Backpack: New GTD Implementation Ideas

Several days ago I had a revelation about my current use of Backpack as a GTD tool and how I might use it even more effectively. Part of this revelation was spurred by an e-mail I received from Swedish reader Daniel Westergren who had some questions about my use of Backpack for GTD after reading my Productivity Whitepaper. The subsequent e-mail exchange that followed led me to some serious “getting real” about my system.

I have described my system in great detail before so I wont go into any more here. Basically, up until now, I have been using the front page in my Backpack as a “Today” page – i.e. things I would like to get done today. I have been moving by copy and paste next actions from my @Action, @Projects, various individual project pages and @Errands pages to the front page. In other words, my own laborious “kinkless” system of next actions. One benefit to this was the very act of doing this forced a daily review of the items and projects. The obvious problem was how time consuming and counter efficient all of the shuffling around is. Basically, I was using the front page for all of my next actions and therefore would end up with duplicates as keeping track of it all was a tangled mess.

Therefore, here is what I am trying out to make my Backpack system a little more productive:

My Page Setup

Inbox (Home Page) – True to the spirit of GTD, the “home page” in Backpack has been re-titled “Inbox” and basically acts as a digital Inbox. There is one list on this page. One big dumping ground for any action item or project that pops into the head. Just what the name implies. Because it is on the home page it is easy to get to quickly (also, as Daniel pointed out when I ran it past him, easy to get to and dump things from a mobile device – those euros love their mobiles) and that is what you want for an Inbox. Very GTD. When time allows (daily review), two minute or less items are knocked off right away (per The David) and any projects are migrated to and fleshed out on the @Projects page or it’s own separate page (more on that in a bit).

@Projects – This page exists how I use it right now, with a separate list for each project, but with an added but important modification. I have added a topmost list titled Next Actions. N/As are then moved from the projects below to the NA list at the top via Backpack’s ajaxy drag and droppiness. This way, I go to that page and see right away the next actions for all of the projects on the page.

Individual Project Pages – Now I should take a moment here to clarify what the projects are on the @Projects page. That page is for smaller one-to-five step projects as to do anything else would make the page too confusing and long. Projects that are larger than that (my wedding for example) I actually break out into their own separate page as they may have multiple lists and sub projects. Another advantage to this approach is that you can use the other features of backpack like notes, attaching documents, etc. for things that are specific to that project. With that being said, I still make a next action list the first list on the top so I can see right away what I need to do. I have an example project page here: Sweetime Project.

@Someday – Like any good GTDer, you need a space to defer and to dream. The someday/maybe list is where you do that. Scan this as part of your weekly review.

OK, so here is the workflow in a nutshell…

1. Log into Backpack.
2. Process Items in the Inbox using the “Three D’s” (Do, Defer, Delegate). Move any projects to either @Projects, an existing project or a new project page as appropriate.
3. Switch to the @Projects page and process the Next Actions list at the top accordingly.
4. Switch to any individual project pages. Do the same thing.
5. Feel smug about your Org-fu.

Notes About Contexts

I myself do not use contexts that often. Mainly it is because I find most days too interrupt driven to have a block of time to work on a specific context list and Backpack does not seem well designed for them. I just do what I do, when I do them, where I can do them. That being said, I do foresee a way to make contexts a part of this system. Place them before the action to be done. This can be especially useful on project pages where you can group items on the Next Action list by context. For example:

Next Actions
Call – Bob re: Chocolate levels.
Call – Peter re: Additional flavors of creamy nougat.
Computer – Google map Tobelerone factory.
Computer – Look up Wikipedia entry for William Wonka.
Errand – Buy a box of Kit Kat bars for evaluation.

Another way to handle contexts would be to have multiple context lists on individual project pages. I suspect that will get messy quite fast but your milage may vary.

