In the world of technology, good things are replaced by better things. Sometimes a good service disappears. Sometimes we find something that better meets our needs. In 2001, I moved from my trusty paper planner to a digital calendar and digital task list combination. For 10 years, Outlook served me well. In the fall of 2012, I moved to Google Calendar and Toodledo (along with Google Contacts, Evernote, and Gmail to round out my productivity suite). In October of 2018, new leadership at Toodledo and the announcement of new changes in their plans caused me to search for an alternative.

After spending a couple of days looking at Any.doAsana, CirkusRemember the Milk, Tick-Tick, and Todoist, I made the “m-o-o-ve” to Remember the Milk. You’ll find more on what let to my decision in this post.

A reader asked me to write about the learning curve I experienced. Also, this reader wanted to know if I thought upgrading to the “pro” version was worth the $40 per year price. In this post, I’ll approach the question in more general terms and then drill down to the specifics of Remember the Milk.

Whenever you think about a switch, do these things…

  1. Search the proposed software on YouTube. You’ll likely find demos geared to the new user.
  2. Create an account and practice with it. Many services offer a free plan, and the ones that don’t generally offer a free trial. As you watch the demos, try entering you own data. Think about how you use your current software on a day-to-day basis. Try performing those same functions on the new software.
  3. Search for online comparisons. In my case, as I was trying to compare Asana with Remember the Milk, I performed a Google search for “Asana versus Remember the Milk.” You’ll just might find someone else has done some extensive comparisons and is happy to share their findings.
  4. Explore how to export from the old software and import into the new. A few minutes of research could save you many hours. When I switched from Outlook to Toodledo, I found I could export my Outlook tasks to a spreadsheet. I also found I could import into Toodledo via a spreadsheet. Therefore, I didn’t have to re-key anything. Nor did I have to manually copy/paste task after task. Likewise, Remember the Milk offers a dedicated set of instructions on importing from one RTM account to another, importing from Todoist into RTM, importing from Toodledo into RTM, and from Wunderlist into RTM. You’ll find those instructions here.
  5. Keep your old software intact. Do not remove your data or delete your account in the software you’re leaving. If something does get lost during the importing process, you’ll be glad to have the original as a reference. Also, if after a few days you decide the decision was not the right one, you can go back to your old friend.
  6. Get familiar with any user forums within the software or opportunities to ask tech support questions. Like anything new, you will have questions. You’ll need a place where you can ask a straight-forward question and get an on-point answer.
  7. Don’t be so quick to “get back to work.” Sure, there are people that spend so much time playing with their software that they never get real work done. However, the reverse is also true. Be willing to spend time learning the software. You’ll quickly learn the basics. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself using those features extensively and never learn about other functions that aren’t as obvious but add great functionality.

It’s like a new car…

Think about the last time you test-drove a new car. You already own a car, so you have a general idea about what to expect. It’s going to have windshield wipers and the controls will be somewhere near the steering wheel. In some models, they’re on the left. In others, they’re on the right. Where is the parking brake located? Where’s the hood release? Your experience with cars means you know what to look for and what to ask. You open the owner’s manual or search online with specific questions and quickly get answers.

The same is true with new software. The new task manager will likely have a “repeating task” feature. (If it doesn’t, don’t even consider it!) How it operates many differ slightly from what you are used to.

To review the things I feel a task manager must have to be worthy of your consideration, refer back to this post.

If the new program has subtasks, you’ll want to explore how the child tasks and parent tasks work together. When do the children appear in the list and when do they not?  What happens when the parent is a repeating task? With some trial and error, you’ll answer some of these questions on your own. Searching your question on a user forum or in tech support will save some time.

Also look at how overdue tasks are handled. Will you need to move them manually from day to day? Can they be moved in mass?

My learning curve with Remember the Milk…

In short, I was up and going the same day. While the transition was smooth, it was not without its surprises.

The Check Mark

Like every digital to-do list I’ve ever seen, a checkbox appeared to the left of each task. Putting a check in the box marks it as complete, right?

Remember the Milk

The check mark “selects” the task and brings up a menu of actions.

Well, not in Remember the Milk. It merely “selects” the task. At that point an array of icons appears. I choose from the list what action to perform on the task. Choosing the “check mark” is one of the options, and it marks the task as complete (causing it to disappear from the list). By the same token, I could select the “Get dog food” task and choose any of the other icons: postpone the item by any desired number of days, assign the task to someone else, change the priority, change the due date, assign it to a list, or add a tag.

Some people may raise an eyebrow that it takes two mouse clicks to check off an item. However this checkbox arrangement allows the user to multi-select items and perform the same action on all of them at once. Nice feature!

Another nice feature is the assortment of keyboard shortcuts. When I select one or more items, “c” marks it/complete. A number (1, 2, 3, or 4) assigns a priority. “P” brings up a menu where I select how many days to postpone a task. The delete key removes the item.

