How To Guide: Using Reminders for your iPhone

How To Guide: Using Reminders for your iPhone

I’m the Queen of downloading new apps just to see what they can do, hoping they’ll solve my endless dilemma of keeping organized. Despite the number of apps I download, I always fall back on the simple apps that come with my iPhone because they JUST WORK. That, and they use my favorite virtual assistant ….Siri. She and I aren’t always on the best of terms, let’s just say we misunderstand each other frequently. However, when your hands are full and you’re juggling kids, diapers, homework, library books, dinner menus, grocery runs and a million other things, you take what you can get.

I always fall back on the simple apps that come with my iPhone because they JUST WORK.

Hands down, there is no app I use more on my phone than Reminders. That seems insane, but it’s true. Driving to daycare and realize I need to remember something for work? I get Siri on the line and make a reminder for later that day. Making dinner and realize we just used the last of the apple cider vinegar? (Yes, that’s happened.) Siri to the rescue again. The beauty of it is, once I get Siri on the case…I can forget about it until the reminder pops up again. The danger is, we live in a somewhat rural area so cell/wifi service can be spotty at times. There have been occasions when I try to make a reminder via Siri and it won’t work due to reception issues. My brain is so trained to “forget” the reminder once I’ve spoken the words that sometimes…I cannot for the life of me recall whatever it is I was trying to set a reminder about! Perhaps it’s just my mom brain kicking in…but man, is it ever annoying.



  1. When you first open reminders, you’ll see a list aptly named….”Reminders”. Swipe down until you see the search bar at the top and a plus sign on the right.
  2. Use the plus sign to add new Lists. Some suggestions: Groceries, Home, Work, Clients, Kids, Family, Events, etc. Think simple and you can always add on as you go. Using simple list names makes it easier to interact with Siri.
  3. Tap each list to see the tasks contained within.

  4. Color code. Take a minute to color code your lists or make sure the default colors catch your eye. Tap the edit button and choose your colors.
  5. Choose ones that catch your eye.

  6. Sharing is caring. If you have a spouse, kids or a colleague who should have access to a list, make sure to share so you can both view and add to it. Tap the edit button and “Add person”.
  7. Share your reminder list with a spouse or other person you might collaborate with.

  8. Set your default list. This will be the list you most often use for deadlines (mine is work). You can always edit a reminder once added, but I like to know most of them are going to a list I check often so that I can reassign as necessary. Settings > General > Reminders > Default List

My Most used Siri phrases
Replace the words in brackets and the list names with the ones you created.

  • Add to my Grocery List
  • Remind me to when I get home.
  • Remind me to call back at 7 pm tonight.
  • Add to my Family List.
  • Remind me to every Tuesday at 7:30 pm.
  • When I get to work, remind me to create a todo list.
  • Remind me to every two weeks on Sunday at 9 am.
  • What’s on my Grocery list? (displays the list for you!)
  • What are today’s reminders? (displays anything with today as a due date)
  • Remind me about this. (when using an Apple app you can get a reminder added to your list that bookmarks the app you were viewing and what you were looking at, to be revisited later.)
  • Little known feature! From an Apple app, ask Siri to remind you to “respond to a text, read an article” and much more.

Using To Do Lists and Calendars like a Boss

Using To Do Lists and Calendars like a Boss

I love me a good todo list app. I frequently download one and load in all my upcoming items, convinced this is the next big thing in keeping myself accountable. I’ll move my shiny new icon onto my phone’s home screen and be totally jazzed to jump feet first into my new app. A few weeks will go by and I’ll find myself slacking off (again) or resorting to an old system. Before I know it, the shiny new app has lost its luster and I’ll move it off my home screen and relegate it to a folder where it collects dust until I finally delete it.

There are two factors at play here.

  1. If you’re really going to commit to a new app or system for your todo list, you have to stick it out for more than 3 weeks. Twenty one days makes a habit and if you can last a month, you likely have a chance of making it stick.
  2. Not all apps are created equal. More often than not, they address one particular problem and don’t necessarily integrate all aspects of your life. We’re busy people and we have more going on that just work or family or kids. For an app to do it all, it has to be pretty darn amazing. That or be entirely customizable, which would require huge upfront time on your part to set it up just so, and who has time for that?!

Despite my tendency to download all the latest and greatest productivity apps out there, I keep coming back to the same native iPhone apps time after time (sorry Android users, but I’m sure you have equivalents!). You can’t beat their simplicity and yet, they have amazing functionality. The bells and whistles of other apps are great, and I get pulled in by their shiny features all the time. However, for hard core utility (and voice control), I just keep coming back to these two apps.

For hard core utility (and voice control), I just keep coming back to the same two apps. Reminders & Calendar.

I use Calendar to record all my actual real time events. Things like work meetings, doctor appointments, school holidays, my husband’s work events outside normal hours, kid parties and family events. Sometimes I’ll even throw in something that needs a due date so when I’m checking on my upcoming week I’ll get a visual reminder.

Reminders are more for the little things that take up unnecessary brain space if I don’t get them out of my head. Remember to feed the neighbor’s cat, submit that weekly report on time, check out a new resource I heard about on a podcast or just adding items to my grocery list for my next trip to the store. These are small but essential things that are easily forgotten.

It’s not just picking the tools, it’s creating a system you can stick with so the tools do their jobs.

Once you establish where you keep these kinds of items and lists, the trick is to create your system so that you don’t forget. If you’re transitioning from a paper based system of crumbled post-its and torn of shreds of legal paper….you may need to set a reminder for yourself to brain dump once or twice a day until it becomes a natural tendency. This system can work really well with a paper-based system as well. Rather than having a jumble of different information on various lists, it is fairly easy to keep future events organized via Calendar, smaller items organized via Reminders and then have a paper based notebook for the current day/week. The beauty of paper is that the act of writing something down often helps it to stick. There’s science behind that, I swear.

Features I’ve just got to have (I often compare these to any app functionality if I’m feeling tempted).

Calendar: A relatively basic feature on any smartphone, key functionality being:

  • Add upcoming events (dates and time)
  • Recurring events (set events to recur daily, weekly, monthly, yearly etc.)
  • Alerts (lets you know an event is imminent, I usually set at least 2 for important ones)
  • Multiple calendars (color code based on family member, work, holidays, groceries, what have you)
  • Shared calendars (share to other people so colleagues or family members get updates or alerts as well if they need to know about a specific event)
  • Voice control (you do your best thinking in the car, on your daily run or when cooking dinner, inevitably you need to get it out of your head before you forget…”Hey Siri…make an appointment for tomorrow at 10 am to write guest post”)

Reminders: Think lists! With some great added features like:

  • Scheduling (set a date/time for it to be “due”)
  • Multiple Lists (I have one for work, family, groceries, home and the handy “Scheduled” list that shows everything with a specific due date)
  • Shared lists (so I can create my honey-do list and check up on the progress.)
  • Voice control (because, hands free is so very necessary…”Hey Siri, add eggs to my grocery list.” or “Hey Siri, remind me to call Marvin the Martian when I get to work.”)

More to come in detailed “How To” Guides!”