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Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Managing your time with an agenda

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

It's not always easy to keep track of a day's events alongside your task list — sometimes it can feel like doing one will be at the expense of the other. This week's tip, shared by lebacon6, shows a simple strategy for making the most of busy days by looking at routine things to do alongside that day's task to make the most of both!

When my days are really busy, I create a detailed agenda to help me manage my time.

First, I created a list called “Daily” and filled it with all my mundane daily (and almost daily) tasks, and included anything that takes time (meals, getting ready for work, getting ready for bed, commuting, etc.). I make them due around the time I usually do them and give a time estimate for each. I do not make them repeat, and usually have them marked as “complete”, since I usually don’t need them on my to-do list or want daily reminders about them and I certainly don’t want them showing up everyday on iCal.

On my busy days, I go to the completed tasks in “Daily” and mark them all as incomplete. Then I go to my Smart List “Daily Agenda” which is a search of list:Daily OR dueBefore:tomorrow to see the daily tasks along with tasks that are due today or overdue. There, it is easy to create an agenda by setting due times if the task doesn’t have them already. To make this step go more quickly, I usually set rough due times when I create the task initially: for instance, things that need to be accomplished during business hours are due at 5pm, since I prefer grocery shopping after work it's due at 5:30; and since the trash doesn’t need to be out until the next day, it’s due at 10pm.

I also always look at the total time estimated to make sure I actually have time for everything in the day. If it doesn’t seem doable, I look at what tasks I can postpone or what daily tasks I can skip (for example, I can mark “Read” as complete, and free up an extra 30 minutes). I also look for tasks I that could have their time reduced, such as deciding to exercise for 30 minutes instead of an hour.

Afterwards, I know I have a manageable day and have an agenda on hand, to help me stay on track.

Thanks for sharing this tip, lebacon6! 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: Putting projects on hold by archiving lists

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

If you keep track of projects or groups of tasks in lists, you'll find that sometimes you end up with some extras you've put off or otherwise aren't working on. This week's tip, shared by jcfisher, suggests archiving those lists to keep your list of lists trim so you can focus on what you're actively working on.

I use something like the advanced GTD setup with Remember The Milk. Sometimes, though, I have projects that are less important, and I want to put those on the back burner. To put the project on hold, I just archive the list that contains the project, and then I don't see the project or its tasks any more.

But once I put a project on hold, I know I want to resume it at some future point, so that eventually I'll come back to it. To make sure I remember to come back to my "on hold" projects, I made a list called "On Hold". In it, I create a task with the name of the list that I archived, and set the due date to the day I want to come back to that project. Then, when that task comes due, I unarchive the list, and (hopefully!) start working on the project again.

Thanks for sharing this tip, jcfisher! 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: Managing your energy with tags

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

It's not always appropriate to think of your tasks in terms of how much time they will take; many times it can be better to think of them in terms of how much energy they require. This week's tip, shared by jacob.l, shows a simple way to categorize your tasks so you can pull them up based on your energy.

Just as many people use tags for contexts like @office or @errands or @spouse or @boss, I use tags for finding the tasks that match up my level of energy.

Most of my tasks get one of three tags:

  • e1 (Low energy)
  • e2 (Medium energy)
  • e3 (High energy)

I tag my tasks this way, because although managing your time is important, just as important is managing your energy. Loehr and Schwartz wrote a book about it and an article in Harvard Business Review for those interested in the theory. Furthermore, this ties in well with the concept of "Eat That Frog".

When I'm alert (often times in the morning) I want to do hard tasks, such as writing or reading a difficult mathematical proof. When I'm this high energy level mode, I go to my Smart List tag:e3 and start doing it.

When I'm tired (often times at 5pm or in the evening) I want to do simple tasks with tag:e1 like "take photos of Steven's notes on lecture 5". Sometimes, I'm in the middle, and I'll do a task with tag:e2.

Also, I lied. There are actaully a fourth, tag:e0. That's for tasks I want to do during a break. This should not be tasks like "read sms" or "watch this youtube clip" since those are terrible breaks. Instead, these are the tasks I do during a break, for example: "wash the dishes", "buy groceries", or "clean the desk". In fact, the e0 must be tasks that I can do without a computer; otherwise it's not really a break.

Thanks for sharing this tip, jacob.l! 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

An update on Heartbleed

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 by Emily Boyd

As you'll likely have heard, this week a new security vulnerability was announced in OpenSSL, a technology used to secure most of the traffic on the Internet. This vulnerability is known as Heartbleed.

Like many web services, Remember The Milk uses OpenSSL to maintain the privacy of data sent between your computer and our servers.

