I’ve used e-mail as a pseudo-reminder service for about as long as I’ve had an electronic address.; sending myself a quick note is efficient and highly effective for remembering to bring something into the office the next day or reminding myself about an event. But this system isn’t very effective for racking ideas and appointments that are more than a day out, as the messages get lost amidst their neighbors in my inbox. Calendar systems are great, but I don’t tend to use them as my schedule isn’t chock-full of events, and they aren’t suited to capturing non-event informatio. My GTD app of choice is great for keeping track of project tasks, but I don’t use it for time-based reminders, and it doesn’t run on my work PC (this may change with the release of the Web-based version).
So, I have several useful apps and processes, but none of them makes it easy for me to remember events, ideas or keep track of miscellaneous bits of data.
Enter Sandy, my new “personal email assistant”. Whether I e-mail her directly (via an unique address), or CC her on a reply to someone else, she captures the vital information and makes it easy to find when I need it, whether it’s an appointment reminder, contact information, to-do items or a random bit of info.
The E-mail I Send to Sandy
Building atop my ingrained habits of sending messages to myself, Sandy takes my e-mails, transforming them into To Do lists, appointments (which are easily imported into my calendar) and timely reminders. for example, here’s a message I sent to Sandy the other night:
Remind me to get off the computer in 30 minutes
This message contains two tasks. The first is to remind me to check up on a support message that I left on behalf of a client earlier. I’ll receive the e-mail on Thursday at 8 in the morning. The second is set for half an hour from when I sent the message telling me to log off and go do other things.
Sandy’s Got it Covered
Like every good communicator, Sandy makes sure she’s got everything down, sending a confirmation, with links to each entry she has added (the URLs won’t work for you – just me):
I scheduled these:
#1 Thu, 10/25 8:00am Check ATC Support message
– email reminder at 7:45am
#2 Wed, 10/24/2007 9:23pm Get off the computer
– email reminder at 9:23pm
Sandy’s Nudges Me
At the appointed time, Sandy drops me a line via e-mail or a message to my phone. Simple, friendly and effective. Plus you can subscribe to the calendar if you want to include the events in Apple’s iCal or Google Calendar. Here is the e-mail reminder she sent me:
Psssst! Here’s your reminder:
#1 8:00am Check ATC Support message
– email reminder at 7:45am
To snooze this reminder until you get home, reply with: remind me this evening
That’s pretty damn cool. Sandy’s deep – after learning about her advanced skills, I realized this is a concept that should have been delivered a very long time ago – it’s that obvious. That isn’t to say Sandy is simple, quite the opposite. Creating a system that is easy for a human to interact with via text without jumping through hoops is actually rather complex, even with a paired down set of commands. The folks at values of n did an amazing job recognizing this need and delivering a beautiful experience.