Bye Bye Pixels, Hello Paper

I have been a PDA user for several years but a week ago I sold my iPAQ and bought a Filofax.

I was pretty much a PDA addict; changing PDAs as often as every six months and spending far too long every day reading all the major PDA sites and forums. So this represents a MAJOR change for me.

What prompted a change as significant as this? Primarily, the realisation that I wasn’t actually using my PDA; I’d take it to work in my case and on many days not even switch it on.

This made me think about why I owned a PDA and why I was now not using it.

I realised the main reason for my not using my PDA was a change of employers and a change of industry.

My last two employers were Psion and 3Com, Psion invented the PDA and 3Com at one point owned Palm so as you can imagine both were very PDAcentric companies. I’m now working for American Express but it isn’t the move away from the IT industry that has meant I use my PDA less it is the way the company organises itself and the nature of my role there.

A key change is that all calendar scheduling is done via Lotus Notes. For a while I tried to keep the PDA and Notes inline but this is trickier than it sounds and I ended up almost missing a couple of events. I realise that I can sync my PDA with Notes, and I thought about doing so but I then realised that I didn’t need to – I didn’t need my diary in a PDA.

My role spans EMEA and I work on International projects with colleagues in the USA and Australia. I very rarely meet with people in the UK; most of my meetings are telephone conferences. At Psion and 3Com virtually all meetings were face to face; in that environment I needed me diary at hand to enable scheduling follow up meetings. Now I sit in front of my PC on a phone call and so have Notes open in front of me enabling me to check my diary or to schedule a meeting with anyone in the company within seconds.

So I don’t need my work diary in my pocket anymore – my personal diary is another matter and we’ll come to that.

That left my task lists and contacts.

In my PDA I had over 300 contacts and that was one of the arguments I had for keeping the PDA; how could I put 300 contacts into a Filofax, how would I keep them up to date without buying shares in Tippex? Then I took a step back and thought about those contacts.

How many did I really use on a regular basis? Maybe twenty or thirty and most of those are in my mobile anyway. If I need any of the other 270 it’s probably not going to be so urgent that it can’t wait until I get home and check Outlook. Another reason to keep the iPAQ gone.

That left my tasks. I liked tasks on my PDA; I could easily change the due date and set recurring tasks. Again a step back and some thought was called for. I experimented with a paper task list and found that it worked well for me. I also found that I could set recurring tasks and future tasks in Notes; I realised that all the tasks of that nature were work related so Notes was the best place for them.

Why does the paper task list work well for me? Well the key benefit is that it is always on. It sits there on my desk in front of my eyes and does not switch off. As somebody that is not naturally organised this is a great help. I have also found that there is something very satisfying about actually striking through or crossing out a task when it is completed.

I’ve never really used the other features of my PDAs; I don’t play games, I have a proper MP3 player and I don’t like eBooks to name a few. So having been through the thought process above I realised that my work scheduling could be handled by Lotus Notes and that a Filofax or diary would work for my personal diary.

Looking at how others used paper diaries I was intrigued by the realisation that it struck me as a more natural and organic way to work. I guess that I am not the only person as Sony have tried to copy this way of working on their latest Clie the TH55 which has a diary that allows handwritten notes and virtual sticky notes to be used mimicking a paper diary.

I mentioned above the satisfaction in really crossing off a task. I have found that using paper is a more satisfying and as I said above organic way of working and living.

In a future post I’ll explain why or try to.