HomeLife is a free online family calendar you should check out. It has a great feature where you can create a to-do item, and then have a reminder automatically sent to your spouse when it’s time to do it!

    It’s free:

  9. phillippa says

    In my google calendar, I update the event for every year until the arrival date of the event. For example, I label it “Passport Renewal in 2012″.

    On how I handle three passports with different dates – when my expiry date was approaching, I took all three to the embassy the same time, even though the others weren’t expiring yet. Now we all have the same expiry date.