How to stop forgetting your to do list

Arlen Parsa
Nov 28, 2018 · 2 min read
I made this short video to explain a powerful concept.

What I’m about to show you is an incredibly simple trick, and I’m amazed that more people don’t know about it.

The key to remembering things that you have to do is to store that information in a way that doesn’t actually require you to remember it.

You can only store so much in your working memory and if you’re spending all your mental energy to keep track of your to do list, you’re wasting precious computational brainpower.

Caroline Webb writes in her book How to Have a Good Day:

Because our brain’s working memory is tiny, even small distractions can make it difficult to concentrate. And thinking about incomplete tasks and concerns qualifies as a serious distraction, especially if you’re trying to keep track of them all in your head.

You burn a little of your deliberate system’s mental energy every time you tell yourself, “I must remember to pick up the dry cleaning today.”

So, how exactly do you outsource your memory?

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In the modern world, the easiest way to offload your to do list is to use your cell phone. On my iPhone, I like to use Siri’s reminder services, but Android phones have a similar feature as well.

Here’s how it works. For instance, you can use Siri to remind you to do something at a particular time.

Siri, remind me at 3:15PM today to call my dentist to make an appointment.

You can also use it to remind you using a relative unit of time. Like:

Siri, remind me in 7 days to change my sheets.


Siri, remind me on January 12th to arrange a pet-sitter for my upcoming trip.

If you’ve got your home address stored in your phone, you can combine the power of reminders with location services for smart reminders like this:

Siri, remind me to take out the trash when I get home.

That’s it. If you own a smartphone, you’ve already paid for a device that can manage reminders for you, and using this capability is totally free. Once you start using it, you’ll quickly realize how powerful and convenient setting automated reminders can be.

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