Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Getting Things Done using your Palm to Collect

Posted by Michael Brown on April 12, 2008

Previously, I tantalized you with a teaser on Getting Things Done using your Palm handheld or Treo/Centro. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense; let’s get Collecting!

In his books, David Allen talks about having a Ubiquitous capture device; something that can capture all the “stuff” that comes flying your way during the day. It can be reminders to get something, someone asking you to do something, thoughts you have about projects or things to do, and so on. Chances are, if you don’t get it down somewhere, it’ll get lost in the storm of other things vying for your attention. The thing is, a mobile device like a Treo makes for the perfect Ubiquitous capture device when it’s your constant companion.

First of all, you have to capture in a means that works for your lifestyle. Look at what you’re doing now to capture “stuff”. If you use sticky notes all the time, is it because they’re convenient, or because they’re in your face? Do you like making lists? Or are you someone who uses the phone and voicemail a lot? Where does most of your “stuff” come from, and on what medium (paper, e-mail, phone/voicemail, or in-person)? Your capture and collection techniques will need to reflect where your inputs come from, and the pace you need to capture them at.

mVoicePhone-oriented individuals and those with the need to capture things quickly will want to use a voice recorder. Many Treo models and the Centros come with one built-in, as do some handhelds. In the case of my Treo 650, it didn’t, so I bought (and would highly recommend) mVoice from Motion Apps. It’s handy for getting things down quickly, and for times when my hands are otherwise occupied (like when I’m crawling around the back of an equipment rack) . Voice recordings are also handy for reinforcing your credibility and reliability to others; if you get stopped a lot with “in-person” input, they’ll have a lot of faith in your ability to deliver when they see you whip out your mobile and leave yourself a voice note about their request.

Diddlebug“Scribblers” who use sticky notes all the time may want to use the built-in notepad application (if your Palm has one). It’s like an endless supply of stickies, that are always with you. Since it’s always with you, when you need something you wrote down earlier, it’ll be with you, and not stuck to your monitor at work. If those stickies have to be “in your face”, you might want to consider Diddlebug (free) or BugMe! ($), which allow you to set alarms on notes, giving you that “in-your-face feeling”.

Listmakers who have the time to input things can use Memos. It allows you to make free form lists of “stuff”. It’s best to use one memo for each idea or input. The point is to capture or collect at this stage; you’ll deal with it later. There are other “front ends” to the memos database, so if you find that the stock one doesn’t work for you, you can look at something like psMemo (free) or MemoLeaf ($). They add additional features while still using the Memos database; something that’s important if you sync with a laptop or desktop computer to work with your “stuff” there.

Finally, for quick “one-offs”, you can capture them right to the Tasks (or ToDo) application when time permits. Those could be an errand, a call to make, or something else similarly straight-forward and actionable.

TasksNow, with all these capture techniques, you want to make sure you capture to the “unfiled” category of the application. Categories are a powerful organizational tool, as you’ll see later in this series. Palm OS allows for 15 categories plus unfiled, so we’ll create a few next time, make use of them later.

The best approach is to try each of these capture techniques, and see which feels the most natural to you. Definitely try the methods that seem closest to what you may be doing already. If it’s not quick and easy, you won’t do it. There’s also no reason why you can’t use several different methods for capturing “stuff”, depending on your situation at the time. For example, you could use memos for when you have time to input stuff, and the voice recorder for when you’re on the go.

Now it’s time for the audience participation part of the program; yup, homework! Try each of the methods for capturing “stuff” that you have on your plate right now. Try and get as much out of your head and the various other sources of input you have, and get it into your Palm device. If you sync to a laptop or desktop, you can copy and paste from e-mails into memos or tasks, to save yourself some typing. Here’s a tip for Outlook users: you can drag an e-mail and drop it on the tasks or notes folders to create a new item.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to collect all your “stuff” into the unfiled categories in whichever applications suit your lifestyle. Stay tuned for our next installment, when we’ll cover “processing”. This is Michael Brown, signing off for now.

Originally posted to PalmAddicts here.

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