GTD with The New Backpack 07.27.2007
Recently, 37 Signals released a major update to Backpack, their web based organization tool. Frequent visitors to this site know that I love me some Backpack. I have written about it several times before. Moreover, I have written about how I’ve implemented a Getting Things Done system using it. I will try not to rehash too much of what I have written previously, as not much with the structure of the system has changed, but the new features added to Backpack allow much greater flexibility and enhanced ease of workflow.
Therefore, I will outline my system here briefly (please look at previous posts for further detail). Also, I will point out how newly added features allow for improvements.
Without further ado, here are the basics of my Backpack GTD setup:
>**Inbox (Home Page)** – I have re-titled the “Home Page” in Backpack to “Inbox” and basically acts as, well, a digital Inbox. There is one list on this page titled “@Action”. One big dumping ground for any action item or project that pops into the head. When time allows (daily review), two minute or less items are knocked off right away (per The David) and any projects are migrated to the @Projects page or it’s own separate page (more on that in a bit). It is here that most of the new added functionality adds value.
>One of the nice new features of Backpack allow you to move any list items to any other lists on the page. Before, you were limited to only moving list items to lists directly above, or below, the one the item originated in. Now, one can do their “fleshing out” right there on the Inbox page. When it is time for a daily review of your Inbox, you can now easy create new lists for projects and drag items from the main big Inbox list mentioned above to those lists. Why would you want to do this on the Inbox page?
>Well, that brings me to another new feature of Backpack (and this is a huge one)… The ability to drag elements, such as lists, from one page to another. One can even create a new page based on one of the elements. In other words, you can create lists for projects on the Inbox page as mentioned above and, once done, you can drag and drop that list to the @Projects page or an individual project page (see below) listed in the pages area on the side. If it is a large enough project, you can drag that list to the “Make New Page” button on the side and it will create a new page with that list… Killer! I really can’t stress enough how much time this will save anyone using this method.
The rest of the setup is pretty much the same as before…
>**@Projects** – This page contains a separate list for each project. I have 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 new ability to drag any list item to any list on the page. This way, I go to that page and see right away the next actions for all of the projects on the page and, per GTD, execute items in the Next Action list.
>**Individual Project Pages** – I should clarify what the projects are on the @Projects page versus ones that get their own. The @Projects 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 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 for any and all subprojects on that page.
>**@Someday** – 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.
For further information on how the workflow goes, some ideas on handling contexts and other pages to consider, I refer you once again to my original post. I mainly wanted to highlight how the new features in Backpack have increased the speed and ease of use in my system. I really must say that 37 Signals really have done an outstanding job here offering much more flexibility. If you have yet to try Backpack, it is good for many other things than just GTD and there has never been a better time to try it out.