managing long-term reminders

At work, I need to keep track of a number of tasks that need to be done infrequently, such as replacing app secrets or renewing SSL certificates. Depending on the task, it might need to get done once every three months, once a year, or once every two years.

For the last few years, I’ve been using regular old Outlook tasks for this. That’s worked fine, up until today. We recently starting archiving our mail with Mimecast, which removes any mail items from Outlook if they’re more than a year old. And, as I realized today, that includes task entries too! And it goes based on creation date, not modify date, so even in cases where I’ve modified the task in the last year, if it was created more than a year ago, it’s gone now. Oh well. (The archived emails are searchable in Mimecast, but if the deleted tasks are in there somewhere, I haven’t been able to figure out how to surface them.)

So I spent a bunch of time today trying to recreate my long-term task list. I managed to get a screenshot of the tasks that were deleted by going into Outlook on a different computer, jumping right over to task list and taking a screenshot, before Outlook could fully update itself from the server. (The tasks disappeared just a few seconds after I took the screenshot, so I got lucky there.) Of course the screenshot only gave me the subject line for each task, and not the due dates or the notes that were inside each task item. But it was enough of a start.

At home, I use Evernote to track long-term reminders, and it’s always worked great for me. I get email notifications on the reminder due date. And I can easily go into Evernote and pull up a list of just the notes that have reminders on them, if I ever want to review them. It’s not perfect: There’s no calendar view, for instance, and there’s only the one date. (Other systems often have both a start date and due date.) But it’s good enough.

I can’t use Evernote at work though. (It’s blocked.) We don’t seem to have any approved apps for to-do’s or reminders in our Windows 10 app catalog. We do, of course, all have O365, so I should be able to use Microsoft To-Do. But it doesn’t work, for some reason. I do have access to Microsoft Planner though. Planner is kind of like Trello, which I’ve played around with a bit in the past. I’m not really a big fan of the kanban board thing, but a lot of people really like it. So, for now, I guess I’m using Planner.

This whole thing got me to thinking about what exactly it is I was trying to do, at a high level, and I realized that I was basically looking for a good 43 folders / tickler file system. It occurs to me that I could just create that in OneNote, with a single tab with 43 notes under it. It would be a bit of a kludge, but I could definitely make it work. Or heck, I could just do a 12 folder system (one for each month), and create short-term Outlook tasks for all of a given month’s to-do items on the first of the month. Either of those ideas is probably more manual labor that I want to do though.

I’m not entirely happy using Planner, since it’s not integrated with Outlook or OneNote at all, and there’s no desktop app for it, so I need to use the web site to manage tasks. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but, for long-term tasks, it means that I need to trust that the email reminders are getting sent out, since I won’t actually ever see the task list unless I purposely go looking for it. So I’m still going to think about this a bit more, but Planner is probably my best option for now.

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