Apple’s Reminders: keeping it simple

At the risk of repeating myself, I’m working hard to simplify my life. Whether it’s by disposing of unwanted possessions or reducing my commitments, it’s definitely work in progress. But I’m feeling the benefits.

I’m looking forward to Apple’s new iOS, due to be launched this month and one of the very interesting advertised features looks like a big update to the Reminders app. I’m a long-time user of ToDoist, which is super helpful in managing my various work commitments and complex projects. I couldn’t live (effectively) without it.

That said, I’m intrigued by the simplicity of the Reminders app; just a list of tasks, organised on ‘cards’. No ‘projects’, no ‘tags’, no colour-coding. So I’ve started a simple experiment. I’m using Reminders for my personal tasks, leaving ToDoist for the heavy lifting when it comes to work-related projects.

This sort of flies in the face of the principle of having your tasks ‘all in one place’. Yet, it can almost feel a little overwhelming to look at ToDoist some evenings or weekends, when I’m not in the mood to be reminded of work commitments.

How is it working so far?

Bear in mind it’s only been a few days so far, but I’m actually finding the break from the complexities of ToDoist quite welcome. And ToDoist is one of my favourite apps of all time! In fact yesterday, while dealing with a whole bunch of errands across London, it was the Reminders app that kept me on the straight and narrow. I found it very easy to see what I needed to do or buy at a glance, rather than scrolling through a long list of projects.

I’ve set up lists to cover the main areas of my life, including health, relationships, shopping, finances and travel. This avoids creating an overwhelming single list that’s difficult to navigate.

The default ‘Reminders’ list serves as an inbox of sorts, which I can move tasks out of if it’s useful to have the on another list. But if these are usually the simple ‘remind me to turn on the washing machine’ tasks, so there’s no need to ‘categorise’ or organise them. I’m not that anal! But it’s the list where tasks you’ve dictated to Siri end up by default – unless you ask it to do something different.

The app works brilliantly with Siri, in stark contrast to ToDoist. I’ve been really disappointed with the Siri integration on Todoist and have never successfully dictated a task to it using Siri. It keeps hearing ‘Tattooist’ when I say ‘ToDoist’ and I know I’m not alone in this. With the built-in Reminders app, Siri works perfectly, every time. And it’s not often that you’ll hear me say that.

Plus, Siri works well on all my devices, whether it’s my phone, Apple Watch or iPad. It’s a great way of getting a thought off your mind! I just need to say ‘Hey Siri’ and one of the devices will add my nonsense to a reminder. Job done. This is especially useful on the Apple Watch, when I can just raise it to my face and speak into it, Dick Tracy-style.

Finally, it seems to sync between devices pretty much instantly. I’ve seen reminders pop up on my iMac’s screen moments after they were typed onto my iPhone. This is important for peace of mind, basically.

What’s going to make it even more useful?

There are several promised improvements to Reminders in the upcoming iOS 13. Without having seen them in action in my own two hands, they’re conceptual at the moment – but nevertheless sound interesting.

  1. The ability to add attachments such a photos or scanned documents. ToDoist can do this right now, and I use the functionality quite a bit. I’m interested to see how it’s added to Reminders and how intuitive it is to actually use.

  2. The ability to organise lists into groups, avoiding an epic ‘list of lists’ on screen. Again, ToDoist already allows you to create projects within projects, so you can create a kind of simplifying hierarchy. In Reminders, I might want to create a list of reminders for the supermarket, a list for the pharmacy and one for the butchers (for example!). I can then group them under a single line called ‘Shopping’. It looks like we’ll be able to add sub-tasks too.

  3. It looks like we’ll be able to add customised icons to lists, helping them to stand out from each other. The examples I’ve seen include a carrot to signify groceries. When life is busy, or we’re in a hurry to find something, small icons can make all the difference.

  4. Apparently, Apple is also going to add some natural language support, such that mentions of timelines or locations when typing will be translated into the task itself. So if I type ‘Monday’ as part of a task, it can set the reminder to Monday, without any additional clicking through menus. Simple, but a great time saver.

Will I continue the experiment?

I’m definitely going to continue this until after I’ve installed iOS13 on my devices. I’d like to see use how the improvements to the app manifest in real life and what kind of a difference they make to my routine. So far, it’s a nice way to enable a pure focus on my non-work life when I want to.

