Twenty years ago, the year 2001, I made a decision that has significantly impacted my productivity ever since. Twenty years ago, I set aside my paper planner in favor of a digital calendar and digital task list. Today, we look at the journey and why Remember The Milk is my current choice.
I saw how much communication had been coming via email. I saw how much information I was accessing digitally It just made sense to take what arrived digitally and keep it digital.
Twenty years later, it seems like a good time to review the road that got me here, especially when it comes to the digital task list. I’ll also tell you what I’m using now and why. My tools have changed, and that’s OK, because good things are replaced by better things. I’ve talked and written about that concept often. Sometimes, a tool or service ceases to exist, and we’re forced to make another choice. Other times, something better steps forward. This article is about the latter and why I am going with Remember the Milk.
Palm and Outlook
Are you old enough to remember the Palm? It was that magic device where you wrote on a plastic screen with a stylus and used this strange alphabet called Graffiti. The thing that made it magic was its ability to synchronize with your computer. For the first time when you got up from your computer, you were no longer also getting up from your calendar and task list. They were safely in your pocket.
As you were out and about, you made changes on the Palm. When you returned to your computer, you put the Palm in its cradle, pressed a button, and watched the changes made on the Palm synchronize with the computer.
Around 2006, the school system where I worked purchased a BlackBerry for each principal and central office administrator. The transition was easy. Outlook synced beautifully with the BlackBerry. In just a few minutes, my calendar, tasks, contacts, and notes from Outlook were showing up on my BlackBerry.
Back then, I thought we would all be using the BlackBerry forever. When I wrote my first book, I went into detail on topics surrounding the BlackBerry and Outlook. After retiring from public education, I continued to use the BlackBerry.
Those of us who remember the rise of the BlackBerry also remember its fall. In 2012, I saw it was time to make a move. The quote between going Apple versus Android was a tough one. With Google being the king of “search,” I felt Android was the better choice. I am sure many will agree while many others disagree.
Back then, not all parts of Outlook seemed to play well with Android, so I decided to move to an all-cloud productivity suite (and write about what I was doing as I made the changes):
- From Outlook to Google Calendar
- From Outlook to Toodledo
- From Outlook to Google Contacts
- From Outlook to Evernote
- From Outlook to Gmail
I loved Toodledo personally and found it easy to teach. It didn’t matter what email program someone else used, they could take a to-do that arrived as an email and forward them to Toodledo. It was web-based and therefore worked the same on a Mac as a PC.
A change of ownership brought with it a limitation to the free plan, and for me, giving people a free option that’s going to work is important. The elimination of being able to email into Toodledo in the free plan was the dealbreaker.
Mo-o-o-o-ve Over and Make Room for Remember The Milk
In October 2018, I spent the better part of a day kicking the tires on several platforms before deciding on Remember The Milk. I have no regretted the decision.
These are the 7 essential elememts I look for in a digital task list:
- “Due date” field and ability to sort by due date
- Repeating tasks
- Note section for each task to house supporting information
- Search feature
- Communicates with your email
- Syncs across all devices
- Voice input
Want an explanation of these essentials and why they are important? Listen to this interview on Productivity Book Group. At the 9:50 mark, Ray Sidney-Smith and I discuss the seven essentials I look for. The video embedded in this post demonstrates them.
Remember the Milk Was the Clear Winner
Here are some of the features that influenced my decision:
- Smart Add—When adding a task, Remember the Milk allows other elements in that task line. You can add due date, due time, priority, person assigned to, and even notes. This feature is particularly handy when forward emails into Remember the Milk. Change the subject line to the name of the task. Add a due date, time, or priority in the subject line. Smart Add is incredibly handy when adding tasks via voice. Speak the task. Include the due date, time, location, etc. Remember the Milk adds each of those elements to the task.
- Overdue tasks roll to the next day—How do you handle tasks not completed on the due date? That’s been a question in the productivity space for ages. Remember the Day-Timer and Franklin Planner days? We would “arrow forward” tasks and recopy them to future dates. Today, we no longer rewrite. In most digital services, overdue tasks sit in a special section at the top of the list. In Remember the Milk, yesterday’s unfinished tasks migrate among today’s tasks. Yesterday’s “Priority 1” tasks join today’s Priority 1 tasks. Yesterday’s unfinished “Priority 2” tasks join today’s Priority 2 tasks, and so forth. Toodledo has a plan for doing something similar down the road. Remember the Milk has it now.
- Drag and drop—My tasks appear by due date. Sort the “Today” list by “Priority.” My “Fab 5” are now at the top. After that are the tasks for morning, afternoon, and evening. Need further refinement? While viewing the “Today” list, change the sort order to “Drag and drop.” Manually place each task at the desired spot. As it turns out, I don’t use this feature. Using the keyboard shortcuts 1, 2, 3, and 4 to change a task’s priority batches tasks so quickly and easily, I find I don’t need drag and drop.
- Task swipe on mobile app—Swipe to the right to mark a task complete. Swipe to the left to postpone that task by any desired number of days.
- Multi-select tasks on computer or mobile device to bulk edit–In Remember the Milk, putting a check beside a task doesn’t mark it as “done.” Instead, Remember the Milk, selects that task. Select as many tasks as desired. With the icons which appear above the tasks, mass assign a date, priority, etc.
- Date/time stamp on task notes—Task notes are among the essential 7 features I look for. Remember the Milk takes the feature to a whole new level by date/time stamping the notes. Suppose the task is “Call Bill,” and you wind up leaving a voicemail message. You might put that information in the note field of the task to document the attempt. The automatic date/time stamp keeps you from having to add it manually.
- Assign tasks to other people—Does someone else in your family or organization use Remember the Milk? Create a task and assign it to that person. You see what tasks have been accepted. You and the other person can communicate on the task in the notes area.
- Every task has its own URL—Sometimes one task needs to refer to another. Put the URL for one task in the note section of the other task.
- Rich assortment of keyboard shortcuts—Power users of any program appreciate not reaching for the mouse. Save time by using as many or as few of the shortcuts as desired.
Remember the Milk has been around since 2004. When I originally chose Toodledo, I also considered Remember the Milk. But Remember the Milk then was not what it is now. An impressive upgrade came about in 2016. When I gave this service another look, I was impressed with what I saw.
Want to make a m-o-o-ve?
If you are using another task manager and want to make a change, this article shows you how. Remember the Milk supports importing tasks from several other task managers. The page also provides help for importing from other apps and services.
I have composed a guide called “Using Remember the Milk with the Get Organized! System.” It’s a perk for email subscribers only. The good news is that you can join today.
If you’re still writing to-dos on sticky notes or scraps of paper, re-copying lists daily or trying to remember it all, maybe it’s time to adopt a digital task list. You have everything you need in this post to make that improvement today.