The Fiscal Toll of Eating Crap

The Fis­cal Toll of Treat­ing ‘Lifestyle Diseases’ —

Corny as it is to say so, if we can put a man on the moon we can cre­ate an envi­ron­ment in which an apple is a bet­ter and more acces­si­ble choice than a Pop-Tart.

More can be said about the sea change my diet has under­gone in the last year, but suf­fice it to say that eat­ing bet­ter is patri­otic, pro­gres­sive, con­ser­v­a­tive, and apo­lit­i­cal — oh, and tasty — so if you’re not doing it already, get on it.

My GTD setup in RTM

It’s come up a few times: “How do you use RTM?” “What do your lists/Smart Lists look like?”

I cov­ered them briefly on RTM’s blog but they’ve changed a bit since then, and I’d like to flesh them out a bit more.

Obvi­ously my work has meant that I come in con­tact with a lot of users’ meth­ods that they share on the forums, and I’ve bor­rowed a few. :)

The first method I ever imple­mented was Doug Ireton’s “clas­sic” post on the RTM blog on imple­ment­ing GTD.

My setup devi­ates from that though. The basics are there — I try to min­i­mize use of due dates, I orga­nize my tasks by phys­i­cal con­text (home, phone, com­puter, work, etc.) and I try to make my list cap­ture everything.

How­ever, I try to keep my setup as min­i­mal as pos­si­ble, a lot more min­i­mal than a full-on GTD setup. The biggest thing is that I don’t really orga­nize my tasks in projects; that’s just not how my work or life revolve.

To show you what my orga­ni­za­tion looks like, here are my lists on the website:

RTM list tabs

As you can see, I only have two proper lists: Mine and Shared. The only rea­son I have two is to sep­a­rate tasks that are shared with Deanna. (I’ve shared that list with her.)

The rest of my orga­ni­za­tion is tag-based, and I’ve cre­ated a num­ber of Smart Lists (shown in blue) to orga­nize them in ways that I reg­u­larly use.

I use my Inbox as a place where my quickly added tasks end up — some­thing I’ll email in, a hand­ful of tasks I think of and want to get in quickly with­out set­ting any prop­er­ties, etc. — but I empty it regularly.

Most of my Smart Lists are pretty obvi­ous (and cor­re­spond to a par­tic­u­lar tag or two), but a few of them are worth mentioning:

  • zzz: This is a Smart List that puts tasks to sleep until a cer­tain time before they’re due. (When I’m look­ing at my list of tasks to do at home, I don’t care about the bills I have to pay until it’s time to pay them.)
  • !Next: (((priority:1 OR priority:2) AND NOT list:zzz) OR (NOT tagContains:@ OR list:Inbox status:incomplete)) AND NOT (list:Target OR list:Grocery)
    This is a list of all “next actions”, things I can do presently. Nat­u­rally, this will exclude any­thing I’ve “put to sleep” as men­tioned above, and also things that I’ve des­ig­nated as some­thing that I’ll get to later. It also catches any­thing I haven’t filed cor­rectly (any­thing not tagged cor­rectly or in my Inbox) and it will exclude any­thing in my spe­cial Tar­get and gro­cery lists. :)
  • !Today: ((dueBefore:today OR due:today OR priority:1) AND list:!Next OR (NOT tagContains:@ OR list:Inbox status:incomplete))
    This is a Smart List that shows me the things I really have to do today — or should at least try to. On a really good day, I’ll clear this list. It’s every­thing from the !Next list that’s over­due, due today, or high pri­or­ity.
    Per­haps its obvi­ous, but this is where I spend the bulk of my time, with the occa­sional jaunt over to my !Next list.

Tag CloudLastly, my Tag Cloud shows how my tags/lists are being used. It should be no sur­prise that a lot of my tasks are things for me to do on the internet. :)

My goal with my orga­ni­za­tion is to make it quick and easy to use. I can quickly add a task that will show up where I’ll see it (!Next and !Today) and orga­nize all sorts of tasks that won’t show up there.

Let me know if you’d like any more point­ers or tips on how I do things.

Some notes on GTD

I started this post on Decem­ber 15, 2008. I’ve mostly kept it intact and sim­ply pub­lished it for the sake of get­ting it out there. It’s not nearly as sprawl­ing as I ini­tially intended; you’re welcome.

Remem­ber the Milk is one of my favorite web­sites. Keep­ing a list of tasks, keep­ing it sim­ple, and keep­ing it cur­rent are ways I man­age my life. It’s noth­ing super pro­found or super impor­tant for me, but a list of tasks keeps me from becom­ing overwhelmed.


My basis for task man­age­ment is GTD. Mer­lin Mann sum­ma­rized it quite well, and I still think of his four-year-old arti­cle when dis­cussing GTD:

Basi­cally, you make your stuff into real, action­able items or things you can just get rid of. Every­thing you keep has a clear rea­son for being in your life at any given moment — both now and well into the future. This gives you an amaz­ing kind of con­fi­dence that a) noth­ing gets lost and b) you always under­stand what’s on or off your plate.

Obvi­ously it’s great for pro­fes­sion­als where you’re more or less paid for being pro­duc­tive, but I’ve found the prin­ci­ples to be very use­ful for my own per­sonal life as well. (I’ve found that it goes very well with Inbox Zero—inci­den­tally also by Mer­lin Mann — which basi­cally pre­scribes that it’s not worth your time to waste it on email, and that your goal should be speedy mail man­age­ment and an empty inbox.)


So I’ve been con­vinced about these GTD tech­niques for a few years. Here are a few ways I’ve attempted to imple­ment them:

  • Tid­dlyspot: A host that offers free Tid­dly­wikis, Tid­dlyspot show­cases a few “fla­vors”, two of which are geared to GTD usage. Quite use­ful, easy to get used to, but only really usable on the inter­net and from a com­puter. And way too fid­dly for my taste.
  • Remem­ber The Milk: It shouldn’t sur­prise you at this point that I use Remem­ber The Milk, but I’ve been using them for two years. RTM’s ser­vices are its strength; you can access your tasks wher­ever you are — on your com­puter, phone, in your Gmail, etc. — and be reminded of what you have to do.

Sorry this post doesn’t have a great fin­ish; like I said, I’m pretty much pub­lish­ing it as-is, and I don’t have any­thing pro­found to say at the end of this. Let me know if you’d like my thoughts on some­thing else. :)