Google Reminders & Goals

Google Calendar is celebrating its 10th birthday. It is my calendar of choice and may be yours as well. The big news this week is that Google has added two new features. One is “Reminders” appearing on  Google Calendar when viewed on the web. The other is “Google Goals” to help you find the time for the habits you want to form.

Google Reminders

We have been able to say to our phones, “OK Google…Remind me to pick up the dry cleaning Tuesday at 10 o’clock.” Tuesday at 10:00, the phone would sound an audible reminder. It would also display “Pick up the dry cleaning” on the screen.

Starting in December 2015, the “Reminder” also displays on your phone’s calendar. The caveat is that you have to be using the official Google Calendar app on your phone or tablet. (Many of us use the generic calendar that came with the mobile device and we set it to sync with Google calendar.) One drawback was the Reminder would only show up on the mobile device. They did not appear on the Google Calendar when viewed on the web.

One of the new features this week expands where you can see Reminders. They will now show up on Google Calendar when viewed on the web. Here is a short video which explains the concept:

Where It Excels

Google Calendar in your computer’s browser displays all the reminders you have scheduled into the future. You can even say something like, “Pick up the dry cleaning EVERY Tuesday at 10 o’clock.” You will see that reminder appear every Tuesday.

What if you don’t do what the Reminder said? Here comes the great feature. The reminder moves forward to the next day, and the next until you mark it as complete. In this way, it operates more like a to-do list. Tasks not done today automatically roll forward to tomorrow. For years, Google Calendar has been strong. Yet, a feature called “Google Tasks” has been weak.  One of its major weaknesses is that it did not allow for repeating tasks. Google Reminders solves that problem.

Where It Doesn’t

When you perform a particular task, you often need certain information available. A good task app will provide a note section within the task. In that note, you can paste the information you want available to you at the time you do the task. Google Reminders does not have that feature.

Google Goals

What is it you want to do on a regular basis, but seems to get squeezed out of your schedule? Maybe it’s going to the gym. Maybe it’s practicing the guitar. Google Goals allows you to enter the activity, how long it takes, and how often you want to do it. Google Goals finds vacant spots in your Google Calendar. It then schedules those activities for you.

What if you add an appointment to your calendar that conflicts with a scheduled goal? Google moves the goal to some other vacant time. Through machine learning, Google gets better at knowing how your schedule tends to work. It puts these “goals” at times that tend to work well for you. At least, that’s the theory.

This video illustrates the concept:

Where It Excels

You can’t forget about your good intentions. Tell Google Goals you want to go to the gym for an hour three times a week and you are done. Those good intentions will show up as appointments on the calendar.

Where It Doesn’t

One of the hallmark features of Google calendar is the ability to have multiple calendars which overlay. You could have a work calendar and a home calendar. You could have a calendar for each of your children’s activities. You can see all the calendars at once or filter them. Google Goals is only going to look at one of those calendars…at least for now. It may wind up putting that gym visit at 6:00PM because your work calendar shows you are free then. But, your “Timmy” calendar says you are to pick him up from karate at that same time. Google Goals won’t look at that commitment. You still find yourself double-booked.

Do You Need It?

For some, the answer is “yes.” Consider the student who is just learning how to keep a digital calendar. At a young age, the to-do list may be short. Reminders and Google Goals would be great. With few to-dos, the students could combine them with the calendar. The features would help get good intentions out of the head and into a system that does the remembering.

For anyone else whose to-do list is short, Reminders and Google Goals could be the answer. The Google Calendar would hold both normal appointments and the reminders to get the dry cleaning and go to the gym.

For others, the answer is “no.” What if you have a healthy number of to-dos? For most of us, if we were to put all our to-dos on the calendar, we would have a mess. Appointments become masked by a host of tasks that don’t even have to be done that day. I recommend using a task manager, such as Remember The Milk to keep up with all the tasks we have to perform.

“How does what you teach differ from what others teach about organization and time management?” That’s a question I get often. My answer includes the importance I place on identifying repeating tasks and building them into your system. We all have those things we need to do the same time every year, every month, every week, or even every day. Where Google Reminders and Google Goals would help are also areas that a good task manager would handle.

We have different needs. For some, Google Reminders and Google Goals may fill a need. Those who already have a good task management program would find needless duplication. Either way, Google continues to provide new options to help make our lives easier.

Your turn: Do you use either Google Reminders or Google Goals? What are your thoughts?