Monday, August 20, 2007

Rediscovering my PDA

A long time ago I had an ipaq. I liked my ipaq. The problem was that:

a. I couldn't easily see a week at a glance or a month.

b. It would lock up for no apparent reason and I couldn't get access to anything.

c. It didn't respond well to being driven over in the car park.

This last point was an accident, but it did demonstrate that a paper diary system is much quicker to restore, doesn't have battery failures at inconvenient moments, and is infinitely adaptable.

So it was that I reentered the digital PDA world last year with a little hesitation. I finally chose a Palm Tungsten E2. Loved by some, hated by an equal and opposite number and thereby causing the balance of the universe to remain intact. It is a fact that what one person finds a wonderful, life-enhancing tool, another finds to be the very antithesis of all that is good and wholesome.

Anyway, getting the Palm gave me a chance to reevaluate my relationship with paper and electronics. I have to say I still like paper, I still love writing with a foutain pen in my journal, I still love having a notebook to jot down ideas and other stuff, but I'm warming to my Palm.

Ever since I began to explore the basics of GTD, my Palm has taken on a whole new role in my life. Not only can I keep my task list up-to-date and take it with me wherever I go, I can keep all the other data up-to-date too. It's a laborious job writing 'phone numbers in my diary, the PDA makes it very easy. My Palm uses Documents to Go, which allows me to synchronise Word and Excel documents on my PDA and computer.

Thinking Rock, my GTD application, produces reports of actions and projects (to name just two). Because I'm not running the posh version of Documents to Go, I can't synchronise the pdf reports, but I can copy them into Word and then synchronise the resultant file. It take a little longer but it's not brain surgery.

So now I can have a regularly updated report on what needs to be done and what projects are on the go. The project file gets updated each week, and the actions as and when it's needed.

The other neat thing about having the PDA look after this is that I can label the tasks. That means I can view them by context (a GTD expression for where or with whom one completes an action) using the tags I've created. So on my Palm I have an easy way to see what calls I need to make, what errands I need to run and what books I want to read. It would take me an age to write all this stuff down for my paper system. I do keep a printed copy of actions in my diary, which I can use when I'm out, but the Palm is a better option.

I don't suppose I'll be ditching the paper and pen any time soon, but the combination of paper, pen and stylus is looking promising.

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