I have a desk job and sit in front of computers during most of my working hours, it is natural for me to keep my task list on computer. Like a lot of people, I have tried out various applications for time and tasks management… Google Tasks is simple to use but a bit “too simple” overall…Microsoft Outlook is a good all rounder but interface is clumsy… Applications came and went from my productivity toolkit, Remember The Milk (RTM) has been staying with me since 2012 – not a long time but longer than most.
RTM is a web to-do list applications with an unusal name. There are two types of account – free and pro (which cost 25 USD per year). Free account provides all the functionalities that you would expect from a good to-do list applications – add, edit, remove task, tag task with attributes like due date, priority, repeat, time estimate, location and with your own tags. Tasks can be sorted by due date or priority. Free account – as the name suggest is 100% free, there is no expiry date and you can use it as long as you want.
I am paying for the pro account as I believe the application worth supporting. It is good value for me as I am using it daily. The interface in general is slicker than the free account.
The thing I love most about RTM is “Smart Add” – it is keyboard shortcuts that enables user to set due date and priority etc without touching the mouse. For example, “Task 1” is due on Friday and priority need to be set to 1, the task can be created by entering
“Task 1 ^Friday !1”
The other common task attributes that I regularly use Smart Add for including repeat (eg *every week), list/tags (eg #action_list), location (@home). When I am in the middle of something and suddenly remember stuff that need to be done, the intuitive choice of special characters helps the natural flow from thought to data entry. A bit like thinking out loud the task in English with the usual what, when, priority where and etc. It really help me to create task quickly when I am in the middle of something … well … RTM is always opened on one of the several monitors on my desk most of the time also help 🙂
Stay In “The Zone”
I have read books on various time management techniques including Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen – it is many people’s favourite and mine too. One of the key things I learn from his book is to get all the “useful ideas” and “actions” on to an “inbox” as quickly as possible (instead of hanging at the back of our mind) so our mind can focus and stay “in the zone”.
We all have limited mental capacity and there are many thoughts going through our mind all the time when we are working. These thoughts, ideas and things are “distractions” and consuming part of our mental capacity, especially the important things as we do not want to lose it so they are always on our mind until they are captured to a safe place for later processing. Once they have a safe home, our mind will be at ease so we can stay in the intense concentration state or “in the zone” longer and become more productive.
When I am working at my desk, these thoughts are mostly captured immediately to the RTM inbox. It is possible for me because RTM is on one of my computer screens most of the time. Smart Add certainly helps as it enable rapid data entry. If computer are locked or RTM is not available for whatever reason, it got written down on the daily appointment sheet that I use as deskpad – can be found on the A4 Organiser insert refill download – A4 Appointment – Day Per Page(Desk).
You may think I am using RTM app on mobile phone or tablet when I am away from my desk? Well.. I am not big into gadget but I do have the usual gadgets (apart from an Android phone, a third generation iPad and also a Nexus tablet). I have tried to use them as my inbox of entering RTM tasks. The RTM mobile apps are good but from my experience, using any apps to enter data is too slow. Instead, I use a Filofax Boston Organiser (it is one of key member of my productivity toolkit) that I carry with me all the time. An extra ruler is added to the organiser to enable fast access to the inbox section.
RTM for GTD
I have tried to make RTM to work based on GTD. RTM has an Inbox which can hold all the not yet categorized tasks. For instance, email can be forwarded to your RTM email address and it will be dropped into the Inbox.
You can create list and named them “Actions”, “Some Day May Be”. For Calendar event, the date information is captured by Start Date. There is a inbuilt Locations attribute (Smart Add shortcut @) but no direct support for people, energy level, tool and etc attribute. However, RTM tag is quite flexible so for example, I have created tags such as en_low, en_med and en_hi for energy attribute (Smart Add shortcut #). RTM is not not built for GTD but it is will take most of the boxes of GTD requirements – certainly better than a lot of other tools that I have tried.
RTM Mobile App
I have tried the versions on iPad, Nexus and Android phone, the apps are quite good, The interface is “consistent enough” across platforms. I am not good at touch screen typing so I am not a big fan of mobile app in general. It is as good as any other app in my view. It is primarily used for ticking off completed task.
For free account, app is allowed to sync manually once every 24 hours so it is quite restrictive.
I can see there is some efforts made by the developers to make it to work for team but it is not quite there yet. I found that Producteev works well for organising tasks among project team member.. well… better than RTM.
RTM as a tool helps me to organise my tasks and boost my productivities. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is looking or a personal todo list app.