Remember the Milk has been my task manager of choice for over two years now. Although I have tried couple other task manager in that period I always came back to RTM as my preferred solution. As any application it has a strong points (you can read about some below) and has a weak points too (mainly the offline capabilities).Since it’s always easier to pick hole sin things rather than look for positives I decided to look at some of the best features of Remember the Milk that keep me organised and help me get things done. This post may appear a bit geeky as I go into the details of things like input syntax and smart lists but believe me it’s actually very simple. This is what makes this tool so powerful and effective.
It also goes in line with the notion that knowing the tools you use makes you more effective and lets you focus on what’s important.
This is one of the most powerful and useful feature of the application. Very often people point out that applications like RTM provide so many options that deciding on each of them becomes a task in itself. In my view you can use the application the way you prefer if simplicity is your thing then you simply ingore the features but if you look for a more options to slice and dice tasks than RTM lets you do that.
When inputting a new task aside from the description you can set following attributes for each task: due date, list, context, priority, duration, repeat cycle, URL and location. As you can see it’s a lot of additioal information to input. To make it simpler few years ago the guys at RTM inctroduced a set of characters which allow you to select desired feature using keyboard while entering the task. Here is the list of special characters you can use:
^ – date
# – list and context
! – priority
= – duration
@ – location
* – repeat
URL – simply paste it in[/colored_box]
So here, how this works. Lets say you want to “buy a milk” and you want to have it on your personal or errands list and location is your local shop. Obviously you will buy a milk every week so you want that as a continuous reminder.
Normally you would input the task in to the input panel and then assign relevant attributes manually in the panel on the right. However using the syntax your input would look as follows:
[colored_box variation=”pearl”] buy milk #personal @shop *weekly [/colored_box]
That’s it, no fiddling with settings or navigating with mouse, simple input and a task is properly categorised and assigned.
Two points worth noting here. You can use the same principles when entering tasks on your iPhone/iPad or Androind devices. Also existing categories will auto populate as you type which makes entering even easier.
You may be wondering what is the purpose of entering all those additional details tags, priorities, locations etc. The answer is simple with these attributes set you can slice you tasks in any way you want. This is where the smart list comes into play. This feature allows you to simply create a list of tasks based on a very specific criteria or a combination of such. In my view It’s the second most powerful feature of RTM application and I’m using it quite a lot.
Aside from the standard Inbox list I have only two basic lists Personal and Blog to manage all of my tasks. The rest is done through a set of smart list that display relevant tasks. These include following:
- Project list – a list of personal and blog projects that I currently work on.
- Next Action list – task due today or those I decided to complete in a given week. I highlight those by assigning a priority 1 to them.
- @Computer and @Home, a list for two of my basic contexts.
- @Waiting for – a list of things I’m waiting for from other people.
- No tag – task which are missing a tag.
- Smellers – picked it up form this post and essentially it’s a lists of task that were inputted over 6 months ago.
At first setting up a smart list might be a little bit overwhelming but the learning curve is not very steep. Remember the Milk forum has some great examples of those. You can also check out the support page which includes a list of relevant fields.
Next very useful feature is auto tagging of tasks. In essence when you are looking at a smart list and add a new task, RTM will automatically append a tag related to that list. This comes very handy when outlining project plans. It works very easy, I select the project tag, I use “p_xxx” to indicate project, then I start typing. Each new item will have a tag “p_xxx” assigned by default. Why this is helpful? Simple when I want to review all tasks associated with a specific project I can click on the tag and simply review them all. This helps me make sure that tasks are in their right place and I can access them when needed.
Last feature that I wanted this share is the email import. Perhaps it doesn’t sound all exciting as almost every online task manager provides this functionality, nonetheless it proves very useful. The reason it so beneficial is that it greatly fits into my project workflow. What I usually do is get a mind map or a Evernote note to outline the structure and elements of the project. Once this is done I would email the list of tasks into RTM. In addition I would include relevant syntax items so the tasks would fall into right categories or lists. Here is an example for buying a car:
buy a new car #Personal #p_car #project
research car models online #Personal #p_car #computer
call bank and check loans #Personal #p_car #calls
book a test drive with the dealer #Personal #p_car #calls @dealer
Once sent to your RTM email address (you got one during the sign up, see settings) all these lines will be converted into individual task and tags. All is left is to start reviewing your lists and tick off items.
Are you a Remember the Milk user? I would love to know how you use it. Please share in the comments section.
Note of disclosure: I’m not affiliated with Remember The Milk nor received any compensation for this post. I’m recommending it to anyone as a powerful tool to get things done and organise their tasks.