The Importance of Setting Life Reminders

If I could kick myself in the ass right now, I would. Last night on my way home from the driving range I was caught for speeding and issued a nasty fine (like golf isn’t expensive enough already…). Unlike my experience in If You Want To Change, Tell the Truth, I was never in any doubt that this was anything but my own fault. I strongly agree with the principle that people should drive within the speed limits, and I put this down to a lapse in concentration. What really annoys me, though, is the fact that this is something I vowed I would never do again after the last time.

The last time was a few years ago, but I still remember it very clearly. I also distinctly remember the following weeks where the care I took driving could have had me nominated for a “Driver of the Year” award. But as these weeks turned into months, I slowly returned to a more “normal” way of driving (still predominantly safe – just more relaxed and, therefore, prone to occasional lapses in concentration).

Anyway this experience had given me a simple, yet extremely powerful idea: life reminders. I’m sure there are numerous lessons I have learned at some point in my life that, as time has marched on, have slowly been forgotten. One example I think everyone can identify with is the experience of going on holiday. Personally, when I am on holiday I start to really appreciate the important things in life: family, friends, happiness. I also generate endless ideas for what I want to do to fill my life with success and meaning. However, as sure as day turns to night, once the holiday is over these ideas and insights slowly get pushed out of my mind as the trials and trivialities of everyday life demand my attention.

To make sure “never again” really means “never again”, I have come up with the some personal reminders:

  • Drive safe and within the speed limit (an obvious one!).
  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail (thank you Benjamin Franklin).
  • Don’t taken family and friends for granted.
  • Remember to find pleasure and meaning in each and every day.
  • Being fit and healthy feels so good (a reminder I need on those days it is difficult to motivate myself to get to the gym).

I’m sure there are many more, and I plan to add to these as they pop into my head. The next thing to consider, of course, is what to do with these reminders. Here are also some methods I think will work well:

  • Stick them on the fridge, at the front of your diary, or some other prominent place.
  • Choose a particular date in your diary (maybe at the start of a month or a date with particular importance to you) and write your reminders in there.

As you can see, my methods are fairly “old school”. I’m sure there are also some tech savvy way to set up these types of reminders. Maybe a reader could suggest some?

Peter Clemens

Peter Clemens is founder of The Change Blog and author of The Possibility of Change books series. Click here to learn more about Peter and his books.

11 Comments

  1. Motivating to the go the gym takes skill! I have trouble with that one. Sadly, the thing that motivates me the most is knowing how guilt-ridden I’ll be if I don’t go. Of course, after several consecutive days, it get easier.

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  2. You can always set a reminder in an online calendar… Yahoo Mail provides a calendar and will email you when that event fires.

    Or you can ignore it and eventually the universe will remind you :P

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  3. The trouble with reminders on the fridge or other places is we tune them out after a short time. If you’re really serious, have a list of things you want to do and each evening write down how you did on each item. It doesn’t have to take long, but it will emphasize your commitment. If you don’t have time for that, then just admit they’re really not a high priority for you.

    Also, how about lightening up a bit? This business of looking yourself in the mirror and saying you suck when you don’t do well in an interview and wanting to kick yourself in the ass when you make a mistake, is counterproductive. We don’t have to be perfect, and the sooner you stop beating yourself up when you do something you wish you hadn’t, the more effective you will be. And the more you will enjoy your life and be more fun to have around.

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  4. Thanks for the comments.
    Jean: these things happen, I think about them, I learn from them and I write about them. Think of my articles as catharsis for me if you like. I certainly don’t beat myself up over them and that’s not the impression I want to give because, yes, that is counterproductive. Perfection is a pointless pursuit, I much prefer the idea of aiming for excellence.

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  5. There is nothing wrong with “old school”, or traditional methods. As you have indicated elsewhere as well, to facilitate change requires work – not magic. I was somewhat bemused when joining Personal Development Partners at the choice of so many “success systems”, several of which I had never heard of. Its easy to get lost in systems and not work on learning new skills or habits that will help us develop (with effort!).

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  6. I agree David. My system involves: pen, paper, lists. Easy.

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  7. For the adventurous…

    Deliberately diarize a time to ignore the rule you have, eg deliberately speed.

    Don’t ponder the psychology, just try it for something you’ve had a hard time changing and notice the effect.

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  8. Peter,
    I agree… pen, paper and lists plus focusing on what you want is a great system. And that we’re aiming for excellence, not perfection.

    David, I have the same reaction to talking about systems. To me they start feeling like clutter.

    Great post and discussion. Thanks. :)

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  9. Thanks Jean. I was thinking about your comment some more. Another way I would put it is this: I allow myself a small amount of time to be frustrated. Then I get over it and move on, hopefully taking with me the lessons learned from the experience. In this type of article I follow the same sequence: I show a little frustration, then move on and really try to share a positive and thought provoking article.

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  10. For a more technologically advanced, but simple idea, as a Mac user, one thing I do to remind myself of my ongoing, general goals is keep a list on a simple sticky note widget. So, every time I check the weather or use the dictionary, thesaurus, calculator or calendar widgets, it pops up in front of my face. I find that I do end up reading and reflecting on it frequently.
    Windows Vista has a similar feature and I’m pretty sure there’s an iGoogle gadget that would work for this too.
    I find that if I update it and/or move it around often, I consciously notice it fairly consistently.

    Reply
  11. How the hell do you get a speeding ticket in Vancouver when there is so much traffic?

    Parking tickets, I understand, as I’ve had many :)

    Reply

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