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Organizing Your Life

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From the Top: 

     Let's start from the top.  We all wear many hats in our life and take on certain roles from time to time.  Dividing up the categories into our chosen roles are an important step in putting our lives in order.  My roles include things like "wife," "parent," "extended family", "co-worker," "youth leader," "community volunteer," "teacher," and of course "individual."  These roles can be the basis for your categories in the datebook (if using datebk4), address book, todo list, and memopad.  This idea was generated after reading "First Things First" by Dr. Stephen R. Covey.  I highly recommend his books, especially "First Things First" which really puts an emphasis on defining your roles in life and reflecting on them and setting goals in them weekly.

     The next several ideas that I put into practice involve separate palm apps that I purchased, but are really not necessary if money is an issue.  I find them invaluable and well worth the money I spent to register them.  They all come with trial periods so feel free to try them out.

Datebook

    I think datebk4 is THE best palm app ever written and I highly recommend it, but if money is an issue (it's only $25) then you can try to follow some of my info and disregard the rest I suppose.  The power that db4 can add to your organizational skills is incredible.  I can find info so fast and keep saved lists right with my calendar  - all linked to contacts - it's wonderful!  I'll be listing several examples as I explain my methods.  Be warned - I am a power user.  If you have any questions, please check out the datebk4 manual (even I re-read it after updates).  I am happy to answer questions if you can't find the info in the manual.

    The first thing I did with my calendar was to record every event I possibly could think of.  This included weekly meetings, church services, work days, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc.  Each item went in it's appropriate category.  Since I have 2 little ones who keep their own schedules (like naps) I added in daily household events that included various daily repeating events such as meals and bedtimes.  I don't list out every little detail for my household stuff.  For example, the event 'morning routine' is a single daily repeating floating event that spans 1 hours.  In the note field I keep a small list of things to do during that time slot like feed dog, unload dishwasher, eat breakfast, etc.  I make them all 'floating' events so that I could check them off afterwards to unclutter my day view, plus it makes it easy to purge at the end of the month.  

    Another quick tip about the calendar.  For special events like birthday, I put them in as repeating untimed events in their proper category.  I then added the birthday icon to the event and set a float advance of x number of days.  The advance will pop up a float reminder so you won't forget to send a card or gift.  Once the float pops up, I convert it to a todo and put a shopping cart icon on it so it shows up on my errands list (see below).  I also do this for anniversaries.  For holidays, I put them in the unfiled category and put a flag icon on them.

The next step (though you don't have to go in this order) is to create some saved views.  For this, I suggest you try to be familiar with some of the preference settings in Datebk4.  Here are a few of my saved views for calendars/todos.

    Startup - this is the view I want to see when I pop open datebk4 - it shows me all my categories except my husband's schedule and the household schedule.  I also have priority 1-2 todos from those displayed categories showing in integrated mode.  I compressed the view so everything fits on one screen.  For me, this usually means 1-3 events showing and maybe 5 tasks.  Nice and compact.

    Household - I use this view at home.  It shows me all categories except my husband's and all dated todos in all priorities.  This view provides me with a 'map' of my day and the order I need to do things.  (I'll get into task scheduling later).  I hide the floats and done events here to keep the view uncluttered.

    Planning view - this is the same as household with a couple exceptions.  All the done events are displayed as well as undated todos.  I uncompress the view here and have the time slots show every hour.  This gives me a graphical view of how much time is available between events.  Very handy when trying to juggle a lot on a particular day and for weekly planning sessions.

    @Category view - love this one.  Ever want to see just hubby's schedule or just the items in your 'community' role?  Easy.  Set up a view that shows a single category and check the 'sync' box on the category prefs page.  Now when you look at the datebk, todo, addressbook, and memo, you will see only items in those categories.  Want to see another?  After saving the view, open the category prefs and select another (multiple select unchecked) category.  Tap ok and everything is switched to that category.  Quick and easy!

Tasks

This one took a lot of work to set up initially, but you don't have to do things the way I did.  I had about 4 hours to kill while traveling once so I took the opportunity to sort all the icons in the db4 memo.  I don't recommend this unless you know what you are doing. Basically I moved all the icons around so the were in an order that made sense to me.  I used a tool called DBiced and YES I had to go through all my tasks and appts. and adjust the icons after I switched them.  That's what took about 3 hours.  It was worth it though.

Anyway, here is how I handle tasks.  First, they get the same default category icon as appointments.  So my 'kids' category has the same 'kid' icon in appts' and tasks.  The key here is think of tasks in contexts.  Usually a task has a verb in it like 'Email', 'Call', 'Pickup', etc.  You get the idea.  So I set up icons with DBiced (it's harmless - you can use it to redraw icons to something you can use) that are useful to me.  My main 'context' icons are these: Anywhere (Palm icon), Agenda, Phone, Computer, Errands (Shopping Cart Icon), Chores, Cooking, Dog, Reading, Waiting For.  Other useful context icons are birthdays, anniversary, holiday (flag), doctor (Rx icon), Special Family Event, and icons for various events you want to keep separate within a category.

