Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

Getting Things Done using your Palm to Process

Posted by Michael Brown on April 16, 2008

So, if you accepted the mission in our last episode, you now have a large collection of “stuff” sitting in the unfiled category of one or more applications on your Palm device. Now it’s time to start dealing with it.

Projects list in psMemoOpen each application that you put “stuff” in, go to the unfiled category and open each item there. Ask yourself “Is this actionable or not?”. If it’s not something that requires action, then you need to decide why it’s there. If it’s for future reference, then file it in the memo’s application. You can create some useful categories in the memo application that will help group similar things together, like placing them in the same “file folder”. I usually recommend the following categories as a minimum for use with memos: Reference, Projects, Someday/Maybe, and Lists. Most Palms come with Personal and Business as categories as well, so you can keep them if you prefer to separate things that way. You may want to have Projects – Business and Projects – Home if you have a lot on the go. File your memo where appropriate, and make sure the subject makes sense to you (like a summary). The subject will appear in the memo list view, and a good summary will help you find stuff later.

Let’s say your item may not be actionable now, but it’s something you may want to do in the future. That’s what the Someday/Maybe category is for. Stuff in there is “backburnered”, like a trip you might want to take, or a home improvement project you might want to do. It’s a place to keep stuff that you’ve thought of, but are not ready to do yet.

If it is actionable, then ask yourself this question “Can I do this right now in a couple of minutes?”. If you can, then just do it! Delete your item knowing you’ve just knocked off one thing you had to do.

If you can’t do it for whatever reason, then you have to decide what to do with it. First, let’s create some categories in the Tasks (or ToDo) application that will allow us to “put the wheels to the road” for when it comes time to do things. David Allen recommends using “contexts” or places to organize tasks, and recommends prefixing them with the @ symbol which has a dual meaning and a practical purpose. The dual meaning is “actionable” and “at” (as in location). By prefixing your contexts (in our case categories) with @, they will sort to the top of a list of categories, and stand out from non-actionable items.

I usually recommend the following categories or contexts for handheld use: @Work, @Home, @Errands, @WaitingFor, @Computer, and @Calls or @Phone. Since you have a handheld, and can do some things wherever you are, an @Anywhere may also be applicable if you’re able to work strictly with your mobile.

Now we have some categories, let’s start going through the items in your unfiled “inbox”. Do the things you can do in a couple of minutes: if it takes longer to track it than to do it, you’re better off just doing it! For those things that you can’t do, you have two choices; delegate it or defer it. Think about what needs to be done (and who should do it), and create a task with the appropriate description. Start it with a verb; Call Bill about project X, Buy part for car. If it’s a straight-forward, one time action, place the task into the category “where” you can do it. Call Bill would go in the @Calls category, and Buy part would go into @Errands.

Some of the items may be a part of something more complex or with more steps than a simple one-off task. For example, “buy part for car” will lead into “install part in car”. These are the things that require a bit more planning and organization than simple one-offs, so we’ll go into more detail in the next post in this series, Organizing. Now this brings us back to the audience participation part of the show; yup, more homework!

Decide what needs to be done for each thing that’s in your unfiled category. Start it with a verb, and make it specific to what needs to be done as a single action. If it’s bigger than a single action, file it in the projects category of your Memos application; we’ll look at it next time in the Organizing part of this series. Single items can be turned into tasks, and filed by the context you will be in to actually “do it” later. Calls go into @Phone, Work items go into @Work, etc. Now, let’s look at some easier ways to get stuff into a “doable” form.

AccessorizerSince the Palm OS is not multi-tasking, it can be frustrating switching between applications, and then having to find your place again when you want to switch back. In the past, DA’s or Desk accessories were created to allow you to pop up one application over top of another. A whole slew of little programs were created to allow access to the built-in databases. A gent named Alexander Pruss has made something even better than DA’s themselves. He’s created “the Accessorizer”, allowing you to generate a DA from most programs. This gives you the ability to pop-up one of the other built-ins (for example, Tasks) over top of say Memos, allowing you to copy from one application into another. Then you simply hit the Launcher button (the house icon) to return to the previous application. I’d highly recommend using the Accessorizer to create DA’s for Tasks, Memos, and Calendar. This will allow you to process, and later organize, the material you’ve collected and triaged.

DALauncher pop-upTwo things to be cautious about… One, not all applications will like to be turned into DA’s, so you may experience crashes. Start off with one application at a time, and run with it for a while before adding another. The second thing to be aware of is that you cannot pop up a DA instance of an application over top of the regular version of that application; that is, don’t pop up Memos over top of Memos, or your Palm will crash. Accessorizer can be found at 1src.com here. You’ll need a DA launcher to be able to launch your new DA applications; I use the aptly named DALauncher.

Transcribing a noteIf you use the Notepad, use the title line to transcribe what you scribbled down and then use copy and paste to get it into tasks or memos. Diddlebug has a nice transfer function, which gives you a line that you can transcribe onto and then use plugins or copy/paste to get your stuff where it needs to go. The notepad title trick works equally well for voice recorder applications like mVoice; simply listen to your recording (pausing when needed) and transcribe a shortened version onto the title line.

So, you have your homework, and some tricks that can help make it a little easier. Stay tuned for my next post in this series, Organizing using your Palm. This is Michael Brown, signing off till next time.

Originally posted to PalmAddicts here.

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6 Responses to “Getting Things Done using your Palm to Process”

  1. Terry said

    I enjoyed reading this–as one who has been searching for a GTD implementation myself, I desperately wanted to make it work with a PDA. But, I have finally given up. RemembertheMilk is what I have finally settled on. Your PDA technique, while workable, and yours is about the best I’ve seen, just has too many limitations. I think it’s a necessity that you have the ability to tag your tasks, and Palm only has the ability for two–category and priority. Some of my tasks have 4-5 tags, and the ability to construct smart lists for those tags is incredibly flexible.

  2. Terry,

    Well, you should really stick around for the Organizing and Doing parts of this series. I’ll be getting into some concepts that work around some of the limitations of the Palm OS, while still working with it’s strengths (the built-in databases, and HotSync). I’m not describing a system per-se, but a series of techniques that people can try to see if it fits their lifestyles. The next posts are going to be long ones, and may take a bit to write. Stay tuned!

    /Mike

  3. Jerry said

    Did you ever get around to doing the Organize, Review and Do parts of the Getting Things Done Using Your Palm series. I really enjoyed the first two parts.

  4. Sherry said

    Just found your series for GTD w/ Palm…Would love to see the posts for the ‘Organize, Review, & Do’ parts of the series. Can’t find them anywhere. Could you provide links or add them if you have them? Thanks.

  5. @Jerry and Sherry,

    Those posts (Organize, Review, and Do) are coming. I’ve had a lot of projects on the go this past summer, and haven’t had the chance to finish them. They are coming, so stay tuned!

    /Mike

    • Anthony said

      Still would love to see those Organize, Review, and Do posts, even if they are brief! Lots of us still using Palm to GTD and could use a hand. Thanks!

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