To-Do lists are powerful. They become more powerful when you combine them with the magic of calendars/reminders.
For example, “Call John” is an item on my To-Do List. Adding it to my calendar on a Wednesday afternoon effectively blocks my time, tells others that I am not available during those 30 minutes and also reminds me at the right time. In addition, this can even remind John that I will be calling.
However, this doesn’t mean the To-Do list and Calendar are duplicate apps. They serve similar but different needs. Hence, you can’t and shouldn’t map their contents one on one. This means you need to perform some translation before a to-do item becomes a calendar item. This translation might use rules (personalized for each person) like these:
- If a task takes less than x minutes, do it directly without a calendar entry
- If a task takes less than y minutes, schedule it in the calendar
- If a task occurs frequently, use recurring meetings/blockers
- If a task is a mini project (series of steps executed over a long period of time), use Connected Reminders
What are Connected Reminders?
As the name suggests, these are multiple reminders/blockers in your calendar which are related to each other. They usually are dependent on each other and their places in the calendar are determined by these dependencies.
For example, let us say you want to organize a design review. This large task can actually be broken into multiple (smaller) tasks like this:
- Work with design owner(s) to agree on the need for review, time slot(s) and required audience (Today)
- Work with the audience/review panel to get their acceptance (Tomorrow)
- Collect preread material from the owner(s) (Tomorrow)
- Share preread material with the panel (1 week before the review date)
- Send Reminders (let us say, 3 days before and 1 day before the review date)
- Share Notes/Audio or Video Recordings (1 day after the review date)
The list above looks like a mini-project plan. Setting it up in your calendar creates Connected Reminders and ensures things move smoothly.
This method becomes even more powerful if this is a recurring mini-project. For example, if you are given the responsibility to drive the design review series for your team, you may have to repeat these steps in the same sequence every fortnight or every month. In this case, you will be setting up recurring invites for these individual tasks which combine and ensure you have time planned for all those little things at the right moment.
Connected Reminders are great for complex habit formation too by ensuring you don’t forget any intermediate step in that habit. For example, if you want to start a weekly newsletter, you can create your reminders like this:
- Every Monday: 30 minutes to research, pick topics to write about, build pipeline
- Every Wednesday: 1 hour to write this week’s newsletter
- Every Friday: 30 minutes to review/rework
- Every Sunday Morning: 5 minutes to Send Newsletter
- Every Sunday Evening: 15 minutes to Review Newsletter performance
Popular calendar apps don’t support Connected Reminders natively. However, features such as tagging, colour coding, multiple calendars etc. can be used to achieve this.