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Using Backpack and GTD, continued - What's the next action

Using Backpack and GTD, continued

05 02 06 - 23:14 - Bookmark this post

Since my last article on Backpack and GTD I did some minor tweaking of my use with it which I would like to share with you. If you don't know what Backpack is, I advice you to take a look at this article or at Backpack's site. Ofcourse you can try it for free for 30 days!

What I changed first is my accountplan. I had the Basic plan which allowed up to 25 pages but I needed some breathing room for more pages. Because my plan was to put every project in my personal life in my Backpack. Well, at least every project that allowed multiple steps, next actions or had some different contexts. So I changed my plan to Plus, which allows 100 pages. I now have around 40 pages on average in my Backpack. But what changed the most was my use of the tags in Backpack.

One of the downsides of Backpack with GTD is that it doesn't allow you to be two dimensional. Now, I hope I explain this the right way since english is not my native language but the GTD concept in itself allows you to make a grid with on the horizontal axis your contexts (Ahome, @city, @calls) and on the vertical axis your projects (new kitchen, wedding sister, article weblog) and every next action can be placed on the junction of those two axis. This is crucial in the GTD concept because you can quickly see horizontal (per project) what needs to be done or you can look vertical per context. For instance, if I am in my car, I can't do anything else besides making some (handfree!) calls for various projects. I just have to look in my @calls list to see what needs to be done.

Backpack misses this two dimensional view of projects. You can only make pages of various projects and put contexts on all those pages or vice versa. Not a perfect situation. But then again, if we'd have to wait for perfection, nothing will get done! So I am trying a new approach here and I use the tagging-feature in Backpack. In Backpack, you can tag every page you make. Just go to the top of the page and you see a link called "Add tags". With that you can tag all your pages one at the time. I tag them with the appropiate contexts like @home or @computer. I have done this for all my pages. Since some projects require multiple contexts I also use multiple tags per projectpage.

When I go to "My Pages" in Backpack I see a list of the used tags. Clicking on one of them gives me a list of pages which use the tag so I can click through to that page. And then, I can see what I can do for that project in the right context. I still need to search a bit for the right Next Action, since most projects have multiple contexts but it makes deciding what to do at a give context a lot easier for me.

So yeah, this is no perfect solution, but it makes life a bit easier for me using Backpack this way. I do hope they will build some sort of two dimensional model to give NA's a project and a context like I described above. I like using Backpack a lot better than most offline or other online tools. Because of it's simplicity and open structure. Did you know there is a Konfabulator widget in the making for use on the desktop for instance? There is also a Mac OSX desktop app for Backpack, called Packrat and a Firefox extension for both platforms. And since I will receive my iPaq 6515 in a couple of days, the mobile version of Backpack becomes more important for me. I do feel it becomes a trusted system and it gives me control over the things I need to do.

I’ve adapted this system to Campfire (which seems to be a more intuitive program compared to Backpack for a usage like this) and received mention on as well as 37signals’ blog, Signal vs. Noise.
John Ratcliffe-Lee (Email) (URL) - 14 04 06 - 18:37


Just wonder have your tried this? ?

If yes, please share your opinion as compared to using Backpack as GTD.


Forrest (Email) (URL) - 08 10 06 - 09:59

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This is an article which is part of my weblog "What's the Next Action". It deals with everything GTD and the five phases of projectplanning as written by Dave Allen in his book "Getting Things Done".

The previous article on this blog is called 'Feeddemon 2.0 in beta'.
The next article on this blog is called 'Comments broken again!'.
You can find all the articles on the frontpage.
You can contact me via email

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