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GTD meets Eisenhower meets just doing stuff

stevepaulo says:
My personal RTM system has evolved over the years (I've been using RTM since 2005). It has been informed by GTD, by the Eisenhower Matrix, and by all manner of other systems and tips I've picked up over the years.

With the new updates to the software-- especially subtasks and start dates-- my system got a huge upgrade, and I barely had to tweak anything. Here's the gist:

1. Every task in the Inbox -- I don't use static lists. Everything goes into, and stays in, the Inbox. I have ways of surfacing new stuff, as you will see.

2. Locations are actually locations -- I use RTM's location geofencing usually to separate out household tasks that I can only do at home, but also for things that I need to do AT work (and not just while I'm working, which is often remote or from home).

3. Labels are projects -- Simple. I have about a dozen labels I use to separate out "sections" of my life. The reason I don't use static lists for this is because things can cross over. A project might be "dev" because it's hobbyist development I'm doing, or it could be for work, so it's also a "career" task. Etc.

4. Priorities -- I use the High/Med/Low priorities as visual cues, but my system really only distinguishes between "Important" issues (with Priority 1-3) and "Unimportant" issues (Priority N/4).

5. Repeating tasks -- Weekly/Monthly/etc. reminders. I often filter them out or make sure they only bubble up on their due date. This includes a weekly retrospective, when I will look back at the week's completed tasks, review "Upcoming" for tasks that may need more context/subtasks/etc., and schedule things in the "! Do or Schedule" list. My retrospective usually takes 5 minutes or less, and I do it on Sunday evenings.

6. Smart Lists -- The heart of the system. I use seven lists, here are their descriptions and the search terms that build them:

"Upcoming" -- dueBefore:"1 week from now" OR startBefore:"1 week from now" -- A near-future view of what's coming up. I will often pay more attention to the *count* of this list than what's in it, though it's useful in my weekly retrospective.

"Urgent" -- dueBefore:tomorrow OR startBefore:tomorrow OR (dueBefore:"3 days from now" AND isRepeating:false AND start:never) -- Upcoming items that have been scheduled, regardless of whether they are important or not.

"Important" -- NOT priority:none -- Things I have decided are important.

"Someday/Maybe" -- NOT list:Urgent AND NOT list:Important AND isSubtask:false -- Not due soon, marked unimportant, and not related to other tasks. This is a traditional "Someday/Maybe" GTD list.

"Smellers" -- NOT addedWithin:"3 months of today" AND due:never AND start:never AND priority:none -- These tasks have somehow slid down through the months. I haven't scheduled them or given them any importance. Essentially, when something shows up here it's a good bet it doesn't need to be done at all, but in case it does, this list ensures nothing completely falls through the cracks.

"! Do or Schedule" (prepended with ! so it appears at the top of the list) -- list:Important AND due:never AND start:never AND (isLocated:false OR locatedWithin:"2 miles") -- Important stuff I haven't scheduled into my upcoming timeframe yet. Do these things if I can, or schedule them into my day/week/month/whatever

"! Do Now" -- (dueBefore:tomorrow OR startBefore:tomorrow OR (list:Urgent AND list:Important)) AND (isLocated:false OR locatedWithin:"2 miles") -- This is the bread and butter of everything. This is the list I work off 90% of the time. These are items that I can do and ought to do at the time and place that I am looking at the list.

That's it! Takes a bit of setting up, but when I add new tasks i really only have to describe what it is (label, location, description, etc) and decide if it is important or not, and if it needs to be scheduled or not. As long as the description is good, the importance/schedule part can come later, often at my weekly retrospective.
Posted at 9:20pm on February 26, 2016
raymond.bergmark Power Poster says:
Really nice description, easily copied by anyone who wants a head start in using RTM. Also, the new features (for example subtasks and start dates) come to use.
Good of you to take the time to put it down, I bet you'll be the weekly mention in Tips&Tricks Tuesday before long!
Posted 2 years ago
xtoq says:
Great post! Did you know you can rearrange the order of lists in the web app, and it's saved to the mobile apps too? Just drag and drop them into the order you want. Then you don't have to use a naming convention like "! " to make things sort to the top of the list.
Posted 2 years ago
stevepaulo says:
Thanks xtoq, I did not know that. This system was put together back in the "old app" days when the prefix was necessary.
Posted 2 years ago
xtoq says:
Yeah, you can't rearrange the lists in the Android app either which is a bummer.

I still name lists with a convention but now out of habit than necessity. These new RTM users won't know the pain of having to reinvent everything! ;)
Posted 2 years ago
andyhough says:
I really REALLY like your system! A question, and a few tweaks I am working through you might like.

It is possible to drag and drop a task into a smart list and it will apply the criteria to that task. Most of your smart list queries listed result in an ambiguous query so this feature does not work. This is a convenience, but it would be nice. Any ideas?

Also, I have gotten into the habit of estimating everything. This is useful in that I have added a couple of smart lists to help me focus on available time as GTD suggests.

Do now <5 Min - timeEstimate:"<6 minutes" and list:"Do Now"
Do now <15 Min - timeEstimate:"<16 minutes" and list:"Do Now"
Do now <1 HR - timeEstimate:"<61 minutes" and list:"Do Now"

I have also added "OR hasTimeEstimate:false" to your "DO or Schedule (and Estimate)" smart list. It stays there until it is scheduled and estimated.

The next step is a way to resource by energy level.
Posted 2 years ago
gary.riding says:
Thanks so much for sharing this, and to the other contributors. I have been trying to optimise my RTM set up for work projects and home stuff in the style of GTD, and this thread really helps.
Posted 2 years ago
emily (Remember The Milk) says:
Hi stevepaulo,

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing your system. :)

You're this week's Tips & Tricks Tuesday winner, and we've added a free year of Pro to your Remember The Milk account. :)
Posted 2 years ago
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