October 13, 2008

The Friendly Way: Remember The Milk And Everything Else

[Sep 12, 2009 update: see why Toodledo does more than Remember The Milk]

I can't forget but I don't remember what,
Leonard Cohen

I don't remember, I don't recall.
I got no memory of anything at all.
Peter Gabriel

Life gets complicated and sometimes you forget basics like getting milk. You need a system.

How To Remember Everything
In How To Never Forget Anything Again (4-Hour Workweek blog), you'll find the four essential habits for following a system
  1. Make a note immediately
  2. Use your lists and tools consistently
  3. Make usage quick and painless
  4. Archive and search instead of filing
That post lists various tools, including my favourite task manager.

The Ideal Task Manager
The ideal system for To Do lists must be
  1. inviting (i.e., easy to use)
  2. searchable
  3. accessible anywhere (online/offline, with/without a computer)
  4. automatically backed up for security
  5. sending reminders by email or text messages
  6. creating printable lists
  7. inexpensive
I've used different tools over the years. Paper is certainly available offline but where's your backup and how to you search for items? Microsoft Outlook looks ideal but has limited features and feels cumbersome. Google provides a virtual office with email, a calendar, and shared documents. But no task manager !?!

What can we use?

Remember The Milk (RTM)
Through Lifehacker, I discovered a nifty Australian website called Remember The Milk. With that name and the drawing of a cow, you know you're going to have a nice experience. You're right. Even the font feels friendly.

Other task managers feel daunting and judgemental. When you fall behind, you feel like you're being scolded. As the unfinished tasks pile up, it's easy to get overwhelmed and give up. Not with RTM. The cow is so inviting and nonjudgemental that you feel like coming back and getting on track.

Getting Things Done
There are many other sites that explain how to use Remember The Milk. I wanted to follow the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. That means transferring all current and future tasks from my head into a trusted system. RTM "supports the five GTD workflow phases (Collect, Process, Organize, Review, and Do) in a seamless, automatic way" and this article from an expert user explains how.

Key Benefits
You can access Remember The Milk in many ways. I use the website, iGoogle, Google Calendar, Blackberry and offline with Google Gears. When I think of a new task --- even if years away --- I send an email to my RTM Inbox for later categorization. I send tasks to family members and we even haved several folders of shared tasks.

Each morning, I get an email showing the day's tasks. I sometimes printout the tasks for the upcoming week. Beautiful.

The Price Is Right
We actually didn't even have a business model until a year ago, when we figured out that working full-time, unpaid on RTM and spending all our money on hosting infrastructure for a growing service wasn't, like, the most sustainable idea ever. Whoops. --- Emily Boyd, co-founder
You know how the Internet has wacky business models? Well, Remember The Milk offers lots for free and doesn't even have ads. What good is remembering the milk without money to buy any? I upgraded to a Pro account for $25/year for thanks giving.



John B. Kendrick said...

Great recommendations. I especially agree with using an online system for your GTD.

I found an application that allows me to view my entire GTD at work on my Win machine, at home on my Macs and even on my cell phone. And another app lets me call in tasks to my GTD without any writing or typing, great for those thoughts that hit me while driving. I've written about my experiences with GTD in a blog post at http://johnkendrick.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/more-getting-things-done/ John

Promod said...

Thanks for your comments, John. There are lots of tools available, each with different capabilities, And different prices.

Promod said...

There's a related post: Toodledo does more than Remember The Milk