0324 principle

Here's how your to-do list can text reminders to your phone

Arnold is looking for a to-do list program he can manage from his PC. But he wants one that will remind him of upcoming tasks by texting his phone.

So let's see: I've got to check out that URL my daughter sent me, put flea stuff on my cat, start research for another article, and…um…oh, yeah, write something about to-do lists. So much to do! How can I remember it all?

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Actually, I don't have to. I use an online service called Remember the Milk. Working inside a browser, it's extremely simple to use. You just type something like "Pay property taxes Sunday" and it creates a task named "Pay property taxes," and dates it for the next Sunday.

The free service also uses natural language to set up repeat tasks. For instance, after you've created a task, you can click its Repeat field and type in every 3rd friday.

Milk offers a handful of views, but I recommend the Tasks view. It lists all of the tasks that you haven't yet completed in chronological order by due date. The tasks at the top, due today or overdue, are in bold.

0324 task view

The Task view isn't the default. Once logged in, you can get there by clicking the big blue Continue to Tasks button.

The one thing Milk lacks: a start date option. I'd like to control on what date each task appears on the list.

Here's how you get Milk to text your phone:

  1. At the Remember the Milk website, click Settings near the top-right corner, then go to the Reminders tab.
  2. From the pull-down menu under the "Desktop Notifications" link, select Mobile.
  3. From the pull-down menu next to that, select a country and a carrier.
  4. A new field will appear below. Enter the phone number there.
0324 set up texting

You'll get a text every morning with that day's tasks. You can also set it to remind you just before a task's given deadline. This doesn't require a smartphone. Any cellphone will do.

If you do have a smartphone, you can use the Android or iOS app. I've tried the Android version, which is passible. However, if you use a free Remember the Milk account, the app won't do all that much. For instance, you can only sync it manually, and only once a day.

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