We all know we're supposed go to the dentist twice a year and that most of us should get an annual physical. Depending on your age, there may be other regular tests or preventative screenings you should get. Even though you know you should go, there's always some reason not to. Maybe you forgot to take a day off work or schedule the appointment in the first place; maybe simply digging up the doctor's number is a big enough hurdle when the time comes. Let's fix that right now. Open your favourite calendar and use this guide to make sure you never miss a check-up or important test again.
Pick Your Tools
Here's what you'll need to make this happen:
- A calendar that supports reminders and recurring appointments.
- About a half-hour to set up your automated reminders.
Seriously, that's all. You can use any to-do app or calendar you choose. Google Calendar works just fine, as does Apple's iCal or Microsoft Outlook, or just a wall calendar you look at every day. Whatever tool you use, make sure it's the same one you use for your appointments and to-dos now. Using and remembering to use a new app defeats the point. Finally, you may want to take a little extra time to collect all of the information you're going to need, like the phone numbers of your primary care physician, your dentist, any specialists you know you'll need to see, and anyone else on the list below before you set in on the task.
Schedule Your Appointments
One of the founding principles of almost every productivity system, GTD included, is that it's important to get your obligations and responsibilities out of your head and into a system that serves you and reminds you when it's time to work on them or do something. That way you don't have to use your limited supply of willpower to remember to schedule a doctor's appointment while simultaneously trying to keep track of everything else. Jot down as many regular appointments and health-related to-dos you can think of, how far in advance you need to make the appointments to get the dates you want, and get them on the calendar. Here's a list to get you started:
Your annual physical. Think back to the last time you had a physical and schedule your next one a year out from then. If it's been longer than a year, it's time to schedule one with your doctor — do that first, and then put it on your calendar, complete with your doctor's address, phone number and any information you have to take with you. Make the appointment a recurring event and set at least one reminder a week or two in advance of the appointment. The reminder serves two purposes — it makes sure you call and schedule the appointment, even if it doesn't land exactly on your preferred date (and if it doesn't add it without deleting the reminder appointment) and it makes sure you actually go.
- Your twice-yearly dental appointments. You should see the dentist twice a year, just for checkups and regular cleanings, but most of us can easily go more than a year without setting foot in a dentist's office. It's not the most pleasant way to spend a morning, but an hour in the dentist's chair for a cleaning definitely beats two or three hours gassed up getting expensive dental surgery done because you ignored a problem and missed your cleanings. Do the same thing here — schedule an appointment with your dentist's address and phone number in it, and then set the appointment to repeat every six months, and remind you a week or so in advance.
Your medications and refills. Hopefully you don't need regular reminders to take your medications, but if you do, it won't take long for a daily reminder to just become part of the background noise of your day-to-day. Try a simpler, low-tech solution instead. Your refills however, are a different story. If you get your pills in 30-day supplies, set a reminder to call in your refills every month, a week prior to your last pill. Image: downing.amanda.
- Eye exams and new Contacts or glasses. This one is less necessity and more convenience. Most health insurance plans that cover vision offer you the option of a set of contact lenses or new glasses every year. You probably don't need an eye exam every single year, but if your plan gives you the opportunity to get new glasses or contact refills regularly, don't pass the opportunity up.
- Appointments with specialists. First of all, there's no hard and fast rule for when you should see many specialists and the rules change depending on your medical history and what illnesses you may be at risk for. Cholesterol and blood screenings, if not done with your physical, are generally a yearly test. Mammograms and prostate exams for women and men over 40 are generally recommended every one to two years, more frequently if you're at high risk. Colonoscopies should be performed roughly every five years. We can't tell you how often is right for you, but we can say you should talk to your doctor at the annual physical we just mentioned and schedule your appointment accordingly. Just make sure to get it on the calendar and get a reminder in place. Preventative care is the best care.
These are just a few of the basics. Make sure to talk to your doctor about your individual medical history and your risk factors, and then decide how frequently you should be screened for different illnesses or seen by specialists. Once you have a list and some dates to go by, get them on the calendar. It's so much easier to remember to see a dentist for a regular cleaning, or get a blood test if you need one every couple of months, if you have a calendar pop up and remind you to schedule an appointment a week ahead of time. It's even better when that appointment has the number you should call, the name of the person you want to schedule with, and how far in advance they take appointments in it for your reference. Essentially, you have no excuse not to call.
Once it's scheduled and on your calendar, you're much more likely to go. The more you go and stay on top of your appointments and engaged with your health, the better off you'll be. Setting up the calendar may be a bit of a pain, but a half-hour of setup is worth the benefits to your health in the long run.
What other regular appointments would you put on your calendar? Anything we missed that should be considered? Share your suggestions in the comments below.