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Managing your writing tasks with Remember the Milk

A hand holding a mobile phone with a to-do list stuck to it

There are any number of ways you can manage and schedule your work. There are just as many tools, too. Many of them are quite complex, packing features that you might never use.

Sometimes, though, you just need to go back to basics. That means using a good, old fashioned task list to manage your tasks.

There are people, though, a basic task list to be … well, a bit too basic. They need something more. And that’s where Remember the Milk comes in.

Remember the Milk is a task list, and a bit more. It’s a web-based tool that enables you to create, share, and view your tasks in a web browser or using a mobile app.

Let’s take a look at how to use it to manage your writing tasks.

The basics

And by that, I mean how to create a task. The first thing you’ll need to do is create an account. It’s free, although you can unlock more features if you’re willing to pay $39.99 (USD) per year.

Let’s pretend that you upgraded to Pro. Most of what I discuss in this post applies to the free version, but I’ll point out the features that are available only in the Pro edition.

To create a task, start typing a description of it in the Add a task field.

Adding a task in Remember the Milk

Once you’ve done that, click Add Task.

Pretty simple, isn’t it? You can do a lot more with RTM, which I’m going to delve into now.

Lists are your friends

While I advise people to keep their task lists short, not everyone does or can do that. They wind up with long task lists, ones which make finding particular tasks cumbersome if not difficult.

With RTM, you can gather your tasks in one spot and filter them using lists. Think of a list as a file folder. You group similar tasks — for example, tasks for a specific writing project or type of writer — in a list.

You add a list by clicking Add List in the menu on the left side of the RTM window.

Adding a list in Remember the Milk

Then, type a name for the list and click Add. Repeat this for as many lists as you need. In my case, I have lists for:

  • Blogging
  • ebook projects I’m working on
  • Presentations
  • The Meetup.com group I co-organize
  • Publications I regularly write for
  • Personal tasks

I also create lists, as needed, for clients.

When you create a new task, add it to a list by either typing the # symbol followed by the name of the list (for example, #Blogging) after the description of the task, or by clicking the Add a list or tag icon below the Add Task field.

Adding a task to a list in Remember the Milk

If you click the icon, select the list from the pop-up box that displays.

To view only those tasks in a list, expand Lists on the left side of the RTM window then click the name or the list you want to view.

Adding start and due dates

Tasks aren’t any good unless you tackle them. And to tackle them, you need to give them start and due dates.

Add a start day by either typing ~ followed by a date after the description of your task, or by clicking the Add a start date icon below the Add Task field.

Adding a start date to a task in Remember the Milk

If you click the icon, you can select the list from the pop-up box that displays.

Add a start date by either typing ~ followed by a date after the description of your task, or by clicking the Add a start date icon below the Add Task field.

Adding a start date to a task in Remember the Milk

If you click the icon, select the date from the pop-up box that displays.

Add a due date by either typing ^ followed by a date after the description of your task, or by clicking the Add a due date icon below the Add Task field.

Adding a start date to a task in Remember the Milk

Again, if you click the icon, you can select the date from the pop-up box that displays.

You can also set up reminders. I don’t do that, if only because I’m in and out of RTM several times a day. If you want more information about setting reminders, check out RTM’s help.

Other features you might find useful

There are a few other features in RTM that you might find useful.

The first of these is creating sub tasks. This is a Pro feature, which you can use when your task has a number of smaller components. To do that, click on a task in a list. A panel slides out from the side.

Adding a start date to a task in Remember the Milk

Type a description of the sub task in the Subtask field and then click Add Subtask. Repeat this as many times as you need to.

You can add notes to a task to give them a bit more context or to point to additional information you’ll need to complete the task. Add a note by clicking on a task in a list. In the panel that slides out from the side, type the information in the Notes box and then click Save.

Adding a start date to a task in Remember the Milk

Not all writers work alone. If you’re collaborating, you can share tasks with your collaborators by clicking the Give To icon when you’re creating a task. Click New Contact. In the popup that appears, enter your collaborator’s email address and then click Add.

Entering a collaborator's email address in Remember the Milk

Is that all?

Definitely not. You can do a lot more with RTM. If you want to learn more, check out Steven Ovadia’s “love letter” to RTM.

While I’m finding that Remember the Milk packs more features that I need, it can be a useful tool for managing your writing tasks. My advice? Sign up for a free account and give it a try. Remember the Milk might just grow on you.

Thoughts? Let's start a conversation on Twitter.