Although Superboyac posted a link to his review of MLO in this discussion - http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=2623.0 â€“ and Nudone posted there a link to another good review, as far as I can see thereâ€™s been no mini-review originally here on DC. I intended to write one about six months ago, when I first came across MLO, but itâ€™s not what I am going to do now. In fact, Iâ€™m not going to say much about it at all, except for describing my path from using it to not using it, and now back to using it again.
I thank DonationCoder for my discovery of Getting Things Done, because way back in September Mouser made LifeHacker.com the site of the week/month (http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=1048.0). Reading LH, I kept coming across this odd acronym, GTD. Eventually I Google the letters, and soon found myself at http://www.43folders.com, http://www.diyplanner.com/, http://www.ericmackonline.com/, http://gtdwannabe.blogspot.com, http://www.lifehack.org and all the other sites I now read daily (along with http://www.lifehacker.com and DC, of course!). I read David Allenâ€™s book, â€˜Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivityâ€™ (http://www.davidco.com/st...one-Paperback-p-16175.php), was suitably blown away by it, and quickly changed the way I work.
My job of the last three years has been very pressured most of the time â€“ now itâ€™s cooled down a bit, and Iâ€™m also hopefully leaving in the next month or so. For long periods I have felt overwhelmed in this work. But, in a strange way, GTD took the challenge out of my work (although other circumstances changed around the same time I discovered GTD); David Allenâ€™s methodologies helped me to tame and work with the many disparate elements of my work and life, which was a very good and necessary thing. (I had also just started a psychotherapy training and running my own little computer-support company - to pay for the training, of course â€“ so I really did need to get things organized and done.)
I did quite a bit of research and playing-around with various tools to find the best fit. I started with Outlook, since that was what I had used for awhile â€“ not much good, I felt (although Outlook 12 is apparently built around GTD, so Iâ€™m looking forward to trying that). I tried plain text files and Excel files, which both have their strengths. I tried WikidPad (http://www.jhorman.org/wikidPad/) and OneNote (http://office.microsoft.c...en-us/FX010858031033.aspx) and Evernote (http://www.evernote.com) and TaoNotes (http://actitrend.fre3.com/) and KeyNote (http://www.tranglos.com/free/keynote.html) and several other note-based systems. I tried MyLifeOrganized and didnâ€™t make much of it. I kept trying other things.
I posted a query on David Allenâ€™s company forums asking about alternatives to Outlook (http://davidco.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4742). I wrote: â€˜Am I wasting time in trying to find alternativesâ€¦â€™ and had a good response from TesTeq: â€˜Yes. I think that most people are wasting their precious time searching for the ideal GTD implementation. They are testing, trying, converting data back and forth instead of just doing stuff (the real stuff - not the GTD implementation stuff).â€™ That was a fair cop.
But I didnâ€™t give up yet, oh no; I kept trying to find the perfect GTD software. I went on to GTDTiddlyWiki (http://shared.snapgrid.com/gtd_tiddlywiki.html), which is a brilliant browser-based tiddlywiki implementation built around GTD approaches.
For awhile I carried this on a USB memory-stick, and that worked well. However, I found after a while that using Wiki style markup was slowing me down. I really, really like GTDTiddlyWiki, and I find myself looking back at it every once in a while and wondering if I could make it work for meâ€¦ I went on to playing with NextAction Wiki (http://trimpath.com/project/wiki/NextAction), which is a similar project (not quite as handsome, but in some ways easier to work with). And then I found my way back to MLO.
The fundamental thing to say about my work setup is that I am constantly switching between two laptops â€“ I work from home, so I have my own machine on my desk all the time, and because I use Gmail for work emails, I actually end up doing quite a lot of the day-to-day work on my own machine (itâ€™s faster, prettier, has a bigger screen, and it has my music collection so I can whistle while I work). But this means that I need an organising option that is easily transferable between the two machines.
What I took to doing was carrying my MLO data file on a USB stick and just plugging it in on whichever of the two machines I was working on. Chaos quickly ensued â€“ I overwrote the most recent version of the data files quite soon after starting working this wayâ€¦ But: I had now had a good experience of using MLO, and I really was sad to stop.
I decided to test a few online services, starting with Backpack (http://www.backpackit.com).
On a free account you can only create 5 pages, which I found too few to be really useful. If youâ€™re willing to pay, you can get up to 1,000 pages ($14.99/month, which is pretty good value, isnâ€™t it?). I find the free accountâ€™s page a little cluttered â€“ this changes when you upgrade. I only tried a pay-account for a month, and might have continued were it not for RememberTheMilk (http://www.rememberthemilk.com).
I love RTMâ€™s clean and simple interface, and that itâ€™s free and you can make as many lists as you want. Itâ€™s got easy keyboard shortcuts and, like Backpack, all kinds of Ajaxy goodness. I particularly like its smart lists function, which can compile a list based on criteria you choose (the â€˜This Weekâ€™ list showing in this screenshot is a smart list). An important thing you canâ€™t do is hierarchical lists (which you can do using Textile syntax in Backpack â€“ but see my remarks on using formatting syntax re GTDTiddlyWiki).
I also tried Voo2do (http://voo2do.com/) and TaskToy (http://www.tasktoy.com/) and Zoho Planner (http://www.zohoplanner.com/ ) other online services, but I kept coming back to RememberTheMilk.
So RTM and I have been living happily ever after for the last few months. Itâ€™s easy to use, itâ€™s minimal and easy on the eye, itâ€™s quick, you can subscribe to your lists in RSS, printing from lists is straightforward and clean and well laid-out, you can email yourself tasks (as you can in Backpack, but it seems not in Backpackâ€™s useful little brother, Ta-da lists - http://www.tadalist.com).
But then the unthinkable happened: I had to go somewhere without an internet connection â€“ North Wales to be precise, to my bossâ€™s new farmhouse in the wilds of Gwynedd. And then I discovered two limitations of RTM: first, you need an internet connection to use it properly (though it does have RSS feeds as mentioned, so it is possible to work offline); and, secondly, its very neat tagging functions are not as useful as I thought, because itâ€™s impossible to print a particular tag. So though you can use tags for GTD contexts, and access these easily through the tag-cloud on the Overview page, you canâ€™t print a particular tag/context list.
So I had to copy and paste into Word to have a take-away list for the particular context. Thatâ€™s a drag.
So Iâ€™m buddying up with MLO again, because it really is the most powerful To-Do list manager/life organizer I have found â€“ and Iâ€™ve tried a fewâ€¦ Others have already sung its praises and described its many excellent features, so Iâ€™m just going to say that I agree with all thatâ€™s been said â€“ itâ€™s capable of much more than I understand, but does absolutely everything I need. And itâ€™s possible to turn off displaying all but the features you actually want to use, meaning less visual distraction. But, I hear you ask, what about the problem of synchronising data files? Well, Iâ€™m going to give a try to using FolderShare (https://www.foldershare.com/) and keep the data synchronised in cyberspace; I think thatâ€™ll work well.
So hereâ€™s another vote for MLO - of all the many programs Iâ€™ve used to organize my life, this is the one I keep coming back to. It simply does the job much better than anything else I have found â€“ itâ€™s lightweight, itâ€™s easy to work with, extremely powerful, and it looks good.