One of the best, and worst, features of digital planning apps is reminder alarms. It can be convenient to be reminded of a meeting before it starts, so you can work up until it’s time to go without having to check the clock constantly. But all too often we set an alarm reminder for an event and then forget about it, and get taken by surprise when the alarm goes off and we are unprepared. Or, even worse, the reminder goes off for something like a birthday or other event while we are in the middle of something or it’s an inconvenient time to do anything about it, then we promptly forget about it before we can take action. Or you might run into the biggest problem of all with reminder alarms: you get so many, you become habituated to ignoring them.
The benefit of using a paper planner is that you can see your entire week in front of you, including tasks, scheduled events, goals, and all aspects of your life together on the page. Planning on paper lets you be proactive, not reactive. But you can still have the functionality of using reminders. Here’s how to use your paper planner along with reminder alarms:
One main planner: First of all, you need to have one main planner where everything is scheduled first: your Mission Control. This is your paper planner. Everything starts here. Any time you need to schedule something, make a change, add information, or update your task lists, you write it in your paper planner first.
Add reminder alarms as needed: Choose carefully which scheduled events to set reminder alarms for. All reminder alarms must be immediately actionable. Otherwise you will end up training your brain to ignore them. As you set each reminder alarm, think carefully about what time it should be set. For example, if you are setting a reminder for a meeting, the alarm should be in enough time ahead of the meeting to allow you to close up what you are doing, pick up the items you need to take to the meeting (which you should have ready to go), and get yourself to the meeting in plenty of time before it starts. Don’t set the alarm for the time of the meeting (too late), and don’t set it too far ahead, because you will ignore the alarm, get back into your work, and forget to leave on time.
Pad your schedule in your planner and set your alarm accordingly: Padding your schedule is an important part of scheduling where you write prep and departure times into your planner. For example, if you have a dentist appointment at 2:00, it takes 35 minutes to get there, and you need to get gas on the way, you should leave by 1:15. Write in your planner Depart 1:15, and set your reminder alarm at 1:00 to give you time to wrap things up before you leave. This will get you to your appointment on time without having to rush.
Eliminate unnecessary alarms: After you’ve been using your paper planner for awhile, you might find you no longer need reminder alarms for people’s birthdays or anniversaries. You can see them coming up in your planner, you have written reminders in your planner to send a card or text on the appropriate day, and all actions related to the day are already taken care of in your planner. You can remove the reminder alarm.
It’s very important to remove all unnecessary reminder alarms. All alarms should be important, and should happen at a time when you are able to take immediate action. Any alarms that you can, or tend to, ignore must be eliminated. You want to train your brain to respond to reminders, not to ignore them.
Use your planner as your main scheduling and task management tool, and reminder alarms as convenient additions to keep you on schedule throughout the day. By seeing everything in your planner ahead of time, you’ll feel in control of your schedule and tasks, instead of just reacting to alarms as they go off all day.
Planner shown: the Trinote weekly planner has timed daily schedules, spaces for daily lists and notes, and a weekly dashboard for categorized lists.