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Tips & Tricks Tuesday: Managing others' tasks in separate lists

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Using lists it's possible to be very organized and productive without having too many distractions while you're getting things done. This week's tip, shared by kuntal.raval, shows that you can be so organized you can pay it forward and help others with their tasks as well!

My mother has been slow to pick up on digital tech and I end up helping her do mundane tasks faster with digital alternatives. RTM can be a boon to manage this in a very structured mechanism.

I start with keeping a dedicated list for all activities that I do on behalf of my mother, say. This would have tasks like paying monthly bills online, simple transactions in her bank account etc. then, I would tag these using tags like @web, @errands so that when I do my own tasks for these tags I can also do my mother's tasks as needed. I also add monthly recurring frequency for these with repeats on weekends, so that these don't pop-up during weekdays at work.

Thus, using a dedicated list and common tags can help you manage other people's (parents, kids) tasks who might not be comfortable with or have access to tools like RTM.

This makes it easy to help others be more efficient. Do you have tips on how do you use RTM to help others?

Thanks for sharing this tip, kuntal.raval! 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 simple meal diary with repeating tasks

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Eating well is very good for you, but takes a bit of work. In this week's tip, olliebaum started by setting up a task to plan lunch, and ends up with a nice meal diary — useful for making a habit of eating lunch daily, planning a good time for it, and saving money in the process!

I like to be able to visualise my schedule for the day ahead using RTM. An important part of this is seeing how much I will accomplish before and after lunch and also when the most appropriate time to take my lunch break will be.

Initially, I created a task called 'Lunch' that I would alter the due date on as necessary for that day's schedule and then at the end of the day I would postpone it til the next day. (It seemed unnecessary to acknowledge that I had completed my lunch every day!) It allowed me to see in full the pattern of my day from beginning to end. And encouraged me into the healthy habit of planning a lunch break into my busy schedule so I didn't go hungry when I felt there was too much to do.

This suited me fine until – on one of my more creative days – I made a lovely lunch and decided that I wanted to start taking note of what I ate every day so I could have a more varied diet and make a record of any lunches that I might want to try again.

So I created a task called 'Lunch:' that repeats after 1 day and after eating I edit the task name to record the meal I just ate. e.g. Today I had a Bagel with cream cheese, so that becomes "Lunch: Bagel w/ cream cheese". Once I've edited the task name, I can complete it and another task will be set for the next day. Then when I come to plan tomorrow's schedule I can adjust the time as necessary for that day and so on.

It's a nifty way to keep a track of your eating habits. At the start of the day I can type 'lunch' into the search bar and view completed tasks and then based on my recent lunches I can see what meals I haven't had for a while and make a packed lunch accordingly. It not only helps to keep your diet varied and interesting – avoiding the potential monotony of daily eating – but can act as a source of inspiration when stuck for ideas. You might see a good lunch that you made a couple of months ago that went down well and decide to make it again rather than simply have the same as yesterday. I also save money because it stops me falling into the lazy habit of not preparing my lunch at home and buying something from Starbucks instead.

I now use the same method to keep track of all my meals so have repeating tasks named ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Dinner’, and while these are not so important from a scheduling perspective, if you are on a diet and keeping a food diary it is useful to be prompted to make a note of what you’ve eaten, since it is all too easy to forget. And – as above – it’s good to make sure you’re not skipping meals. It also means I have a quick method to hand for planning the next day’s meals.

Thanks for sharing this tip, olliebaum! 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 financial life

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Managing your finances can be a big task — or list of tasks! This week's tip, shared by bynbutterfly, outlines a very thorough method for keeping up on all aspects of your finances.

Bob manages his finances

I felt overwhelmed to manage bank accounts, especially multiple credit cards and debit accounts. By using Remember The Milk, I can maximize the benefits from cashback credit cards and avoid paying fees. Repeating tasks are used heavily in managing bank accounts.

There are many many many scenarios I use Remember The Milk to organize financial life. Here is my own experience in recent 2 months. First I need to mention my rules of managing personal finance.

My rules of personal finance:

  1. Even if banks and HR can do a lot of stuff automatically for me, I should double check everything by myself.
  2. If I made a financial mistake, I should think about how to avoid this mistake in the future.

With those rules in mind, be sure to read the full post for details about keeping up with your credit score, debit and credit accounts, statements, and receipts.

