The companion blog to Remember The Milk, the best way to manage your tasks.

ARCHIVES

CATEGORIES

MORE BLOGS

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

Tips & Tricks Tuesday: A comfortable set of lists and Smart Lists

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

The "complete" methods we share for how fellow users organize their tasks and lists tend to be quite thorough. This week's tip, shared by dbblues, is comparatively simple: he aimed for a simpler set of lists, Smart Lists, and tags to keep everything organized across his apps.

Thought I'd share how my RTM is organized after a good few years of playing with different approaches, many stolen from this forum. The most effective and easiest to use format for me has emerged (thus far) as follows.

  1. Four Smart Lists, each linked to an RTM priority level. These I label as Must, Should, Could and Wait. They correspond to priority levels 1, 2, 3 and none. Aside from the Inbox, these are the only lists I show in tabs.
  2. A regular list for each project. These I prefix with a '+' so they show up first in my Task Cloud.
  3. A set of five tags relating to the kind of action each task calls for: 'arrange', 'explore', 'prepare', 'review', and 'sendout'. These seem to capture most of my project activities. I used to use 'delegate' sometimes, but that just seemed to one form or aspect of 'arrange'.

The combination of these Smart Lists, regular lists and tags work well for me on my PC, Nexus phone, and Nexus tablet. Earlier versions were much more complex, but not more useful or comfortable.

Thanks for sharing this tip, dbblues! 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 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