Getting things done with RememberTheMilk.com

Well, there is an overwhelming amout of implementations and services on the web for David Allen’s Getting things Done™. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you may start at Wikipedia here. In short, GTD is task management trying to free you from everything that bugs you by “have to remember it” and free your mind to “just do it”.

I tried a few times to run GTD using web services – and my smartphone – using sites like toodledo.com and RememberTheMilk™. At the moment I run an implementation on RememberTheMilk™ I developed on my own, inspired by others, which I want to share with you in this article. RTM™ is an application service provider for web-based task management, by the way.

GTD™ is all about lists and contexts and RTM™ is not limited to GTD, but offers enough components to implement it and here’s how I try to increase my productivity by efficient task management using RememberTheMilk™ and Getting Things Done™:

(The screenshots are in German, but I think you can grasp the idea)

Lists

I created the following lists to gather tasks and actions:

  • Inbox: Exists by default and I use it to import tasks on the go via e-mail.
  • Actions: Every single action goes on this list. BEWARE: This is NOT the Next Actions list in a GTD™ way.
  • Projects: Every multi-step project, which takes more than one action, is gathered on this list
  • Someday… & Maybe…: Every loose idea, I may do some day or which is not planned yet or which will be done in a yet undefined future time.
  • Tickle me…: Stuff, which is not actionable or starts specific actions as a result, but which shall not be forgotten. Things like the end date of subcriptions or peoples exams.

My Lists at Remember The MilkTo keep track of my different projects, I use two things: tags and a naming convention.

The naming convention

The naming of the tasks is an important part of my implementation.

Rule #1 is:

Every task’s name starts with ps or wk to differ tasks considering my personal life from tasks, which affect my job.

A screenshot of my actions list at Remember The Milk

Examples:

ps – Take out trash

wk – Create agenda for meeting with Alice and Bob

This is relevant for single action tasks and has the effect that if you order your lists by name, they are devided in two sections. One for personal, the other for work tasks.

Rule #2 – The naming convention:

Every task related to a project starts with a project abbreviation.

In the Projects list every task starts with ps or wk followed by a dash ‘-’ and an abbreviation of the project.A screenshot of my projects list at Remember The Milk

Examples:

ps – Finance: Buy Apple shares

ps – Finance: Sell Nokia shares

wk – Apps: Upload “Angry Pigs – The Revenge”

wk – Apps: Contact advocate for copyright lawsuit

This rule is important to have every task on the project list related to the specific project – if ordered by name!.

This will help you during the weekly review. The list itself is only for administrative usage. Work is done solely by using searches and tags. See next section for details.

Of misusing priorities, tags, searches and everything

As you may have recognized, I am missing a Next Action list and a Waiting For list. I don’t have those, since I use RTM’s priority 1 to mark next actions and priority 2 to mark tasks, I delegated and wait for external action.

Priority 3 is used to mark tickler events. This is useful for the smartphone app, since you can differ actions from tickler events at first glance, because they appear on the same “due today” list, than every other task due today.

Rule #3 – How to use priorites:

  • Priority 1: Next Actions
  • Priority 2: Tasks you delegated and wait for external actions
  • Priority 3: Tickler events

Now we have our lists and are able to mark our tasks as next actions, delegated or tickler events. What we need next are contexts. I don’t use locations and contexts are created using tags. But that’s not the only usage of tags in my implementation, I also use tags to mark projects and differ work and personal tasks on another level, than only their name.

Rule #4 – Usage of tags:

  • Contexts: Use tags to define contexts. Use a preceding @ to mark a tag as a context.
  • Projects: Use the same abbreviation you used in the name for the project tag. Use a + to mark the tag as a project abbreviation.
  • Differ work and personal tasks on another level, than their name. Just use ps or wk without a preceding character.

I don’t use locations, so I combine physical and logical contexts all in one kind of context.My tag cloud at Remember The Milk

Examples:

(Keep in mind, # is the shortcut to define tags!)

ps – Finance: Buy Apple shares #@online #+ps-finance #ps

ps – Finance: Sell Nokia shares #@online #+ps-finance #ps

wk – Apps: Upload “Angry Pigs – The Revenge” #@pc #+wk-apps #wk

wk – Apps: Contact advocate for copyright lawsuit #@communication #+wk-apps #wk

By using tags for both, projects and contexts, you can fully leverage the powerful search in RTM™ and get reach every kind of tasklist with one click in the tag cloud.

Need every task considering one specific project? Click the +… tag!

Need every task considering work tasks? Click the wk tag!

You are at home and ready to do stuff? Click the @home tag and order the resulting list by priority! First in list is, what to do next, since you marked next actions with priority 1, second in list is, what you are waiting for, since those are marked with priority 2.

You need a next action for your finance project? Create a search like “priority:1 AND tag:+finance”!

Don’t forget to add “AND NOT priority:3″ to every search to remove all those tickler events from your actions lists!

That’s most about it and I hope I did not forget something. If so, please let me know by leaving a comment. Any comments are most welcome. 🙂

I hope this helps or inspires some of you to create their own implementation of  David Allen’s Getting things Done™ using RememberTheMilk™.

Stay proliferous!