Use reminders (finally) in the two apps you should already have

The ability to use reminders has recently been extended to Google's Inbox and Calendar apps. This gives these two apps much greater capability to help you organize your life. Now you don't need to email yourself a task or create an appointment in your calendar to remember to do something. Both of these methods worked but were workarounds that had significant limitations.

Inbox and Calendar Icons
Inbox and Calendar

The problem with using a calendar for to-dos

Before being able to put reminders in your calendar, you had to create an appointment for a certain day and maybe a time. However, life happens and these tasks don't ever get done on the exact day or at the exact time that you plan on. Enter the reminder. The reminder floats at the top of your calendar if you don't give it a time. If you don't mark it complete, it simply moves to the next day. You no longer have the depressing and repetitive chore of moving all of your tasks that you didn't get to from yesterday to next weekend.

Video explanation

The problem with using email for to-dos

If you used your e-mail inbox as a to-do list, you could not control when you see the e-mail and for how long. If you wanted to get something done on a particular day, you would have to look at that e-mail everyday in the meantime. E-mails tend accumulate in a long list of items that you need to do "sometime later".

Reminders to the rescue

Basic reminders in Google's Inbox and Calendar

If you have been hiding under a rock, Inbox is Google's new e-mail 2.0 app that is meant to manage your e-mail (and reminders) in a whole new way. It runs on Android, iOS, and on the web. Calendar has been around for quite a while. It is available on the web and on Android and iOS mobile devices as well. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, reminders can only be entered on the mobile versions of Calendar and not the web version.

Creating a reminder in Calendar
Creating a reminder in Calendar
Creating a reminder in Inobx
Creating a reminder in Inbox

For starters, you can create a simple reminder by going to the plus sign and clicking reminder. The default settings are sufficient for a simple task. This would create a reminder that stays on top of your Inbox view until you mark it as completed with the checkmark. In Calendar, the reminder would stay at the top of the current day's calendar until you mark it completed.

Scheduling and snoozing reminders

You can set reminders to occur at a future time or place using the snooze feature in Inbox or by scheduling it in Calendar similar to how you would schedule an event. Here we start to see many ways in which these can be used that could never be done using events in Calendar or emails to yourself using Inbox.

Inbox reminder snooze
Button to snooze Inbox reminder

Reminders can be set to start at a certain time or place with snooze in Inbox. It doesn't take much to imagine the usefulness of snoozing that reminder to do your laundry until you get home or the reminder to turn in your homework until you get to school. Seeing only relevant to-dos reduces clutter and makes a task list more manageable. You just need to be sure that you have location services enabled on your phone.

Inbox snooze options
Inbox reminder snooze options
Inbox with a reminder
Inbox with a reminder

Once you are done with a reminder, tap it to open it and mark it done with the checkmark if your using Inbox. Press undo in the lower right hand corner if you didn’t mean to. The reminder moves out of the inbox and can be found by going to the menu and selecting Reminders or Done. If you are using Calendar, tap on the reminder and tap Mark as Done. The Calendar reminder stays in place but the font changes to strikethrough to indicate that it is completed. See it again by going to the menu and looking at Done which shows everything that you’ve mark as done or look at Reminders which shows all reminders even if they’ve been completed.

Calendar Event vs. Reminder

If you are a hardcore Calendar person, you may be thinking that you can just schedule the task as an event at a certain time and that will remind you to do it. The trouble with this has always been that you might not do it at that time. If you use a reminder, it will still be at the time you scheduled it if you choose to give it a time, but you will see that it is not completed because the font will not have a strike through. The better technique for using a reminder, if you are not sure that you will get to it, is to not use a time or day. That way it will always appear at the top of your Calendar (and Inbox) until you mark it as complete. Once you mark it as complete, it will stay on the day on which you completed it and show with a strike through font.

Repeating task

Another powerful feature of the Reminder function is that you can have it repeat at any interval. For example, if you want to replace your furnace filter every six months, set the reminder to repeat instead of a Calendar appointment. When the reminder arrives every six months, it will stay on your calendar until you complete it unlike a recurring event that would stay on its original day.