When it comes to productivity tools, nothing seems to be able to beat the old fashioned list. Take a look at the Productivity Web Apps available for the iPhone, for example, and almost every other page seems to point to yet another way of putting one item after another so that nothing gets forgotten and everything gets done at the right time.
But one of the most unique and useful listing tools is also one of the most overlooked. Amazon’s wish lists were created to make it easy for shoppers to let friends and family know what they’d like to own, and to buy each other gifts they needed. But the versatility of those lists also allow them to do much more than that.
Entrepreneurs and team-members can use them as a very effective collaboration tool.
Multiple Lists… with Notes
Wish lists have two main strengths. The first is in the detail of the list itself. Amazon lets registered users create multiple lists with different names, and add “unique facts” — or notes — to each list.
That already gives you a certain amount of flexibility. A Web designer, for example, could create one list called “Flash Ideas,” another called “Programming Developments,” and a third called “Inspiration.” Adding notes to each of those lists would let other programmers and designers working on the same projects see that the designer was thinking in terms of “This sort of color scheme,” “That sort of programming functionality” or just “Ideas I like.”
Using the lists isn’t particularly intuitive. To create a new list, you have to press the “Create a New List Button,” but instead of being taken directly to a form page, the new list appears immediately above the title marked “Your Private Wish Lists.” You then have to click that New List heading, followed by the edit link to start entering information.
Clearly, if you’re using the list for productivity rather than to pick up some nice presents, not all of that information is going to be useful. You won’t have to worry, for example, about entering your birthday details (although you could use that field to indicate deadline dates.) Nor will you have to worry too much about the address.
But you should make sure that the List Name is informative and that the Unique Facts provide relevant details.
Of course, you won’t be able to type your own ideas into the list in the same way that you’d be able to do on RememberTheMilk but that’s not as limiting as it sounds. In fact, it both makes Amazon’s list unique and gives it an advantage.
Instead of a typed list, users are able to add items from Amazon’s inventory. In effect, that means you can add just about any item at all, creating a list that’s pictorial rather than verbal.
An interior designer, for example, who wanted to show a client the sort of furnishings he thinks would suit a room could create a list entitled “John’s Bedroom,” write a note saying “These are some of things I thought we could include your room. What do you think?” then add each of the items to his list. Sharing that list with his client would show exactly what he had in mind and would be a lot more effective than writing “1970s lava lamp in fluorescent green.”
Use Reviews but Pay your Way
Anyone though could use items in an Amazon wish list to represent either things they need or tasks they have to complete. A developer who was building a website, for example, could include Excel to remind him to build a database, a disk drive to show that he needs to buy storage and a server to remind him to find a host.
All of that could be useful and it would make the list more entertaining to look at than a pile of words, but it does come with a restriction. Because you can’t make notes next to each item, it might not always be easy to understand what exactly you had in mind when you placed the item on the list. That’s particularly true when you’re sharing the list with others.
That’s where the reviews can come in handy.
Each item on Amazon can carry a customer review, and while you have to pay your way by making that review useful for others, you can still use that space to send a message to a user of your list.
The interior designer, for example, could say what he liked about the lava lamp so that the client understood why it would suit him. The developer could point out which other servers could do the job better depending on what the job required. Again, as long as those comments also help other readers understand more about the product, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use reviews to add more information to your list.
Ultimately, whether you choose to use Amazon’s wish list as a productivity tool, a collaboration tool or just as a way of making sure you get the birthday presents you want depends on you. With so many different ways of organizing your work available, you’ll always have to weigh the convenience of being able to type directly into the list with the ability to see a graphic representation of what you’re discussing.
And of course, there’s always the danger that as you’re adding to your list, you also end up tossing a few items into your shopping basket and breaking your budget too.