A Simple Technique for Decluttering Your Reminders List

Productivity experts recommend offloading things you have to remember to a task-management app like Apple’s Reminders, which syncs your to-dos among your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. That’s particularly helpful for tasks you want to be reminded of in a few months or next year, but then those far-in-the-future tasks—especially repeating ones!—clutter your main Reminders list. The solution? Create a Far Future Reminders list, and move reminders to it that aren’t relevant within the next month or so. Just make sure everything in Far Future Reminders is set to alert you on the appropriate day.

 

Apple’s Mac Reminders App Is More Capable Than You May Realize

With Apple’s productivity apps like Calendar, Contacts, Notes, and Reminders, which look and work pretty much the same on the Mac and in iOS, what you see is largely what you get. Particularly in iOS, they tend not to have much in the way of hidden depths.

With Reminders, however, Apple’s engineers snuck some surprising little features into the Mac version. We like using Siri on the iPhone, Apple Watch, and HomePod to add items to our iCloud-synced Reminders to-do lists and shopping lists whenever we think of them. And then, when we’re at our Macs, all those reminders are waiting for us. Here are some useful tricks on the Mac that you may not have noticed.

Open List in New Window

By default, Reminders is a single-window app with a sidebar that shows all your lists. You can hide the sidebar to focus on a single list at a time, at which point you navigate between lists by clicking the dots at the bottom of the screen or swiping on a trackpad.

But what if you want to see multiple lists at once? You can open any list in its own window by double-clicking it in the sidebar or by choosing Window > Open List in New Window. Resize and position that window as you like. Reminders even remembers which lists you had open if you quit and relaunch (and if it doesn’t, deselect the “Close windows when quitting an app” checkbox in System Preferences > General).

Check Today’s Tasks and Notice the Scheduled List

Perhaps the best part of making reminders is telling Siri to alert you at a particular time. “Hey Siri, remind me to test my backups on Friday the 13th at 9 AM.” Such reminders work well if you just want a notification at that time, but for those who like to see what’s coming up, Reminders has a few features for you.

To see what you’ve scheduled for today, choose View > Go to Today—we prefer the Command-T shortcut. To expand your view of tasks to those you didn’t finish yesterday (drat!) and those that are coming soon, click the automatically generated Scheduled list at the top of the sidebar. (It also exists at the top of the list of lists in the iOS version of Reminders.) The Scheduled list shows every reminder that has an associated time—it’s helpful for longer-term planning.

The Scheduled list may become overwhelming if you schedule lots of tasks, so Reminders on the Mac has one more trick for helping you view your tasks by date. Choose View > Show Calendar to display a tiny calendar at the bottom of the sidebar. Any date that has tasks on it gets a dot underneath; click one to see that day’s items.

Set and Sort By Priorities… Or Not

For those who have so many tasks that they need to prioritize them to stay on track, Reminders provides four levels of priority: None, Low, Medium, and High. To set and reset them quickly for a selected to-do, use the keyboard shortcuts:

  • Command-1 for Low
  • Command-2 for Medium
  • Command-3 for High
  • Command-4 for None

Once you’ve set priorities, choose View > Sort By > Priority to put your most urgent items at the top. Alas, if you have multiple Reminders lists open at once, the Sort By setting applies to all of them. So you might want to switch back and forth between Priority and other sorts, such Due Date, Creation Date, or Title. Or choose Manual and drag the items into the order you like.

Other Shortcuts

If you want to move an item from one list to another, you can drag it. The trick is to click to the left of its circle or the right of its name; clicking on the name will start editing. You can also Command-click to select multiple items or Shift-Click to select a range of items.

Although clicking the i button that appears when you hover over an item lets you set its notifications and priority, it’s easier to double-click the item. Or, you can Control- or right-click to the left of any item to update it too. Even better, select multiple items first, and then Control- or right-click them to modify them all once! And if your goal is to delete unnecessary items rather than marking them as completed, just select them and press the Delete key.

 

Create and Name Reminders Lists to Use Them Via Siri

Do you create reminders with Siri on the iPhone? Those reminders are automatically added to your default list, which you set in Settings > Reminders > Default List. That’s great generally—“Hey Siri, remind me to update watchOS tonight at 11 PM”—but less good when you want to maintain different shopping lists. For instance, create a list called “Grocery,” and then you can tell Siri, “Put chocolate-covered bacon on my Grocery list.” Want to get fancy? Make a list called “Hardware,” and then tell Siri, “Add birdseed to my Hardware list, and remind me when I arrive at Home Depot.” You may have to pick the correct Home Depot location from a list, but then you’ll receive an alert reminding you to buy birdseed when you pull into the parking lot. To look at any list via Siri, just say something like “Show my Grocery list.”

How to Stay on Top of Your To-Dos in Apple’s Reminders App

Apple designed the built-in Reminders app as a list-keeping assistant for both macOS and iOS. You can add reminders of any sort to the default Reminders list, or you can create custom lists, like Groceries or Movies to Watch. Plus, if you’ve set up Family Sharing, you also have a shared Family list that everyone in your family can access.

