During the week of Thanksgiving 2020 I upended my task management life and moved away from Things (which I have been using for a while) and moved all in with Reminders.app. At the time, I had been finding more and more friction in my life with any app I chose that is not a system level app (this is same reason I prefer Notes) and so I moved to Reminders for a very simple, and silly reason:
Telling Siri “Remind me about THIS on DATE.”
That string is so powerful. I can, by triggering Siri, have my Reminder link to an email or a web page I want to be reminded of at some future date, or future date and time. This means I can stop storing stuff in my mail inbox and place it where I need it: Reminders.
And as I started using Reminders to keep track of emails and web pages, I started to find more and more that I really love the simplicity of the interface and the tool. The feature set is small (almost too small at times) but still impactful.
My biggest complaint about OmniFocus was that it required more time to use the tool, than the tool saved by using it. My biggest complaint with Things, is that Things forces a workflow, otherwise it becomes hard to manage for a long period of time.
I don’t need areas or projects to do my work effectively. I don’t need complex chaining rules and sequences. I don’t need start dates or tags. In late November I realized that while Things still worked fine for me, I was using it not for task management any longer — but instead I was using it as a reminder engine.
I think all I need is a Reminder engine, I am pretty good at getting my tasks done once I am reminded of them.
And here is the scoop: Things and OmniFocus make for shitty reminder tools. They aren’t built for it. They are built for workflows, for managing tasks, projects, and tackling complexity with complex and flexible tooling. They are the JIRA of the personal task management world. Look, JIRA’s great, but anyone who has ever used JIRA knows that you need someone who’s job is to manage JIRA, otherwise JIRA becomes a thing there to annoy you.
That’s what Things had become, and before that, what OmniFocus became for me.
I need a bucket not a warehouse with programmable robots.
And in that bucket I need to put items to be reminded about — either to do, or not, who cares — and I need to be able to clear those items from the bucket when the reminder is no longer needed.
And, thus, Reminders.app became the perfect tool for the job, because at its core Reminders is an app for reminding you.
Yes, it has awesome integration with other Apple apps, and Siri. Yes it can do custom repeating and have many lists and sub tasks. Oh yeah it shows those fancy little previews of URLs too. It’s not a dumb, stupid, lazy app. But at its core, Reminders is a big dumb bucket for you to add things you need to be reminded about first and foremost.
Everything else is optional.
And the simplicity of it, well, it makes me very happy.
My Life, Simplified
To make Reminders effective I did employ three lists: personal, writing, and work. I then shared the work list with my work Apple ID so that I could see those tasks on my work devices without divulging any of my personal tasks to those devices. Yeah, I know, I dig that too it is super cool and works really well.
And then, for the biggest hack with Reminders, I just started using it to remind me of stuff. I went into my inbox and there was an email in there of something I needed to do by X date, and I triggered Siri and asked her to remind me of that email on the day before it needed to be done by.
Reminders dutifully reminded me, no drama.
I’m a big fan of Reminders.