I was once supremely absent-minded, always forgetting to do things that needs to get done. I would write down a list of to-dos for the next day at night, and then I would forget to do half of them the next day. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I came up with an idea after listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast. The podcast episode talked about setting alarms to remind yourself to take breaks. Call me super slow but that was when it dawned on me that the alarm clock is much more than something to be used to wake yourself up. It can be used as a reminder system.
Once I started using the alarm clock in lieu of a regular to-do list, I was able to get more done and forget to do much less. So here’s exactly what I do:
1) Before going to bed, I look at my calendar for the next day and also write down what I need to get done for the next day in my paper notepad. When looking at my tasks and schedule for the next day, I am mindful of how I schedule my time. I don’t want to schedule a reminder to do my laundry if I’m not at home at that time; that’s just not efficient use of this system. I write down exactly when I’m going to do a task so I can put it in the alarm.
2) I go into Alarm Clock Xtreme (my app of choice) and set alarms for everything I need to do and everywhere I need to be for the day ahead. I label each alarm. Here is a screenshot of the Alarm Clock Xtreme user interface. Notice the label section. Labeling is extremely important so you don’t get your reminders mixed up and know exactly what to do when the alarm clock goes off.
On an average day, I will set about 10 alarms and then add or subtract alarms as necessary throughout the day. Here are things I will set alarms for:
-Getting ready to go somewhere (so I don’t rush last minute)
-Doing laundry, and taking clothes out of the laundry (so they don’t smell moldy)
-Eating (eating at the right time is important for me because my days consist of a lot of physical activity)
-Charging laptop and phone so that it never comes close to running out
-Taking a break and/or walking my dogs
-Going to sleep
-Returning Redbox DVDs
-Going grocery shopping
…and much much more.
But you get the idea. You can pretty much set an alarm as a reminder for anything.
3) Once the alarm goes off, I either stop what I’m doing and start on the new task or I press snooze once (which gives me a 10 minute window).
Why This Method Works
This method works because of three distinct reasons:
1) It is extremely intrusive. The alarm will sound very loud and take up your whole screen. Basically, you will have to pay attention to the alarm. This is different from most to-do apps, which just alerts you with a small beep and only takes up a portion of your screen. All you need to do is X out the alert and you are done.
2) It forces you to stop what you are doing. The alarm forces you to make time for the tasks you need to get done. Sometimes you are stuck in the zone doing something and you will completely forget to do something. This will snap you out of your zone; and then if you choose to not do the task after the alarm goes off, you can dismiss it and get back into what you were doing.
3) It prevents paralysis by analysis. You no longer have to struggle with your to-do list, wondering what to do next and wondering when to do something. All that has been decided for you; once the obnoxiously loud alarm goes off, that is your cue to act.
Get in the habit of using your alarm as a cue/reminder for you to attack your to-do list and you will become super productive. However, when using this method, be mindful of your time and be realistic about how much you can get done in a day.