Making reminders is easy enough, but they can be easy to lose track of, and you may have to hunt through a number of lists to find any given one. How can you be certain that you won’t forget a particular to-do item? One technique that works well is to add a time trigger to the reminder. Time triggers cause your Apple devices to alert you to the reminder, and as an added benefit, they make it easier to find associated reminders.

Say you want to remind yourself to buy concert tickets. To include a trigger in your reminder, you can recruit Siri’s assistance by mentioning a time in your request: “Remind me to get tickets at 10 AM tomorrow.” Or, when you add the reminder manually, pick a day and time. After creating the reminder, hover over it or tap it, tap the i button that appears, and the option to be reminded on a day Then, on a Mac, click the preset day and time to adjust them. In iOS, tap Alarm and set a day and time. Unless the specific time matters, pick a general time that’s early in the day, like 10 AM.

Because your reminder includes a time, it appears not only in the list where you added it but also in the special Scheduled list. That’s key!

Now imagine that it’s first thing tomorrow morning and you’re trying to plan your day. You can either check the Scheduled list in Reminders or ask Siri: “Show me my reminders for today.” Once you see your day’s reminders, you can just do the easy ones, plan them into your day, or reschedule them for another day.

Of course, since you’ve assigned a time-based trigger to these reminders, Apple’s Notifications feature comes into play. At the appropriate time, your Apple devices can display an alert that you must dismiss, show a banner that disappears quickly, or play a sound.

Reminders can make it easy to remember important tasks, but try these tips if you need help:

  • For reminders created on one device to trigger notifications on another, set up your iCloud account on both devices must have Reminders on. Do this on the Mac in System Preferences > iCloud. In iOS, tap Settings > Your Apple ID Name > iCloud (if your copy of iOS isn’t up-to-date, tap Settings > iCloud). Plus, the reminders must be on a list that’s stored in iCloud.
  • If you use Siri to make reminders, specify the list where those reminders will be added if you don’t speak its name. On the Mac, choose Reminders > Default List. In iOS, go to Settings > Reminders > Default List.
  • Configure Mac notifications in System Preferences > Notifications. At the left, select Reminders and then make your choices at the right. The Alerts alert style is the easiest to notice. Set up iOS notifications in Settings > Notifications > Reminders. Turn on the Allow Notifications switch. For best results, turn on Show on Lock Screen and select Alerts under “Alert Style When Unlocked.”



  • On your iPhone, to see a different Reminders list, tap the “stack” of lists at the bottom of the screen.

So, go ahead and dive in. Set up a few tasks with time triggers, and enjoy letting your Apple devices keep track of it all.

A Few Friendly Reminders for Making the Most of Reminders

We’re all juggling a bazillion things to remember, so much so that Apple has removed reminders from its Calendar app, providing a Reminders app for both the Mac and iOS. Reminders is a relatively simple app, and while there are many other task managers available in the App Store, Reminders has a lot going for it. To make the most of it, try these tips:

Set up multiple lists. If your head is overflowing with things to track, you might find it helpful to organize your reminders in different lists, such as one for simple things to do, another for holiday gift ideas, and a third for items to pick up on your next trip to the hardware store. In the Mac and iPad versions of Reminders, click Add List at the bottom of the sidebar; in the iPhone version, pull down from the top of the screen to reveal the search field and then tap the + button to the right.

Reminders-Mac

Use Siri. Perhaps the best part of Reminders is that you can use Siri to create reminders, which works great on an iPhone or iPad, but is particularly compelling on an Apple Watch. Just say “Remind me to get tickets,” and if you want to be reminded by a notification, expand it with a time, as in “Remind me to get tickets tomorrow at 9 AM,” or with a location, as in “Remind me to get tickets when I get home.” You can even tell Siri to add reminders to a specific list, as in “Add lag bolts to the Hardware Store list.”

Reminders-Siri

Sync your reminder lists. Reminder lists are stored in iCloud, so they are automatically shared among all your devices as long as each device is signed in to iCloud and has Reminders syncing turned on. On the Mac, look in System Preferences > iCloud, and in iOS, navigate to Settings > iCloud.

Share a reminder list. You can also share a list with your spouse or colleagues who use iCloud. To do this on the Mac, hover over the list name in the sidebar to click the Sharing button and then enter one or more iCloud-connected email addresses. In iOS, go into the reminder list you want to share, tap Edit > Sharing > Add Person and then either enter email addresses or tap the + button to select someone from your contacts.

View reminders in your calendar. Because Apple made Reminders its own app, even your timed reminders won’t show up in Calendar, forcing you to check both Calendar and Reminders as you plan your day. If you want reminders intermixed with your calendar events, check out BusyCal, from BusyMac, or Fantastical from Flexibits. Both are full-featured alternatives to Calendar that can also manage reminders.

Reminders-BusyCal-icon                           Reminders-Fantastical-icon

It’s up to you to actually complete your reminders, but with these tips, you can at least be sure you won’t forget any!