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The day I forgot my PDA...

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  • The day I forgot my PDA...

    ...I printed out my Next Action lists from Outlook (by context) and off I went.

    The thing is, I noticed a very significant increase in my productivity - somehow it was much quicker crossing off NAs as I achieved them and writing down the next NA in the appropriate context as opposed to wrestling with the Software (I counted 8 mouse click just in editing a task to the Next Action and changing the context)

    Also everything seemed much clearer in my own mind - it was almost like some part of my pyche had been freed up allowing me to be more focussed on what the Next Action was.

    My question is this - has anyone implemented a combined PDA/Paper system where the PDA is used entirely for Reference (including Contacts, Calendar, Project Lists, A-Z etc) but the Next Actions are done entirely on paper?

    I have seen lots of Posts where paper is used for taking notes but not for managing Next Actions.

  • #2
    Seems to me that combining a paper/palm system will prove to be too complicated. For example, after you cross off items and add items to your printed page(s) you have to then update your palm. Adding and deleting. Then you have to print out a new page. And then you have to sync your palm. It's really not more complicated per se. But you've added several more tasks to the overall system!!!
    Mike

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    • #3
      The Day I Forgot My PDA...

      I find this quote very timely as I'm just now experimenting with keeping a paper list of items I'm calling "Fast-Track." These are projects I need to focus on, move on, and kill off quickly. On my PDA the projects are still listed but with the category !FT which tells me the NA's are "off-list."

      I wouldn't want to take all of my Next Actions off the PDA, though, as I find it really helpful to use the capabilities of my PDA to bring up all my NA's that fit a particular criteria s/a @PC, <15, in a particular town, etc. so I think I want to keep my discretionary items on there. (They don't need too much updating anyways.)

      Trying to get the best of both worlds, without losing something in the process. So far so good...

      Janice

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      • #4
        For me, the paper/palm/pc issue depends on context. I used to hardly ever look at my @home category except on the weekend. I finally realized I didn't like schlepping out my palm. Even if I left it out and accesbile, I didn't like pulling out the stylus, etc., whenever I needed to look at the list.

        I'm finding that having a paper list at home is better for me - while at work I like keeping everything on the PC. So I've created a view in Outlook of "away from work tasks" with categories like - home, errands, to discuss with spouse, - I print it at the end of my work day and put it by the kitchen phone at home. If things need to be added to my system, I just note it on that piece of paper and enter it into Outlook the next morning if I didn't do it that evening. I takes a minute to print the list out at the end of the work day, but I find its worth it - it is just a more natural way for me to get information at home.

        I've tried printing out my task list at work too, and for some reason, that doesn't work for me. It is easier to read the screen than a piece of paper and typing is a lot faster for me than writing. I do keep a handwritten post it by my desk of the handful of items that are "mission critical" for the day based on my daily review.

        You may want to try to learn to use more short cut keys rather than your mouse - perhaps challenging yourself to see if you can enter a task or process your email without taking your fingers off the keyboard.

        I love having a palm and think it is absolutely worth the money to have my contacts, lists with me at all times and to sync between my home and work pc's- but actually working in it is a real chore for me.

        But thats just me. I think everyone goes through their own trial and error process.

        Thanks for asking the question.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for the responses - I'm particularly drawn to the idea of taking "mission critical" tasks off-line.

          I manage Software Development and Test Support team and find that I have a number of high priority issues each day that need to be managed and co-ordinated. Next Actions are usually short (2 min rule is invaluable) along the lines of a Call, Agenda, E-mail another Call etc. with Waiting Fors inbetween. Sometimes it feels as though I spend too much time just updating my Next Action lists electronically.

          I still intend to keep my Outlook/Palm setup and will have to see if the overhead of updating electronically at the end of the day works for me.

          I can also connect with the hassle of using my Palm at home - I will try and print of my Home actions and see if that helps.

          Thanks again.

          Comment


          • #6
            Janice, I think you raise an interesting point.

            I'd bet all of us have some degree of internal resistance, even on a subconsious level, to some of our "tools".

