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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?

David Engel's picture

I attempted something similar to...

I attempted something similar to this in combination with [David Allen's advice on doing a paper organizer][1] by adding small tabs to the ends of a few index cards. I ended up with the following organization:

  1. Blank index cards for in-box thoughts
  2. Filled in index cards, considered in the "inbox," but not filed yet.
  3. Calendar tabbed index card (tab had just a "C" on it). I started putting repeating items on the front card, and I put one-time events as line items on cards behind that with date/location information, and scratched the event when it was done, postponed or cancelled.
  4. Action Lists (with an @ tab) began a list of Action lists.
  5. Projects - One project per line.
  6. Agendas - One card per person, but I didn't have very many people in this list.
  7. Project notes/reference - almost a catchall.
  8. Telephone/address - I kept a list of names with primary telephone number and email address, one name per line, with either an (H) for home or (W) for work, indicating if it was the person's home or work information.
  9. Other lists - Someday/Maybe projects, Groceries, Movies, etc., that I didn't feel fit into Action Lists exactly.

Then I took two pieces of cardboard sized to 3x5, duct-taped them together to form a small binder around the stack, and used a binderclip to hold them. It was going well enough for me (I'm new to the whole GTD System in general), until my wife decided she was tired of the duct tape, or something, and got me a Palm Tungsten for Christmas.

Hurrah for Duct Tape!

I still carry the duct tape binder with a few blank cards with the Palm for when the batteries are low and I need an inbox.




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