Getting Organized What I learned at the Palm Revolution
(MONEY Magazine) – Some people have house envy. Some, fast-car envy. Me? I have tech envy. Teeny-tiny cell phones. Indigo iMacs. That new digital Elph. But I've learned that price is only the first hurdle to cross. Finding a place for these alluring objects in your life can be just as tough. Let me explain: For a good year, the object of my desire was a Palm. I loved the idea of replacing my bulging Filofax with a device so small. Being able to sync with my PC at home and my Mac at the office was also enticing. The $400 sticker kept me at bay, but my resolve was fading. Then in June, I found myself in the waiting room of a D.C. hospital with my family as my dad had bypass surgery. I reread a lousy mystery and fidgeted. My youngest brother calmly played Pac-Man on his Palm. A week later, I owned a V.
I unpacked it, installed the software and connected the cradle. Piece of cake. I mastered Graffiti--the language used to input notes into the device--in under an hour. Diligently, I entered every name, address, phone number and birthday, plus my schedule through the middle of 2001. I downloaded all the must-have software. I was ready to go.
Or so I thought. Even after I'd given myself a month to adjust, I was still having trouble entering appointments quickly. Worse, I started double-booking. And though I put a lot of energy into making my to-do lists, I kept forgetting to flip to them. The Palm was supposed to streamline my life, but I felt less organized than ever.
I'm not the only one who feels this way, says professional organizer Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out. The world, she explains, is divided into visual/tactile people and linear/digital people. When visual folks like me use a paper planner, they not only remember what they wrote, but where on the page they wrote it and what color ink they used. Those clues help them organize their days.
Linear people organize in their heads. When they see what's on tap for a particular day, they can envision the way their lists of calls to make and things to do fit in. So PDAs tend to be easier to use for linear folks than for visual ones.
Morgenstern gave me two hints: First, get a program that puts your calls and to-do list on the same page as your calendar. She uses one called Datebk4, but Action Names is also good. (You can link to both from www.palmgear.com.) Second, don't feel you have to give up paper entirely. Morgenstern has taken to jotting appointments down on index cards she keeps in her Palm case, then inputting them via her desktop computer when she returns to the office. She uses the PDA to retrieve info when she's away from her desk.
For the past week or so I've been following her advice, and it seems to be helping. In fact, it's going well enough that I have a new agenda. After two years of lugging a seven-pound PowerBook around Manhattan, I covet an ultralight notebook. Should it be the Fujitsu LifeBook with the awesome battery life? Or the new ThinkPad with the roomy keyboard? I spend far too much time window-shopping on CNET trying to decide.
Editor-at-large Jean Chatzky appears regularly on NBC's Today. You can contact her by e-mail at email@example.com.