18 Apr 2019, 21:36

A Better Reminders Workflow with Siri on macOS

I live by iCloud reminders. On any given day I’ll probably create at least 5 reminders, both for things I need to do that day as well as further out in the future. Out of all the different task/reminder systems I’ve tried, iCloud reminders seem to be the most effective in getting me to actually complete things. Many tools send you a single notification when something is due and if you brush that off because you can’t do it as soon as that notification arrives then you won’t be reminded again. Reminders on the iOS lock screen are “sticky” and you’ll keep seeing them until you take some action. Being able to create new reminders effortlessly without interrupting my work is important to me. For years, I used an Alfred 3 workflow for creating reminders. It works well but requires me to remember a specific syntax. Even after using it for that long I would often need to look up how to do something that was different from my most common usages.

When Siri came to macOS, my first thought was that I would never end up using it. When am I ever going to talk to my Mac? Certainly not at work and not likely at home either. I promptly forgot all about it until not too long ago when it dawned on me that I had seen something about using text to control Siri being added to macOS and that might give me a new way to manage reminders.

The feature isn’t enabled by default so the first thing to do is set that up. In System Preferences, search for “Type to Siri” and select it

There’s already a default keyboard shortcut for launching Siri, which is to hold down Command (for a second or so) and then press Space. If you want to change that, it’s under the Siri section in preferences. This is where you can also turn voice feedback off if you want. That’s what I’ve done since I never use voice commands and I can always read the feedback on screen.

It’s quite a bit more flexible and forgiving of natural language than the Alfred workflow is. You can create recurring reminders:

Remind me to take the trash out every Monday at 7am

Or even location aware:

Remind me to water the plants when I get home.

As nice as that is, there’s still one thing that the Alfred workflow does better. Whenever certain applications that it supports are active, it can create a reminder with a link to the URL or file open in that application. For example, if I want to remember something about a page I have open in Chrome I can run the workflow with r this in 30 minutes and it creates a reminder that includes the URL. This kind of context-awareness is something I’d like to see more of in Siri (and apps in general really).