Creating reminders for the long term

Sometimes, there are tasks which are rare or only relevant in the long term, but still important – even in daily life outside of work.

For example, home maintenance: Spring cleaning, washing curtains, washing bedding. The small things, which are often forgotten way too quickly. And before you think about it, you sleep in months of your own sweat. When using task management, think in the long term.

This article will go over on how to efficiently use task management in the long term to not forget even the rarest occasions.

The long term

There are many things in life, both private and in daily work, which occur rather rare. Once finished, they only need to be repeated next quarter, or next year. Way too far to plan ahead. Or is it?

The key is to enter a task into the task management software every time after finishing such a task. This way, a task management system will always know what is due in the future, even if this future means a year ahead. A system, which is easy to trust in. Planning ahead.

The idea is to keep things for a future reference. Try to have a due date for everything. Otherwise, it will just be lost in the system, especially is tasks like these are piling up.

Repeating tasks

If tasks are repeating, it is useful to set up a repeating task. Many task management tools support repeating tasks, like daily, weekly, monthly, or more.

Setting up a repeating task is almost obvious for things which actually happen every week, like reporting to a supervisor or preparing a meeting.

Less obvious, however, are repeating dates for long-term tasks. If curtains need to be washed every 6 months, this can also be set up as a repeating task. Same is true for spring cleaning, washing the bedding, cleaning the trunk of your car, or going through dusty food cabinets in the kitchen.

When creating a repeating task for each of them, it is useful to think about how frequent they need to be done, and how important they are. And then, most importantly, actually setting up a repeating task, so it is not possible to forget them.

Reminder only work if they remind

As a last, almost obvious point, it is important to remark, that reminders only work if they actually pop up. Be aware, that this idea only works, if you still use the same app next quarter.

If not, at least make sure to mitigate all data every time you switch to a new app, or otherwise, the organization will crumble.

Overall, mobile notifications, e-mails or other means to be nagged about due tasks help with this, as long as they are not ignored or automatically filtered to a spam folder.

Getting things out of view

Of course, spamming the task management app with hundreds of future tasks will create a certain overload. Every time opening the app, one is confronted with lists of tasks which are not relevant for months. Is that productive? Probably not.

There are a couple of ways to avoid this:

First, if the task management solution of choice supports this, paused projects or start dates. In complex applications like OmniFocus or MyLifeOrganized, projects can just be put on hold for future reference. If attached with a starting date, they come back to existence on a future date. Usually, this even works in combination with repeated tasks, to both the due date and starting date are moved ahead for the specified time. When finishing the current task, it will just disappear and be removed from your perception. Then, after a couple of months, it re-appears to remind you of the sweaty bedsheets (or so).

This is ideal, but unfortunately only rather complex apps support this. However, these apps are not for everybody. They are often way to complex for the average use case and make things overly complicated. If using a simpler solution, there are other ways to avoid the loads of tasks.

Second, move all long-term tasks to a different project or list. Most, even simple, to-do applications work with creating multiple projects or lists to organize task lists for different areas of life or projects. Using this, one can create a Future tasks list to get these things out of sight.

Last, as a last resort, just use two apps. If you want strict distinction between things important in daily life and things for the long term, just put them in different app. There are thousands of to-do applications on the store, so it would not hurt to combine them if needed. Warning: Make sure to look into all of them or at least have mobile reminders set up for all of them. Otherwise, tasks may just be forgotten in an unused app.

In general, as for everything related to task management: Do what works best for you, because only then, the system will stick.

Things to avoid

Be aware, not to overdo this for too simple tasks. A tri-daily “do cooking” task is probably too obvious for many people and might just result in abandoning the to-do list altogether. This would also abandon other tasks which are more useful to be reminded of.

Another thing to avoid are reference lists. A classical example would be a list of books to read in future. While it might be a great reference, it is almost guaranteed that this list gets longer and longer; and not even looked at when actually about to buy a new book. Similarly, video games to play, movies to watch; you get the point.

As these are not really actionable tasks (“Do read this whole book”?), the task management tool is usually not the perfect tool for this. Instead, try a note-taking tool or outliner to create an outline for this.

Conclusion

Using task management is extremely helpful for daily tasks and regular work. But even when things are far ahead, it is useful to put them into the system.

With combining repeated tasks, due dates and multiple projects, one can efficiently plan ahead for long-term tasks which are only due in a couple of months, or quarters. When incorporating such a workflow, maintenance tasks, even if they are rare, will not be forgotten.

For this to work, a trusted system is needed. Make sure, reminders and due notifications work correctly and the things will actually be visible at some point, for the future you.


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About the author

Marc A. Kastner
Marc A. Kastner

Marc is the founder and editor-in-chief on Productived.net. He is computer science researcher and PhD student in Nagoya, Japan. Always interested in improving his own workflows, he is on the journey to discover new productivity utilities. On Productived.net, he writes articles on productivity and digital workflows.

Twitter: @mkasu | E-mail: marc@productived.net

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