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Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Adding a bit of fun to your Eisenhower matrix

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

We recently shared an Eisenhower matrix that helps you organize your tasks by importance/urgency. This week's tip, shared by fabian.kurmann, adds a fun twist: adding some, well, fun tasks into the mix so you enjoy being productive that much more.

I think the Eisenhower method is pretty useful, but what it is lacking is to mix in some fun. Important and urgent tasks are seldom fun, so here's my suggestion to a revamped Eisenhower matrix applied to RTM so you don't get grumpy.

I use tasks' priorities for importance:

  • 1 – Due today or very soon and you have to complete the task before going to bed on that day. (Don't pick too many tasks here.) This is also for unplanned and very important and urgent tasks (buy medicine when sick, etc.).
  • 2 – Due whenever they are due, likely postponable, but important
  • 3 – Not important but fun tasks, with or without due date
  • 0 – lame and unimportant tasks

Urgency is easily managed by due date. If a task is unimportant or important it will show up in the Today view, the This Week view, or your customized time Smart List and automatically be urgent. Set due dates when they are really due, not too early, and certainly not when it's already too late.

Now if you need a break or some fun, choose one or two (not 10! ;-) ) due or random category 3 tasks between the important stuff. You can subcategorize the fun using tags like #rlyfun, #bitfun, etc.

Set a recurring important task to clear out the lame and unimportant tasks and you are set.

Every day you will achieve some important tasks at all cost, manage some important and enjoy some unimportant. As long as you control yourself on the category 3 tasks, your day will be both productive and entertaining.

Have fun! :-)

Thanks for sharing this tip, fabian.kurmann! 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: Following TV shows with repeating tasks

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Now that Bob is done catching up on the rest of The IT Crowd, he's been watching more current TV. This week's tip, shared by derboti, is very handy for him and maybe for you too — derboti shows a simple way to keep track of when your favorite shows are airing.

I have a few TV shows that I like to watch as soon as they air, but because of irregular work schedules I never got into a habit of watching TV regularly. To help me keep up with new episodes, I use RTM.

When a release date for a new show or season is announced, I usually enter it in RTM this way:

  • New episode of 'Mad Men' ^4/13 *weekly #tv http://epguides.com/MadMen/
  • New episode of '24' ^5/5 *weekly #tv http://epguides.com/24/

On the day of, the task reminds me of the show. I complete the task once I either set up my DVR or watch it on TV that day. Sometimes I'll postpone the task right away to the next day, if I know I'll have to watch this episode on demand the next day.

And the task automatically repeats itself the following week for the next episode!

Especially with network television, some shows don't air regularly because of hiatus or other repeats. That's why I add a URL to the task that points to that show's episode list. I like epguides.com, but you could also use IMDb, Wikipedia, or the show's official website.

When the task comes up, I can quickly jump to the URL and check the episode list if there's a new episode scheduled for today. If not, I delete the current task and always answer the "continue repeating?" question with "yes", so the task reminds me to check for a new episode next week.

Thanks for sharing this tip, derboti! 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: Focusing on time with Smart Lists

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

We're always interested to see how users use Smart Lists to break up their tasks into manageable chunks. This week's tip, shared by pescacebes, demonstrates four Smart Lists that use tasks' priorities and due dates to keep track of tasks that matter today, this week, and what else is coming up.

In order to tackle the "big rocks" in a timely manner, I have created this system:

First, I only have two input lists: Inbox and Info. Info is exacty this: things to remember and not actions. It acts as a reminder. Inbox is everything else. Most tasks have a due date and/or a priority.

My day starts by checking two Smart Lists: "Today" and "Focus".

  • Today: due:today OR dueBefore:Today
  • Focus: (priority:1 OR priority:2) AND ((dueWithin:"1 week of today") OR due:never OR dueBefore:now)

The most relevant is "Focus". It contains everything really important and shows me what I have to do in the next week that matters most. For me, priority 3 can be overdue. For you could be also 2 or none… you may easily adjust this search.

Another helpful Smart List is "Week": (dueWithin:"1 week of today") OR (due:never AND (priority:1 OR priority:2 OR priority:3)) OR dueBefore:now

Notice that this Smart List also captures items that have a priority but no due date. You may prefer to give those a due date too!

Lastly, in order not to miss anything, I have the Smart List "No Date": due:never NOT list:Info

If you add some tags and/or locations to your tasks, I think that this system is clean and clear enough to navigate through a sea of tasks quite easily.

Thanks for sharing this tip, pescacebes! 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 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

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

Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Getting (and staying) limber

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Stretching and light exercise is very beneficial, and certainly possible at a computer with a short break, but it's easy to get focused and to forget to ever do it. This week's tip, shared by milkiglo, removes that obstacle — and also suggests the possibility of taking your stretching with you with our mobile apps!

I wanted to remember to stretch routinely so I made a repeating reminder with a few YouTube links to stretching.

I have a standard 'go to' yoga video link, which I place in the URL field. As well, in the notes field I have several specific video links with headings like 'Back Yoga', '20 Minutes'.

When I am ready I open the task on my device, tap stretching routine and it opens the video to follow along with. Short while later I am feeling limber and looking forward to what's next.

Pro Tip! Throw it up on the big screen with Airplay (Apple TV and iPhone, iPad or Mac OSX 10.9) or an Android phone and Android TV dingus.

Thanks for sharing this tip, milkiglo! 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 more encouraging 'Today' Smart List

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Sometimes it can feel like you'll never get through today's tasks or, even worse, that you haven't gotten anything done all day! To help with that, this week's tip, shared by taylor.andrew, suggests a quick addition to your Smart Lists to keep your day in perspective.

Ages ago I set up my Smart List for Today's Tasks:

due:today OR dueBefore:today

Dead easy, and nothing wrong with it. But a friend introduced me to Ben Franklin's philosophy of getting things done, and as well as "What Good Shall I Do This Day?", he asks "What Good Have I Done This Day?". So now my Smart List is this:

completed:today OR (status:incomplete AND (due:today OR dueBefore:today))

It's exactly the same — except that if I click the "2 completed" link at the bottom, I see the list of things I've done today. It's encouraging when it's 5PM and I still have a bunch of things to do, and it's good for taking stock at the end of the day, if that's how you roll. (Personally, that part doesn't do anything for me but I hear it's a thing.)

The nice part is, it does it without creating an extra list — I have enough lists already — and you can apply the same basic idea to almost any Smart List you use.

Thanks for sharing this tip, taylor.andrew! 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