Reminders that Work for You

A few months ago, my iPhone alerted me that an update to the iOS operating system was available for me to download and install. Usually I do those things right away, but my computer guy had advised that the update was buggy and that we should wait for the next one.

For several weeks, a visual indicator — a small red circle with the number 1 in it — appeared on top of the Settings icon on my iPhone. It made me crazy! The part of me that needs closure wanted to install that update just to make that reminder go away. As soon as I got the next update notification, I checked with my computer guy that this one was okay, and I installed it as soon as I could. No more red circle!

This incident underscored something I already knew about myself: visual reminders are very powerful for me. I have exploited that in the past in several ways:

  • A light on in the kitchen means that I have put up water to boil on the stove.
  • Something on the entryway table means I have to take it with me next time I go out.
  • A supermarket bag on the doorknob means that I need to give the person who is leaving something from the refrigerator.

Audio reminders don’t work as well for me. I am a native New Yorker, and I think the ability to block out noise is necessary to live here. I grew up not far from Kennedy Airport, and I learned to tune out the din of the airplanes overhead. The only time I couldn’t ignore it was when I was on the phone and had to ask the other person to hold on because I couldn’t hear them over the airplane noise! However, a repetitive sound that won’t stop — like the beeping of the microwave timer or the alarm on my iPhone — will eventually break through my auditory wall.

Some people need tactile reminders. A string around the finger or a rubber band on the wrist are two examples of those.

If you’re over the age of 21, you’ve probably noticed that you no longer remember everything like you used to. If you’re finding that forgetting things is hampering your effectiveness, reminders should be part of your strategy. However, it’s important that you discover what kind of reminder will work best for you.

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