How the Internet Has Eliminated the Need for Paper Planners

iPod Touch

Image via Wikipedia

Last time I talked about how the Internet had increased the simplicity of electronic planning devices, specifically the ipod although you could include many other devices, to the degree that they had overcome the gap between them and paper planners.
This post I will tell you about the components of a time management system that are necessary in a paper planner that can be replicated more efficiently now than in the past. Those components are:
1. A calendar
2. A todo list
3. A place for other lists
4. A contact list
5. E-mail

The calendar, contacts, and mail, for me, are handled by Google and are then routed through the native iPod apps.  The lists for me are handled by ToodleDo with the iPhone app from ToodleDo and the site itself.

Using these two services I get three things that are necessary for replacing the paper that I didn’t have in previous PDAs.

1. Automatic backups – The information is kept on Google’s and ToodleDo’s servers, and whenever I get into a wifi hotspot, the information I changed on the device gets backed up.

2. Ubiquity – I have the information with me all the time.  At work, even if I forget the iPod, which has happened once, all the data is accessible online.

3. Easy Data Entry and Management – This is mainly a concern for the todos, but the websites make it much easier to enter and, more importantly, organize the information during and after data entry.  Additionally, I can type a lot faster than I can write.  Even my typing on the iPod is getting faster.

So that’s it for now, next time is science time, as we’ll discuss Bellotti et al’s 2004 study of Task Management.  I can see that you’re excited.  I am too, because she agrees with me.


Simplicity Rears It’s Pretty Head

So we’ve talked about persistence, and now we need to talk about the other big factor that makes the new iPod different from the palm. That other thing is simplicity.
David Allen likes to point out that a lack of simplicity makes it easy and likely that you will walk away from a system, be it a filing or any other one. He likes to point out, rightly, that the level of complexity of the system needs to match that of the reality that it is meant to address. A mismatch increases the likelihood of abandonment.
When I got my PDA, the internet was a different place. I had a Netscape account for personal email and a different one for work. There were no good web-based calendar apps that I can remember nor any to do list apps. I was on my own, and that’s not a good place for me to be.
There was also the fact that I had multiple platforms to deal with as well. I had a desktop at home, another at work, and the PDA between. I couldn’t sync the PDA at work, so I couldn’t have its data in front of me on the screen reminding me of my tasks. Syncing the PDA with my email account would have been silly, because I didn’t really get that much mail. It also would have been a hassle connecting cables, running software that I would have had to pay for.
This brings me to my next post topic, how the Internet has eliminated the advantages of paper based planners.
See you next time.

The In Your Faceness of My iPod

So why does my iPod have better persistence than the PDA I used to have?
One point that has to be made is that I am a different person than I was back then. I get things better than I did back then. I “get” the idea that I need to keep track of things and make the decisions that need to be made when they need to be made. However, that doesn’t really do the differences justice.
The biggest difference is the raw level of computing power that exist between the two. The device I’m typing on right now is more powerful than the first computer I owned, and I didn’t buy one until the nineties. It can access the Internet through my wifi connection, which attached to the fiber optic line that runs into my house. By all accounts, this device is faster and easier to use than the older one, and that makes me more likely to want to use it.
The other difference that makes me more likely to use the device is that it has more things for me to use. I have music, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, books, calendar, e-mail, web access, games…you get the point. If it was actually an iPhone, I would probably be on it even more, because then I would have constant access to even more. As it is, I have no easy wifi access at work.
The point of that…point is that I actually look at the device more, and when I do, that Toodledo app comes into view, with that little badge that says I have seven things left to do. The e-mail icon tells me that there are three items in my inbox. All in all, it’s like having a little friend that I play with that reminds me of what I have to do every now and then. A friend that cost me money, sure, but at least my friends come cheaper than Elliot Spitzer’s.
So there you go. Two key changes that make this technology different enough to make it actually useful in my attempts to be productive.


