May 2, 2012
If you’ve read my books, or taken my classes, then you know that I do not recommend you use the Outlook reminder feature on Outlook tasks, even when the tasks have a future deadline. People question me on that, wondering if I am really sure. So in this post, I want to tell you a little bit more about why I think using reminders on tasks in Outlook is wrong.
Reminders on appointments are good
First of all, remember that the recommendations of the 1MTD and MYN systems state this: if a task must be done at a certain time of day, then make an appointment out of it—put it on your calendar; don’t rely on the task list. A good example is a phone call that must be made at a certain time—put it on your calendar.
Then, any time you create an appointment, using Outlook’s appointment reminders is perfectly fine. Why? Because they pop up just before the event is due. There is no confusion about whether you need to act when they pop-up or not; for example if it is that phone call, and the agreed-to time is upon you, you must make the call—no question.
But don’t set arbitrary task appointments
In contrast, if a today-deadline task can be done at any time today, then put it on your task list; don’t schedule it on the calendar. The task list is a much better place to list tasks that you will work on when you can—working off a list is ideal for that. Why? Because such tasks have no appointed time. If you try to schedule tasks like this on your calendar, then you will be scheduling them at arbitrary times that have no teeth. You’ll find that when their time comes, since each task is not really due at the scheduled time, you’ll just keep working on something else you are focused on; or you’ll favor something else that seems more urgent in the moment. The result is you will be endlessly skipping scheduled tasks; and as a result, you’ll often be dropping them.
So use the tasks list for this instead, set aside time to work tasks in general, and just work tasks in priority order.
Why task reminders don’t work
And this helps explain why reminders on tasks don’t work. Like above, task reminders are appointments for things that in reality have no appointed time. If you use a task reminder and the reminder pops up, you will likely be focused on some other activity that is more appropriate at that point—and the reminder feels like an interruption. Because of that, you will usually ignore the reminder, either dismissing it or snoozing it to later. And then when it pops up later, you are likely to be focused on some other activity again and ignore it again. Soon you get in the habit of immediately dismissing or snoozing all task reminders and they become useless.
In 1MTD and MYN you don’t need task reminders
And using task reminders just doesn’t make sense in MYN and 1MTD anyway, for one major reason: if you are using the system correctly they are not needed. Using the rules in MYN and 1MTD, you will be checking your Critical Now list as often as every hour. And you will be checking your Opportunity Now list at least once a day; hopefully in the morning. So you will clearly see tasks that are due today, likely noting them quite early in the day. Since they are due today you’ll make sure they are highlighted in the Critical Now list. And as you repeatedly check your Critical Now list and see the item there, you’ll be consistently reminded to work on it. You don’t need a poorly timed popup reminder to do that.
Even more important is this: when you decide to look at your task list, it is usually because you are open to taking on a new task; that’s why you’re looking at the list—to see what to do next. So you are more likely to be in a frame of mind to start a new activity when you see it there—it won’t feel like an interruption in the way that task reminders do.
So, the MYN and 1MTD systems handle the need for a reminder without using them, and the systems do it in a better way. You don’t need reminders.
Task reminder feature unreliable in Outlook with MYN
Finally, the reminder field on Outlook is unreliable when used with MYN. Why? Because if you set and then change the start date of the task, which I recommend you do often in MYN, then the reminder date will change by the same number of days—you probably will not notice that or set it back. The result? The reminder will not trigger when it should and you’ll miss the deadline. So when consistently using the task start date (as in MYN), the task reminder field is an unreliable field and it is best to avoid it.
So use the MYN and 1MTD systems in Outlook as they are designed, and you’ll never need a reminder field on a task. Things just won’t slip by!