Backpack and The New Org-fu

As promised, here is an update to how I am using Backpack these days for my GTD implementation (That I often refer to as my Org-fu). As I mentioned previously, the newly added feature of having multiple to-do lists on a page really helped me a great deal. It was the one feature that I wished it had from the start. Now that it does, it has really increased my productivity and allows me to do daily and weekly reviews much more efficiently.

Before, I had all of my context lists on separate pages. While this was OK for single action items within the context at hand, it was terrible for multistep items (i.e. projects) and for reviewing. Because I had things spread out over many different pages, it was very difficult to get that “big picture view” that the weekly review process is kind of supposed to be about. Furthermore, there are many projects I have that are outside of a context that need to be somewhere, for these I had a separate project page but, because of the inability to have multiple lists on a page, It was very formatting intensive to keep organized.

Now, with the new multiple to-do list feature in place, here is my current page structure:

  • Today (Home) – This remains the same as before. Basically, the things I want to accomplish today.
  • @Action – All of the single action items go here and are divided into multiple to-do lists according to context.
  • @Errands – Why is this separate and not under “Action”? Because these can only be done in one “context” while out and about. Also, this is one list for now, undivided since several things could be handled in multiple places (i.e. “Buy Milk” could happen at the grocery store or at Target).
  • @Project – Here they all are, each project gets it’s own to-do list. Since I am reviewing this several times a day, as well as tracking next actions in my Pocket Moleskine, there is no need to duplicate these on the “Action” list.
  • @Someday – My someday/maybe items. Things I may want to do someday but are not top of mind right now. A single list for now.

Note that I use the @ sign simply to sort these pages above the others on in the list of pages on the sidebar. I have other pages for other non-Org-fu items. I have a page for gift ideas, one for planning my trip to Macworld, a personal wish list and our wedding registry that I make publicly available. Backpack is very useful like that.

There you have it. Down from 11 pages to just four. Less is more sometimes.

In addition, another new feature that has been added to Backpack is integration with Writeboard. Writeboard is another product by 37 Signals that allows one to write and share text and compare multiple versions of the document to see what has changed. While it is great for collaboration on a document I have been using it as a basic online text editor. It is great for doing things like the basic text of journal postings like this one.

More in keeping with the subject at hand, I have been using it for the vertical mapping I have been working on recently. During the review process it is nice to have these 20,000 ft. and higher maps in the same place as my projects (10,000 ft.) and Next Actions (Runway). This keeps me focused on always having things properly aligned.

If you have not checked out Backpack yet I strongly urge you to do so. It is a really great tool for personal organization. Many of the posts I have made about it are linked in this one so check them out as well for more info.

Personal Update

I know the postings have been somewhat irregular (and perhaps I am understating that a bit). Things have been really busy in my life. Some might argue that it borders on overwhelming. Here are but a few of the goings on in my life. This will also serve as an update to those I have not had the time to e-mail.

I am in the middle of a major project at work. You see, working in IT at a college means that while students and faculty are away on break, we have the opportunity to do major projects. I just happen to be leading one of those projects which involves me and a team of students performing minor upgrades to nearly 700 plus academic machines in about a month. As you can imagine, there is no time for anything else at work. Even catching up on work related e-mail or trying to find the time to fill out insurance renewal forms is something that must be done after hours. Therefore, this piled on top of my already quite full off-work times is taking it’s toll. Even now, I can only find the time late in the night (or was that early in the morning as it is well after midnight) to write this post. I am so burnt out. If it were not for the fact that I get the whole week after Christmas off, I don’t know what I would do.

This of course means that I have not had the time I need for much of anything else. I have not even really begun Christmas shopping. I have a few ideas of what I am going to get for Bethany, Maxim and Miles. Bethany is nice enough to provide a wish list. I will get some ideas from there but what about Maxim and Miles. I have no idea what I am going to get for them. I know it seems that this is something a parent should know but what does one buy teenagers these days? All of the things they want cost a fortune not to mention have poor capitalization (XBox, iPod nano… Who spells these things?). I absolutely need to find a few hours this weekend to just wander around a mall and try to find something they wont forget about moments after they open it and be ruined for life with the memory of the Christmas that their Dad just didn’t “get it”.