Other Pages to Consider

The idea and motivation of all of this is to not only show you what I am doing but also to help spur ideas for you, the reader. Ultimately, the only system that works is one that works for you. That being said, here are some other pages you may find a useful part of your Backpack GTD setup:

@Waiting For - These are items that you delegated or deferred pending others but still need to track. It would be useful here to add who you delegated the item to and the date (i.e. “Call – Board Members re: Drop in stock price > Bill 06.27.06”). Include in your weekly review.

@Stalled – This is an area for projects and/or actions that are currently inactive or stalled for an indefinite period of time. Ditto for the review.

Using Tags for Review Time

Backpack has a feature that allows you to tag pages. I have started using this feature to easily do my daily, weekly and monthly reviews. Basically, every page has one or more of these tags with the exception of the front page which has all of them. Why does the front page have them all? Because that way I can click on “daily” and it drops down a list of all of the pages I should review daily. Same with weekly and monthly. Thus allowing me to easily cycle through the pages during those review times right from the front page.

Wrapping Up

I have not been with this new setup long but it seems to be working well thus far. The “rethinking” of the front page has really been a huge time saver and helped me focus on getting things out of my effed up mess of a head fast. Simple and seemless capture and collection is the first step of what GTD is all about. I then can spend time on processing them later.

As with everything here, your comments, questions and criticisms (assuming they are constructive) are welcome. It is only through such an exchange this post exists to begin with.

Warren Buffett Be Giving Large, Yo.

This news is now all over the place but I would be remiss if I did not say something about it. In case you live in a world without media and have not heard, Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway and the worlds 2nd richest person, is going to give away a vast majority of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You read that right. The worlds 2nd rich person is giving most of his money to the foundation of the worlds richest person.

Now before all you pinks get your panties in a bunch about rich guys giving other rich guys money, let us remember just how much the Gates Foundation has done to fight diseases, improve education, build libraries and sponsor NPR. Just think how much more they could do with even more money and resources. I mean, seriously, diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis could be a memory in a relatively short time with enough money thrown at them. The possibilities of this kind of philanthropy are staggering.

FORTUNE Magazine: Warren Buffett gives away his fortune

Early Review: Moleskine Pocket 18 Month Weekly Planner

Starting this week, I am moving from my trusty Moleskine Pocket Ruled to a new Moleskine Pocket 18 Month Softcover Weekly Planner. As regular readers know, I have been breathlessly anticipating the arrival of these new planners. They have a new layout which features a weekly calendar on the left hand page and a basic ruled page on the right, therefore allowing me to keep my action items and calendar items in one easy to carry place. Here are some quick initial impressions:

• I am not sure if this is due to age or wear and tear but the paper in the new planners seems brighter than that of the ruled style I was using.

• The pocket on the new planners is not gusseted like the old style and, therefore, items placed inside are a bit more difficult to see and access.

• The ruled lines on the new planners also seem to be closer together but I have not actually measured to see if that is correct.

• There are a wealth of additional pages included in the planner. Some you might expect like Time Zones, International Dialing Codes and Distances (a grid to figure out distances between major cities). There are some others that are surprising but useful such as Travel Planning pages, a page with a ruler on the side for being able to mark down measurements and some monthly pages for 2006-2008 to mark birthdays, anniversaries and other similar items.

• These have a softcover unlike the standard hard cover Moleskines. Although it is soft it still seems very durable and well designed (perhaps even better because it can flex a bit) for carrying in your pants pocket.

• I also have switched the pen I am using from the (still awesome) Pilot G2 Pro with a .05mm cartridge to a Uniball Signo Micro 207. This is due in part to Mike Rohde’s review and recomendation and also to my own side by side comparison. The Uniball has a slightly slimmer line and seems to dry more quickly. So far it is being good to me.

All in all, I am pretty pleased thus far. Also, a major shout out to Ninth Wave Designs where I purchased it from for the very fast delivery and friendly service. They rock and I recommend them highly for all of your Moleskine needs. they also have a great blog filled with lots of drool worthy artwork and Moleskine pr0n

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