1MTD and Inner Sorting of Your Tasks List

July 14, 2014

One minor disadvantage of using The One Minute To-Do List (1MTD), compared to MYN, is that inner sorting sometimes takes a bit more work in 1MTD—and there are a few ways to do it. This is especially true if you go mobile with your tasks, because if you want their order to match your main desktop task list, it may require changing some settings. Let me explain.

What is 1MTD Inner Sorting?

As you may know, in 1MTD you group your tasks on Priority. But in 1MTD, the sorting inside each Priority group is sometimes left undefined. That’s fine if you have a small number of tasks. But if you have 15 or 20 (or more) tasks in the middle priority section, you may want to specify that sorting so that you can position a few tasks at the top of the section—to focus on them first.

1MTD Inner Sorting in Windows Outlook

In Windows Outlook (configured with simple 1MTD settings as shown in the book The One Minute To-Do List), you do that by simply dragging the tasks into position. That works quite well because it’s intuitive, and because if you use Exchange the dragged sorting is synced across other desktop versions of Outlook.

However, if you sync your Outlook tasks with a mobile device task app, you’ll find that mobile tasks apps have difficulty matching that dragged position—there is no formal “field” that specifies it, and so the software can’t easily duplicate the order. Then your lists don’t match.

The mobile iOS task app I commonly recommend for Outlook Exchange users is TaskTask, and it does try to make the match. If you leave the default sorting setting to the one called Manual Arrangement, it attempts to figure out and duplicate the position dragged in Outlook. But unfortunately, I have not had luck with getting that to work consistently (let me know in comments below if you have). And other software I recommend (like TouchDown for Android) don’t even attempt it. So once you start using mobile apps with Outlook and 1MTD, you likely have to either give up on matching the inner sorting, or you need to use a workaround. The workaround I recommend is to set an alphabetical inner sort, which I describe below. That’s a bit of a compromise, but I think it’s the best approach if you want your inner sorting to match between Outlook and your mobile task app.

As I mentioned above, if you do not need to sync your Outlook tasks with a mobile app, you don’t need to worry about this workaround. Outlook’s simple 1MTD settings are pretty good because dragging tasks is an intuitive way to sort them. Also, with simple 1MTD settings in Outlook, newly created tasks go to the top of each section, which roughly matches MYN’s FRESH Prioritization, (described below and elsewhere)—another nice feature of Outlook’s simple 1MTD settings.

And finally, if you have a small Windows 8 tablet and you use Outlook on the desktop of that device to view and set tasks when on the road, the dragged inner sorting will match your Exchange-based system—no need to use a workaround. Another reason to consider using a small Windows 8 tablet.

1MTD Inner Sorting in Toodledo

ToodleDo on the other hand has no task dragging capability, not in the browser version and not in the mobile apps. Once you add the Priority sorting, if you leave the next level sorting undefined (called Auto), you seem to get rather random sorting. So for 1MTD in Toodledo, if your task list gets long, you really need to define an inner sorting, and again I recommend sorting alphabetical on subject, discussed next. The good news is I nearly always include that step in every 1MTD Toodledo instruction set I provide; so unlike Outlook there should be no confusion on which way to go.

Why Alphabetical Inner Sorting in 1MTD

I mentioned above that for 1MTD, if you are using software that doesn’t allow dragging tasks in to place, you probably want to specify an inner sorting, and I recommend that it be set to alphabetical by subject. The reason? That way you can place a 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on in front of your subject line to a force consistent inner sorting. It’s a little extra effort to have to place numbers on tasks, but it works well.

Note, you do not need to place those numbers on all tasks. That would be pretty tedious if you had a long list, and it’s not necessary. Rather, just place those numbers on tasks you want to force to the top of the list to try to work on today (called Target Now in MYN), which is usually a relatively small count.

Adding Inner 1MTD Sorting to Windows Outlook

While most of my non-Outlook 1MTD training articles and videos include instructions to add alphabetical sorting, my 1MTD Outlook instruction do not show that—they leave inner sorting undefined. Again, that’s because that enables dragging tasks into place in Outlook, which is a better way to go. It’s also because most new 1MTD system users don’t immediately sync with a mobile app and don’t need to worry about a match.