What do I mean by persistence when it comes to a time management system? I don’t mean willpower, because a PDA is an inanimate object. What I mean by persistence is the ability of the system to get in your line of sight and keep reminding you to pay attention to it. As you’ll recall from my last post, I had just gotten the secret government plans, no wait, different blog, I had just gotten a PDA which used the palm operating system, and subsequently my productivity dropped.
An important piece of information to have at this point is that I was replacing a classic sized planner. I carried that planner everywhere. It was full too. I had calendar, contacts, project lists, inserts, and forms I wasn’t even using but thought they looked cool. This thing had measurable effects on the tides.
As such, I never forgot it was there. I felt it when I was carrying it. I saw it when I put it down, because it took up a significant amount of space when open, and I heard the loud thunk made on my desk when I dropped it there.
In effect, it persisted in my attention and reminded me constantly that I needed to do what it wanted me to do.
Why didn’t my PDA do that?
I’ll tell you, because you’ve been so patient up to this point.
My PDA was in my pocket. If I didn’t remember to take it out of my pocket, it would stay there. I couldn’t slam it down on my desk for the obvious reason, and the beeps that it did make were on the pathetic side. There was no heft to it, no presence, no intrusion. It never got in my face to say, “hey, you’ve got something to do.
So how is my iPod different?
Find out next time.

My new ipod touch

I just got a new IPod touch, and boy are my thumbs tired. No, actually, I’m worried. Let me splain. No, let me sum up. Around about when I was, let’s say twenty seven, because this is already taking too long, I decided to work on my productivity. I started reading lots of stuff by Covey and people who copied Covey. I like him. He’s got a nice bald head. I want to rub it, but I digress.
After all this reading, I put the planner into practice and saw some significant improvement in my productivity. My wife was happy, but she’s easy to please. Anything that makes me less of a lazy slob is fine with her.
So for two years, roughly, I’m making strides, doing daily and weekly planning, and getting things done. Yeah, I read that book too, but I have to tell you, I don’t want to rub his head nearly as much. But then I made my first big mistake, I tried to improve the system too much too fast.
I bought a PDA.
I bought a good one, too. It was a Handera, which I’m sure you’ve probably never heard of, but we’re talking serious bells and whistles. Long story short, it was a disaster for my productivity, because of certain key factors that I will lay out it my next few posts. The first of which is persistence.

Please, Don’t Tell Me I’m a Good Blogger

“Not to be cheered by praise, not to be grieved by blame, but to know thoroughly one’s own virtues of powers are the characteristics of an excellent man.”

-Satchell Paige

It makes sense to think that someone telling you you’re good at something is going to make you happy.  Who would object to being told they are handsome, smart, witty, a great athlete, etc..?  I know I don’t.  On the face of things, you would think such compliments would validate the effort you put into your appearance, intellect, and physical skills.  In a way, they do.  Someone telling you you’re smart after doing well on a test will make you feel good.  You may even start to believe that you are smart. but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

A very nice and brief summing up of the new literature on this subject comes from Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman in their book Nurture Shock.  While what they are talking primarily about is how praise affects children, very negatively in certain cases, there is a lesson for adults.

Praise is a reward.  No surprise there.  The surprise comes in when you think about what you are rewarding with praise.  If I praise you for being smart, I am rewarding you for a state of being that most people consider to be static.  The image you have of yourself will be reinforced and become more important to you.  Now you’ll want to protect it, by avoiding situations where that image could be threatened.  You’ll take the easy way out.

If, on the other hand, I praise you for your effort or your decision to risk a particular technique, I am rewarding something different.  You know that sometimes you put in more or less effort than other times, and I am rewarding you for your decision to put in more.  If you fail, you can still reward your effort, or you can justify the failure by saying you should have put in more effort.  You are not your decisions, because you can learn from them.

So, if you like my blog, please say so.  Just don’t tell me I’m awesome.

Lazy is a Loaded Word

The word lazy has negative connotations.  Yes, I know, it’s a judgement word, but it is applied so unadroitly, that it become overgeneralized to anyone who’s not doing what you think they should be doing.

Merriam Webster defines it the following ways:

1 a : disinclined to activity or exertion : not energetic or vigorous b : encouraging inactivity or indolence <a lazy summer day>
2 : moving slowly : sluggish

Reading in the library, not lazy.  Reading while everyone else is playing whiffle ball, lazy.  Playing whiffle ball in the library, not allowed.  I checked.

It is not the activity itself that determines the label lazy, it is the perception of the appropriateness of that activity at that time.  In Psychology, and you’ll learn a bit of Psychology if you follow my blog, behavior is caused by internal and external factors.  The internal factor is your personality, some of which is determined by genetics and some is determined by past experiences impacting your biology.  The external factor is the situation.  Try playing whiffle ball in the library, and you’ll see that the situation often constrains behavior.