Dealing with hard deadlines

I have a system in Evernote to keep track of all the things I need to do on a daily basis.  My “Next Actions” list is great as it allows me to prioritise constantly – it usually doesn’t matter if an item is done today or tomorrow, as long as it’s done soon (there’s a separate “someday/maybe” list for things in the medium term).  As long as you remember to check the list frequently, and check things off when they’re done it’s a great system.

But there are occasions that I need to be prodded constantly, especially for recurring items.  For example, I have to file and pay a VAT return every quarter.  Evernote is a bit cumbersome for repeated events.  And sometimes I just need a note in my mail to remind me that a report is due on friday.

So alongside Evernote, I use google calendar to manage deadlines.  Mixing them in with regular appointments quickly causes confusion.  The alert requirements are also different – a pop up reminder 15 minutes in advance is usually what you want for an appointment, but that’s no good at all for a major deadline.  

But a little advance set up makes everything much simpler:

  • Create a separate calendar called “Hard Deadlines” (on your google calendar page you find this about one third down on the left under the My Calendars menu.
  • In the settings for this new calendar, set the default reminder methods for entries to be whatever you want.  There can be multiple reminders using pop-ups or email or both.  I have an email reminder a week in advance and then three, two and one days beforehand.
  • I also set up a daily agenda to be emailed at 5am with all the deadlines for that day.  No email is sent if there aren’t any.
  • Recurring items can be set up very easily in google calendar so these are set up once.  I use the “All day” option for all deadlines rather than specify a particular time.  
  • Individual deadlines are set as required.  There is a great way to automatically integrate Evernote and google calendar, but this will be the topic of a future blog post.
  • The Agenda view gives you a good forward view of all looming deadlines over the next few weeks
  • Individual reminders can be switched off if you’ve done it and don’t want to be reminded any more.  Or if something needs extra prodding over the default, additional reminders can be added to those deadlines.

Once set up, you can choose to view all your calendars together if you want, or if it gets confusing you can hide appointments.  I like having an email reminder and I can always create an item in my Evernote to-do list as well to track it. 

That’s all for now … I’ve got some things to do ….

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