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Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Using a Smart List for a Landing Pad

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

It's possible to have so many tasks that new ones can get lost. If your Inbox isn't working out for you, this week's tip may help: idickinson suggests a way to add tasks quickly, including on the go, while maintaining the rest of their system.

I'm an RTM power user. I use RTM to remember everything I need to do around the house, school, work, etc… and I have an elaborate system of code which allows me to categorize tasks in Smart Lists. Unfortunately, I found that if your code gets a little TOO complex then your task will get lost in the ether when you create a new one, instead of having the attributes smart-added to it.

So here is my solution:

I created a Smart List that sits at the very top which I named (01) Landing Pad.

For the code I simply did the following:

tag:td AND priority:none AND due:never

I tag each task td (for "to do") so that I can have a sub level Smart List that will catch any untagged tasks in case I screw up or forget to tag it. They have no priority because I sort my lists by priority, and so when I give it a !1 !2 or !3 It will auto-hop over to my designated list.

Finally, it is due never, because I don't want tasks in that list that are due — that means they have been assigned to another list.

So it seems simple, but here is where it has completely changed how I use RTM.

Because I used to pick the list I wanted and post in there, I would often lose tasks or forget where they were hiding. I would neglect lists, and I would also have trouble keeping them organized. I found it annoying to have to type in all the relevant information right then. I just wanted to post and go!

I also realized I couldn't just use my Inbox because I had waaaay too many tasks — so I devised a way to have a GTD style "Inbox" that I can sort easily later.

If I think of something, anything, I don't have to fuss with picking a list or setting a date or a priority, I just go to my landing pad and type in the task. Then at the end of the day I can go through and sort the tasks to where they need to be. This keeps me mindful of what I need to do and keeps me from making mistakes.

Most tasks go to my "(02) Today" Smart List, which has too many conditions in order to just post to it directly — but it also has the advantage of only showing what I want, even with tasks appearing at certain times of the day (like flossing).

So now I can have the best of both worlds with the least amount of clicking and changing: with the landing pad I can easily and thoughtlessly create tasks, and with the "Today" Smart List which can easily facilitate tasks being moved to it from my landing pad.

Thanks for sharing this tip, idickinson! 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

Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Automatic quadrants using priorities and due dates

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

We recently covered an Eisenhower matrix to separate important and urgent tasks. We thought we'd, well, square things off with another take on quadrants. This week's tip, shared by cek1227, suggests 5 quadrants — yes, 5! — to prioritize your tasks.

The Four Quadrants from Covey are very helpful, but not conducive to how I go through tasks. So, I've put together the following scheme – it's 5 quadrants, but who's counting?

Go through the GTD daily review to adjust due dates and priorities. Only put due dates on things that really have due dates.

Priorities mean:

  • 1 – Must do
  • 2 – Should do
  • 3 – Might do
  • 0 – Could do

The "quadrants" are the following Smart Lists:

  • Q1: Must do today: dueBefore:tomorrow AND priority:1
  • Q2: Should do today or must do soon: (dueBefore:tomorrow AND priority:2) OR (due:never AND priority:1)
  • Q3: Might do today or should do soon: (dueBefore:tomorrow AND priority:3) OR (due:never AND priority:2)
  • Q4: Could do today or might do soon: (dueBefore:tomorrow AND priority:none) OR (due:never AND priority:3)
  • Q5: Someday: due:never AND priority:none

Process Q1 as much as possible, then Q2 and then Q3. If there's any time left, do Q4. Review Q5 on your weekly review. For ease of list management, the Smart List I use to show Q2 also includes Q1, so that I can see everything in one place. Likewise, the Smart List I use to process Q3 also shows Q1 and Q2. If that's too busy, don't do it.

Keep your due dates and priorities right on a daily basis, and this helps keep the main thing the main thing. From these Smart Lists, I also have related Smart Lists for each of my contexts (work, home, other).

Thanks for sharing this tip, cek1227! 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

Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Using 'kill' dates with Smart Lists

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Due dates seem like a pretty straightforward property, but it's always interesting to see some different uses for them. This week, cadetblue shares a tip for using dates as a "kill" switch — complete the task or get rid of it!

Often I use RTM not only to record activities that are recurring or must be completed, but as a way to collect activities that I would like to complete but I do not have to. They can be ideas, web pages to visit, something to study and learn, whatever. They are at risk to contribute to the growth of a bunch of undone activities without a real deadline that is too bloated to be managed. They will be forgotten, or will distract you, or will be postponed every day if you set a date, or they will waste your time due to the need to clean inflated lists. Even defining a complex segmentation or a full fledged priority system does not solve the issue because the activities stay there as a static mass requiring a proactive behaviour from us.

So I use jointly "kill dates" and Smart Lists. When I add an activity which is not a must and I am not required to complete, I add the tag "kill" and then I add a date so that only one of the following happens: I am able to complete the activity before the end or I delete the activity without pity (should the activity be something really worth it will come in my mind later on). Then I define couple of very Smart Lists:

  • A calendar to see incoming tasks: NOT due:never AND NOT tag:kill
  • A Kill Date list, a complete-or-cancel list of activities: tag:kill

This works very well for me because:

  1. Kill-Dates is a list of "optional" activities grouped together and naturally ordered by priority according to the kill date entered;
  2. Activities with a kill date flow naturally in my today list, so they will be easily deleted without being kept in the bunch.

Thanks for sharing this tip, cadetblue! 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