Personal Productivity Archives

June 29, 2005

I'm impressed

I've been getting more and more buried with things to do, things to read and general email lately. So yesterday I took action. First thing was to get a pocket pc. I found one which is about 3x5" and about a half inch thick. Unlike my previous one this has a nearly unbreakable screen (don't get it wet though) It does color and graphics and has the basics (calendar, address book, notes, task list). It is solar powered as well so I don't need to worry about batteries. Best of all it is really cheap. I'll post a picture of it when I have a chance.

The second thing I did was more impressive. I dumped the entire 1000 or so messages in my inbox. It is incredibly strange and in a way very liberating to see an empty inbox after years of seeing a long list of stuff there. Now I just need to keep it that way. Even with only a few minutes of experience under my new method I've come to a couple of realizations.

First, the google gmail idea of keeping all your mail and using "search" to find what is important has a fundamental flaw for work. I think it is fine for personal correspondence, but at work things are ephemeral. Something is either done or not done. Some things are important to file away and keep, but from the look of my inbox this amounts to less than 5%. Keeping all that stuff around may be nearly free from a computing point of view, but it takes a mental toll. Looking at a screen with a thousand emails saps your vital energy. Nothing is important. Sure you can tag and categorize all you want, but wouldn't it be preferable to take a lesson from nature and excrete the unwanted, preferably in a secluded spot deep in the woods? No need to carry it around with you.

The second realization is that I can only do a dozen or so things at a time. Any deeper than that and I forget I was supposed to do something about it. I don't really forget, but they aren't exactly at the front of my mind. It takes some time and rumination to bring them to the fore so considering the dearth of rumination time available they are as good as forgotten. Now a dozen tasks is a small enough number of things that I can easily carry them around with me and act on them opportunistically. This is what my pocket pc meant to help me with.

So, this is the start. I'll see how it goes from here. Gotta go... I already see the first message appearing in my inbox.

June 30, 2005

Simplicity is a virtue

Glen will probably be disappointed. But here is what I am using as an ultra-cheap rugged color pocket pc as I described in my last post:
Compared to an electronic version of the same, this has much lower cost (~$1.00) and is far more rugged. It can calculate (at least given the proper user) but it slower than an electronic one. The screen can fold out into as many windows as you would like. Other than displaying multimedia, playing games or storing large quantities of information (ebooks or databases for example) I can't think of any significant differences. Since I don't typically need to do any of those things with something I carry with me I'm happy with what I have.

The advantage over a notebook or more formal organizer are:

  • Ability to easily sort, export, archive and delete data
  • Ability to spread things out or easily bring important items to the forefront.
  • Simplicity - I found with a traditional organizer that unless you have a highly scheduled life with many appointments there is a lot of white space and unless you continually move things forward, activities in the past can drop out of sight.
  • The pile of completed tasks forms a tangible indicator of whether or not you are getting anything done.

    At present I am satisfied with it. Of the virtues listed above, simplicity is the one I value most.

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