Who doesn't like lists?

I have spent some time today, looking at the next academic year, planning out the various events, campaigns and courses LearnMaker will deliver over the next 12 months.

The process of doing this typically involves alot of A3 paper, snacks and floor space, whilst I attempt to get my thoughts into order. It is a tricky thing to do at the best of times! I often end up making copious amounts of notes on various scraps of paper (despite having a well stocked paper cupboard) and having to rewrite lists of thought because of lack of space on the page. It is tricky to get all the ideas out of my head, as I think of them, (often out of order) as well as to get all them together on one page.

So as a bit of a distraction, today I actually spent a little bit of time to try and figure out what would be the best way for me to actually get my ideas organised.

I tried a whole range of things from; mind mapping, brainstorming, doodling flowcharts and diagrams, and I even got to the point where I thought about trying essay writing. The thing I always come back to is how to collate ideas, and get them into order.

You have probably had this situation:

You start with a problem, have several ideas, and follow one idea…which leads to another set of ideas. Eventually you are so far down the idea path, you forget about the half dozen awesome ideas you had at the start… Sound familiar?

The key thing when I’m putting ideas down is to capture them quickly, and be able to follow the 'path' of ideas back to the start. To easily go back up the chain of thought and start on another path. Or more simply, get ideas on paper and expand upon them as thoughts come to me.

The problem is trying to figure out how to actually do that that quickly but also other people can understand it, and share in the process.

I think I have the answer!

Have always started with lists even when I was in school. I would find myself more effective if I had a list. I’ve written about this. For me, the great thing about lists is that they’re easy to understand, they are linear and quick to assemble. The downside of written lists is that if you want to upon a point, it’s tricky.

If you are working on a complex system (like our events, marketing, internal processes) it becomes bloody difficult to get all the ideas onto one page. So having something that is 'list like’, and easy to create but can also be compacted and expanded as needed, is crucial.

There are of course a multitude of options, from a notepad style app, to Evernote. I want something that can expand and collapse listed bullet points, as well as work across mixed devices and platforms (I want the LearnMaker team to be able to add or edit on any device, at any time).

I have found list-opia

A few years ago I found list utopia, Omni Outliner, an absolutely fantastic and premium piece of software which does everything you would ever need…but isn’t cross platform. It does cost a fair bit to buy but the functionality of the app is far surpasses any other application out there. It allows quick creation of lists, tabs and allows for easy reorganisation of items in the list. It would be well worth investigating if your are Apple driven.

The difficulty with Outliner however, is that it only works on the Mac. And because we are a cross-platform company i.e. using chrome books Apple Macs and PCs iPads and mobile phones, it’s important that we have a system that can be viewed at any time on any device.

Is there an app that can do that?

What I managed to find a few. The first is Gingko, which is essentially Omni Outliner lite. Used via a web browser it means I can access this on any device at any time. It is free. And it’s relatively easy to use.

Another interesting one is DynaList which has a far simpler interface. But slightly restricted on collaboration, and when I used it on an Android phone, it was fairly 'laggy’.

Another one worth a look is CheckVist. Again, the free application, nice user interface, and has collaboration, but doesn’t integrate very well with Google.

After playing with a few apps, (my research took the form of…Google 'outline apps’) I decided upon trialling DybaList. It seems fairly easy to use, and we can get around the collaboration elements by just sharing the web link to the list.

The essential thing from me is ensuring that whatever system I use, capture of ideas and thoughts should be fast and pain free (better than simply writing a list on paper) . Also it allow me to edit or come up with ideas on the go on any device. Being able to make lists, and lists within lists, allows me to quickly get my thoughts in order. The benefit of being able to move the items and reorganise the items is the main selling point. No more rewrites!

I may retreat back to trusty Omni Outliner, I intend to persist with a cloud alternative...until/if it doesn’t work. Either way the power of a digital list far outweighs having 60 odd pieces of A3 paper on my desk with loads of scribble and scrawl (although there is real merit in being able to do this first, even in short form, to get ideas started).

Key takeaways:

  • Creating lists is a really simple way of starting to organise a process
  • Creating digital lists with an application which is cross-platform and cross device that allows you to capture ideas quickly,e and ultimate flexibility.
  • Try using DynaList, Checkvist, or (if you have the money) Omni Outliner.

If you’d like to know more, or talk about your ideas, it would be great to hear from you. Drop me an email, or find me on social media (IamJamesHannam).

Jay Ashcroft

Entrepreneur. Author. Speaker. Cofounder of LearnMaker