My bring lists

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My bring lists

Steve Litt
Hi all,

I use VO to pack for a trip, and I've got it down to a science. A couple years
ago you guys were discussing GTD, and although I didn't understand it it
inspired me to do new things with an outline, and it worked out really well.

My purpose in writing this isn't to try to make my technique the official way to
do it -- it's very personal. For the same reason, I don't want VO modified or
enhanced to help do it -- I can use perl and grep to make it work perfectly,
on my own.

My purpose here is to start a discussion of what can be done...

So here's the deal. From time immemorial (actually since Noel added
checkboxes), my "bring lists" have been outlines with these three top level
* Bring
* Todo
* Buy

The bring list drives the todo list, and also the todo list includes stuff that
must be done before I leave. For instance, if the whole family is leaving,
part of the todo list is turning off the water. If it's just me, part of it
includes getting my laptop updated so I can work on the road while I'm working
on the road. The todo list drives the buy list.

I've discovered and solved two nagging problems with a bring list:
1) At what point do you consider it packed
2) Some stuff can't be packed til the last minute

#1 carries the question: Is something REALLY packed before it goes in the
trunk (or passenger compartment) of my car? Is my toothbrush packed if I put
it in my toilet bag? What if my toilet bag is left behind? Additionally, if
for some reason there's a question about whether something's packed, how many
containers do I have to search to find out.

If nothing's considered packed til it's in the car, a bring list is almost
meaningless. I've always done it with the "you know what I mean" philosophy, a
philosophy familiar to any programmer who has ever listened to a user give
specifications on a desired program. I wanted something better than "you know
what I mean."

#2: My very important medical card goes in my wallet which goes in the pocket
of my pants which goes on my body. Obviously none of this happens til after my
shower the morning I leave. With the surprising large number of things that
can't be packed til the last minute, it's hard to see what things are
(unpacked && immediately packable).

I solved #1 with nestable locations. Every entry in the bring tree contains a
location entry. Something like this:

                [X] 100% labsetup mental model @coursefolder1
           [X] 100%  CD @carryon

So my labsetup mental model is in coursefolder1, while my CD is in my carryon
luggage. But wait, there's more...

I added a new main tree to bring, do and buy -- the new tree is called
"locations" or "places" Here it is:

[_] 90% Places
        [X] 100% Jeans @body %lastminute
        [X] 100% wallet @jeans %lastminute
        [X] 100% ResFolder1 @carryon
        [X] 100% ResFolder2 @smallcase
        [X] 100% CourseFolder1 @carryon
        [X] 100% CarryOn @cartrunk %lastminute
        [X] 100% SmallCase @cartrunk %lastminute
        [X] 100% BigCase @cartrunk %lastminute
        [_] 0% Notebookcase @cartrunk %lastminute
        [X] 100% trainbox @smallcase
        [X] 100% toiletbox @smallcase

So Resfolder1 is in the carryon, which is in the trunk. The trunk, the
passenger compartment, and my body are considered proof of complete packing.
So when I put Resfolder1 into the carryon, I check Resfolder1 in the places
tree. When I put the carryon in the trunk, I check the carryon. When all is
checked, all is in the trunk (or passenger compartment or on my body).

Let's say 10 minutes before leaving I remember I should bring evaluation
forms, and they should go in resfolder1. No prob -- I go in the trunk, pull
out the carryon, open it and pull out resfolder1, open resfolder1 and insert
the eval forms, close resfolder1, put it in the carryon, and put the carryon
back in the trunk. When I get to my destination, I still know EXACTLY where to
find my eval forms (and everything else).

The preceding list of places also hints at the solution to problem 2 -- stuff
that can't be packed til the last minute. Stuff like that is marked with the
label "%lastminute". When I get toward completion, 75% of the uncompleted stuff
can't be completed yet -- very frustrating and time consuming. But since I've
marked the last minute stuff with %lastminute, watch what I can do:

cat bring.otl | grep  -v "[X]" | grep -v %lastminute

Now I can see at a glance stuff that ISN'T packed but CAN BE packed. When that
list goes down to zero, I can go to sleep the night before, knowing I've done
all I can.

The next day when it's 5am and I have to catch a plane and jeez I just want to
get every last bit of last minute stuff packed, only the last minute stuff
remains. I pack the last minute stuff, load the bags in the car, put my wallet,
keys, airline tickets and passport in my jeans, put my info packet in the
front seat, mark all that done, turn the ignition, and drive, confident that
everything on the list is in the car.

This also helps when I get to the hotel -- I can pull out of the boxes exactly
what I need to teach the course the next day.

Like I said, I thought of this during the GTD discussions even though it seems
to have little similarity to GTD. Possibly it will inspire someone to do
something seemingly unrelated to bring lists.


Steve Litt
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