I’ll just have to see what it’s like to maintain two task management apps at the same time and whether this turns out to be more work in the long run. I’m trying to keep things simple, after all.

(Photo by Przemyslaw Marczynski on Unsplash)

14 comments on “Apple’s Reminders: keeping it simple

  1. The whole Todoist app is great. I’m more of the default Reminders app that Apple offers in it’s iOS 13 system. I don’t know if you have the beta installed, but the developer betas have really been a true update for iOS and it’s totally great to experience these betas with my team. The simplicity and the whole UI of the app is great, you can create basic reminders, shopping lists and anything else, from subcategories of reminders to places where the reminder is taking place e.t.c. We’ve also written an article on our website, if you’re interested you can give it a look. 😀


  2. ethnicolor

    Likewise I’m looking forward to exploring the new version of Reminders. Todoist never floated my boat. I’ve used OmniFocus for years, but I experimented earlier this year with Things 3 for non-project tasks. It’s a beautiful, beautiful app and it was very hard to resist the temptation to dive into it yet again. If Apple weren’t about to give Reminders a big makeover, I’d be using Things 3 for the day-to-day reminders, and OmniFocus for the heavy lifting. But as with note taking I’m keeping as native to the OS as possible, so I’ll be using Reminders much more from iOS 13, just looking back longingly over my shoulder at Things 3. Like you and Todoist, I want to stop putting everything into OmniFocus, and just leave it for larger projects. I also resisted diving into a beta of 13, the first time I’ve done so in years!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Let’s compare notes in a few weeks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ethnicolor

        [time passes…] How did Reminders work out for you? I resisted jumping back to (beautiful) Things 3 and ploughed on with OmniFocus and Reminders. Reminders is fine, I feel that I haven’t really given it a proper test. I mapped out a couple of mini-projects in it, and I have to say it didn’t particularly grab me. However I’m in a funny place with task management at the moment. Not only am I studiously avoiding OmniFocus at the moment, but I’ve also been flirting with LAMY fountain pens and paper journals. Not good. Speaking of, what the *hell* have Apple done with syncing of Apple Notes? They introduced the most amazing OCR search capabilities of PDFs, handwritten notes, etc., then smashed the whole thing up by breaking sync! Frustrating…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ah you’ve reminded me: I need to write a post about this! I tried my best but couldn’t stick with Reminders. I’m back with Todoist in a big way, especially now the new update has brought lots of nice improvements. In other geeky news, Apple Notes is doing my head in. Very glitchy. So bad that I’m back using Evernote for work, as I’m worried about losing data. I’m sure it’ll be tidied up in time, but right now, it’s not fit for purpose.

          Liked by 1 person

          • ethnicolor

            Agreed. The very recent “Notes is broken” thread on Apple Support is one of the biggest threads I’ve seen in a long time. The iOS 13 improvements in Notes are so tantalisingly close to the perfect note taking, so I’m just going to close my eyes, clench my jaws and frown through it. They _will_ fix it, it’s just a matter of waiting it out.


            • Let me know when you notice it! I’m still having simple checklists fail for me and basic, basic formatting nonsense happening.


  3. What I REALLY need is to decide my next purchase to save for: MacBook, MacBook air, iPad with keyboard? I no longer use my heavy-hitting graphic artist applications. I LOVE a desktop web-surfer rather than my iPhone and I watch a shit-ton of videos–larger is better than my fire tablet. I like the portability of smaller but the ease on middle-aged eyes and touch-typing for well, typing (whether word processing, as it were or social media).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Might I suggest iPad with keyboard? Super portable, nice size screen and the new iPad OS will have a desktop class browser included. There’s not much I cannot do with my existing iPad Pro on iOS 12. So I’m keen to see what difference iPadOS makes when I finally get my hands on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. stevemorton

    I’m a long term Reminders User. I went back to using it along with Apple Calendar for all my electronic reminders and appointments. And my Filofax for everything else!

    The screen shots of new version of reminders look good, hopefully it will be out soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew the Filofax would feature, of course! 😎 I’m really enjoying the simplicity of Reminders and keeping my personal and professional tasks separate. Just an experiment for now, of course. We’ll see how it goes with iOS 13…


  5. Pingback: Some easy Apple decisions –

  6. Pingback: Siri, remind me to use ToDoist instead… –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: