Wednesday, February 08, 2012

ADHD: Apple Reminder's Location Alerts To the Rescue

<b>Reminder</b> utilizes iOS' notification system

How many times have you driven out to do errands and forgotten to get something? It might be strawberries at the grocer while they are in season, or the paperwork from the school, or maybe you forgot to drop off something like the library books that are knocking around in your car. For me it was forgetting to check my blood pressure at the grocers every time I went there.

Need milk? Off I went. Back I came. No blood pressure checked. Need diapers? Same story. Time and time again I would head out to the grocers and return without a reading. Somehow I never remembered to add it to the shopping list, or I didn't check the list it was on when I was shopping. 

Assuming you aren't trying to avoid the task, sometimes it would be helpful if something could interrupt your reverie right about the time you were nearby. That's where Apple's Reminder comes in.

First the bad news: I've run Reminder through its paces over the past few months, and have found it very lacking as far as ToDo list apps go. You can enter and check off tasks, and see what tasks you've completed. Scheduling a task can give it an alarm and lets you filter it from the other tasks when tapping on the "Date" tab. Functional, but basic, with too many taps needed for the extras. You can't even organize the list of tasks in any way, shape, or form. Schedule different tasks at different days, or change their priorities…they remain in the order in which you entered them. You can't even see what the priority of a task is without tapping on the task. But where the app shines is in location awareness.

Once I create a task, I can select it again to access the details menu. Tapping "Show More" gives you access to Priority and Notes. Tapping "Remind Me" gives you access to the alarm (which you can change by tapping on the default date it gives you), and the location reminder.

Location screen

By default, Reminder assumes you want to have a reminder set for your current location. You can then choose to trigger an alert for when you leave or arrive. Want a reminder to bring along those library books before you leave the neighborhood? Tell Reminder to give you a holler when you leave your home. Want to remember to stop by the front office before unloading your groceries and getting busy with dinner? Tell Reminder to give you a holler when you arrive at your apartment. If you want to remember to pick up strawberries at the store, tap on the location field and add your grocer.

In practice I have found Reminder does a great job using the iPhone's built in GPS system. When leaving my apartment complex, Reminder will go off, giving me a chance to turn around and go get those stupid library books. When driving near the vicinity of the library, Reminder will remind me again. Very handy. Of course, if I am nowhere near the library, those poor books will just collect fines and damage in the back of my minivan. Whenever I go grocery shopping, tho, the blood pressure reminder goes off and I remember to do it. I find myself using Reminder solely for location based reminders. Compared to other ToDo list apps that try to be location aware, Reminder beats them all handily.

There are a few quirks in this version 1.0 app. Occasionally, Reminder freaks out when the GPS system gets wonky. I can be sitting there reading a book when Reminder, for example, alerts me to return the library books as if I've left the building. During those times it will also trigger arriving task reminders. I had five leaving alarms and three arriving alarms one day and they were all going off every few minutes. I was ready to throw my iPhone at a wall. Fortunately, that doesn't happen often.

The location awareness isn't quite good enough for malls unless you are actually traveling to it. If the shop you want to remember to drop by is too far away from road, sometimes the reminder will not activate. Also, reminders for routes that you travel faster than 40mph along aren't helpful when they go off after you've passed the exit or turnoff.

Lastly, the location field can't add locations that aren't in your address book. This is a severe limitation, in my opinion. I don't want to clutter up my address book with entries for every business that I hope to run errands at. Hopefully Apple will address this limitation in future updates and allow us to stick a pin on any location we want to trigger a reminder at. I can see this very useful for triggering reminders at parks and scenic locations where I like to draw or write, as well as temporary locations I don't ever plan on visiting again.

Overall, I find Reminder very useful in combatting my ADDled mind simply for its location aware alerts. I find them very handy, even with the v1.0 quirks. I keep my reminders down to one or two per location to avoid overwhelming myself, and have been "remembering" to do much more lately because of it. If you have an iPhone and have ADHD, you would be doing yourself a big favor by taking a few minutes to become familiar with this powerful reminding tool.


Follow me on Twitter as @SplinteredMind. I also explore iPhone photography with Instagram as douglascootey (peek). And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well, or find me on Path where I explore my coping strategy process with varying results..