Cart 0

All about lists, #2: Taxonomy is everything

Posted by Colleen Wainwright on

This is the second in a series about lists: tools for making them, ways of making more useful—even using them as creative tools. Check back tomorrow now and then for more list goodness.

In her (excellent) post about Ta-Da lists yesterday Monday, Ilise touched on the basics of what make lists such a valuable business/life tool. You can use them to quickly capture information, to organize your thoughts, even as Monkey Brain Reward—few things are more rewarding than checking stuff off a list.

She also shared her list of lists, which I found fascinating. I have many similar lists:

  • running lists of stuff I need to discuss with Ilise, my Toastmasters board, etc.
  • running lists of changes I want to make to my website, communicatrix-dot-com
  • a "bucket" list I use to unload all the flotsam that accumulates in my noggin, which I occasionally go through and sort/prune

The thing is, I have way too many lists to list, the way Ilise does. At least, not without risk of embarrassment at exposing my OCD tendencies. (If you don’t believe me, click here for a screenshot—and be aware that I edited the list of lists for public consumption.)

Because I’m a compulsive listmaker, taxonomy—labeling everything in some kind of sensical way—has become crucial. And one of the best ways to structure the naming of your lists is to use context as the defining principle, as David Allen describes in his organizational program, Getting Things Done (or GTD, for short). A major part of the GTD system is learning how to carve up the things you need to do in terms of context to make them most convenient to attack.

So a GTD-er would have her to-do lists sorted by where or when she might do them; David Allen suggests sticking an "@" sign in front of the contextual lists, to keep them all grouped together neatly. So a typical list of to-do lists for someone who travels a lot might be:

  • @calls
  • @office
  • @home
  • @computer
  • @errands—home
  • @errands—anywhere

The beauty of the system is that it can be sliced and diced in any way that works for you, and tweaked as you go along to better reflect how (and where) you spend you time.

If you’re new to GTD, Merlin Mann has a great primer on his blog here.

If you’re curious about contexts specifically, Merlin has an excellent post on them here.

How do you carve up your lists?

  • More in: How to Get the Most from ______, Organizing, Posts by Colleen, Tools We Like

  • Share this post

    We also recommend for you...

    ← Older Post Newer Post →