I, like many of you, have a lot to do. Not all of it needs to be done right now, and not every item on the list is mission-critical. I often find that I have a small amount of time to work – maybe an hour or two – before something like a meeting comes up. I try to keep a To Do list up to date so that I can make the most of those short bits of time – I’ll know what I need to work on and can probably find something on the list that takes the amount of time I have available. The trouble is, I haven’t found a good way to keep track of that To Do list. I’ve tried iCal, my email Inbox, a couple of To Do widgets for Google Homepage, paper, and Jott. None of them allowed me to keep track of the relative importance and order of tasks – at least not at the granularity I’d like.
As I was reminded this weekend when Naomi was working on something I promised long ago to streamline for her, those tasks that aren’t mission-critical often get lost. That same incident reminded me that leaving things to do in my Inbox wasn’t all that effective; that thing is pretty crowded, so tasks get lost easily (mission-critical or not). Today’s surprise reminder that iConference reviews are due was more evidence that my current task management process is just not working. So, a number of problems are happening here – I don’t have one place to look for things to do when I need to maximize my efficiency, and I lose track of tasks that aren’t mission-critical or that are due far in the future.
What’s my solution? Today it’s Remember the Milk. RTM is one of many (see this guy’s blog for more) To Do list software apps out there, and I started using it yesterday. I like that it lets me assign tasks all kinds of metadata (including tags, due dates, estimated completion times) and to group tasks into various lists. I have lists for my dissertation, the KNOW SI project, other research, and personal stuff. RTM lets you email in (or Jott) new tasks, has Google Homepage and Mac widgets, and is generally a friendly application. I downloaded Google Gears too, but I haven’t had to use RTM offline yet.
Hopefully Remember the Milk will help me stay productive and keep better track of those low priority (but necessary) and future tasks.