Tackling To-Dos With Rememberthemilk.com

June 2009

During a recent orchestra rehearsal, the timpanist ran up to me and said, "I have the perfect triangle at home for that part." Then he promptly ran backstage and used the phone meant for the stagehands, calling his own home and leaving himself a message on his answering machine to bring me the triangle.

This taught me two things: First, he needs a cell phone, and second, we all do some pretty funny things to remind ourselves of the tasks we need to accomplish.

I've run the gamut myself, from writing notes on my hand to e-mailing myself reminders. And then I discovered Rememberthemilk.com, an online platform that not only helps organize my life but also sends e-mail reminders in case a frantic day threatens said organization.

Signing up is simple and free. Once you've done it, start filling in your tasks.

Creating to-do lists: You get five lists of tasks to help organize your life, including categories like "work," "personal," and "study." After adding an item, you can associate details like how long it will take to finish the task and what day it's due. You can also attach notes to a task, which I like. (If I write that I have an interview at 1 p.m., I can keep my source's phone number there with a list of starter questions.) Also, lists can be added and their names can be changed. (Luckily, I no longer need the "study" list, but I changed it to "practice," with the names of pieces I'd like to learn to play.)

Reminding yourself: Set e-mail reminders with either a daily overview or specific reminders for each item when they're due. I have mine set to remind me 15 minutes before a task is due, a nice nudge that pops up and reminds me to quit updating my Facebook status and meet my deadline.

Sharing lists: The ability to share a task with other Rememberthemilk users is another cool feature. If I get my friends to sign up, I'll e-mail them with "Bring Jennie a six-pack." If your colleagues are online, it's also a nice way to remind them of a networking event or a meeting.

The bottom line? It takes some time to set up a Rememberthemilk page, and I find it works best when I carve out some time on Monday to enter everything for the coming week. But if you have multiple to-do lists and have trouble keeping deadlines straight, it's a lifesaver. The time I spent this morning entering this week's tasks makes me feel more relaxed and confident about what to expect and how to budget my time.