When I say the name Ron Popeil, what comes to mind?

As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, I fondly remember his infomercials and the over zealous audience yelling “Set It and Forget It!” Wouldn’t your life be easier if you set and forget things?

If you work remotely or manage virtual workers, you’re no stranger to a common problem. Much of what needs to get done probably happens (or should happen) on a recurring basis. If you’re using a simple todo list (such as a Basecamp list, Trello checklist, or even a Google form) and you mark a task as “complete,” what happens? It likely goes into some archive of completed tasks – never to be seen again.

But can you actually complete a task that is supposed to occur three times a week in perpetuity? Will you remember to manually create your next todo? That seems counter-productive to me.

So, what are your options? I see three potential options, depending on your needs.

1. Set up a recurring calendar event
2. Tell Siri to set up a recurring reminder
3. Use Asana to set up a recurring task

Option #1: Recurring Calendar Events (Proceed with Caution)

I’m pretty protective of my calendar – but I wasn’t always that way. In fact, I used to load up my calendar with anything I wanted to remember to do.

The problem with this approach is simple. Calendar overload quickly happens, and you get absolutely nothing done. Also, if you have an administrative assistant who is managing your calendar, you’ll create a lot of confusion.

Here’s a process to determine if something makes it onto your calendar. If you answer “yes” to all of these questions, then it may make sense to set up a recurring appointment on your calendar. If not, proceed to option #2.

  • Is this actually an event that will occur at this specific time?
  • Will I honor this event’s exact time slot?
  • Does this time slot avoid conflicts with future with pre-existing client meetings or obligations?

Option #2: Tell Siri to Set a Recurring Reminder

I’ve had a Mac for nearly a decade. I’ve had an iPad since they came out a few years ago. However, it was only recently that I made the switch from Android to iPhone. Why? It’s complicated and has to do with my cell phone provider. Reasons aside, since getting my iPhone a few months ago, I’ve discovered that Siri is tremendously useful for small business owners.

What do I like most about Siri? You guessed it – “her” ability to set up recurring “reminders” on my behalf.

Here’s a quick little video that I found on YouTube demonstrating this feature (sorry that it’s a slightly older version of iOS featured in the video):

So let’s recap on Siri’s recurring reminders. How do I actually use this to stay organized professionally? Here are a few examples in my iPhone now:

  • Invoice clients on their requested schedules (monthly, bi-monthly, weekly, every-other-week)
  • Have my MacBook professionally cleaned each Quarter
  • Mail my estimated Quarterly taxes to the IRS when required
  • Change the HVAC vent filter each month (air quality in your home is important, especially if you work there!)

Option #3: Use Asana to Set Up a Recurring Task

If you’re new to the Asana project management software, allow me to introduce you. I’ve used just about every project management system out there: Basecamp, Freedcamp, Trello, Smartsheet, Microsoft Project, Feng, Jira, and even hand-written notes. But nothing compares to Asana for managing virtual teams.

Why? Here’s why (in a nutshell):

  • Structure tasks based on a multi-tiered approach (company, department, project, task, and subtask)
  • Sort all tasks and subtasks by assignee by due date
  • Set recurring tasks (and subtasks)

Automating Your Todo List Can Pay Big Rewards!

Don’t go another day without automating your todo list. Figure out the best place to set up your recurring todos (whether that be your calendar, smartphone reminder list, or project management system) and set it (and forget it!).

Ron Popeil would be proud.

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and Entrepreneur.com.

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