With jobs, family, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s easy for our personal goals to get lost in the sea of responsibilities and distractions. Setting reminders (whether electronic or paper) is a great way to keep yourself accountable to your goals. Below are few tips to make your reminders even more effective tools for helping you achieve your goals.
Timing is Critical
If you typically go to the gym in the evenings, don’t set a reminder to go to the gym in the morning. If you do, you’ll probably forget it by evening. According to this 2016 study by Professor Todd Rogers of Harvard’s Kennedy School, having reminders show up at the time that you are able to act upon the reminder will greatly improve the odds that you’ll actually do what you were reminded to do.
So if you typically go to the gym at 8pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, then set your reminder to appear at 8pm on those days. If you set it for other times, it’s likely you’ll forget when the time actually comes to go.
Make It Memorable
For a reminder to be effective, it has to cut through the background “noise” of everything else that’s going on with your life. In the same 2016 study, participants were reminded to pick up a paper clip before they leave. If you picked up the paper clip, $1 would be donated to charity. Half the participants were told to pick up the paper clips from the elephant statuette, whereas the other half were not. At the end, they showed that having the elephant statuette was far more effective (almost 2x more people picked up the paper clip) than not having the elephant. Basically, “pick up paper clip from elephant” was far more memorable than “pick up paper clip”.
So when it comes to setting reminders for your goals, make sure your message is memorable. Remember, it has to cut through all the other notifications on your phone plus all the other things you have going on. Use sounds, capitalize all letters in your reminder, etc. Whatever would helps you stop what you’re doing for 1 second and take notice of the reminder.
Don’t Over Do It
Reminders are only useful if you actually take notice and can act on them. If you start setting too many reminders, they can soon become a part of the background “noise”. To be most effective, reminders should only show up at the time when the reminded action can be done, and only if you haven’t already completed the action.
So if you work out only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, don’t set a reminder for Tuesday. It will not affect any change and probably will only annoy you. In addition, if you’ve already gone to the gym on Monday morning, then you don’t need your reminder on Monday evening. A good reminder system should be smart enough to stop reminding you when you’ve already completed the action.
Nothing Replaces Action
Reminder are just messages – they can’t replace action. It is ultimately up to you to act upon the reminder. If you find yourself consistently not doing what you are reminding yourself to do, reminders aren’t going to solve that problem. You should take a step back and re-evaluate whether this thing is important, and what additional strategies you can take to make sure you actually do what you set out to do.
For more on how WeAchieve uses reminders to help our users stay on track of their goals, check out our recent blog post on WeAchieve Reminders.
WeAchieve is an accountability platform helping people set goals and stay accountable in the Age of Distraction. Feel free to try our (free) iOS app or our web platform, and check out our blog for more tips and wisdom on how to achieve more.