Drag and Drop

Some will love this feature; others will hate it. When in the “Today,” “Tomorrow,” or “This Week” views, the tasks automatically sort by due date. Choosing a sort by “Priority” gives me that secondary sort I like. It lets me segment my day into the “Fab 5,” followed by tasks to see in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening.

After sorting by Priority, sorting by “Drag & Drop” allows putting tasks in a precise order. However, once you finish, don’t touch that sort menu again! At least not until you want to plan tomorrow. As the day goes on, any tasks added for today wind up at the bottom of the Today section even though they may be assigned a high priority. If I then re-sort by Priority, tasks jump to the proper section of the list, but everything I had “dragged and dropped” reverts back to its original position.

One thing drove me crazy at first. When you drag a task to its new spot, be sure the tasks above and below “separate,” leaving you a space to drop the task. Otherwise, you wind up dropping one task on top of another. In the Pro version, that’s one way to create a subtask. The task being dragged becomes the child. The task it’s dropped upon becomes the parent. If you’re not careful, you wind up having to undo your action and try again. If you are using the free version, you get a nasty message that “This feature is only available to Pro members.”

The Pro Version and Subtasks

The reader question asked about whether the upgrade to the Pro version was worth the price ($40 per year). I did upgrade. One Pro feature I use most is “subtasks.”

Handling Christmas cards is one of those annual responsibilities. It’s technically a project, because getting those Christmas Cards in the mail requires a number of different actions that can’t all be done at one sitting. So, here is how that looks in my Remember the Milk setup:

Remember the Milk

Parent task and subtasks

Like any other project, big or small, I phrase it as a statement that is either “true” or “false.” When I click on that task, I have the opportunity to add subtasks, each with its own date.  (Note: There’s one subtask you’re not seeing, and that is to buy Christmas cards for next year. I’ve already done that!)

I want to mail Christmas cards each year, so I mark it as a repeating task. As I perform each subtask, I check it off. Checking off the parent automatically checks off all of the children.

Now for the magic… After I check off the parent, it comes back at the appropriate time next year as do all of the children.

I had to get used to how the children display. Any “child” that is due today will show up on the “Today” list… unless the parent also has a due date of “today.” A child does not display if it’s parent is on the same “list.” (“Today” is a list. “Tomorrow” is a list. “This Week” is a list. “All tasks” is a list.) This plan is actually good. When I want a bird’s-eye view of my “All tasks,” having the children hidden underneath the parent keeps the list from becoming overly long and cluttered. This explanation probably seems confusing if you don’t already use the Pro version of RTM. Once you start with the Pro version and begin using subtasks, this explanation will become clearer.

The Pro Version and Attachments

Often, a task has a digital document associated with it. I have always had some method for including a link to related document in the task notes or adding some type of reference to where that related material can be found.

Remember the Milk works with Dropbox. You can attach to a task any file currently in Dropbox. You can also simultaneously add a file to Dropbox and attach it to a task. Mousing over the attachment name displays a miniature preview of the document. One click open the document in a new browser tab.

So, there you go. In short, the learning curve was fairly painless. I like the subtask feature and the ability to add attachments. In my case, the $40 price tag is well worth it. Forego eating out twice at a decent restaurant and you have just found the money to pay for the entire year. But, if you want to go with the free version, what you have is quite robust.

The Pro Version and “If This Then That”

The Pro version allows for integration with third-party tools. The important one for me is integration with “If This Then That.” If This Then That (IFTTT.com) is a free service that allows other services to work together. I wrote about it in this post.

It’s important to me to have a great list of what I have planned to do. I would also like to keep a record of what I have accomplished. In “If This Then That,” I created an “applet” that goes like this…If I complete a task in Remember the Milk, then add it as a new line in Google Sheets. Like magic, when I open that Google Sheet (created for me), I see a list of tasks I completed. Each one is date-and-time stamped.

I did the same thing when I used Toodledo. I no longer use Toodledo, and there was always a limit on how long completed tasks were saved. But because my completed tasks were automatically being entered into a Google Sheet, it didn’t matter. I can always access them, filter, sort, and search within them…all of the normal spreadsheet things. Now, with Remember the Milk, I can do the same thing. Third-party integration is included in the Pro plan.

And the RTM Widget…

For Android users, a RTM widget is available. I have that on my home screen. That way, I can see my to-dos without even opening the program. With one tap on the widget, I am entering a new task.

Where to go from here…

If you’re thinking about becoming a Remember the Milk user or if you are starting your journey with RTM, I can help. After beginning my own journey, I created an ebook. It’s free, but only to people who are part of my email list community. You can join right now. Here’s the link.

I plan to write an advanced Remember the Milk ebook. I’m not sure when that will publish and whether it will be a freebie or whether there will be a cost. In either case, email subscribers will hear about it first.

Thanks for dropping by. Now it’s your turn to leave something in the comments. If you use RTM, what tips do you have? If you are a new user or prospective user, what questions do you have? I respond to all comments, so here’s your opportunity.