            I've personally been struggled to figure out why, although I love the weekly review, I have so much trouble getting myself to actually open up my lists and look at them (I use plain Palm desktop).

            Also, on the ocassions when I've realized that my lists were getting sloppy and unfocused, it really helped me to print them all out, spread them on my desk, and get the full picture at once.

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            • #7
              Using a combined system

              I use a combined system of paper, a Palm, and Outlook. I use the Palm entirely for my calendar, reference notes, contacts, and my projects list/notes, primarily because my main calendar and contacts are in Outlook and because of the amount of project information that can be carried in Palm. During the day I end to carry a calendar print out of the current week and next week for reference. I keep all of my next action lists on 5x8 cards by conext, including a daily task list of items that I have selected as critical to complete for that day. For notetaking, I carry a Moleskine notebook and tuck the cards into the back.

              I am continuing to move away from the electronic and more towards the paper. I have found that with a bit of planning in the morning, not only am I more effective, I schlep less stuff around with me. As a case in point, I don't need all of my project information with me all of the time, so why carry the extra stuff in the Palm? I am looking at moving my calendar and contacs off electronic also, but am still toying with what works best.

              I am less repelled to this then by going exclusively all paper or all electronic.

              Comment


              • #8
                Without sounding like a pessimist (and I know I will), this increase in productivity may just be due to a "change" in your habits.

                Basically, when I started to print out a list of my NAs, I created a "I-have-to-do-it-today" mentality and so I didn't go back and fiddle around w/ my NAs.

                Now the problem that I came across was this: after a while of printing stuff out, I ended up not finishing some of the stuff and eventually, my printout list became just like my electronic list.

                So to me, it's more of a mental thing rather than a technical issue.

                Anyway, that was just my experience with it. Hope it didn't discourage you in any way

                Comment


                • #9
                  Now the problem that I came across was this: after a while of printing stuff out, I ended up not finishing some of the stuff and eventually, my printout list became just like my electronic list.
                  Late last year, I asked our Director of Telecoaching (Meg Gott) to assist me with a weekly review. 3,000 miles apart, on the phone together for just over an hour, we cleaned my lists up like I'd never seen before.

                  I can tell now-a-days when I wrote something "wrong." It's ok, it just means that I have not broken the Next Action down to something I can actually do. In many cases, I have to back up a step (or two) and write THAT down.

                  Take a look at the actions...the actual words you use. Are they steps you can imagine yourself taking? If not, play around with the vocabulary. Really, this is about Getting Things Done (not necessarily loading up to-do lists!).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I use a combined computer/paper setup. The details are at http://www.springies.com/~ats/20040717.html and http://www.springies.com/~ats/20040807.html. But I'll summarize my setup here.

                    Basically, I keep my calendar and addressbook in the computer, and print it out to a small 4x6 notebook. Next actions, projects and all other lists live in the notebook, in paper only form. For me, that's more convenient. I'm a software developer, and I can type fine, but even with two monitors there's never enough screen real estate. Having a separate piece of paper is very handy. Sure, a PDA would serve the same function... I have one, and have had one for a long time. But they just aren't flexible enough. Paper is infinitely malleable. You want to put something on paper, you do. You don't have to mess with category or note size limits, input speed, or whether your desktop software will support it.

                    I like keeping my project list and other lists on paper because periodically I need to recopy things onto a fresh list. This prompts a mini-review. As I'm copying things, I'm reminded and rethink things on that list more than I would if a PDA did it for me.

                    There's nothing wrong with paper. Sure, you can't search it... but seriously, I didn't use the full-system search much when I was on a Palm and it's barely even there on PocketPC. Sure, you can't store complete reference works in a small paper notebook... for me, that's not an issue. I use the computer where it makes sense, and print things off to paper to keep the main system together. As a result, I don't waste time worrying about how perfect my system is like those folks on the GTD Palm list who are always trying new software or revamping their categories.....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Mostly Paper System

                      jac,

                      For reasons that are too complicated to explain, it became impossible, literally, for me to use a completely electronic organization system at work. To deal with it, I began to do most of my Projects, Next Actions, WaitingFor, Notes, etc. on paper that I keep in an inexpensive three-ring binder. Only my Address Book and Calendar are kept on a PDA.

