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July 16, 2014

Tool Review #1: Remember the. . . Milk! Valerie’s To-Do’s Tour

Welcome to a brief summer organization tool review series! I’ve come across several new and old productivity tools in the past few months, and I can’t wait to show them to you. Summer is a great time to bolster your habits AND to be sure you have selected the right tools for your context, environment and role. Let’s jump in to the first one.

Have you guys met Valerie? She’s an education nonprofit leader, a mom, and a primarily digital organizer. Much like our recent showcase of Molly’s WorkFlowy system, we wanted to show you how Valerie uses Remember the Milk, another app, to track her To-Dos. Similar to Molly, Valerie keeps a digital calendar (via Outlook), but likes to organize her To-Dos elsewhere.

Let’s start with an overview. Below is a screen shot of Valerie’s To-Do List for work:

RTM - To-Do List

Now let’s go a bit deeper and highlight some of Valerie’s stand-out practices:

  • Organized by Mental Capacity: Some popular productivity literature, namely David Allen’s, tells you to organize work by physical context, which has a lot of merit. We have big love for two other types of sorting as well. The first one is how Valerie did it, by type of “brain work.” For example, she categorizes her To-Dos with titles like “Email,” “Update,” “Create,” and “Review.”

As she describes, “I can sort for just ’email’ if I’m in an emailing mood.  Or ‘create’ if it’s going to be something that takes think-time, and I have a good chunk of work block to do it.” We also love sorting by month, as Valerie did below for her reading list. Knowing she can’t do it all at once, Valerie has designated certain reads for certain months. Here’s her list for May:

RTM - Reading List

  • Accessibility: A list is only as good as your ability to actually reach it when you need it. Valerie tells us, “All of this is accessible – and in a more user-friendly way! – on my iPhone and iPad. I’ve created a ‘Quick’ smart list that will only pull tasks I’ve designated can be completed in 5 minutes or less and a ‘Long’ smart list for those tasks that will take an hour or more.” And PS for my Google users, Valerie ALSO has all of this linked up to her Gmail and Google Calendar!
  • Materials Needed: Valerie adds tags to her To-Dos to indicate what materials she’ll need to use to complete them, like WiFi, paper, or her phone, laptop or iPad. How amazing is it that in her “Read” list she notes if her materials are hard-copy or if she’ll need WiFi to access them?!
  • Energy Monitored: Valerie has also created additional “smart lists” (the blue tabs) that only pull up tasks with a certain criteria.  The smart list she uses most is for “Today,” which is basically any task (personal or work or other) that is due on or before today – meaning overdue!

RTM - Today's List

  • Room for A Rainy Day: Do you all see Valerie’s “Somedays” smart list?  That’s for her To-Dos with no due date—things she wants to get done but that don’t need to happen by a specific time. Yes, yes, yes!

Valerie, this is super inspiring! We especially love the link to Google. We know you are shifting soon from Outlook to Google—Remember the Milk will keep you in great shape.

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