Playing online with lists and calendars

I’ve been toying with the idea of an online to do list and calendar.  I’d explored the to do list option a couple years ago, back when I was in Toccoa, but it just didn’t seem to stick very well.  I think it was because I just didn’t have that many things I needed to keep track of.

And I thought an online calendar would be just useless.

Lately, though, I’ve been giving it a new look.  The two online list makers that I found I liked previously were Ta Da Lists and Remember the Milk.  They’re about as different from each other as apples and tomatoes.  Sure, they’re both technically fruit, both round, and come in similar colors, but that’s about as far as the similarities go.

Ta Da is straight lists.  Write down your item, write down another one, keep on going until you’ve got everything written on your list that you’d like.  You can go back and rearrange them in different orders by dragging them around.  And that’s pretty much the extent of it.  No frills, nothing complicated, just straight lists.

Remember the Milk (RTM) takes list-making to a level us organizing freaks dream about.  You write down your item, you say when it’s due, if it repeats, how long it will take, where it’s taking place (which links to a Google map), tag it with key words that help you keep track of it, add a url address if you need, and give it a priority rating of 1, 2 or 3.  If something didn’t get done, you can postpone it and it will keep track of how many times it’s been postponed.

You can sort the list by anything included in that item—by tags, by due dates, by words anywhere in the item, by locations, by time, anything you’ve included in the item, you can sort by.  And you can make a short list from your long list by those sorting options and add a tab that keeps that information easily available.

Then, you can take your list and you can import it to a calendar online.

And that’s just what I figured out while playing around with it for a couple hours last night.  And part of that time was figuring out how the heck to make the RTM list play nice with a calendar.  For a while, I played with Google Calendar; since I’ve got my RSS feeds going into the Google Reader, it seemed like a good fit.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get them to talk with one another, so I went with 30 Boxes instead.  At first glance, it’s not all that impressive.  It’s not as pretty, it seems a little clunky.  But it’s got hidden depths that make me giggle.

For example, you can put in someone’s birthday and it’ll ask if it repeats every year, if you want a reminder the day before, and, catch this, what year they were born.  It will then add that onto your calendar with a little note that says how old that person is on their birthday.  You can change the color of events, make events repeat, all the basic things for calendars.  You can share it with buddies, add it to your webpage, and customize the look of the calendar.  I haven’t worked out how that last one works yet, but I’m hoping to get there eventually.  Plus, it gives you the option to include a basic 5-day weather forecast and Twitter updates.

And it had a really easy spot, once I found it, where I put in the address for my to do list calendar information and it just plopped it onto my calendar for me.  And it gives me the option to keep that information private.  I’m still checking to make sure that what it says is private is honestly, truthfully staying private, but I just have to find someone to check it out for me and then I’ll be good to go!

I like Ta Da lists for some things, a very small list of things, that work better in that format than on RTM.  For example, lists of movies that I would like to watch eventually.  It would just clutter up my to do list having a list like that included.  That said, I’ve got a queue on Netflix that holds that information.  I have a list of books to read, but my Goodreads account also has that information.  So it’s good for just straight lists of items you want to keep track of, but it’s possible that you’ve already got that information stored somewhere else.

Justin actually mentioned Remember the Milk when we were exploring replacing my phone and all the gadgets I’d like to have there.  I really would like to have a PDA and the option that we’re looking at is to get me an iPod Touch (eventually—certainly not any time soon).  Apparently RTM works very nicely with the Touch.  And with all the bells and whistles attached, it’s very exciting.  Lately, I’ve found myself writing things on sticky notes to take home to add to my to do list at home.  Having the list online, while it takes away from the option of carrying my list around with me (which is where the PDA comes in), makes it very easy for me to add things while I’m away from home.

And the online calendar, I actually wanted to get set up for my professional organizing business.  I’m going to have to keep track of when I’m not available to work with people, and I think it might be helpful to have that information available for other people when they’re requesting my time.  Since I can make things private, I can put items like “Working with Stephanie 12:30 to 3:30” on my privately seen list and put “Unavailable from 12:30 to 3:30” on the calendar for everybody else to see.  I’ll see duplicates, but maybe I can find a work-around when I figure out how to customize the thing.

All in all, it’s an organizing geek’s happy place.  My lists:  organized any way I want them, available to me with a click of a mouse, from any computer with internet access.  And a calendar to help me keep track of it all.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

EDIT:  I think I’ve got the calendar so it shows other people only what I want it to show them.  Hopefully.  I’ve added a page under the top menu called, of all things, “Calendar.”  In there is a link to the calendar.  Let me know what you think?