In the last post, we looked at how to create tags in Remember The Milk and the advantages of doing so. Clicking on a tag in the sidebar brings up all tasks containing that tag. However, some items returned may have due dates months in the future. How can I get a list of tasks with that tag but are within a more recent timeframe?

For example, how can I see a list of the phone calls I need to make within the next week? The answer is to build and save a “Smart List.” A Smart List is a search saved for reuse. Here is what that example would look like :

Remember The Milk

I click the drop-down arrow in the search window. Instead of entering a search term, I click Add another criteria. From the Choose button, I select a tag of phone. I select Add another criteria, select Due Date, and choose that the due date is going to be before 7 days from now. Choosing that date range allows for the inclusion of any task with a due date within the next week. It also includes any task which may be overdue. Once I save, not only does the search run, but I see a button allowing me to save that search as a “Smart List.” Again, think of a Smart List as a “saved search.”

Down the left side of the screen is a list of existing Smart Lists. Create a new one and it appears immediately.

Smart Lists Which Parallel Remember The Milk Tags

If you looked at my Smart Lists, you would see a relationship between the Smart Lists and my tags. In the last post, you saw a list of my tags. You know I can click the #etr tag and see everything I “expect to receive.” In other words, it is a list of everything everyone owes me.

But on a day-to-day basis, I am most interested in what I am expecting to receive now or within the next few days. I create a Smart List, just as I did for phone calls I want to make within the next 7 days. Start by searching for tasks that have the tag #etr AND have a due date before 7 days of today. After running the search, click the button to “Save as a Smart List.”

What tags do you have which need a parallel Smart List?

Smart Lists Showing Projects

I use the Pro version of Remember The Milk, and therefore have access to subtasks. In my system, when a new project arises, I simply create a new task. I phrase that project as a statement that is either true or false. Perhaps I am in the market for a new car. I would create a task that reads, “Car has been purchased.” (I phrase the project as a statement with a noun up front.) I would brainstorm the steps involved. Each step would be a subtask under the parent. In an upcoming post, you’ll learn more about this concept.

I would like to be able to see a list of all my projects. How will I tell Remember The Milk what to look for? I conduct a search, but I leave the “Has the words” field blank. I want to “Add another criteria.” Since my “projects” are constructed as tasks that have subtasks, it’s easy to construct the search. Furthermore, I generally like to see the projects whose due dates are within the next week. The following diagram shows how to structure the search.

Remember The Milk

Click the button to “Save as Smart List” and you are always one click away from a list of your current projects.

What if you wanted a list of projects with due dates more than a week out but coming up with in the month? Use the same logic (has subtasks and a due date within 30 dates) but also add another condition: Due Date is after 7 days from today. Using this logic, could you now construct a search for projects scheduled for the future, those with due dates more than 30 days in the future?

“Blast Forward” to Avoid Overwhelm

Sometimes tasks can “snowball.” At the end of the day, undone tasks roll to the next day, and even more roll forward to the day after that. Sound familiar? What if you could just blast it all forward a week or so? I have a Smart List that will help you do that.

Yes, you could put a check at the top of the list, uncheck any tasks you didn’t want to move forward, hit “D” (the keyboard shortcut to change the date), and assign a new date to the rest in mass.

That process would “clear the decks” and leave you with only the tasks really needing your attention. There are several concerns I have:

  • I don’t like to mess with the dates on tasks that repeat. You always run the risk of messing up the repeating pattern.
  • I don’t like to mess with dates in mass for either subtasks or the tasks which have subtasks.
  • Finally, if a task is Priority 1, I should think twice before moving it forward. Priority 1 represents the most critical tasks.

Let’s build a Smart List called “Blast Forward Eligible.”

Running that search will return all the tasks on the Today list (tasks due today or in the past), that are lower than Priority 1, and are non-repeating tasks with no subtasks involved.

Click the Blast Forward Eligible button and you don’t have to worry. Select all tasks which remain or pick and choose those to assign a new due date and those to leave as is. Your task list will look much slimmer.

Remember The Milk makes rearranging a large number of tasks easy. The ability to multi-select tasks to change in mass is one reason why. Smart Lists is another reason. Look at your own needs and try your hand at creating your own Smart Lists.