- WhatsApp joins Signal and iMessage in letting you message yourself.
- Self-messaging is great for reminders but might not replace a to-do list.
- Encrypted messaging apps are more secure than email.
WhatsApp will soon let you send messages to yourself. Goodbye to-do list.
There are plenty of ways to remind yourself to do something. You might tell Siri or another phone assistant; you might add an item to a to-do list or reminders app. Or you may do what a surprising number of people do—email yourself. Soon, messaging app WhatsApp will let you easily send messages to yourself, which has some big advantages over email and also some drawbacks.
“I prefer to use email because it’s the headquarters of everything I do. It’s the first place I go and the place I know I will always see my messages. My tendency is to fit what I want to do into the apps I already use. I don’t think, ‘what app can I use to do this?'” Professional fashion stylist and self-emailer Nuria Gregori told Lifewire via email.
There are two friction points when using any kind of reminder system. Entry—when you capture the reminder, and recall—when you check the list. Most apps try to streamline both parts, but none can do anything about the most important element: you and your habits.
You could have the best-organized reminders system in history, and if you never check the list, you’ll forget everything. On the other hand, if you set an alert for every task via Siri or similar, you will quickly get overwhelmed with notifications and end up ignoring them all.
It’s all about having a trusted system. One that you can trust not only to keep all your to-dos safe but one that you will actually check. And that’s what makes email a great way to send messages to your future self. You know that you will check it at least once a day.
“A to-do list app and sending a message to yourself are two different things. A to-do list app is great for going through day-to-day tasks. So I won’t be moving away from using a to-do list app,” Sudhir Khatwani, founder of financial news site The Money Mongers, told Lifewire via email.
“But I love sending a message to myself to keep something important stored as messages. I have been mailing myself different things to keep them stored in my inbox, such as recent bills, credit card details, important addresses, and more, and the same I can do with WhatsApp, which will be much more convenient to me.”
Email is also flexible. You can send anything to yourself, including other emails. But it has its disadvantages, the biggest one being security and privacy.
Email is completely insecure. Messages are sent in plain text, unencrypted, and anyone who intercepts one can read it, the same as you could read a postcard if you opened up a mailbox.
WhatsApp, iMessage, and Signal, on the other hand, offer end-to-end encryption, which means that nobody will ever know that you have to remember to water the plants and email mom on her birthday.
Messaging apps can also be more immediate. With an email, you have to choose an addressee and enter a subject line. With a messaging app, you just share the item, choose yourself in the list of share destinations, and hit send. Then, the next time you open up the app, you'll see it.
“[I] t’s much faster to send a message to myself via WhatsApp than email or to-do list apps. Opening apps or my email takes a bit extra time to load and update. That kind of time matters to me over the course of a day,” Brian Clark, a medical professional and CEO of United Medical Education, told Lifewire via email.
When I asked for comments for this article, a surprising number of respondents said they still prefer a paper to-do list.
“I’m a huge fan of writing down my to-do lists and not using an app to do so. The act of writing my to-do tasks down significantly helps me remember them throughout my day,” Troy Portillo, director of operations at online learning platform Studypool told Lifewire via email. “I hang my list right next to my computer, and the act of crossing off a completed task is so satisfying to me; I don’t see how an app could ever replicate that motion.”
Paper certainly has advantages, especially if you are always at the same desk or carrying a notebook. But if we go back to the first part of our trusted system, we know that capture has to be easy. And if your phone is always in your purse or pocket, there's little that's easier or more habitually ingrained than firing off a quick message.