How to set automatic reminders for anything

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One of my biggest fears is that I will make an appointment with a client and then completely forget about it and not show up.  I can’t even stand to be late for anything (my motto is if you’re not 5 minutes early, you’re late) – so not showing up at all would be a real disaster.  So I rely on a virtually foolproof calendar/reminder system to make sure I don’t forget anything – appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, even trash pickup days.

automatic reminders


The system that I use is available to everyone, and it’s free – it’s the Google Calendar.  You may have looked at the Google Calendar before, but you might be surprised at some of the cool things it can do for you.  And of course, all of this is available no matter if you use PC or Mac.

First, of course, you need to have access to the calendar feature of Google.  To do that you just need a free Google account.  If you have a Gmail email address, you already have a Google account.  If not, just go to, click “Sign in” at the top right, then click “Sign up” on the next screen.

Once you have your Google account, go to the Google Calendar page:  Near the top, you will see that you have several viewing options – Day, Week, Month, or 4 days (there is also the “Agenda” option – we’ll get to that in a minute).  You can click on these and see which one you prefer.  I like the “Week” view.  This shows the calendar week with the current date and time noted by a red line.

Google calendar


Right now, the calendar looks pretty bare.  Let’s set up a couple of appointments – first a one-time reminder, then an ongoing one.

A one-time reminder could be a dentist appointment in a week.  Let’s say it is for Wednesday October 31 at 3 pm.  Look at the little mini-calendar over on the left side, and click on October 31.  The big calendar will switch to that week, so that you can actually click on the 3 pm slot under Oct 31.  When you click there you will see this pop up:

Google calendar


When you see that, just click on “Edit event”.  This will open a new window with LOTS of options.  These are pretty self-explanatory when you see them, and they include:

  • Naming the event (“teeth cleaning”)
  • Where (by entering an address, you can then use your phone’s GPS to take you there – in case you didn’t know where your dentist office is)
  • Description (whatever details you want can go here)
  • Color (you can make all dentist appointments a certain color so that you can spot them easily on the calendar – probably some sort of dismal gray would be appropriate for this one)
  • Reminders (you can get an email reminder before the appointment time – the reminder can be minutes, hours, days or weeks ahead of time)

There are other options but those are the basics.  When you’re finished, click Save and it’s on the calendar.  So you don’t have to worry about trying to remember it any more!

So that’s how you set up one-time appointments.  What about events that happen over and over, like an anniversary or birthday?  That’s the beauty of this system – you just set it up once and then you get reminded every year at the appropriate time – forever.

Let’s set up a birthday reminder.  Your friend Bob has a birthday on November 15, and you want to make sure you don’t forget it.  And you ALSO want to make sure you have time to buy a present.  Here’s what you do:

To start, you set up an “event” just the same way you did for the dentist appointment.  With a birthday it doesn’t really matter what time of the day you choose but I usually pick sometime in the early morning.

But there are a couple of things you do differently this time:

1. On the editing screen, check the box that says “Repeat”.  That opens up a new window where you can tell it how often to repeat (in this case, yearly), how many times you want it to show up on the calendar (in this case, indefinitely).  Now Bob’s birthday will be on your calendar until you decide to take it off.

Google calendar

2. The other factor is the automated reminders.  It’s good to get an email on the morning of Bob’s birthday to remind you to say “Happy birthday” to Bob when you see him, but what if you need to buy a gift?  What I usually do is set a reminder a week ahead of time, 2 days ahead of time, 1 day ahead of time, and one for the day itself.  This gives me multiple opportunities to make sure I don’t let it slip.  So my “Reminders” section would look like this:

Google calendar reminders

What I did a long time ago is refer to a list of everyone that has a birthday that I need to remember, and I just go through my Google calendar and enter each one.  That takes a little time, but isn’t it worth it to not have to try to remember all that stuff any more?

A couple more cool tricks with the Google calendar:

Agenda view – if you have a day that is packed with events or appointments from morning to night, it’s good to be able to see them all in a list.  That’s what I like to do anyway, when I have a day filled with computer appointments.  Once you have all of the appointments entered, click on “Agenda” and you will see a list of the things you need to do, like this:

Google agenda

Other calendars – Google has a bunch of pre-made calendars that you can insert into your calendar.  For example, if you’re a Red Sox fan, you can click a button and have all of the season’s game details show up on your calendar.  To do this, look on the left side where it says “Other calendars”, click on the drop-down that is to the right of the word “calendar”, and choose “Browse interesting calendars”.  You will see a list of various types of holidays, and when you click on “Subscribe”, those holidays will be added to your calendar.

At the top there are two other categories – Sports and More.  Click on Sports, and you will see a variety of sports listed.  Choose your sport, then choose your team, and subscribe.  You’ll never miss another game!  Under “More” are a few misc. things like moon phases, sunrise and sunset, etc.  You might find that handy too.

As you might expect, the calendar can also be on your phone or tablet just by downloading the app.  For a free calendar and reminder service that lasts forever, the Google Calendar is hard to beat!

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Joan Peterson
October 29th, 2012

What an amazing tool! I’ll set it up right away. Isn’t it wonderful how many things can be made easier by using the computer. If we’re not careful, we’ll probably only have to snap our fingers and it will be done. Then we really would need to run a mile a day. Love your tips and look forward to them every Monday. Thanks, Joan