Maybe you’re one of those super organized people. The kind who have their Google calendars and Outlook tasks synchronized to their desktops, tablets, and smart phones. And check their to-do lists and plot out their day every morning. These people have their Getting Things Done system humming along, moving items from their Ubiquitous Capture Tool into their central organizer and having their weekly planning and look-back session every Friday at 3 PM.
Or, maybe you’re not.
Maybe you’re one of those people whose inbox is so crammed with stuff that people have taken to leaving things in your chair rather than on your desk. The kind of person for whom “out of sight, out of mind” isn’t just an aphorism, it’s a way of life. When you joke that “if my head wasn’t attached, I’d lose that too,” people don’t laugh along, they nod sagely as if to say, “yeah, we’ve noticed.”
If you’re that second person, technology is your friend. Here are two free web-based tools that can get critical reminders in your face when you need them most.
If following up on e-mails you’ve sent is a problem, FollowUpThen could be a lifesaver. The concept is diabolically simple: you send an e-mail to followupthen.com, telling them what you need to be reminded of and when, and you’ll get an e-mail back with that reminder on the date and time you specified.
For example, if you want to be reminded of something in two hours, you’d send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and in two hours’ time, you get an email back from them. (There’s a listing of the available time intervals on their How to Use page.)
If you CC followupthen.com on an email to someone else, and your recipient doesn’t respond (including followupthen.com) within the allotted time, followupthen sends both them and you a reminder. (That should teach people who ignore your emails!) Send followupthen a BCC, and only you will get the reminder. Append “-t” to the followupthen address, and it turns into a task that generates a followup (to you or a third party) every 24 hours until the task is marked either complete or canceled.
Send an email to email@example.com, and you’ll get a list of all your pending followups.
That part’s all free. For a fee, you can add SMS reminders, send attachments, view followups in your calendar, and manage your followups online.
IFTTT stands for “if this, then that.” The concept is simple: If X happens, then Y is triggered. “X” could be a date/time, an event, an email–there are 62 “channels” including Evernote, the Weather Channel, Twitter, and even some home automation services.
But perhaps it’s easier to illustrate this then explain it. For example, take me. I never remember to look at the weather before I leave home in the morning. So I set up a “recipe” (what IFTTT calls the “if this, then that” sequence) that e-mails me my local weather forecast every morning at 5:30 AM. The trigger in this case is the Weather Channel, which fires every morning at 5:30 a.m. and performs the action, namely, sending me an email with today’s weather forecast.
If you’ve got some sort of recurring date/time-based event that you want reminders of, you can choose the Date/Time trigger and have IFTTT send you a text message:
You can also use your Google Calendar as a trigger, which could not only send you a text or e-mail (a feature Google Calendar already has), but also automatically send a tweet, upload a file to Google Drive or Dropbox, etc.
There are more combinations of triggers and actions in IFTTT than I could possibly describe here; it’s worth it just to sign up for a free account and then browse the creative recipes others have created (which you can adopt as your own).
Finding the perfect “hack”
Part of using technology intelligently is finding the hacks that work for you. Got any favorite tools that help you keep things from slipping through the cracks?