    So here's how I use them...Say I am planning my daughter's birthday party.  I start by putting the event on my calendar.  If I'm in a hurry, I may just list all the things I need to do inside the note field til I can schedule the tasks.  When I'm ready to put the plan into action, I copy each task from the note and put it in a todo.  I date it and link it to the party event.  If the tasks is to email invitations, I put a computer icon on it.  If it's pick up balloons, I add the shopping cart icon to it.  If it's baking the cake, I put the cooking icon on it.  If it's wrapping the gift, it gets the chore icon.  

    What's the point of all the icons?  The icons create a filter for context lists.  Context lists are easily created in db4's list view.  Just set db4 to show every category and priority in list view and then filter only on the icon.  (Note: do not use the same icon for both a context and a default category icon.  For example if you use the computer icon for your 'work' category, then use another icon for your computer context icon.  Otherwise the filtering will not work right.)  Next time I sit down at the computer I can switch to a saved view called @computer which will show me a list filtered by the computer icon.  From there I can see which computer tasks are scheduled for today, see what's important, and see what's coming up in the future.  

    Same for errands.  Ever run out to the store and get home only to remember you could have made a bank deposit and dropped off library books but you forgot about them?  With the errands context icon, you can switch to an @errands saved view which gives you a list of errands to run now and in the future.  I check this list before I leave and I can usually see a couple things to do.  Last night I checked it and saw that I had library books due in 2 days so I decided to take them back on my way out this morning and saved myself a trip back out in 2 days.  

    My most frequently used context list is '@agenda'.  I use this for all those "Oh - I need to talk to so-and-so about such-and-such moments."  When that happens, I look them up in the address book and use db4 to insert an agenda template for me that fills in their name' links to their phone number, and adds the agenda icon.  I then add my comments to the note field.  If I don't know when I will talk to them next, I leave it undated.  If I know I will see them at work on Monday, then I date it for Monday.  I use this '@agenda' view frequently when I am on the phone with  that person when they call.  If I think I need to call them, I simple switch the icon to the phone icon so it shows up on my '@calls' list, or switch to the computer icon if I need to email them.

        Another good one if the 'waiting for' list (clock icon).  This is a good place to store items that are on hold (like waiting for an email from someone before completing the task).  Also, anything I order from the internet gets listed in here.  Most items here are undated, unless they are due at a certain time (like a rebate check).  When the item comes due it will show up on my task list for follow-up.  Otherwise, they stay out of my way.  I review them once a week.  The context lists are my main key to staying organized.  I usually have time set aside each day to check them.  For example, I have 'computer time' on my schedule which prompts me to check that list.

    Priorities are important in knowing what are 'First Things'.  My priority definitions are as follows:

1 - Must Be Done Today
2 - Should Be Done Today/Weekly Chores
3 - Could Be Done Today/Monthly Chores
4 - May or May Not Get Done/Seasonal Item
5 - An Idea To Ponder/A Household Project (these are undated and usually converted to scheduled floats when ready to be tackled)

There are a few exceptions to these, so be as flexible as you want.

Having covered appointments and todos, I think it's necessary to mention templates here.  If you haven't learned how to use them in db4, read up on it in the manual.  The call action templates are powerful.  I can set up big appointments in about 3 taps with custom links that include notes logged to contacts.  The possibilities are endless.

Address Book

I use the built-in address book as it was intended to be used.  To make it work for me, though , I had to add something to it - Keywords!  I used one of the custom fields to jot down keywords - things like 'emergency', 'medical', 'babysitter', YMC (church group), 'Couples' (people we like to have dinner with), 'Playmates', (kids' friends). Etc.  I have lots of keywords.  I use them with the palm find app.   Need a babysitter?  Search for 'babysitter' with the palm find and get a list of sitters in a snap.  Very simple.

    If you use db4, you can set up saved views using the split-screen window.  Filter on the keyword to get the list and save the view.  I have a saved view called 'emergency' which pulls up contacts from the address book including our doctors, the police, fire dept., veterinarian, etc. with their phone numbers listed.  I don't even have to tap on the contact to get the number!  

Memo Pad

    I used to never use this app much, but it has become so handy when developing my system.  It is the BEST place to put resource information.  Ever need to know your kid's vaccination schedule?  Or keep a list of places to vacation?  Don't bother with a database app if you can do without it.  Just keep them listed in a memo.  My husband and I have a lot of reference lists we keep like 'movies to see', 'books to read', etc.  I also keep important reference memos about our house (serial numbers, room measurements, etc.), and in my 'kids' category I have separate medical memos for each of my kids and one for my dog which lists basic medical info and shot records.  It also holds the keywords 'medical' so when I filter on that keyword in db4 I will see that memo show up - A handy filter to keep saved when at the doctor's office :)  I also copy lots of reference material from the web into the teaching category and I put my lesson plans in there, too.  Using the memo app also makes it easy to print things out from the desktop.  I have to turn in my lesson plans each week so I just print them out from the memo pad.  I link each lesson plan to the date I plan to teach.

Linking is a BIG feature of Db4.  Almost everything I have listed in my calendar and todo list has a link to a contact or memo.  I DON'T like to search for anything so I try to keep as much as possible in the basic apps and use db4 to sort it all out for me.  A good example of linking is this:  I teach band at a private school.  So in my 'teacher' category, I set up my teaching schedule as a repeat event.  I link to all my students (only 10), my lesson plans, and any other references I need in memo pad.  When It's time to teach, I just open my calendar to today and there it all is - linked to the event itself.  No fumbling.

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Last Updated: 11/19/02
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