Tag Archives: Backpack

Archival Lists: What For and How To

Some of the books I've read (and some that are still on the list!)

I mentioned in my first post that I like to keep lists of things I’ve completed, or archival lists. For example, I use Backpack to maintain a list of books I’ve read. I’ve always been an avid book reader, even as a young girl. As I got older, however, the time I spent reading books waxed and waned due to responsibilities like work and parenting, or to make time for other pursuits like piano playing and vaquero/buckaroo horsemanship. I was curious to see how much I actually read in a year. A book a month seems doable, but was I doing that?

A second reason for creating a book list was to help me remember all the great stuff I’ve read. What inspired me was a free bookmark I got from Powell’s Books in Portland that had a list of 100 award-winning books. It got me thinking, if someone asked me for 100 great book recommendations, could I tell them? I’ve read far more than a hundred great books, but it’d make for a difficult endeavor.

In 2009 I started a list of books I’ve read in Backpack. If you haven’t used it before, it’s got a fairly simple and straightforward interface. You can sign up for a free Backpack account that will give you up to five pages, each of which can contain multiple lists (or Notes, Writeboards, Dividers and Tags, but we’ll save those for another time).

  1. When you log-in, click “Create a page” like so:
  1. Here’s a sample page I just created called Books I’ve Read:
  1. Click “Create a List” and type in the name of the book you’re currently reading. As you’ll see in the screenshot, Backpack places an actual check box by each item, giving you that satisfying feeling of ‘crossing something off your list’ when complete:
  1. Once you’ve finished reading the book, click the check box:

Get a full tour of Backpack on 37signals’ site.

In reviewing my book list, I am most certainly not reading one per month as I’d hoped. More like one every two months. Not too shabby, as some are quite long, tempered by shorter ones. Some that were started but never finished sit atop the list, waiting to be checked off eventually.

Go ahead, ask me for a book recommendation! I still may not be able to rattle off 100, but it’s getting much easier with my book list.

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The Perennial List-Maker

Melissa and Fof

I constantly make lists to organize my life. It’s how I get things done. Without them I would be lost  – especially now while I’m expecting baby number two and am a little more forgetful than usual.  I have lists for everything, from frequently used lists like running errands and gift giving, to work-in-progress lists like college scholarships for my 16-year old son and places I want to travel, to “living” lists like my ultimate music playlist, to archival lists like books I’ve read and other miscellany. Some folks may be able to keep this info in their heads, but I’m not one of them. So I rely on lists.

My personal lists used to live only on paper, but are now organized digitally via Evernote. It’s the simplest way to create and manage a list that is accessible via my iPhone, which is almost always with me, or via a web browser at work, home or while traveling. I’ve used Evernote for less than a year and am quite a novice, but it works well for lists. In the past I’ve used Backpack by 37signals, which is great via web but doesn’t come with an iPhone app that works well. However, I do use Backpack for lists that I don’t need to frequently access, such as books I’ve read and places I want to travel (including specific sites of interest). That said, nothing beats crossing something off a list, so I still use pen and paper for more immediate action items. At work, I use the “To Do” function within Apple’s Mac OSX X Mail to manage my bourgeoning task list, and it’s proven extremely useful. I almost always carry my laptop to meetings, so can easily add or amend tasks on-demand.

The purpose for all these lists is to give me goals to aspire to, whether they’re immediately attainable or more long-term. Some are carefully curated, while others simply help me remember what I need to do that day or week. I’ve used lists for over a decade to get things done, and more often than not, that’s just what happens.

Tell me, what do you do to stay organized?

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