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Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Automatic prioritization using Smart Lists

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 by Andrew Conkling

Many of our most interesting tips involve a unique use of Smart Lists. We've talked about how they can help show you specific sets of tasks, but this week's tip, shared by mikejd30, shows how Smart Lists can effectively provide automatic priorities for you.

I'm more into Covey's idea of a matrix of what actually should be done first based on how important and also urgent a task is. However, my job needs a finer degree of prioritisation.

I saw the need for 6 levels of priority, based on the impact a task might have, its urgency and due date. Of course, what is not urgent one day may become urgent the next due to the due date. This aspect I wanted to make automatic.

I use 'impact' rather than importance because that relates better to what I do, as the impact of a task on the company is what defines its importance for me. So I think more in terms of high or low impact when considering tasks.

This uses 6 Smart Lists, Priority 1 – Priority 6 (for lack of more inventive names). This may start sounding complicated, but bear with me!

Also, one other thing I wanted was to be able to see the Priority Smart Lists on Saturday or Sunday, but that show as if it was Monday (because I like to get a view at the weekend of Monday will be like).

What follows is the 'code' for the 6 Smart Lists, and the tags that are needed to make them work.

First the tags (keeping real word meaning): highimpact, lowimpact, noturgent, soonerthebetter

(I didn't add 'urgent' as a tag because without 'noturgent', it is considered urgent)

Also, some of my tasks have due dates, some do not. Those without needed clarifying as to whether they were urgent things (like feedback on a project that wasn't requested, but would be useless if not done soon).

Now the Smart Lists. These follow my own formula for what defines the ultimate priority, and this is a little complex. The basics of it are, highimpact and due that day is Priority 1, lowimpact and due that day is Priority 2, highimpact and due within 3 days Priority 3, etc.

Smart List code as follows:

  • Priority 1: status:incomplete AND (dueBefore:tomorrow OR dueBefore:Tuesday) tag:highimpact
  • Priority 2: status:incomplete AND (dueBefore:tomorrow OR dueBefore:Tuesday) AND tag:lowimpact
  • Priority 3: status:incomplete AND (((dueWithin:"3 days of today" OR dueWithin:"3 days of Monday") AND tag:highimpact) OR ((tag:highimpact AND tag:soonerthebetter) OR (tag:highimpact AND NOT tag:noturgent AND due:never))) AND NOT (dueBefore:"1 day of today" OR dueWithin:"1 day of Monday")
  • Priority 4: status:incomplete AND (((dueWithin:"5 days of today" OR dueWithin:"5 days of Monday") AND tag:highimpact) OR ((tag:lowimpact AND tag:soonerthebetter) OR (tag:lowimpact AND NOT tag:noturgent AND due:never))) AND NOT (dueBefore:"3 days of today" OR dueWithin:"3 days of Monday")
  • Priority 5: status:incomplete AND (((dueWithin:"3 days of today" OR dueWithin:"3 days of Monday") AND tag:lowimpact) OR ((tag:highimpact AND tag:noturgent) OR (tag:highimpact AND NOT tag:soonerthebetter AND due:never))) AND NOT (dueBefore:"1 days of today" OR dueWithin:"1 days of Monday")
  • Priority 6: status:incomplete AND (((dueWithin:"5 days of today" OR dueWithin:"5 days of Monday") AND tag:lowimpact) OR ((tag:lowimpact AND tag:noturgent) OR (tag:lowimpact AND NOT tag:soonerthebetter AND due:never))) AND NOT (dueBefore:"3 days of today" OR dueWithin:"3 days of Monday")

Not sure how complicated this all sounds, but I'm hoping some of you will be interested in giving this a try. If nothing else, it highlights some of the power of Smart Lists. :)

It definitely does! :)

Thanks for sharing this tip, mikejd30! You're our Tips & Tricks Tuesday winner this week.

Do you have a suggestion for our weekly Tips & Tricks post? Got an interesting set-up or idea? Head over to the Tips & Tricks forum, add a new topic, and let us know how you use Remember The Milk. Each week we'll give away a 1 year Pro account to the user whose idea inspires the Tips & Tricks Tuesday blog post for that week.

Posted in: Tips & Tricks