Thanks for sharing this tip, bynbutterfly! 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 a daily reminder later in the day

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

Many people like to get a daily reminder in the morning to help set the tone for the day — "here's what will be on your plate today". This week's tip, shared by nodonovan, suggests viewing your tasks themselves in the morning and using the daily reminder later in the day to keep up your momentum. :)

I have new tasks appear every day in my Smart List called Today. When I open up RTM every morning I am automatically taken to this list and get on with performing all the tasks and completing them. I'm sure this is a familiar scene to a lot of us RTM users.

For some time now I have had my daily reminder of today's tasks set to arrive in my email inbox and on my smartphone at 7.00am before I head off to work. This seemed the intuitive thing to do at the time when I first set everything up when I joined Remember The Milk some years ago. Because I am in the habit of always going to my Today list, having a daily reminder arrive 1/2 hour before I looked at the list became superfluous (I don't need reminding of something I am definitely going to do out of habit). As a consequence I have found myself immediately deleting the email… all a bit pointless.

I had a revelation a few weeks ago and have now set my daily reminder to come in later in the day around lunchtime. Given that I have already spent the preceding 4 or 5 hours chipping away at my tasks, the daily reminder is much shorter than it would have been had it come in first thing and is a genuine reminder to get my other tasks completed before the end of the day.

A very simple thing to do but very effective!

Thanks for sharing this tip, nodonovan! 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: Staying up late with Smart Lists

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

If you're a night owl who just seems to be hitting your stride after midnight, this week's tip is for you. igorrs shares a Smart List for keeping track of when you actually go to bed, so you can get everything done late at night.

If you go to bed late and still complete tasks after midnight, you'll probably wish to visualize the tasks that are due on your "actual" day (which may go on until 3am, for example), so as to easily plan your daily activities and keep track of them during all of your active hours.

I accomplish that with a Smart List called Daily Schedule, created from this search:

dueBefore:3am AND NOT (due:tomorrow AND dueBefore:12:01am)

When I wake up, that Smart List will present me with all the tasks that are overdue, due today, or due tomorrow at a specific time before 3am. That should be my actual daily schedule.

To customize it, you can replace 3am with any time when you are usually already sleeping.

This Smart List takes advantage of how RTM interprets "3am" in the search: it's always in the future. So, if you wake up at 10am, for example, you'll see tasks that are due before 3am on the next day. If you keep accomplishing stuff until 2am, Daily Schedule will still be showing tasks that are due before 3am (now on the same day!), so you always see the right thing. :)

The exclusion of the tasks that are "due:tomorrow AND dueBefore:12:01am" is a necessary hack that avoids showing tasks that are due on the next day without a due time. For searches, RTM considers these tasks to be due at 12am.

So, if you only searched for dueBefore:3am, visualizing the list in the afternoon (for example) would also show all tasks that are due tomorrow with no due time, which would certainly be unwanted.

After midnight, however, these tasks with no due time will obviously show up (as they become due today). This is unavoidable with the currently available search features, but I don't particularly dislike it (indeed, it makes sense for a lot of tasks).

In any case, the Daily Schedule Smart List is still much more useful than the alternatives I have considered to solve the same problem. :)

Thanks for sharing this tip, igorrs! 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: Borrowing and lending with tags

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 by Andrew Conkling

If you ever lend things to others, you probably know the feeling of suddenly realizing you never got that one thing back! Or you might avoid borrowing things, because they'll constantly be on your mind while you have them.

This week's tip, shared by dominikhajduk, offers a reprieve from those urgencies by just keeping track of things you borrow or lend. :)

I don’t like borrowing and lending. But sometimes I have to. There is nothing worse than forgetting to give something back in due time. Or searching for necessary things before last-minute travel and after a few hours realizing that you lent it out. So a few years ago I created #borrow and #lend tags in RTM. How it’s work for me?

When I lend something I simply create task with #lend tag. The due date is set for the date when I expect that thing should get back to me. After that time I postpone the task (I hate reminding someone that they should give my stuff back, it’s embarrassing) or just send a reminder to that person.

When I’m borrowing something, then the task is tagged with #borrow, has the proper priority (mostly 1) and the due date when I should give things back.

Now I can simply check where my stuff is by list tagged tasks or check what things should I give back.

I hope this tip can help you manage your borrowed or lend things. And do not forget to give borrowed things back.

Thanks for sharing this tip, dominikhajduk! 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: 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