                      When I started this a couple months ago, I noticed exactly the effect that you are describing. My productivity has increased as I spend far less time messing with my organization system between Weekly Reviews. I also feel far more relaxed and focused during the day because I avoid a lot of "compulsive" list checking, calendar checking, email checking, etc. I even found that my Weekly Reviews go faster, which I'm still trying to understand. I think it is just very effective for me to look at physical lists that I can pull out and place side by side easily.

                      So far this improvement hasn't faded, and frankly it reminds me of a very productive couple of years that I had when I first started getting organized using the old "Seven Habits of Highly Effective" system. At the time, there was not much available to me in the way of computers, and I did the whole thing on paper once a week. The structure was different, but the feeling was similar.

                      I'm not going to flat out recommend that everyone switch because I suspect that the effectiveness of working on paper has to do with some basic aspects of my personality, but I am completely convinced that paper is a better system for me for everything except my Calendar and Address List.

                      Another advantage is that I don't have to worry that some future software upgrade is going to force me to change how I handle my entire system.

                      David

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                      • #12
                        test

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jason Womack
                          Late last year, I asked our Director of Telecoaching (Meg Gott) to assist me with a weekly review. 3,000 miles apart, on the phone together for just over an hour, we cleaned my lists up like I'd never seen before.

                          I can tell now-a-days when I wrote something "wrong." It's ok, it just means that I have not broken the Next Action down to something I can actually do. In many cases, I have to back up a step (or two) and write THAT down.

                          Take a look at the actions...the actual words you use. Are they steps you can imagine yourself taking? If not, play around with the vocabulary. Really, this is about Getting Things Done (not necessarily loading up to-do lists!).

                          Ah.... thanks for the tip. I think I need to re-read GTD again and "refresh" my system!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Paper & Palm bliss!

                            I am using a combination paper & Palm system. Due to some stresses to my GtD PDA-based system in June, I dumped all my software for NAs so that I could be more mobile, and have since moved my entire NA & Project system to paper this summer.

                            What I tried:
                            3x5 cards in an accordion photo sorter (too small for project detail) -->
                            4x6 cards (still too small for mult-step projects, wasn't looking at them in the sorter enough)

                            I am now using a Rollabind Junior notebook. This has had several benefits:

                            1. the ability to change context on Projects by moving the sheet to a different section of the notebook, especially moving something to @WaitingFor.

                            2. The ability to keep unprocessed meeting notes with my NAs -- I am now processing these notes during slow points in a meeting rather than waiting for them to be inboxed, then processed.

                            3. I also carry a 18 month monthly view calendar for recording my company's calendar in the back of my Rollabind. This keeps me aware of scheduling conflicts without cluttering my hard landscape.

                            I really like the Rollabind -- the only negative is that there was something very satisfying about tossing a completed one-off NA card into the recycling bin!

                            I do still use my Palm for my hard landscape/Calendar & contact list, and have NO intentions of keeping paper copies of either. I also have extensive reference notes in Memos, and I now use the ToDo list for repeating, untimed but dated household tasks (take out garbage, pay bills, etc).

                            HTH,
                            Bree

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                            • #15
                              I think I'll Leave My PDA At Home

                              I'm going to flat leave my PDA at home. I have two Moleskine Notebooks (1 large Journal Format and the slimer "notebook size ") that I began implementing about a month ago as a "traditional" back up.
                              Funny thing happened.....I found it easier to enter NA's in the small notebook and Journal and Meeting notes in the large one than my Palm.
                              I get to use my favorite pens (ala David Allen) and it is faster.
                              I am a ten year every software/Palm user, but I got to come clean, there is something liberating about the small eloquent books, a nice rollerball/ fountain pen, and no open loops.
                              I realize I have been forcing the palm issue , threading on boundaries that probably were never intended to be threaded. I felt the need to make my latest "investment" pay off.
                              It is true, history repeats itself, I am probably the first convert to return to the truly uninhibited wireless system of pen and fine paper.

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