The other day, I was listening to a book on the way home, and the author said something profound I wanted to remember. I was only two blocks away. “I can remember this for two blocks; then I’ll pull out my phone and write the quote in Evernote.”
Then I got stopped at a light. “Perfect! I have a chance to do it now.” I pulled out the phone. Woke it up. Tweetbot was still open. “Oh, right. I wanted to read that article later. Let me add that to Pocket…” Done. Pressed the home button. “When did I get a text message? Maybe it’s from my wife. I’d better check, in case she needs me to swing by the store on my way home…”
You know where this is going. You’ve been there.
Capturing an idea as soon as you have it is key to peaceful productivity. You want to be able to forget everything you need to do and trust that you’ll remember at the right time.
Siri is great at helping you remember what you need to do. Just ask. She’ll remind you.
The most common thing I need Siri to help me remember is something I need to do.
- “Remember to plan a trip to Carmel.” The basic task. Instantly classic. Siri will create a reminder on your default list. You can flesh out the idea later if you need to.
- “Remember to go to the bank by noon on Saturday.” Siri creates a task with a due date of the day you specify. If you don’t give a time, it will use 9:00 am. When the task is due, a notification will pop up. This works best if it doesn’t matter where you are, or if you know you’ll be in the right place at that time and just need to be reminded.
- “Remind me to recycle the batteries when I get to work.” If you need to do something the next time you arrive someplace, Siri can help with that, too. If you say, “…when I get to work tomorrow”, Siri will remind you both when you get to work and at 9:00 am.
- “Remind me to stop by Safeway when I leave here.” Yes, Siri can also remind you as you’re walking out the door. Need to run an errand on your way home? Think you might forget something? Ask for a reminder so you can turn around and get it.
- “Remind me to swap insurance cards when I get in the car.” This is new in iOS 9, and I love it. Twice a year, it takes me a week to remember to swap out the insurance cards. No more will I get out of the car with the new card still in my pocket! My phone can now remind me of a task the next time it sees my car stereo. Very useful addition.
- ”Remember this.” Another new feature in iOS 9 is the ability to remember “this”. When you’re viewing a web page, ask Siri to remember it. At a quick test, it works with web pages, calendar events, notes, and map locations, probably more.
If you have OmniFocus reminder capture enabled, OmniFocus will automatically import reminders with due dates and notes. If the reminder has a geofence attached to it (“when I get to work” or “in the car”), OmniFocus will leave the task in Reminders for iOS to handle. This usually works pretty well, since these tasks tend to be smaller, more focused, and one-off reminders that don’t need to be fully integrated into your planning system.
Siri will also schedule meetings for you. The syntax is pretty self-explanatory.
- “Schedule a budgeting meeting with my wife for 8:30pm on the 28th.”
- “Meet with James at 3pm."
- “Set up a weekly review Sunday from 3–5.”
Declaring “I have a meeting…” usually doesn’t work. I’ve found that if I phrase it like I’m asking my assistant to schedule the meeting for me and don’t overthink the syntax, Siri usually gets it right.
When All Else Fails
When all else fails, you can capture anything using Siri with just one word: Note.
- “Note one often meets one’s destiny on the road taken to avoid it.”
Siri will create a note (in Notes) with everything that follows. My most common use case for this is to capture quotes from books I’m listening to while I’m walking or driving.
It’s okay if the capture isn’t perfect. A word is misspelled, or the event is on the wrong calendar, or things aren’t capitalized just right. You can clean all those things up during your next daily or weekly review.
Think of Siri as placing a reminder in your inbox for you to process later. The important thing is that you’ve captured enough of the idea for now. You won’t forget it. Go back to enjoying what you were doing.
Fortunately, I was able to clear my mind enough to remember the quote later that evening.
Planning is good. Blindly following a plan is a terrible idea.
Jeff Sutherland, Scrum