How to Get Started With Remember The Milk

Remember the Milk cow logo

If you’re of the Getting Things Done (GTD) mindset, here’s a Web app that’s perfect for you.

On the surface, Remember The Milk (RTM) looks like your basic to-do-list app. But once you dive into it you get a detailed app that syncs with mobile and can do everything from managing multiple lists to using tags to organize your tasks.

RTM is a free Web app that will sync once every 24 hours for free with iOS and Android apps, which are also free.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when starting out with Remember The Milk, which is why we’ve put together this tutorial.

Starting Out

Remember the Milk cow logo with Starting Out text

First, obviously, you need to sign up for a Remember The Milk account. You can fill out your information or sign in using your Facebook or Google login.

Remember the Milk signup screen

Once you verify the account via an email, it should be all set up and ready to work with.

When you first log in to RTM you’ll see the main screen. The tabs at the top are your task lists, the items in the middle are your tasks, and to the right are the basic tools to work with tasks.

Remember the Milk main screen

This screen is where you’ll add and manage tasks. Now that you’re in the system, let’s look at how to work with tasks in RTM.

Working With Tasks

Remember the Milk cow logo and Working With Tasks text

To add a basic task, all you have to do is click into the box at the top of your task list, type what you want to do, and then hit Return. The task will appear below the entry box.

To complete the task, just click the checkbox next to the task and then click the Complete button.

Adding a task in Remember the Milk

Smart Add Shortcuts
While the basic way is fine, one of the best features about RTM is how easy it is to add properties to a task.

Unlike other to-do apps that have hidden menus of checkboxes and options, RTM allows you to manage task properties with keyboard shortcuts, known as Smart Add Shortcuts. You can assign a due date, priority, lists and tags, a location, task repetition, and even a time estimate to every task – all without leaving the keyboard.

List of Smart Add shortcuts in Remember the Milk

After you’ve typed your task out, simply type one of the symbols shown above and enter the information you want. For example, if your task is due tomorrow, type: ^tomorrow. Then hit Return on your keyboard.

Typing a Smart Add shortcut in Remember the Milk

As you can see, Remember The Milk will do the rest. The same goes for all the other task properties listed, which we’ll get into shortly.

Until you remember this list of shortcuts, you can click the question mark symbol at the end of the task add box.

Click here to learn more about how to use Smart Add Shortcuts.

Add task box with question mark icon

Task Actions
Now take a look at the buttons above the task add box. These are your Task Actions.

If you’ve scheduled a task for today but won’t get to it until tomorrow, check the task and then click Postpone. This will reschedule the task one day later. If you’re repeating a task, this will delay the repetition from now on as well.

Click the More Actions drop-down to view other actions you can apply to your tasks. This is how you can set priorities after the task is created, as well as moving lists and sending/sharing/deleting the task. These are all pretty self-explanatory.

More Actions drop-down menu in Remember the Milk

The Properties box is the tabbed box to the right of the RTM window. When no task is selected, it rests on the List tab. Click on a task to see all the properties attached to it.

Task properties in Remember the Milk

You can change any of the task’s properties here by clicking on any item. This is the same as using Smart Add Shortcuts but can be done after the task is added. You can also add notes to a task here, as well as see how many times you’ve postponed the task.

Tasks are all nice and fine, but after you add them they’re easy to forget. That’s why Remember The Milk uses a variety of reminders to help you out.

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Remember the Milk cow logo with Reminders text

As long as you add a due date to a task, you can receive a reminder for it. Make sure to set your time zone preferences in the Settings page before working with reminders. The Settings page is accessed in the top right corner of the RTM window.

There are three major types of reminders:

  • Daily
  • Due time
  • Location

To set up any of these, head back over to the Settings page and click on the Reminders tab.

Choose how you want your reminder notifications to appear. This is mostly personal preference, but play with this to fit your schedule. You can be reminded in just about any way, from getting a daily email to having RTM message you on Skype.

Reminders tab on Settings page

Check out the page on reminders for more detailed information on each type of reminder notification.

Working With Lists

Remember the Milk cow logo with Working With Lists text

When you start your RTM account, you’ll see five lists to get you going: Inbox, Personal, Work, Study, and Sent.

The only two lists that can’t be changed are Inbox and Sent. The others can be altered, renamed, or even deleted if you like. Click on each to get more information.

The rest of the lists are there to let you split up the different kinds of tasks you have. This can be helpful so that, for example, you don’t see your personal at-home to-do items while you’re trying to get work done, and you don’t see your grocery list when you’re trying to get household tasks completed.

To change lists, go to Settings and click on the Lists tab.

Lists tab on Settings page

Any list that doesn’t have a lock next to it is open for you to delete or edit.

To edit or remove a list, check the box next to it and then use the Properties box to the right or the More Actions drop-down menu above.

Tags are added just like lists. Unlike with lists, though, you can assign multiple tags to a single task. Tags and lists are best used in searches, which we’ll look at next.

Searching and Smart Lists

Remember the Milk cow logo with text Searching and Smart Lists

Depending on how many tasks you use at once, searching can be a really big help.

The basic search in Remember The Milk allows you to enter words that appear in the name of the task you’re looking for. Click into the Search box in the top right corner and type your search, then hit Return.

Basic search box in Remember the Milk

While basic search is fine, it’s the advanced search features that make RTM shine.

If you use RTM with a group of people, for example, you can find all tasks shared with a person that include a certain tag. Or you can search for all high-priority items that are due within a week of today. There are all sorts of ways to search more efficiently here.

Advanced search boxes in Remember the Milk

You can also access the advanced search from the basic search box by using these advanced search operators.

With searching you also get Smart Lists. A smart list shows up in the tabs above the task add box and appears next to your existing lists. But instead of your needing to add tasks to these lists, they populate automatically based on criteria you set.

So, for example, you can tag anything relating to food with the tag “Food” and make a smart list for Food. This way, anything you add, be it groceries, getting lunch, or remembering to start the crock pot before you leave for work, will show here automatically.

For more on smart list creation, check out this help page.


Remember the Milk cow logo with text Syncing

While the Web app for RTM is pretty amazing, you can also sync data from it in all sorts of ways:

With a free account you get one mobile sync every 24 hours, but a paid account gives you unlimited instant sync and is only $25 a year. You even get push notifications on your mobile devices, too.

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