Using TaskMerlin and TRO


  • At your request, I've evaluated exactly how to implement Total, Relaxed Organization with TaskMerlin. It looks like it's possible to do a proper TRO system with it, but it takes some extra work. Here are a few tips to get you started:

    CAUTION: Using TRO with TaskMerlin requires advanced user setup and user willpower to ignore distracting features. TaskMerlin is not recommended for users who require simplicity or quick set up.

    Making TaskMerlin TRO-Ready:
    1) Customize the default new task settings to include the following fields: Start Date, Due Date, Context, Status, and perhaps Priority. Do not use the hierarchical projects unless you are managing a major project with more than 5 active next steps (eg: Remodel).
    2) Use the fields this way:
      +Start Date = loose goal for when you will complete the task
      +Due Date = bad things will happen if I haven't started the next step by this date
      +Priority "lowest" = someday/maybe (otherwise, ignore priority)
      +Assign a context to everything according to the area of life it corresponds to (work, personal, etc)
      +Customize the task "statuses" for things like "calls, errands, 1alex" etc. (like a category/tag)
    3) Create custom filters in the bottom-left corner of the screen to help you find the tasks you need:
      +"Must do today" (due date = today)
      +"May do today" (sorted by start date, oldest first)
      +"Weekly Review" (see review section)
      +"Monthly Review" (priority = lowest)
      +Unprocessed Tasks (no context set)

    Resist the temptation to add more than one or two extra fields, extra icons, sort tasks into folders/projects, or keep track of how the task is going. TRO is already carefully designed to give you full visibility on your tasks with just a few fields. It may seem simple to add one extra field to fill out, but if you distribute the time it takes to fill in that extra field over the thousands of tasks you manage each year, the time adds up, probably without substantial benefit.

    Beware of lurking task lists and collecting points. TaskMerlin is designed in a way that tends to multiply your task lists and collecting points. The more collecting points you have, the worse things get. Keep all tasks in one "folder" in the same database. Don't use it as a filing cabinet. If you were already using TaskMerlin before you began TRO Online Training, empty all the extra collecting points.

    TaskMerlin has a LOT of features going on. Ultimately, most of them are a distraction. You want the simplest solution, the smallest bandage that will cover the wound. No bigger and no smaller. TRO was designed to help your task lists auto-prioritize and quickly help you complete the most work with the least additional effort (IE: maximum productivity gains instead of perfect organization or perfect utilization of program features). If you change the core of auto-prioritizing start/due dates and begin adding extra features, the TRO benefit can disappear quickly.

    As you set up and use TaskMerlin for TRO, please post your comments and experiences below. I will use your feedback to alter the setup instructions.
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