3 Productivity Remedies Using Remember The Milk

Milk – does a body good.

Remember The Milk does your productivity good.

If you are productivity focused, you have a to-do list. I’ve had one for decades, but have been using Remember The Milk for over 4 years. I love my cow (the iconic logo), but sometimes she becomes bloated with overdue items. Recently I looked more closely at the causes and possible remedies for her uncomfortable condition.

Cause 1: Overcommitting. Sometimes I set unrealistic expectations, or I underestimate the amount of time it takes to do a task.

Remedy 1: Use the Time Estimate tag. Using the 12 elements of estimating work I make sure to put a value in the ‘time estimate tag’ when I create a task. This way I can look at items due on a specific day and keep my commitments to what I can realistically complete that day taking into account my calendar and other commitments. The ‘time estimate’ tag is just one of the many productivity enhancing features of Remember The Milk.

Cause 2: Taking Too Big of a Bite. Sometimes a task is more representative of a whole pie instead of just a slice. Who wouldn’t be bloated after eating an entire pie? Tasks are not projects. If too big, the task is never completed and is continually pushed to the next day adding even more to the already full plate of to-do items.

Remedy 2: Create Bits Sized Tasks. (No, this is not a spelling error. In computer terms, a bit is smaller than a byte.)  I recognized my limit is 90 minutes. If the time to complete estimate is 90 minutes or more, I break the task down to smaller activities. 90 minutes is the most I can be productive in one sitting without being distracted (on my bet days).

Cause 3: Eating Off the Menu. Through no fault of her own, the cow becomes bloated with yesterday’s items because I decided to do things that were “off menu.”  I know you have those spontaneous snacks as well. It’s what sabotages your productivity diet. The items are different for everyone.

Remedy 3: Create a TO-DON’T List. I now create a TO-DON’T list. Things I will NOT do during my productive times. During my observation, I realized that I was working on things that were not on the list. I also was distracted by interesting and distracting things. So I named those things to be more aware of them and make a conscious choice NOT to do them during my 90 minute productivity bursts.

Here’s a sample of my TO-DON’T List:

  • – Check email frequently;
  • – Check twitter, linked in or other social media with no purpose;
  • – Google things to satisfy my curiosity (such as finding the origins of the saying ‘rule of thumb‘);
  • – Acting on random thoughts (the creative brain has many);
  • – Adding unimportant things to the list just to check them off.

I place an index card with the TO-DON’T list on my desk when I’m working to help remind me to make wise choices regarding my productivity.

Now it’s your turn.


Take a good hard look at your to-do list and process. Are you getting your list done each day? If so, share your productivity secrets with us! If not, what is the cause? what is the remedy?