Part 1 — Capture describes how The Productivity Habits inspired me to update my RTM workflow. It focuses on how I capture tasks and why I finally separated capture from processing. This post is all about processing.
Processing is now a discrete activity. I process tasks from the RTM inbox at least daily, but more typically after breaks like lunch or returning to my desk from a meeting.1
Lists and Projects
Stand-alone tasks (i.e. tasks that are not part of a larger project) are sorted into a generic
tasks list. This moves them out of the inbox, which is now only for unprocessed tasks.
Otherwise, tasks are moved into a list named after a project. I use lists to track projects (as opposed for tasks with subtasks) for two reasons:
- In RTM, it’s easy to move a task to a list because
Listis a meta-data field. Making something a subtask requires a finicky drag-and-drop.
- Lists don’t show up in smart searches, which prevents project titles from showing up in my contexts.
I only apply a location if the task must occur at a discrete location. My locations:2
@housebecause I’m often home but not able to work in the yard3
@junctiona shopping district near my house
@othera catch-all for errands not worth of their own discrete entries4
Previously, I used a
@work location to distinguish between personal and professional tasks:
@home meant personal and
@work meant professional. The new system is more precise; for example, I don’t have a scanner at home, so a scanning task is tagged
@office, even if it’s personal, because it has to be done at the office. The distinction is subtle but will become more apparent when I discuss Smart Lists.
Tags are only applied when necessary; in practice, they filter tasks out of certain contexts.
Orange tags separate
#work tasks. I experimented with eliminating this distinction because I often work from home and occasionally have personal tasks I have to do during business hours. I found context switching between these two categories of activities mentally draining, so I use tags to filter them separately in my contexts.
#PC-only tag is for things that require MS Project, Visio, or a Common Access Card, which only my work PC can read.5
Gray tags are for
#waiting items that are reviewed weekly but suppressed from any other perspective.
#quick tag is for two-minute tasks that can be completed without much thought or effort. I also use it for longer tasks that are easily tackled in chunks (like approving timecards).
I use due dates to hide tasks I don’t want to see until a specific date. RTM has a new
start date field that is syntactically closer to what I want, but when I last tried it repeating didn’t work as I expected, so I stuck with due.
This is a useful feature that will regenerate a task after I’ve completed it and assign a new due date based on the repeat interval. Usefully, there are options to generate tasks on a fixed schedule or based on a fixed offset from when a task is completed.
Fixed schedule tasks are useful for things like “take out the garbage”. Garbage day is Monday regardless of when I actually empty the trash. Fixed offset tasks are useful for things like mowing the lawn. No matter how long I’ve procrastinated, once I’ve mowed, there’s nothing to do there for at least a few days.
Getting things done
I use these fields to process my inbox multiple times a day. In Part 3 — Doing, I show how they’re used to create useful contexts.
I process on the RTM mobile, Mac, and PC apps — whatever is handy when I have a free moment. Frequently processing is a good habit that trains your brain to trust your capture system. ↩
I no longer have a
#Mac-onlytag because it it was never being used. ↩