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Using Reminders to Get Things Done

Using Reminders to get things done and organise your life is easily done with a few simple tweaks, the Reminders app is the organiser app on your iPhone or iPad and like 100’s of millions of other iPhone users its worth knowing how to use it effectively.

Without any tweaks all reminders does is make lists, yet with a few tweaks you can use it as a systematic task management solution.

By using the scheduling feature in the Reminders app, and by changing how you name your lists it enables reminders to be used much more effectively, and by putting into practice what you will learn in the rest of this article you can use reminders as a stand alone task management solution that will make you more productive and more organised than you ever thought you could be.

These tweaks are based on David Allen’s ‘GTD’ (Getting Things Done) method of productivity, and now you can use this method on the reminders app on your phone to take your task management to the next level.

Using your iOS iPhone or iPad to Get Things Done (GTD).

The rest of this article will take you through setting up your reminders app to enable you to use the GTD method as well as giving you a quick run down of the GTD method along the way, remember though it’s not just a list its a process.

1. The first things you need to do is create the following to do lists on your device;

Tickle File.
Someday Maybe.

2. Next fill up your Inbox with ‘everything you need to do’.

It’s really important in this step to get every single task you can think of into your inbox, the ‘inbox’ creates a place for you to do a ‘brain dump’ for everything on your mind, the brain dump process clears your mind of all of its tasks so that now you can concentrate on solutions.

At this stage just get it down, make your list as long as you can, it doesn’t matter if you do this quickly or do it slowly, the main thing is that you rack your brain and get everything you have ever wanted to do, could ever want to do or need to do now down on the list.

3. Process your Inbox.

This is where the ‘process’ starts to happen and you leave your old fashioned behind.

Now go back to the list of tasks in your inbox, and spend a few seconds thinking systematically about every task.
Next in the notes field write down the next action step for every task, this action step can  be as simple as stating something like make a call, or send an email.
In the priority field set each task as High, Medium or Low.

If the task is place specific add the destination to the task, this gives you the option of your phone to reminding you of the task the next time you go to that location, (my locations are simply either work and home).

The processing of your inbox focuses the mind away from problems and onto the solutions and more importantly what the next step is.

Before doing anything else and for additional motivation I also like to have a quick look at the processed inbox list and if the task is simple or only takes a few seconds to do I just get it done and delete it.

4. Prioritise your tasks.

The next step of the GTD is to go back through your inbox for a second time but this time set a priority level for each task.
With Apple’s iOS reminders app you are limited to setting priority as High, Medium or low.

To do this effectively you need to know the difference between what’s Important and what’s Urgent because;
‘what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important’

Important tasks are important because they are your own personal and professional goals, they forward your career, they are the tasks that are critical to your success at home and at work.
Urgent tasks are things that need immediate action, they are the your daily distractions, they are typically other people’s goals not your own.

Urgent and Important tasks should always be High priority.
Important, but Non-Urgent tasks should be Medium priority.
Urgent but Non-Important tasks should be Low priority.

In this way you move your life away from fire fighting towards purposefully managing your life and building your business, for a full definition read an article on Eisenhower’s matrix or Stephen Covey’s urgent /important matrix.

5. Scheduling your tasks.

The golden rule of scheduling is that if something is scheduled to be done it needs to be done.

Tasks that need to be done at a certain time need to be scheduled, and this can be done using the scheduling function in reminders because, you can set up the task to be scheduled for a specific date and time.

6. Set up a safety net for your task management system with reminders.

This task management system only works if you make it a process and with that you give it a safety net.

For the system to work you have to schedule yourself a few minutes every day to add and delete tasks from your inbox, and spend a few more minutes processing scheduling and prioritising.

Your inbox must be up to date, I tend to look at my To-do List twice daily, once you have populated it and set up this process of task management these few minutes of the day you spend organising the system soon become a habit, I’ve also found that as well as being much more productive because there are less problems tumbling around my head at any one time I feel a lot less stressed as well despite a very busy job.


If you have a task that takes more than a few steps, and will take a fair amount of time you can class it as a project, and you can use reminders to add a To-Do list specifically for that project and add a reminder in your inbox to spend some time on that project.

A separate To-Do list which you process for a project can help focus your mind on that project and enable you to populate your project list with jobs you need to do.

Projects may be long-term but that doesn’t mean they need to be forgotten about, so I always add a generic task in my inbox called ‘look at …..project’  this is set to repeat on  a regular basis, probably weekly or scheduled at time I have deliberately set aside to work on it. Going back over projects in this way keeps them on the back burner but keeps them alive, a project may need time between steps and may be long-term but sometimes the next step may only take minutes to complete.

Tickle File.

The Tickle file I use for tasks that need to be done on a regular basis, they don’t really need to be done straight away but they will become urgent if you leave them long enough. You therefore need to be ‘tickled’ on a regular basis to keep these tasks in hand, if these non-urgent but still important tasks are managed routinely they don’t become urgent and important in the future.

For instance my tickle file is full of tasks like check accounts, update mileage log, keep expenses up to date.

The tickle file gently nudges me about something on a regular basis, to do this Reminders is set to ‘repeat’ reminding me about a certain task every month, or even yearly.

Someday Maybe File.

This is a file that has tasks and goals in it that you do, however now is probably not the right time, its a bit like a ‘bucket list’ of things you want to do, places you want to go, books you need to read, its great to record things in it that you might want to do at sometime in the future that you don’t want to forget, I set up a quarterly reminder on my Calendar and in my inbox to look at my Someday Maybe File.

Summary on Using Reminders to Get Things Done.

Task management is a process and a process only works if it is practised and repeated, a good process if repeated will develop into a habit, and a habit of getting things done more effectively cannot fail to make you more successful in managing your work and defining your life.

The GTD system will make you more efficient, more effective, help you strive towards your goals and reduce your stress levels and the simple steps in this article are a good starting point and by using reminders to get things done it can be set up on your iPad or iPhone and be sync’d across your devices.

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