Also, my Powerbook decided to commit suicide and jump off of a two foot high table while turned on, thus rendering it’s hard drive kaput (that is the technical term – I looked it up). Even though I have been too busy to backup, I did learn my lesson from the last time around and am in a much better position to recover. All of my e-mail is IMAP now so it is not lost. Music that I have purchased was on the iPod. Furthermore, many of my key documents I had on my iDisk safely tucked away. I probably did loose some stuff of course, some recent photos and some recent documents (one of which took days to create) but all in all it is not as bad as the last time I lost a drive. Being without it is very hard though so I hope to get it back from the fine folks at The Foundation soon.

Better news is that Bethany and I may have finally settled on a date for the wedding. Actually, this makes the third time we have settled on one. The first time. The date we were looking at originally (Sept. 9th) was taken by our friend who introduced us. He got engaged two weeks after we did. We do take some of the blame because, even though we had picked that date we just did not have the time to officially announce it so it was fair game. Therefore, we chose another date – June 24th. After we set the date AND informed several key people (including the one I am about to mention), Bethany’s Father remembered that June 24th is the date of his 50th high school reunion. Since he is on the planning comittee and it has been in the works for several months now, he feels obligated to go and has asked if we could chose another date. Therefore, we have now chosen… Drumroll… June 17th. We will actually be getting married on the night of the 15th in a small, private, candlelit ceremony. June 17th will be the reception for about 300 of our closest friends.

The third floor at the St. Paul house is coming along very well. It is going to be a really great space and will work well for a temporary bedroom for Bethany and I. The sheet rock and taping is all done and hopefully it will be ready for us to paint the week after Christmas I have off (no rest for the weary). We will also try to get some of the work done on Maxim’s future bedroom during that time. All told, we are making great strides in reaching the point when we can all finally move over there.

I am also gearing up for my yearly trip to my Mecca – Macworld San Francisco. This is looking like it is gearing up to be one of the better ones. Rumors of Intel based Macs are flying faster than toasters and if that holds true it will certainly be the talk of the show. I can almost hear the collective bantering now of every Mac user in the exhibit hall badgering the software vendors about when their product will be ready to run on Intel. I suspect that none will get a satisfactory answer beyond “Soon”. I used to work the show floor for a software vendor, I know of what I speak. I am exited to see all of my friends out there. The Now Software folks, The ACN crew and even my friend Scottie will be out there for his first time. Of course, Bethany will be flying out as well on Wednesday night and we will spend the weekend with Val and do some wine tasting in Napa.

So, there is the personal stuff and why the posting has slowed to a crawl. I will try to post more soon. I do have several items on deck that I would like to post including:

• A followup on my return to Firefox.

• An update as to how I am using Backpack for Getting Things Done now that I can have multiple lists on a page. This also includes using Writeboard for some of the roughing out of my vertical mapping.

Of course, this will be better facilitated once I get my Powerbook back. Not saying it wont happen with out it. Just saying it will make it more likely.

Firefox is Back (Maybe)

Firefox is back in my life. Not like it ever really went away. It never left my Applications folder. I just stopped using it as my browser of choice. As I mentioned in a past post, I really liked using Firefox but there were too many Mac OS X specific things (Services support for instance) that Firefox lacked that I used on a regular enough basis to send me back to Safari.

Then, just the other day, Firefox 1.5 was released and I just had to give it a spin. Boy what a nice browser. It is unbelievably fast, especially when going backwards and forwards on visited pages. I have no idea what they did on the back end but it is by far the fastest browser I have ever used. Other new features such as drag and drop reordering of tabs has already been very useful. Then of course there are the nearly endless ways to customize it using third party themes and extensions (SessionSaver is a gift from the gods). It is this and so many more things that have made me realize how much I really missed Firefox. After all, I would easily qualify as a power user and this is a power users browser if there ever was one.

This leaves me with a tough choice because all of those things that I left it for in the first place are still missing. I use the services especially for spelling, text formatting and intra-application information routing that is key to my Journal postings you see here. But the speed and features and extensions and themes and…. Did I mention the speed? All of it is pulling me so strongly that I feel I owe it to myself to at least switch back for a little while and see if they outweigh the loss.

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