I Finally Left Remember The Milk
This article is a transcript of a video that you can watch by clicking the thumbnail below. Hence, certain statements may not make sense in this text form, and watching the video instead is recommended.
Yes, I finally left Remember The Milk. If I could journey back in time and share this decision with my younger self, even that version of me wouldn't believe it. This transition marks a substantial shift in my productivity landscape.
My Requirements For a Todo Platform
My journey with task management platforms dates back to 2013, accumulating a decade's worth of experience. I did use a few tools before, but Remember The Milk has been my platform of choice for the past seven years, and it's essential to outline my requirements when discussing my transition. Here are the key criteria I consider:
- Adding a new task should be as effortless as possible for the tool to be effective in my workflow.
- The platform should have native apps on all the major platforms I use, and that should include a web app so that I could access my plan from machines that I do not own, for example, my work computers.
- There shouldn’t be any limit on the number of lists that I can create.
- There should be tags to mark tasks, preferably with colors.
- There should be a way to create filters, or smart lists so that I can aggregate items from multiple lists into a single view.
- The repeat system should be complex enough for me to be able to express all possible sorts of repeat patterns.
- There should be a way to express multi-day tasks in some way or the other.
Surely, this shouldn’t be too much to ask from a productivity tool, right?
Why I Stayed with Remember The Milk
Given my requirements, there must be a compelling reason I stuck with Remember The Milk for so long. Here are a few factors that kept me loyal:
- Task entry in Remember The Milk is literally the best I’ve seen in a task management tool, wherein one can express all attributes of a task right during creation, using shortcuts.
- Remember The Milk is available everywhere, even on BlackBerry, you know, if that matters. And yes, there are Emacs packages that allow one to manage their tasks from text buffers from within Emacs.
- The number of lists, tags, and smart lists is virtually infinite, especially with the Pro membership, and one can even set a custom smart list as the default list, if “Today” isn’t sufficient for you.
- The repeat system is also one of the best I’ve seen.
- Though there isn’t direct support for multi-day tasks, since I started using Start Date, I’ve barely missed it.
So Why Leave Now?
With all the apparent advantages of Remember The Milk, why make the switch now? Several factors influenced this decision:
- To start with, I got a little too dependent on Remember The Milk, to the point that it started to worry me. I mean, you’d surely like to have a tool that you could use to fulfill all your requirements, and also get used to it so that you could get the best out of it. However, I usually like to avoid getting attached to a tool too much, so that when it gets acquired by an evil mega-corp, I don’t feel stranded.
- I have a recurring activity of optimizing my use of tools like Remember The Milk, but after several iterations and with my reasonably complex setup, I could barely see any scope for growth. A part of me thinks of it as a great situation to be in, but the other part that likes to keep learning and adapting found this as a stagnation.
- With all these years of being able to (pretty much) successfully juggle all my tasks, I’ve been looking for a way to have my family and friends collaborate with me on a common platform. Remember The Milk does allow sharing with regular users from a Pro account, but it can be a little too alienating to newcomers for them to find it convincing enough to use it instead of, let’s say Samsung Notes.
- And, of course, I’m a productivity enthusiast, so I love exploring tools that I can potentially replace the ones in my workflow with, and I’ve been keeping my eye on alternatives that people use. Also, you might have heard of fear of missing out, haven’t you?
- Finally, they did announce a price bump starting the next billing cycle, and though they say it’s only the second time in the last 18 years, every dollar counts, right? And ten dollars definitely do.
OK, so for something that would replace Remember The Milk, there were several options.
The newer platforms I discovered didn't fully meet my criteria, especially for a reasonably affordable price. Twos was almost perfect, but again, it had no web client; and Routine was another great option, but an Android app was still not available at the time of the research.