As soon as the vulnerability was announced, we immediately worked to secure our systems and replace the affected SSL certificate. We don't have any indication that this vulnerability has been used to attack Remember The Milk, but take a very cautious approach to security.

As a proactive measure, we logged out all browser sessions that were active prior to the vulnerability being addressed; you may have been logged out and asked to log back in again.

To be extra cautious, we recommend changing your Remember The Milk password (see help). With so much of the Internet affected by this vulnerability, many experts are recommending that you take the time to change all of your online passwords.

Tips & Tricks Tuesday: 8 glasses of water per day, 2 at a time

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Drinking enough water is important for your health, but it's difficult to keep track of and can be a bit daunting to think about over the course of a day. This week's tip, shared by rtm_user_123, suggests breaking down this goal into smaller steps that help you throughout the day — how refreshing!

Bob tries to drink more water

I have been trying to drink 8 glasses of water daily, so as to get the right amount of hydration during the day.

My first attempt was to create a daily repeating task "Drink 8 glasses of water" in RTM. So far so good. The problem was it never got impemented. I drank 4, 5 or 6 glasses of water, but never hit 8.

Then, it occurred to me that I was unable to hit his goal because it was too big of a goal to do at one time. Moreover, I did not drink 8 glasses all at once. So, then I decided to align the RTM tasks to how I actually did things.

So, my next approach was to create 4 tasks throughout the day with specific times by which they were to be done:

  1. Drink 2 glasses of water before 9 am ^today at 9 am #Personal *daily
  2. Drink 2 glasses of water before noon ^today at noon #Personal *daily
  3. Drink 2 glasses of water before 5 pm ^today at 5pm #Personal *daily
  4. Drink 2 glasses of water before 9 pm ^today at 9 pm #Personal *daily

[These tasks use Smart Add to add the due dates, list, and repeat right away.]

Now, I no longer to think about hitting a goal of 8 glasses. I am only focused on finishing 2 glasses by 9 am. Once I am past that, I am only thnking about the next two before noon.

This approach has helped me stay on track for far longer.

Thanks for sharing this tip, rtm_user_123! 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: A Smart List to find next actions

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

It's possible to use Smart Lists to be very organized and to help prioritize your tasks and your time. This week's tip, shared by megan.strickland, takes it one step further: a Smart List that helps you sift through what you can work on next… with less effort.

Many people identify "next actions" with a tag, but I prefer for tasks to be next actions by default. (Otherwise, I worry that something will "fall through the cracks" in between my weekly reviews if I forget to tag it.) Doing it this way gives me peace of mind, so I'm not taking up brain space with worrying about it.

To accomplish this, I set up a Smart List that identifies everything that is NOT a next action, and then exclude that list from my @context lists.

This is basically a combination of rajjan's famous sleeper tag method and chad.davis's briliant start date tag idea.

Here are my exclusion Smart List criteria:

  • (tag:zzz AND dueAfter:now) OR
    (tag:z1d AND dueAfter:"1 day of now") OR
    (tag:z2d AND dueAfter:"2 days of now") OR
    (tag:z1w AND dueAfter:"1 week of now") OR
    (tag:z1m AND dueAfter:"1 month of now") OR
    (tag:startdate AND dueAfter:today) OR
    (tag:tickleme AND dueAfter:today)
  • If you use a "waiting" tag, add OR (tag:waiting)
  • If you use a "project" tag, add OR (tag:project)
  • etc.…

Call the Smart List whatever you want. I left mine named "zzz" so it shows up last in my lists.

Now, to see ALL of your next actions, just search for NOT list:zzz. This is a good test to see if it's working — if anything shows up that shouldn't, adjust your zzz list criteria accordingly.

Then add NOT list:zzz to the end of any Smart List you use to show next actions. For example:

Smart List name: @home
Criteria: tag:@home NOT list:zzz

And one that is a little more complicated:

Smart List name: Top
Criteria: (dueBefore:"2 days from today" OR NOT priority:none) NOT list:zzz

This shows everything that is overdue, due within the next 2 days, or has a priority of 1, 2, or 3, but is not on the zzz list.

To take this one step further, I have actions default to my @computer context as well. To do that, I simply define it like this:

Smart List name: @computer
Criteria: NOT (list:zzz OR tag:@home OR tag:@out)

This way, every task ends up on my @computer list if I don't tag it. This works for me, because if I have forgotten to tag it then the REAL next action is to tag it… which is an @computer task. And I can focus on my @context lists during the week and not worry that I'm missing something.

Thanks for sharing this tip, megan.strickland! 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