Saturday, May 24, 2008

Remember The Milk

Earlier this week I signed up for Remember The Milk, a web-based task manager. So far I have been quite happy with it.

Currently my work predominantly consists of many small tasks, many interruptions and adapting to changing priorities on a daily basis. So to handle this situation, I generally view my tasks as a queue and prioritise them by their position in the queue. When I am doing a particular task, often it will decompose into smaller tasks, so I am regularly adding, completing and prioritising tasks. Given the frequency of these activities, I am after a lightweight, efficient solution. Generally I am only interested in the title and priority of a task. Occasionally tasks have a due date, such as paying a bill, but otherwise I do not wish to expend effort in calculating and updating task attributes as my circumstances change.

In the past I have had a MacBook as my work machine and used iCal and Stickies (yes Stickies the bundled Mac app) to manage tasks. All tasks for the current day went on to a desktop sticky note, the rest into iCal. I split the sticky note into two sections: TODO and DONE. During the day I could then add a new task (as a line on the sticky note) to the TODO section, re-order (i.e. prioritise) by moving lines up and down and marking a task as done by cutting the line from TODO and pasting it under DONE. Very low tech, but very fast and low overhead.

On longer running activities, I also found the sticky notes useful to collect ideas and links.

This system has generally worked well, except that it was tied to the MacBook. Sometimes I would work from a different machine and in those cases would end up having sticky notes in different places. Secondly, there was no backup (and no I don't want to use Time Machine).

I have now switched from iCal to Google Calendar. This makes working on different (trusted) computers easy from a calendar perspective. However, Google Calendar does not do task management.

Experience with The Milk so far
It was quick, easy and free to sign up. The keyboard shortcuts are excellent, they greatly reduce the time it takes to create, prioritise and complete tasks. Generally the site is quite responsive, although not as fast as using my Stickies approach. The help is quite good.

Most of my tasks are not that private or sensitive in nature, but some are a little. The Milk site follows the same convention as the Google Apps, and will stay with HTTPS if you arrive at the site that way. Occasionally I have noticed it has reverted back to HTTP, but haven't figured out the pattern yet.

I setup a notes Task List just for storing ideas for longer running activities. You can add text snippets (called notes) to a task. So the tasks in this list are not tasks as such, but containers for the notes. The text box for editing notes is a little small, it would be great if it could be bigger, resisable or a little more accessible.

I haven't tried the Google Calendar integration yet and will do further posts once I have settled in to a good way of working with The Milk on a day-to-day basis.

So far the overall verdict is good and I can now get to my tasks from different computers. It is great to see some more Australian (the Milk crew are in Sydney) software success. Well done guys.

1 comment:

Tom Adams said...

This is an interesting (Mac only by the look of it) tool: