Hipster PDA Revisited

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After about a month of using a Hipster PDA, I have to say that parts of it are work­ing extremely well and other parts aren’t.

To-Do List
This works sur­pris­ingly well, and I have a lit­tle bit of a the­ory about this. With the to-do list in my orga­nizer or on the com­puter, I always have to keep refer­ring back to it. Many, many, many times a day, I will hit the right sequence of but­tons (the “Calendar” key 3 times on my Treo) to bring it up. With the Hipster PDA to-do list, I remem­ber things on the list with­out hav­ing to look at it con­stantly. I believe this is entirely due to the tac­tile nature of the writ­ten list, giv­ing my brain some­thing to latch on to. With the com­puter and phone/organizer, the list is a screen. The back­ground is white, the fore­ground is black, the items on the screen are all a con­sis­tent size in a con­sis­tent font. It’s all cookie-cutter, and there­fore eas­ily for­get­table. It con­veys the infor­ma­tion long enough to look at, but does not leave any “hooks” for the brain (or, at least, *my* brain) to latch on to. With the printed list, there are a num­ber of good mem­ory “hooks.” First off, there is the act of writ­ing out the items. Like a school child writ­ing out the word “ency­clo­pe­dia” ten times in a row as a spelling exer­cise, writ­ing out the items hits a piece of [my] mem­ory that is not hit by sim­ply typ­ing. Second, there are lots of lit­tle irreg­u­lar­i­ties, incon­sis­ten­cies, or just plain unique things about hand­writ­ing on paper that seem to give my brain a bunch of things to latch on to: the spac­ing of the items, the size of the items, the cou­ple of items writ­ten side­ways because there wasn’t enough space at the bot­tom, the way that the descen­der on a par­tic­u­lar let­ter swoops, the “t” that didn’t quite get crossed, the asym­me­try of a par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tal “A,” or maybe just the look and feel of the paper as it fades from its orig­i­nal pure white after days of use. At any rate, there are lots of lit­tle phys­i­cal, vis­i­ble, and tac­tile cues in there that let me actively visu­al­ize the whole card and the items on the card. I do not have to refer to it as much because the items are more mem­o­rable.

I gave up. A printed cal­en­dar just can’t touch the iCal/Treo cal­en­dar syn­chro­niza­tion. It’s pretty much a data­base with mul­ti­ple views–day, week, month, etc. The only way to do that on paper cards is to use non-normalized data (to use a data­base term... or “lots of dupli­cates” to use com­mon English.) Duplicating the same event on the monthly, weekly, and daily cal­en­dars is just a pain.

Yes, it’s sort of a weird card/page, but the Harmony card is work­ing out well for me, but maybe not as well as I hoped. Its main focus is as a to-do, but to track a few short-term items ver­sus sev­eral long-term goals. It also helps bal­ance and track phys­i­cal, men­tal, social, and inspirational/spiritual goals. It’s a bit more rigidly defined than a free-form blank to-do card, and it forces me to think about long-term goals. I find that I’m maybe not refer­ring back to it enough, or maybe not com­ing up with good short-term steps to lead to the long-term goals. So while this is mostly work­ing, I either need to tweak the card or tweak my life to get it work­ing bet­ter.


Potential Project
Awesomeness! I often get crazy ideas for some future project. Sometimes I end up doing the project. Sometimes I drop it. Sometimes I com­pletely for­get about it. Having a spe­cific page for a spe­cific future project is an awe­some idea. There’s a spot for a title, descrip­tion, sum­mary, and a graph-paper sec­tion. When I think of a new idea, I can put it on a new Potential Project page, then for­get about it until later. These projects roll around in the back of my mind (although now won’t get lost because they’re writ­ten down in a spe­cific place) and some­times, with­out try­ing, I think of some cool detail or tech­nique to add to the card. If and when I get the time and moti­va­tion to work on one of these projects, all of the notes are in one spot.

Financial Log
I hon­estly haven’t used this. I tend to use the debit card for every­thing, which leaves an item­ized trans­ac­tion in my bank state­ment. It’s pretty easy to load this into the com­puter and tag it with the appro­pri­ate labels (gro­ceries, util­i­ties, etc.) based on the line item. I haven’t come across a time when I have needed to write down a trans­ac­tion.

Shopping List
The shop­ping list I made works really well. I am prob­a­bly going to flip the ori­en­ta­tion of the back side of the card, though. When I orig­i­nally designed it, I thought of hold­ing it in my hand, then flip­ping it top-to-bottom to get to the reverse. With it a “page,” clipped in to the hip­ster PDA, it really should behave more like a book and flip right-over-left. I am also con­sid­er­ing ‘s sug­ges­tion of group­ing items by kind, rather than alpha­bet­i­cally. One thing that I miss about the Treo SplashShopper pro­gram is the abil­ity to set up tem­plates (like “all prod­ucts nec­es­sary to make casse­role”), which can’t be eas­ily done on paper with­out car­ry­ing around a bunch of recipe ingre­di­ent cards.

Various Other Templates
For me, with my brain, noth­ing works as well or is as flex­i­ble as a blank white card. I have tried a few of the other tem­plates, but have found that [for me], they are either too rigid in for­mat or are so flex­i­ble that I’d be bet­ter off just using a blank card.

So over­all, it is work­ing great as a to-do list and for project notes. It works so-so for a num­ber of other things (shop­ping, long-term goals.) The pre-made pages don’t work well [for me] for other things, but blank pages are like blank can­vases and can hold all vari­ety of notes, so that’s a win. It is a lot more dif­fi­cult to draw a quick dia­gram or jot down a few free-form notes on the Treo, given its screen size and res­o­lu­tion. I didn’t men­tion it here, but the “big box o’ index cards” as a task list at work, as expected and as always, is still work­ing well.

Posted in: Projects

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