Never forget anything ever again with these 11 phone tricks

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I’ll be the first to admit: “Use your smartphone to remind yourself of things” seems like a story that doesn’t need to be written. Of course you can use it to keep track of grocery lists, to-dos, reminders, and calendar entries. But I bet you didn’t know that there are gobs of other tricks for keeping track of things with your phone. Most of them don’t even require any apps—you can use your phone’s built-in features. Here are a few of our favorite ways to augment your forgetful biological brain with the synthetic brain in your pocket.

Use it as an alarm clock

alarm clock

Wake up, sleepyhead! Use your phone’s alarm function and set it on your nightstand for easy access. (You keep a copy of Macworld on your nightstand, right? Of course you do.)

You might have already known that you can use your phone as an alarm clock, but did you know you can set multiple alarms from it? Go to the Clock app on either your iPhone or Android phone, go to the alarms section, and add all the alarms you want. You can turn them off and on, assign them to certain days of the week, and even set a different alarm tone to each of them.

Can your dumb clock radio do all that? Nope.

Set a photo reminder as your background photo

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No, really: Remember to get milk.

If you’re more of a visual-spatial thinker and find that to-do lists don’t do you any good, here’s a tip to try: Take a photo of something that will remind you of whatever task you need to complete and set it as your phone’s background photo. Every time you wake your phone from sleep, you’ll get an in-your-face reminder that the milk you have at home has turned, so you don’t have to eat dry Froot Loops tomorrow.

Remember your hotel room number

remember room

Where were we? Never forget which room you were in again. (It helps when the conference rooms are named for sci-fi characters.)

Were you staying in room 6804 or 8640? Take a picture of your hotel room door to remember your room number. This trick can also be useful if you’re attending a conference and don’t want to forget the meeting room you’re in.

Don’t transcribe—take a photo

take notes

This wasn’t a particularly productive brainstorming session.

Don’t waste your time rewriting those brainstorming ideas you scrawled on a whiteboard; instead, point your phone’s camera at your notes and take a photo of it, so you can sit and organize your thoughts later on.

You might even be able to use an OCR program like Prizmo to turn that picture into text.

Park your car, drop a (virtual) pin

drop a pin

Drop a pin when you park your car so that you don’t end up wandering around for an hour trying to locate it.

Don’t get lost in a sea of cars the next time you go to the mall or a football game. If you’ve got good GPS accuracy, drop a pin at your current location in your mapping app of choice—and save the pin if possible—so you can narrow down your search for your car later on.

If this isn’t an option, take a photo (or photos) of your surroundings so you have an idea of what visual cues to look for when you return to the lot. This can also be useful if you’re visiting a city you’re unfamiliar with.

Make sense of cable messes

cable mess

Take a photo of your cables before you reorganize them so that you don’t forget which cable is for what.

Got a wiring mess to untangle? Take a picture of everything when it’s plugged in. That way, you can remember which cables went where when you’re done tidying up.

Keep tabs on who borrowed what

mike with plumpee

Mike borrowed Plumpee the Hedgehog, so I subjected him to this terrible photo. (Sorry, Mike.)

“Who did I lend my stuffed hedgehog to?” Take a picture of your friends holding items you lent them, and even email/share it with them. So you both will remember, and there will never be an argument about whether or not you lent it to them. (It’s also useful for shaming them on Facebook, if they’re slacking about returning your stuff.)

Use it as a wallet backup

digital wallet

Save digital images of loyalty cards and such, just in case.

Take pictures of your driver’s license, health insurance cards, and credit cards (front and back). Photos can’t necessarily replace the real thing, but if you need a piece of information from one of your cards but don’t have your wallet on hand, you’ll still have all the info that you need. Just be aware of the security risks and make sure you set a passcode on your phone to help secure it.

Foursquare as a to-visit list

hrd 4square yum

Press the Save button on any Foursquare listing page to add it to your to-do list. (Try the Mongolian Cheesesteak. It’s delicious.)

Check-in apps like Foursquare aren’t just for where you are, they’re for where you want to be. Foursquare’s to-do list is perfect when you pass that cute bistro you want to try someday.

go to there

I know. I know. I want to go there, too.

Text reminders to the future you

oh dont forget dot com

Oh, Don’t Forget lets you text reminders to yourself at a later date or time. (You can also use it to text reminders to friends, too.)

Use an online service like Oh, Don’t Forget to send yourself a text message at a particular date and time. This can be particularly useful if you aren’t a big believer in calendars or if you just had a brilliant thought you don’t want to lose.

This trick can also come in handy if you’re on a blind date and want to fake an excuse to leave. "Oh, that text was really important—I have to go!"

Digitize those receipts

photograph your receipts

Take photos of your receipts so you don’t have to worry about digging through your desk drawers later on.

Need to keep receipts from your business trip for your expense report? Take pictures of receipts when you travel to keep a record of your expenses. It’s easier than keeping the actual paper, and it can be a boon for the organizationally challenged. Just check to make sure that a digital facsimile is an acceptable form of record-keeping for tax or expense-report purposes.

This story, "Never forget anything ever again with these 11 phone tricks" was originally published by TechHive.

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