End of the PDA for Time Management? (part 2)
In my last blog entry I started the discussion of the possible end of the PDA for time management. While I agree this is a fundamental use of the PDA (and will be for some time) I mentioned some shortcomings in my last article. Iâ€™ve gotten a few comments and suggestions on how to get around those shortcomings. I appreciate the tips and information, but unfortunately in my never-ending quest to find the perfect system I've tried everything that was suggested.
As I mentioned previously there was an article from the Sacramento Bee that talked about people giving up their PDAs (the article stated Palms) for paper. The particular paper planner mentioned was the Hipster PDA.
The Hipster PDA
The Hipster PDA (Parietal Disgorgement Aid) was the creation of Merlin Mann. His original post can be found here: Introducing the Hipster PDA.
This organizer is nothing more than a stack of 3x5 index cards and a clip. Sounds incredible simple and low tech, but itâ€™s being used by thousands around the world. He references Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen as a great reason to use the Hipster PDA. For those familiar with this system, the object is to use an index card for each â€œinbox itemâ€ or bit of information you need to track. When you get back to your office you put these into your physical inbox and process as you would any other item.
When discussing the idea of this blog with Hal Goldstein (Editor of Smartphone and Pocket PC Magazine) I mentioned the Hipster PDA and his response was, â€œFor me, there is NO WAY that paper works for me.â€ Did I feel the same? I decided to give the Hipster a try to see how it worked.
When I started out I immediately read the articles about it and went to the DIY Planner website for templates. I printed up some templates and started my journey. It has been several weeks now and Iâ€™ve changed things a bitâ€¦ but Iâ€™m still using it.
For those of you who have been around the PC world for a while you might remember a popular Personal Information Manager (PIM) application in the early 90â€™s called Packrat by Polaris. This windows-based software used the concept of â€œcardsâ€ where you enter bits of information and can move them around and store them as you see fit (like a packrat). The Hipster brought back memories of this long-lost application.
I started by printing Todo cards, Project cards, Finance card, 2007 Calendar reference as well as a Getting Things Done quick reference card. I laminated the cover sheet and GTD reference and used these for the front and back covers. I clipped all these together with a small binder clip and tossed in my shirt pocket. I tried using a daily appointment page but soon found it was just easier to keep that on my Pocket PC. After a couple days I realized that it was a pain to print and cut out templates, so I started using the standard setup â€“ blank 3x5 cards. I picked up a couple packs at Walmart for around 80 cents each.
Over these last few weeks Iâ€™ve worked out a decent â€œintegratedâ€ system where I utilize both my Pocket PC and the Hipster. My Pocket PC is where I manage my appointments and contacts (synced with Exchange) while my projects and tasks are managed using the Hipster. The following are some of my observations:
- Capturing information quickly in an organized manner works much better with paper. Iâ€™ve gotten a few suggestions of how to do this on the Pocket PC since my last blog posting. Iâ€™ve been using PPCs for a very long time and have tried everything out there (â€œhand writtenâ€ notes with PhatPad, voice recordings etc..). The problem is most of this information is disconnected or hard to find (stored as â€œNote_042097â€ â€“ no idea what it really is). Hereâ€™s a good example of this. As Iâ€™m walking into work I remember something important for a meeting. I quickly grab my Hipster and start writing on a blank card. When I get to the meeting I simply pull out that card and have everything I need. If I did this via a voice recording it would be a bit difficult to listen to during the meeting â€“ Iâ€™d most likely need to listen it to it somewhere else and write it down on paper. If I put this in something like PhatPad itâ€™s a bit difficult to see all of the information on my 240x240 screen. If I didnâ€™t take the time to rename the note and file it appropriately Iâ€™d have to hunt it down prior to the meeting.
- Viewing a lot of information at once is easier with paper. If I have several note cards with different bits of information it is very easy to just lay these out on a table and see everything at once. This was a problem with my old paper planners where everything was â€œboundâ€ together in some sort of binder. Sure you could open and remove the pages, but thatâ€™s a hassle. On the Pocket PC, just like a computer, you are limited to your screen. While there are tools to let you quickly switch between apps, you wonâ€™t be able to get this big picture view with the tiny screen.
- Brainstorming or â€œbrain dumpingâ€ is easier on paper. In several talks with my blogger buddy Bruce Keener he has mentioned that when you do a â€œbrain dumpâ€ that is recommended with GTD itâ€™s much easier to do on paper. I think the same goes for brainstorming. On the PC Iâ€™ll use something like MindManager but with the Pocket PC itâ€™s difficult to really capture your ideas in the same manner. With the Hipster I always keep spare cards around and can jot down ideas whenever they hit me. I can lay out the cards and help formulate these ideas or just as easily toss the ones I donâ€™t need.
- Appointments and contacts are much easier to manage on the Pocket PC. This was one of the things I used to struggle with when I used the FranklinCovey planners. Iâ€™d be duplicating information from my PPC to the planner. After a while Iâ€™d give up that piece of it, but then found I was carrying around this rather bulky â€œtodoâ€ list. After a while I gave up the paper planner altogether. With the Hipster I quickly saw how I could get into the same rut so I decided early on to leave that task for the Pocket PC.
- Paper does not work well for â€œportableâ€ reference. One of the designs with the FranklinCovey planner is that you keep all the relevant reference information in your paper planning system. This never worked for me as I either had too much, or didnâ€™t want to lug around all my work documents at home (and vice versa). Using the GTD recommendations I setup an easy-to-use and effective filing system at work so when Iâ€™m going to a meeting I can quickly grab the file for that project and have it with me. For all other documents I store those on my PPC. I havenâ€™t established a good storage system yet â€“ some information is stored in applications (PhatNotes, ListPro, etc.) while other information is in files (Word, Excel). Still, I know I have the info with me wherever I go. I plan on designing an effective filing system to help me be more effective in this area.
- The Hipster is very portable. This is probably the most important aspect of my time management system. I always have my Pocket PC with me but lugging around a large planner was a hassle. The Hipster is compact and fits in my shirt pocket so Iâ€™m able to keep it with me all the time.
So, what does this all mean? Is the Pocket PC useless for time management? Despite any shortcomings I may have mentioned in my last 2 blog articles I still feel the PPC is a valuable time management tool. What I found during this was that for me I need some sort of paper planning system to supplement my PDA. The Hipster PDA seems to be the right fit for me, as it doesn't have the problems I've encountered with larger planning systems. If you find yourself struggling with time management on your PDA you might want to give the Hipster a try. Keep your Pocket PC around though - it's rather difficult to survive long boring meetings without a good game of pocket solitaire.