Organization strategies
November 9, 2004 4:44 PM   Subscribe

I've tried to get myself organized many times but I'm still always staying up late and missing deadlines. I use a planner, but I think I need more structure (scheduling internet usage, etc.). Should I get a more detailed planner with daily schedules? A PDA? People must have dealt with this before planners and PDAs; are there any other strategies that don't involve buying something?
posted by stopgap to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Buy David Allen's book _Getting Things Done_. It's been getting a lot of (deserved) notice lately--it has really helped me get my life sorted out. And it's agnostic as to planners, PDAs, etc.--I manage my system using index cards.
posted by josh at 5:05 PM on November 9, 2004

GTD is definitely a good system to look into. Read Merlin Mann's 43folders blog--especially the post about the hipster pda--and check out the gtd tag at
posted by monju_bosatsu at 5:29 PM on November 9, 2004

For work, I find Outlook quite helpful. The combo of the Calendar, Tasks and Notes is great, especially in conjunction with my PDA. I put down a quick description of every little thing that I need to do in Tasks, sometimes pointing to a more detailed handwritten Note from my PDA. It is quite satisfying to see how many tasks you can check off by the end of the day.
posted by skwm at 5:42 PM on November 9, 2004

I've implemented most of GTD using my email program (Thunderbird), a pocket calander, and a tickler file. I'm not quite on top of everything yet but I can see that it will possible eventually.

I'm liking the idea of using my email program to create my various lists. I can send myself todos and move them between various lists (folders). This works for me since I've got my laptop with me 27 hours a day so its not for everyone.

If you use Outlook, there's an add-in you can buy.
posted by jacobsee at 6:20 PM on November 9, 2004

A piece of paper. List what needs to get done. Rewrite it every couple of days, or whatever frequency your work flow needs. Don't be one of these people that has to carry a big book around and feels obligated to write down every nuance of every meeting. Only use PDA's to keep addresses, phone numbers and little programs like unit converters.
posted by mss at 6:21 PM on November 9, 2004

It doesn't really matter where you keep your schedule -- I keep it synchronized between my desktop PC, my RIM device, and my Palm; I know a guy who does everything on paper in one of those day-planners -- so much as it matters how dedicated you are to keeping it updated and referencing it.

In terms of to-do lists, I've never found software or "getting organized" and "time management" self-help franchises to be all that helpful. I drive everything by schedule and that's enough for me to survive. How you organize is far less important than the discipline you apply to keeping yourself there, though obviously a comfortable method of organization is something you're more likely to keep up.
posted by majick at 7:13 PM on November 9, 2004

while not perfect... i agree - outlook is pretty damn useful ... the best app microsoft has ever produced. i use it all day everyday - 2003 is worth the money.
posted by specialk420 at 7:41 PM on November 9, 2004

I'm a PDA guy, my Sony Clie goes everywhere with me, holds all my addresses, all my deadlines, blog notes, music to get, low end but serviceable digi-cam, mp3 player, game machine and wireless internet (a plus since we just got a wi-fi hub in my office).

I rarely use Palm Desktop but do sync fairly often and usually back up to the memory stick once a week or so.

But it is all about discipline in staying on top of your task lists. I still keep copious hand written lists too.
posted by fenriq at 11:54 PM on November 9, 2004

Getting my Pocket PC was the best thing I ever did. I got it halfway through college, at the beginning of my junior year. My first two years were miserable failures, academically. I would often miss assignments, forget about homework, etc. I tried to write down everything in Outlook, but I forgot often enough that Outlook became a hindrance, falsely reassuring me that I had no homework due the next day because I'd forgotten to enter it in.

So my third year I got a PDA, and my whole academic life changed. I entered all my assignments the instant I got them in class, and they were synced with Outlook automatically, so I never forgot an assignment again. Since I could now trust my task list to be correct, I didn't have to constantly stress about whether I'd forgotten an assignment or not. If the list was empty, I had nothing to do.

It was a night and day difference. And I didn't get the PDA with the expectation that it would help me a lot. But it was just the idea that I could trust my task list and calendar to be up-to-date that let me shed off so much stress and worry.

My grades, by the way, were practically straight As after that. I'd always thought I was lazy and incapable of organization, but it turned out that all I needed was the right tool and everything fell into place.

So, for the people who say that it doesn't matter if you have a notebook or a computer, that you need to be more disciplined or organized, I say: it doesn't always have to be some serious, fundamental change.

Plopping down a couple hundred bucks on a fancy gadget was just the ticket for me.
posted by Khalad at 6:34 AM on November 10, 2004

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