43 Folders

Back to Work

Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

Join us via RSS, iTunes, or at 5by5.tv.

”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Organizing Your Hipster PDA

Fans of the Hipster PDA have been cropping up around the Interweb, so I thought I’d share my favorite hack for organizing your cards on the go. Like the Hipster PDA itself, it’s a lo-fi no-brainer, but I’ve found it a useful and durable way to keep things straight.

If you’ve gotten in the habit of carrying a stack of cards around, you may notice it can be confusing to quickly see which cards are “fresh” and which ones are “used.” This can lead to hilarity like handing one potential client a card with a note about another on the unexamined back of the card. Mostly, though, it’s just annoying to have to juggle a bunch of loose cards plus your space pen while rushing to jot something down.

Start by adding two non-white cards—in the color of your choosing—to the bottom of a pile of fresh cards; we’ll call the bottom one the “end card” and the next one up, the “divider card.” Next, write “END” or “BACK” in big, bold letters on the out-facing side of the bottom card (so you can quickly see which side is down by both color and text).

Each time you’ve finished writing a note for yourself on the blank top card, remove it, and place it in front of the colored end card; if this is your first card you've added, you'll now have one white card between the end and divider cards. See where this is going? Continue doing this for each subsequent note you make to yourself, adding that freshly-written-on card directly in front of your end card.

Diagram - Organizing your Hipster PDA

(Apologies to Tom for ganking his lovely handwriting.)

This method ensures that your “fresh stack” is clearly delineated from the stored, to-process cards. Also, as you notice your divider card creeping closer to the top of the stack, you have a ready visual cue that it's time to replenish your supply of fresh cards. Just as importantly, though, it's a good reminder that it's time to process your pile. Whenever you get back home or to the office, remove and process the oldies, and add a stack of fresh ones.

Got a good hack for using, organizing, or processing your Hipster PDA?

Jake Morrill's picture

I've been using the hipster...

I've been using the hipster PDA, with good results, so thanks for that. Here are some of my tricks:

  1. I created a template in Word that allows me to print a heading on each card that looks like this:

______________________________:: [___________] {__}

(Note: in my template the bracketed area is a shaded box.)

I write the topic of the card on the line. I'm a teacher, so it's often things like "Gravity Notes" or "Kinematics Lab Idea". Between the brackets I write the date. In the braces I write a category code...

  1. I use Category Codes, which are 1-2 letter or symbol codes. Like these:

x = to-do list integral symbol = stuff for my calculus class Ph = stuff for my physics class B = books V = vocabulary (words that I need to look up) M = Music (CDs to buy, lyrics)

There are more, but you get the idea.

  1. My END card is a list of my category codes, facing out. So, rather than just saying "END", it has a function. This card also lists my color codes...

  2. I use color codes, as follows:

White is general notes or lists. Yellow is ideas. Green is lecture notes. Blue is labs/activities. Rose is homework/assignments. Violet is music/books/web/vocab.

I save all my old cards rather than recycle them. Then, if I'm looking for some old calculus lecture notes, I flip through the stack looking for a green card with an integral symbol in the upper right corner. If I want to find that book that someone told me about, then I know I'm looking for a violet card with a B in the corner.

Once I see the symbol, it's quick to check on the date and the topic, all listed in my header.

Added bonus: people think the header is really cool.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


Subscribe with Google Reader

Subscribe on Netvibes

Add to Technorati Favorites

Subscribe on Pageflakes

Add RSS feed

The Podcast Feed


Merlin used to crank. He’s not cranking any more.

This is an essay about family, priorities, and Shakey’s Pizza, and it’s probably the best thing he’s written. »

Scared Shitless

Merlin’s scared. You’re scared. Everybody is scared.

This is the video of Merlin’s keynote at Webstock 2011. The one where he cried. You should watch it. »