The Fiscal Toll of Eating Crap

The Fis­cal Toll of Treat­ing ‘Lifestyle Dis­eases’ — NYTimes​.com:

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.1

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 lists2: 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.

  1. First­ly, you should read my notes on GTD; if you don’t under­stand that, my method­ol­o­gy will make less sense. I’m not going to reex­plain it here. []
  2. Inbox and Sent are lists RTM cre­ates []

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.1 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 Milk2, 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. :)

  1. I work there now, but did­n’t when I start­ed this post. []
  2. Uh, hel­lo, I work there, remem­ber? []