After a lot of searching, I was left with only two options: Todoist and TickTick. I’ve already attempted to switch to Todoist a couple of years ago, and though I wanted to give it another chance, their prices have increased, only leaving me with TickTick, which is where I switched over from Remember The Milk seven years ago. I reviewed my reasons for the switch that I made last time, and I realized it was from a free plan in TickTick to that in Remember The Milk. Now that I was a Pro member, the comparison was on a different level, and after a careful evaluation, I chose to return to TickTick.
Major changes, gains, and losses
My transition to TickTick brought about various changes, gains, and some losses:
- I’ll miss the objectively better and quick task creation experience, but in exchange, I get features like the one where I can add tasks by recording my voice, at least on my mobile device.
- I won’t be able to use smart lists in other smart lists, but in exchange, I get to see multiple lists in a single view.
- There isn’t anything like a Start Date now, but in exchange, I get something that’s even more handy, which is task durations. Now I can mark tasks to be active for multiple days.
- I’ll miss the advanced query language for creating smart lists and will have to split my smart lists into multiple filters with simpler filter criteria.
- There were features like Milk Script that I never got to use, so I wouldn’t care if an equivalent wasn’t available in TickTick.
- I no longer need to use long namespaced list names as I can now arrange them into folders. There’s even an option to nest tags!
- The individual lists themselves can have sections, which is something I’ve started using to combine multiple lists that appear similar but somehow are not. I’m sure this is going to be another of those features that will spoil me and make the next switch even more difficult as I’m least likely to find this feature anywhere else.
- I’ve always missed having a calendar in Remember The Milk, but with the Premium plan in TickTick, I also get a calendar view, along with a Kanban view and a Timeline view.
- There are other extra features like a Pomodoro focus mode, Eisenhower matrix, and a habit tracker that I don’t need at the moment.
- The notes within tasks can now be formatted instead of treating them as plain text.
- There’s an option to maintain note lists, but that’s another feature that overlaps with other tools in my toolset.
- Along with multi-level subtasks, we also have checklists, that can act as a lightweight replacement to regular subtasks.
- I can finally also specify timezones for tasks, so hopefully, that should help me be more specific about due times unlike in Remember The Milk, where though it had a feature to detect a change in timezones during travel, I often messed schedules, especially for region-dependent tasks.
- Finally, I wished that I could use Remember The Milk from my vehicle, only if it could work with Android Auto, which is something I still need to try, but TickTick at least has an app for Android Wearable, so I can access it in some capacity from my smartwatch.
There are quite many more features available in TickTick that I don’t have a use for. Some of them include summary notes, task progress percentages, pinned tasks, and more. The aim here isn’t to learn how to use a tool but to upgrade my toolset and get more efficient in my workflow. However, every tutorial that I watch about TickTick leaves me with at least two to three cool features in TickTick that I never even imagined I’d need.
The process of switching was huge!
Compared to my last switch, this transition was more substantial as the number of tasks was not even half as many as I do now, and given the number of items and the complexity of sub-tasks, tags, repeat patterns, and whatnot, there was too much at stake, making this entire exercise both, cumbersome, and scary.
I had to transfer over 200 tasks manually, which was a time-consuming and nerve-wracking process. As that took more than a day, I had to live with two platforms for a few days, making sure I kept them in sync, at least for the ones that were migrated over then.
With the experience of a failure to switch over to Todoist that I faced a couple of years ago, I still kept my tasks in Remember The Milk around for a bit, just in case I had to abandon the move anytime during the process so that I could simply drop it and pretend that nothing happened at all. Thankfully, TickTick's monthly membership allowed me to test the waters before committing to a full year.
One of the interesting things is that none of the items I mentioned in the process were as scary as deleting my data from Remember The Milk, the one that I had carefully crafted and got used to during the last seven years.
Remember The Milk remains one of my favorite platforms that I’ve seen go through some major redesigns over the years and I might still recommend it to people depending on their use. It wasn’t that Remember The Milk wasn’t good enough anymore, I realized that I had outgrown it after all these years. As a tradition, I gift myself a productivity tool for my birthday, and this year, I chose TickTick Premium.