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  • From today's Wall Street Journal

    GTD gets a mention in the penultimate paragraph.

    PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY

    Net-Based To-Do Lists
    Permit Collaboration
    By Family, Colleagues

    By THOMAS E. WEBER
    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
    May 26, 2005; Page B1

    Submit expense reports: Check. Buy school raffle tickets: Check. Finish writing column: Not quite.

    For all of us trying to meet the myriad demands of work and home, a comprehensive to-do list can be indispensable. Part of the checklist's power is its simplicity. Just a few minutes with a stub of pencil and a scrap of napkin can help supercharge your productivity for days.

    Of course, anything you can do with a 10-cent pencil can also be accomplished with a 3-gigahertz computer chip. Email programs like Microsoft Outlook can track your obligations and hassle you until they're completed, while PDAs and even cellphones offer task lists and reminder options.

    The latest twist is to-do lists that you keep on the Web. Several new services promise to store all the details of your responsibilities online, from your loftiest career goals to how many bananas you need from the supermarket. Once the list is online, you can allow a colleague to update project milestones or let your spouse add to the roster of household chores.

    Can a high-tech list help you accomplish more? I've been testing several in hopes of getting my own life better organized. I discovered some clever features and found that the shared-list capability works well for those who need it. But as with other organizational tools, from day-planner notebooks to PDAs, what you get out of these sites depends on how much you invest in their approach.

    The best example is a new service called Backpack, located at www.backpackit.com, which has been drawing attention among bloggers who focus on productivity tips. (More on those blogs later on.) For those who want to give an online organizer a try, Backpack is relatively simple to use, with a clean look, clear menus and instructive "help" screens.

    To use Backpack, you create a user name and password to sign on. That takes you to a home page that serves as your main to-do list. Clicking a button labeled "list" lets you type in a to-do task -- "Have oil changed," for instance. Then, after you hit return, the entry appears on the page in classic to-do style, with a small box next to it waiting for a triumphant checkmark.

    While the home page serves as a top-level to-do list, Backpack also lets users create other pages to focus in more detail on individual projects. To juggle professional and personal demands, a user might create a page titled "Prepare Presentation for Meeting" that lists subjects to research, and another called "Plan Summer Vacation" ticking off possible hotels and items to pack.

    What sets Backpack's Web approach apart is its sharing ability. By clicking a button, users can choose to make their page available to others -- either anyone on the Web or only those individuals whose email addresses the user provides.

    The sharing option works well, but it isn't for everyone. I found that whether a colleague or family member took to Backpack depended partly on how that person felt about taking a digital approach, and that only those who were highly motivated to keep their lives paperless collaborated easily. Still, some of the niftier features may help persuade others to give it a try -- particularly the automated reminder service that nags you as desired with email messages.

    Backpack gives away free accounts that limit users to five pages of to-do lists and notes. Paid accounts, starting at $5 a month, offer more pages, as well as storage space that lets users attach computer files and photos to their pages. Backpack's producer, 37signals, also offers a service called Basecamp (www.basecamphq.com) with more features for business projects. Another sister site, Ta-da List (www.tadalist.com), offers a no-frills to-do list for no charge.

    I also tried a service called Use Tasks (www.usetasks.com). It charges $3.95 a month for a "personal" online task manager. Use Tasks included some nice features, but I found it tougher than Backpack to master.

    Ultimately, the usefulness of these services depends on your willingness to stick with the approach. I also discovered a major obstacle to acceptance: email. Many of my to-do list items are generated as a result of email correspondence. Unless I want to switch back and forth between my email and a task manager, it's often easier to organize things with folders in my email inbox -- even if it means giving up some bells and whistles. Backpack includes some features to bridge this gap, but it still requires some juggling.

    The desire to become more productive and better organized is a powerful drive, and it has spawned interesting blogs. For anyone looking to exert some control over the daily chaos of work and home, these make for interesting reading:

    - Lifehacker (www.lifehacker.com) is published by Gawker Media and focuses on productivity shortcuts. Recent entries range from an extreme home-office makeover to finding cheap gasoline.

    - 43 Folders (www.43folders.com) focuses more closely on organizational methods. This site is of particular interest to fans of "Getting Things Done," a useful book by David Allen. One lengthy discussion on 43 Folders debates the merits of a pocket organizer made from index cards and a binder clip, dubbed the Hipster PDA.

    - To-Done! (www.to-done.com) is another blog catering to followers of the "Getting Things Done" method, known simply as "GTD" to devotees.

  • #2
    No direct link???

    to David Allen's Web site???

    hmmm...wonder what else was missed...

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by airolg
      to David Allen's Web site???

      hmmm...wonder what else was missed...
      Indeed, many things are missing

      Comment


      • #4
        Privacy of Data?

        This post has been a great resource, so thanks to the original posters.

        I'm playing around with backpack, basecamp and tada -- though I'm not yet clear on why all these different products from the same company exist. Seems like the free version of basecamp outshines even an upgraded version of backpack -- but I don't really know enough yet to opine authoritatively.

        That said -- we have seen with myspace.com, that a nascent company can instantly be acquired by a major media company. What the privacy issues are in such an acquisition is unclear to me. While I have no illusions about privacy of data in any electronic form, and no undue conspiratoiral notions about privacy, I would imagine that with business data the issue at the very least worrisome.

        Has anyone considered or explored the issue of privacy in relation to some of these high end project management sites? Is it of enough concern to maintain all such data on one's private, offline drives?

        Again -- I know enough to be wary of storing highly sensitive information of any kind on a public server -- nevertheless, even unclassified information, strung together, can be exploited by outside commercial interests.

        Comment


        • #5
          The purpose of the article is to discuss net-based to-do lists, not GTD. GTD is not supposed to be about tools anyway.

          If you're concerned about privacy, you don't want your stuff on the web. Privacy is a big issue. My bank's networked data has already been hacked twice. Each time was a major pain.

          I'm not yet tempted to put my to-do lists on the web. How am I supposed to know what to do when I run errands? or otherwise can't access the web? The web is far from ubiquitous. I'm already at a loss in certain places where I can't access the web, but it would be a lot worse if I couldn't access action lists or had to print them out all the time. Even if wireless becomes freely available, I'd still need a device like a Treo to access it. If I have to carry such a device, I might as well keep my data directly on it and not have to download it from some server somewhere.

          Comment


          • #6
            Wireless is freely available in Europe.

            Originally posted by andersons
            I'm not yet tempted to put my to-do lists on the web. How am I supposed to know what to do when I run errands? or otherwise can't access the web? The web is far from ubiquitous. I'm already at a loss in certain places where I can't access the web, but it would be a lot worse if I couldn't access action lists or had to print them out all the time. Even if wireless becomes freely available, I'd still need a device like a Treo to access it. If I have to carry such a device, I might as well keep my data directly on it and not have to download it from some server somewhere.
            In Poland (and most of the Europe) wireless Internet is available everywhere through the GSM cell phone network. It isn't fast but for browsing the action lists it is more than adequate. And I always have my Nokia 6670 smartphone with me (smaller and lighter than Treo).

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by LeonGTD
              ...
              Great writing link Leon ("fifty tools"), thanks!

              Comment


              • #8
                Interesting reading

                "Backpack is relatively simple to use, with a clean look, clear menus and instructive "help" screens." If it would be easy, who should evern know there are help screens around?
                "What sets Backpack's Web approach apart is its sharing ability" is strange to read, who has it not?
                "often easier to organize things with folders in my email inbox -- even if it means giving up some bells and whistles" is so true.
                "free version of basecamp outshines even an upgraded version of backpack" - interesting thought.

                Comment

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