10 ways to turn your brain into the ultimate pill reminder
Studies show that about 50 percent of people prescribed medications don’t take them as recommended by their doctors. About half of that non-compliance is intentional, meaning the patients don’t want to take them, the drugs are too expensive to buy, etc. The other half of the “non-compliers” need a pill reminder because they just forget.
As you can imagine, there are many consequences to not taking drugs as directed. You can become more ill, your quality of life can go downhill, and as a result, you could potentially spend more money than you really should on doctors and other medical resources.
The same holds true with supplements, where adherence is a big issue. Many supplement users simply don’t remember to take them when they should.
If you find yourself in the same predicament, here are 10 DIY pill reminders to help you remember to take your supplements (or medications). Pick the ones that works for you!
- Buy a pillbox. One of the most effective ways to remember to take your supplements is to use a pillbox. You can easily find these online and at any drugstore. Not only do pillboxes provide a visual pill reminder, they help prevent unintentional double dosing as well. I like the boxes that are divided up into morning, afternoon, and evening slots. But there are various options, so pick the one that works best for you.
- Use Post-It notes. Stick a brightly colored Post-It on your coffee maker, refrigerator, or any place that you tend to go every single morning. If you take your vitamins at night, place your reminder note on your bathroom mirror so you can see it when you’re brushing your teeth. Pick up the Post-It note and take it with you while you walk to get your supplements. That way, if you get sidetracked or distracted while on your way, you still have that reminder in your hand.
- Keep your vitamins visible. Storing your supplements in a cabinet or closet makes it infinitely easier to forget about them. You know the saying: Out of sight, out of mind. So find a home for the bottles (or your pillbox) that’s highly visible, like on your kitchen counter next to your coffee maker. Or if you prefer to take your supplements at night, keep them on your nightstand where you can spot them before you go to bed.
- Combine activities to form a habit. What are the two or three things that you do every morning, without fail? Read the paper? Drink your coffee? Watch the morning news on the couch? Brush your teeth? Leave your vitamins or pillbox in those specific areas so that you can take them while you engage in your morning rituals. Eventually, your one habit will beget another habit.
- Use technology to your advantage. If you’re a fan of technology, then use electronic reminders. Ask your Amazon Echo to set up a recurring reminder for you. Or set an alarm on your smart phone or tablet to go off at the same time/times every day. You can also create email or text alerts, or download any number of free or low-cost pill reminder apps that are perfect for these situations. There are even companies who sell special pill bottles with timers that let you know how long it’s been since you last opened the bottle.
- Use a chart. If you prefer more “old-school” reminder methods, draw a chart or table with four columns labeled AM, Noon, PM, and Bedtime. Fill in what supplements you need to take in the appropriate time slots. Leave a space next to each box where you can place a checkmark once you’ve taken that particular dose.
- Pack your vitamins with your lunch. If you pack your lunch every day and take it to work with you, include a little baggie with your supplements. Or, pack your pillbox in your lunch bag.
- Make a screensaver. Are you at your computer every day? If so, create a screensaver asking “Have you taken your vitamins today?”
- Flip the bottle. Every night, turn your supplement or pill bottles upside down. Once you’ve taken your daily dose, turn the bottles right side up. This will create a visual reminder that you’ve already taken your supplements for the day. (Note: This method works only if your supplements or pills need to be taken once a day. If you need to take them more than once, this technique can get confusing.)
- Create a buddy system. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to remind you to take your supplements or medications every day. Perhaps you can help each other if they also have a hard time remembering to take their pills. A simple text message or phone check-in every day is not only a great reminder, it encourages human connection and support of mutual success.
It Takes Time to Turn Your Brain into a Pill Reminder
Whichever one of these methods you choose, be patient. It takes time to train your brain and set a permanent habit.
The widely held belief is that it takes three weeks for something to become habit. But in reality, research shows that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days! On average, though, most people catch on in about 66 days…roughly two months.
The take-home message is that if you want to develop a new behavior, don’t despair if it takes you longer than a few weeks. Just stick with it, one day at a time, and before long it will become a habit that you don’t even have to think twice about.
Lally P, et al. How habits are formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur J Soc Psychol. 2010;40:998-1009.
Last Updated: January 7, 2020
Originally Published: November 27, 2017