Getting stuff done with Remember the Milk

I have many titles. Chiefly, I am the King of Procrastination. As I get older, I’m also becoming the Duke of “Sorry, I Forgot All About That”. It’s not necessarily because my memory is getting worse, although that’s likely. It seems more to do with just having a lot more to keep track of than when I was in college and thought I was busy.

To deal with both problems, I became Lord of Lists. Everything I need to do gets documented in some way. For a long time, these were mainly pen and paper lists. Some still are. There are times when pen and paper are just faster.

I went through a lot of to-do list apps trying to find one that I liked, and the truth is, I hated most of them. Many feel bloated and in some cases it took longer to enter a task than it did to actually complete a task (Omnifocus). Others were close to what I wanted but were just a feature or two off (Wunderlist).

Ultimately, I settled on Remember the Milk as the best compromise of features and low friction.

No Corinthian leather

Remember the Milk (RTM)’s appeal is largely in its simplicity. The interface is clean, if a bit dated at this point. According to RTM’s about page, the interface was inspired by early versions of GMail.

Remember the Milk
Some dummy tasks. Sometimes I do forget to eat though.

Inputing a task is very similar to what you would do if you were writing on paper. Instead of typing in a description and clicking a bunch of checkboxes or drop-downs to set details (Although you have the option to do this.), RTM supports natural language input. So, you can you in something like:

Take out trash every Monday @Home #chores

Taking that input, RTM creates a task called “Take out the trash” that recurs every Monday with your home as the location and “chores” as a tag. You can add as much or as little info to a task as you want. There are no required fields other than the description, which as basic as it sounds, is a big feature. Most task apps require input in several fields and that really slow things down when you’re trying to quickly jot something down.

Overall, that’s the theme of RTM – Lot’s of features and functionality like shared tasks, tagging, advanced filter searches, and prioritization, but they’re only there when you want them.

Any client you want, for a cost

I do most of my input using RTM’s web interface and mainly use the iPhone client for it’s geo-fencing feature (Which is very similar to iOS’s Reminders functionality.). If I’m near Walgreens and I have a task that’s tagged with Walgreens as a location, the mobile app pings me with a reminder. Other than that, I don’t really use the iPhone app and prefer either the web interface or the iPad app (which is basically the iPhone app, but less “squashed”).

If you think that you would be a heavy mobile user, you should probably spring for RTM’s $25-a-year Pro plan which allows you to sync your lists between devices and the web app. In addition to the official apps, having the Pro plan also opens up syncing to the dearth of third-party clients that have been written for RTM, including plugins for Outlook and GMail. There are even several CLI-based clients for people who might be looking for something similar to Gina Trapani’s Todo.txt app.

Free Online Sites that Help You Get Organized

Since everything is online and available through our phones, USB flash drives and pens may as well be obsolete.  There are hundreds of online services nowadays available for free to help you productively organize, access, and share aspects your life.  Here are just a few that you may find useful:

Mint: Organize your finances

I’ve been using Mint for over two years now and they have by far surpassed any other personal finance software I’ve ever used.  Once you create an account, you can log in and enter the information for all of your accounts, including checking, savings, credit card, loan, and RSP accounts for almost any bank or financial institution.

Mint securely accesses and retrieves your balances and spending activity on all of your added accounts to help you review, analyze, and plan your spending. It will also notify you of when you are charged fees, and when you have payments due.

Box.net: Organize your documents

Box.net offers a service similar to Google Docs (and actually integrates with Google Apps as well) with some enhanced features such as mobile access, task management, data synchronization, and collaboration control.  While there are paid plans for businesses, it’s free for personal use.

Remember the Milk: Organize your to-do list

Forget something?  Try keeping your to-do list online with Remember the Milk, where you can create task lists and share them with others, sync them to your phone, or get IM or SMS reminders.

TripIt: Organize your travel plans

TripIt is known as an online virtual travel assistant.  When you book hotels, flights, or other travel accommodations online, simply forward your confirmation emails to TripIt and it will generate a master itinerary with everything you need for your trip. You can access the itinerary online or through your mobile device, and sent copies to others.

This mini-list is just the tip of the iceberg for the vast number of free services online that are available to help you organize your life.  Know of any more services you use in your day-to-day activities? Let us know in the comments section below (no rhyme intended)!