As life has gotten busier and busier, I’ve had an increasingly hard time keeping track of the many deadlines and due dates that I run across in daily life. Depending on the context, this has the potential to result in late fees, embarrassment, etc.
I’ve thus become increasingly dependent on automated reminders to keep things on track. I first started out using 4info.net as a complement to my paper planner. This allowed me to create text message reminders to be sent at a future date, but I ultimately found that to be too clumsy.
In the end, I wound up switching to Google Calendar and haven’t looked back since.
I originally started out with just two calendars — Home and Work. These calendars hold all of my professional and personal appointments, our kids’ medical appointments and game schedules, travel dates, and so on.
Depending on how important each of these things are, and whether or not my attendance is required, I also set create custom reminders. For example, professional appointments get an e-mail reminder 3 hours in advance and a text reminder 30 minutes in advance.
This means that my morning appointments are sitting in my inbox early in the day and my afternoon appointments are there by lunch or shortly thereafter. The text reminder serves as a failsafe in case I get distracted (and I often do).
Expanding the system
Since I first started with Google calendar, I’ve create a third “Reminders” calendar to track random, and often infrequent, items. For example, I typically create reminders for things like life insurance premium due dates, tax due dates (though I forgot to set these up for 2010), and other financial deadlines.
I’ve also begun tracking major home maintenance items that need to be done on a periodic basis. These include flushing out our water heater (yearly), pumping out our septic tank (every three years), replacing our furnace filters (every 1-3 months), paying our property taxes (now that we’ve paid off our mortgage and no longer have an escrow account), etc.
Depending on the frequency and importance of these items, I usually set up something like an e-mail reminder 7 days in advance with another one coming a day in advance just to be sure I don’t miss it. Because most of these items are recurring, I can also enter them just once and set them to repeat at the desired interval.
Working the system
This system works great, but it’s only as reliable as the data that gets entered. I’ve thus been training myself to immediately enter any appointments or reminders as they crop up. This has been made much easier by a combination of my iPhone and a fantastic app known as CalenGoo. Yes, it’s a dumb name, but CalenGoo is a very powerful Google Calendar client.
Benefits of automated reminders
One of the biggest benefits of this system is that it frees up a ton of mental space and lets me focus on what I’m doing instead of what’s coming up. In other words, it’s a very effective stress reducer. Aside from that, we’ve saved a good bit on late fees by making payments that we might have otherwise forgotten.
Sure, you can use automatic bill pay (and we often do) to achieve some of the same things. But even if you do, it’s still a good idea to set a reminder to check your bank balance and/or transfer the necessary funds to avoid overdraft fees.
Finally, it’s well known that you can save money through regular home maintenance. By using this sort of reminder system, you can be sure to get all of your preventative maintenance done before problems arise.