PDA’s, Planners, and other nonsense

It is amazing to me that millions of us are still using the same technology that Benjamin Franklin used to keep track of our appointments, contacts, and goals. In 200 years, we’ve advanced to pre-printed pages, fancy binders and ball-point pens…

In the Dark Ages of computing, I used a Tandy Model 100 portable computer to run my business. It came on instantly and was easy to plug into a client’s printer. Networking was done via sneaker-net and the 8″ floppies in most machines were larger than my computer. The Internet was in its’ infancy and the Web was unknown territory. Connecting at 300 baud with the internal modem was mind boggling!

As time progressed, however, it became clear that DOS, and eventually Windows, would render my setup useless.

The Problem

Ok, maybe it’s not the problem so much as my problem.

I now have several computers on a LAN. I also use client’s computers and have some situations that prevent me from installing software or even accessing a floppy or CD. I also have a old laptop, a Palm device, and a day-planner that I haul around. None of the data is synchronized, and consequently, I spend (waste) a lot of time finding things, running multiple programs, etc. I’d like to have one place to keep addresses, a calendar, a to-do list, and a way to generate invoices/quotes from wherever I happen to be.

The Palm device almost works for everything and is my favorite for addresses, calendar, and to-dos, however, printing is iffy since the infrared port is the only option. Even when you can print, customizing an invoice with company name, etc doesn’t seem to be very easy. My greatest concern is data loss – these things don’t bounce too well

I could keep everything in the day-planner and move the info at the end of the day, but it seems like duplicating effort. Plus, the sooner I hand someone an invoice, the sooner I get paid.

The only constant is that everything has access to the web, except the Palm, and the day-planner, of course. Most, if not all, clients have access too. Yahoo’s address book, calendar, and notebook offer a pretty nice package, but I don’t think it’s practical to have to be connected everywhere you go and sometimes, it’s just not possible. Maybe a combo of notebook computer and an online service/system that would synchronize without screwing up? Haven’t found one of those yet…

My ultimate goal is to get all the random bits of info out of my head and into some easily manageable system.

The Solution?

At least, a workable solution; I’ve finally gotten used to the idea that I will be using the day-planner and generating invoices from my office. I’ve worked out a fairly simple system that makes my office portable enough to carry around.

I wound up digging out an old FranklinCovey planner, the “Classic” 5.5″ x 8.5″, size and decided to use it rather than the 8.5″ x 11″ just because it’s easier to carry around. The larger size does have the advantage of going straight from printer to planner, but just seems awkward.

Inbox – actually, a folder for keeping notes, receipts, business cards, etc until I get around to filing them.

Calendar – FranklinCovey’s Original Weekly pages. I can see what’s going on the whole week and still have enough room to scribble notes. To-dos go on the “Weekly Tasks” page and get moved to a days page when I schedule them.

Tabs – this is probably the most important part of the system.

  • Actions – individual things to do at a particular location, broken down into:
    • @ home – fix front door screen, clean gutters
    • @ computer – add RAM, get new video card
    • @ web – optimize page loading, submit URLs
    • @ phone – call Mom
    • @ shopping – coffee at WalMart, blank CD/RW at BestBuy, toys at FranklinCovey store
  • Projects – big picture stuff that requires more than one or two actions.
    • Home – kitchen remodel, clean garage, landscaping ideas
    • Work – whatever projects are going on
    • Rentals – compare rental rates in area
  • Agendas – things to discuss by meeting or person
  • Reference/Misc – all the stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into other categories

Phone/Addresses – normal stuff you’d expect

The future

I’m still hoping for a totally electronic solution…

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