A complication then occurs when you later do add a mobile device. The complication isn’t adding inner alphabetical sorting to mobile apps—that’s pretty easy (and my articles and videos on configuring mobile software for 1MTD usually show you how to do that).

No, the problem is your previously dragged Outlook sorting now won’t match your new mobile device alphabetical sorting. If you want them to match, you need to modify Outlook too—you need to go to Outlook’s To-Do Bar task list settings windows and configure alphabetical inner sorting. Making that change is pretty easy (the steps are shown next). But the bigger issue is you now lose dragging capability within priority groups in your Outlook task list. However, if you are committed to having your desktop and mobile task lists match, I recommend you do it. Here’s how.

  1. In Windows Outlook, at the top of the To-Do Bar task list, right-click the label Arrange by and choose View Settings (or in older versions of Outlook choose Custom or Customize Current View).
  2. In the tall stack of buttons that opens, make sure the Group By setting reads Priority. If it does not, click that button, clear the check box in the upper left, and then set the Group by to Priority. Then click OK to return to the window with the large stack of buttons.
  3. Below Group By, click the Sort button and set the top level sort to Subject, Ascending. Then click OK, and click OK again to exit back to Outlook.

That’s it; your Outlook 1MTD sorting should now match your mobile device—they both now have alphabetical inner sorting. Next, you will start adding numbers to tasks you want to list at the top of each section.

Adding Inner 1MTD Sorting to Toodledo

All my 1MTD Toodledo training instructions usually include a step to set the inner sorting to alphabetical. But in case you have not done that, you should do it now; it’s pretty simple.

First, I assume you set top sorting to Priority (all my instruction sets show you how). Then, in the dark blue band at the top of the task list, find the label SORT. To the right of it are three icons. Click the second icon and set it to Alphabetical. Then on the browser version, click that icon again and make sure the top setting says Normal. On the iOS mobile app, just make sure that second SORT icon is set to Alphabetical with the gray arrow at its right pointed up. That’s it! Now start adding numbers to tasks you want to list at the top of each section.

Difference of MYN: Start Date Inner Sort and FRESH Prioritization

All these issues and needed workarounds go away, by the way, in the MYN system. That’s because in MYN we always set an inner sort and it’s always set on start date descending. Since start date is a common field—one that is implemented uniformly across all MYN-recommended software including mobile software—there is no confusion on when and how to add that inner sorting.

The reason for start date descending sorting, you may know, is to implement MYN’s FRESH Prioritization feature. FRESH Prioritization forces newly created tasks to the top of each section and older tasks lower in the list, something very valuable in today’s world of too many tasks. You can override that prioritization and reorder the list by simply resetting the start date of a task as desired (for example, set an old task’s start date to today to force it to the top of a section). FRESH Prioritization is a more powerful way to inner sort tasks, and so this is another reason to consider advancing to the MYN system.

Any questions? Place them in the comments section below.

Michael Linenberger

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2 Responses to 1MTD and Inner Sorting of Your Tasks List

  1. Jon says:

    Hi Michael,

    I use MYN and love the FRESH prioritization via start dates, but have you (or others) considered doing 1MTD by sorting on creation date and modified date? Those fields are populated automatically so you don’t need to display them on the to-do bar and can give you a FRESH like prioritization.

  2. Michael Linenberger says:

    Thanks Jon. Yes, we thought about it a while back. The trouble is we found, you cannot get at those fields in most mobile apps, so your mobile sorting won’t match. Start date works better in those cases. And in most apps you can set it to auto populate to today. And Toodledo doesn’t have those fields, so now we have two approaches. Also, combining together defer-to-do, defer-to-review, and FRESH all with the same start date field is rather elegant. So overall, start date is the best choice. BTW, note you don’t have to display start date field in your Outlook To-Do Bar. Still works even if hidden. Michael

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