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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