Remember the Milk: Powerful Task Management for Free
Remember the Milk (or RTM for short) is a powerful, flexible and simple tool for managing tasks. Small business owners (and busy folk everywhere) know that having a mere to-do list is insufficient. Remember the Milk works by helping you quickly enter and triage your tasks so that you can get back to doing whatever it is that you do best without worrying about, well, how to remember to get the milk. And, like so many great web apps these days, it’s a free service.
Remember the Milk works as a great tool for implementing productivity guru David Allen’s excellent methodologies, as articulated in Getting Things Done. The core of his practice involves sorting tasks into a couple of cross-referenced criteria, such as project (e.g. ‘creating a new website’), context (e.g. tools or locations such as ‘phone,’ ‘grocery store,’ or ‘office’) or duration (five minutes, 30 minutes, etc.). In a traditional paper to-do list or a mish-mash of different task management tools, it can be difficult to sort your the work at hand, or, say, find out what five-minutes tasks you can do between clients. Remember the Milk makes implementing a cross-referenced set of lists easy.
Remember the milk accomplishes sorting of tasks through a number of criteria:
- Due date (and time)
- Repeat (e.g. a reminder to send your mother a card every six weeks)
- Time estimate (estimated duration for the task)
- Status (completed/incomplete)
- Location (the location where this task needs to occur, such as your preferred grocery store or the post office—as a plus, this serves to automatically alert you of the tasks due at a given location when paired with a GPS-enabled iPhone)
- URL (great for putting a direct link to the relevant site, especially if it’s hard to remember)
- Postponed (a very revealing counter which lets you know how many times you’ve postponed, say, balancing your checkbook or cleaning the garage).
- Sharing (others who you have shared the task with so that it shows up on their to-do list—great for small teams/delegation)
- Notes (a place to add clarification of a task so that your list doesn’t get cluttered with lengthy titles)
The core service is free (save for certain reasonably-priced special features such as the iPhone app)—and it’s a lifesaver. Every week I review my calendar and my task lists with a colleague, and we enter new things into the list while checking in on overdue tasks. Little to nothing falls through the cracks now, and if it does, I know about it quickly. While inputting all my work into Remember the Milk was sobering as I dealt with the amount of tasks I have every week, Remember the Milk allows me to know exactly when the tasks for the day are done and when ‘someday’ projects like updating business plans will be picked up next. Most importantly, it lets me say yes (or no) to requests from colleagues with complete knowledge of my project load.
For further reading, check out this excellent summary of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology