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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?

Jeremy P. Bushnell's picture

I've been addicted to spiral-bound...

I've been addicted to spiral-bound index cards since 1998, and I, too, use a topic / date system on the top line, so that when the pack is full the cards can be removed, then filed by topic.

Some of the topic categories are topics of particular interest to me, but some general topics which I imagine would be useful for just about anyone include To Read, To Hear, and To See (to store book / music / movie recommendations); and Investigate (where I file notions or people I want to learn more about).

Places I want to check out in various cities around the US are filed by city name, as are public transportation directions to the homes of friends.

Holiday gift ideas are stored up all year under Gifts.

One can't exactly cart around thousands of index cards wherever one goes, so I'm currently digitizing the entire card file, using DEVONThink -- since DEVONthink uses a file hierarchy I can easily "mirror" the card filing hierarchy I've already created.

With the DEVONthink version of the card file I can also slot full documents (PDFs, webpages, etc) into the categories without first needing to "atomize" them into index-card-sized chunks. I haven't done too much of this yet as I'm apprehensive about getting the paper version and the digital version "out of sync" with one another, although I think the merits of doing this will eventually win out over my apprehension.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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