Category Archives: Software

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?

Google Maps Navigation

Google Navigation on AndroidGoogle Maps Navigation: A Free, Ass-Kicking, Turn-by-Turn Mobile App – Google maps navigation – Gizmodo

If Google sells this in the App Store for zero dollars, those millions of bucks Apple makes off of GPS app sales will likely disappear. It’s not for us to worry about until there’s no more GPS competition except Google, and we’re dependent on their pace of progress, but no competition is a bad thing. And it’s a little strange that Google’s search money is going to pay for a free map app that is competitive with stuff that costs $100 a year from full-time GPS makers like TomTom. Unfair is the word that comes to mind. But I can’t say I don’t want this app.

Agreed, on all counts. I wonder if Apple will try to play any differently with this than with other navigation apps since this is Google; does that make it any more “confusingly similar” to the iPhone’s Maps app (driven by Google Maps)? I think not, but I also wouldn’t be confused by a mobile Firefox (Fennec) or Google Voice.

It’s easy to see Google’s (and their users’) advantage in entering a competitive market this way, but yeah, I wouldn’t want to be their competitors either.

It does scare me how much data Google now owns, more in how they ditched their licensors so they could do something like this. But I want this app too. ;)

Least frustrating system

I don’t consider myself blindly brand-loyal to the Mac.

I know, right? Co-founder of a indie Mac software company?

I find Mac OS X to be the least frustrating of the currently available options, but the buck certainly doesn’t stop there. We have miles and miles to go in terms of making computing better. I want my socks blown off, and I don’t care whether it’s Apple, Microsoft, Google, or the open source movement that does it, as long as someone does.

I hope that making it1 Someone Else’s Problem will work out for you. If you put your faith in Apple/Microsoft/Google, or even in the open source movement, you can expect what you get. Since at least I can participate in the open source movement, if it doesn’t blow off socks, I can say that’s my fault2.

  1. “total usability utopia”, for lack of a more all-encompassing word
  2. in part, of course :)

A new phone: Terrible timing?

So my AT&T contract is up this month and I’m considering all my options for my next PDA. My BlackBerry has been slowly dying on me, and I’ve not been happy with it.


It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of Android—it is produced by Google—so ideally I’d get an Android device next.

However, I’m not terribly inclined to switch to T-Mobile; their network is smaller and not as robust in all locations. And the G1 leaves a lot to be desired, so I’d rather wait for the next iteration. But how long will that be? Hard to say, though they may have a new, awesome device soon, so it may be worth waiting.

I had also mentioned that AT&T would likely be producing Android devices, but that dynamic seems to have changed somewhat: I suppose because of their ties with Apple and the iPhone, they’re not keen to produce any competing devices currently. And I can understand that, though it’s unfortunate.

It does seem like I’d be joining an active community though. :)


An iPhone would be a solid choice, and I certainly think the devices deserves (most of) the acclaim it’s been getting, but I’m not switching from one proprietary mobile device to another. Even if it is Apple. I’m also not impressed with the inability to run background applications, and while jailbreaking the phone would open up a lot of extra functionality, I’m not inclined to do that. I don’t want to support Apple by buying their device if I don’t actually support how they design their software.


So my two choices feel like this: Get an iPhone (and possibly jailbreak it) or switch to T-Mobile if/when they release a second (slicker-than-G1) device.

Are there other choices? Which do you think I should do?

Users Don’t Like Change

Facebook’s Users Don’t Like Change – ReadWriteWeb

Users don’t like change, and as a product becomes more popular, users will grow ever more resistant to change.

The entire article (about Facebook’s contentious changes to their News Feed) distills to that one sentence. It’s not a Facebook thing1, it’s a people thing.

Really, I grow tired of all this resistance to change. While I’ve been there too—it’s easy to get habituated—it’s annoying to hear. Microsoft Office 20072, Firefox 3, Safari 4, BlackBerry, iPhone, etc. etc.

It would seem that if people had their way, interfaces would become static (at some unspecified point) and remain there. Rather than fixing quirks, users would simply habituate to them. And there would be little room for innovation.

I understand that designers/engineers don’t always get things right, but especially with computers, there is a lot of change from year to year, and that’s a good thing. An inclination to embrace change would go a long way to enjoying the dynamic world of technology. :)

  1. But I do understand that Facebook removed functionality in this update, and that is a problem. But a different problem.
  2. I hear complaints about the Ribbon all day at work, worst of all from my coworkers!