I’m guilty of sending the following emails on one too many occasions:
“Thanks for the reminder!”
“Sorry for the delay!”
“Thanks for your patience!”
We’re not robots, so it’s expected that we’ll need occasional reminders while juggling multiple tasks and deadlines. Still, it’s never fun to send an apology email; in fact it’s infinitely more gratifying to check tasks off our to-do list on time or even early. The key (and trickiest part) is carving out time while you’re already busy to make sure that you don’t fall even further behind.
Lucky for you, I’ve already done some of the legwork and evaluated my old habits to see what was working and what wasn’t. Here are some tips for staying punctual that I learned through trial and error. A nod to the tired/wired meme of yore (2018).
Tired: Putting reminders in your calendar
Wired: Using an app that integrates your calendar with a to-do list
In the past I’ve added notes to my Google or Apple calendars to remind myself of things like birthdays or due dates for assignments. I soon learned that a number of things needed to be in place for the reminder to even reach me: my sound had to be on my phone, or I have to have the Google Calendar tab open on my browser. Notifications from my calendar and phone also barely register in my mind anymore, so I became accustomed to dismissing them without actually completing the task at hand. The solution? There are multiple to-do list apps, like Evernote and Things, that sync to your calendar and email. The satisfaction of checking boxes, plus a well-designed interface, encourage users to be more interactive with deadlines. I like to prep for the week ahead by listing out which items need to be completed on certain days. You can also set a reminder for a task for any date in the future.
Tired: Starring messages or creating labels in your inbox
Wired: Marking messages as unread
Whether you’re a zero inbox person or you never delete an email, the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” never meant as much as it does when it comes to email. I tried creating separate folders in my inbox for different projects before I realized that I often forgot to check the other folders. I know that if I open an email and don’t address the sender’s requests right away, the message is as good as gone, forever. That’s why I mark conversations as Unread for as long as possible, and let them haunt me until I deal with them.
Additionally, Gmail implemented a new feature that reminds you to follow up or reply to emails that may have gotten buried after a few days. It brings them up to the top of your inbox and asks if you’d like to reply. It’s truly a lifesaver. You can also set this up manually with the Boomerang add-on for your browser if you want to be nudged at a certain time and date.
Tired: Assuming you’ll remember to do that thing your coworker asked you for by Wednesday
Wired: Creating a reminder directly from your email
For this trick, all you need is a Mac. Highlight the text in the email, for example: “Please review and send corrections by Wednesday,” right click, and find Services in the dropdown menu. From there, you will see an Add to Notebook option. This will create a sticky note in a virtual notebook, and you can schedule a reminder for the task to be sent straight to your email. It’s a nice and easy interface, and it ensures that you won’t completely forget the request as soon as you read it. Plus, it doesn’t require downloading any new software.
Tired: Thinking all deadline management apps are created equally
Wired: Finding the right ones for you
Maybe you’re more of a visual person, and you need a calendar laid out in front of you; you might want to try workflow apps like Monday.com or Trello. Maybe your to-do list is more aspirational than it is focused on time management. You might be suited for an app like Todoist, which encourages you to get more done every day. Maybe you’re more collaborative and need something like Wunderlist to get you and your partner on the same page about your to-do list. Whatever your needs are, there’s almost certainly an app for that. Think up your priorities and find what works best for you and your workflow.