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My RTM Task Management framework, version 2


This describes version 2 of the GTD inspired, Remember The Milk based Task Management framework I discussed earlier and currently use.

Basic Configuration

The system revolves around five core lists:

  1. Inbox
  2. Next Day
  3. Next Week
  4. Next Month
  5. Action

The Inbox is a list of Tasks or Projects you have committed to working on. This can contain one off tasks that you can do any time, or repeating tasks (Clean Kitchen, Get Haircut, Call Mom etc). The 'Due Date' field is used for any Task or Project that should be done in the future.

The Next lists contain a list of Tasks or Projects that you can't or don't want to commit to just yet, but will have another look at on the next Day / Week / Month etc. There's no reason why the system couldn't be adapted to have different time periods like next Fortnight, Year etc.

Action is a Smart List generated from the following search string: list:Inbox AND (dueBefore:tomorrow OR due:never). This is set to be the default list of the system. It is simply a filtered view of the Inbox items that are not set for the future.

Adding Tasks

For the system to work effectively it needs to contain as many of your upcoming tasks as possible. The more you keep only elsewhere - on paper, in your memory etc - the less useful the system will be.

  1. If it's a task that you have committed to working on now or on a definitive date, add it to the Inbox. Make sure you set the appropriate due date or repeating options if applicable.
  2. Otherwise, if it's a task that you don't have a firm commitment to, add it to one of the Next lists for later review.

Adding Projects

In this context, a Project is a collection of Tasks that need to be done to reach a certain goal. Even routine Supermarket Shopping could be considered a project, with items that need to be purchased as individual tasks. You could also do a reading project, with the books on your reading list as individual tasks.

These are the steps to add a project to the system.

  1. Add a Task representing the Project to the Inbox if you're committed to starting it now, or add it to one of the Next lists if you may commit to it in the future. Make sure to tag it as #Project to make a clear distinction from your one off tasks. Set repeating options if you want to work on the project daily.
  2. Choose and configure the management system for the Project. For simple projects (eg Supermarket Shopping), just creating a dedicated list in RTM is fine. For complicated or long term projects you may want to consider an online project management system like Trac or Basecamp.
  3. Link the Task representing the Project using the URL field. This will give you instant access to the list of Tasks the Project requires right from RTM.

This is a bit of a hack but you can also link directly to Remember the Milk lists. Go to the list, right click on the Print link and choose the option to copy the URL. Paste this into the URL field but replace the word 'Print' with 'Home'.

Maintaining the Next lists

For each of your Next lists, add a repeating item to your Action list as a reminder that the list needs to be maintained. I have mine configured so the Next Day list is checked every day, Next Week is checked every Sunday, and Next Month is checked on the 1st of the Month.

For each maintenance run, simply scan through each and every item in the list, going from top-to-bottom, and decide what to do with it. There are three possible actions:

  1. Commit to doing it. Move the item into your Inbox, add Due Date and Repeat options if necessary.
  2. Decide it doesn't need to be done. Just delete or mark as complete.
  3. Promote, Demote or do nothing. If you still don't want to commit to doing it or not doing it, you can leave it where it is or shift it to a different Next list.

Actioning Tasks

  1. Open up the Action List. If the system is configured correctly then it should show only the Tasks you currently need to concern yourself with.
  2. Use the Priority System to quickly raise the most important task that you can currently do to the top of the list.
  3. Action the top task.
  4. Repeat until the list is empty.
  5. Take a breather, or go looking through your Next lists for more things to do.


This process can also be used for Project lists managed in Remember the Milk.



Phew, that's it. Any questions or suggestions?