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Index Cards

The D*I*Y Planner: Hipster PDA Edition

a million monkeys typing » D*I*Y Planner Hipster PDA Edition

Geek worlds collide as Douglas Johnston releases the “Hipster PDA” edition of his popular D*I*Y Planner. As with the classic version, Douglas has adapted and refined popular “paper planner” templates—only this time they’re tailored to fit on our beloved index cards.

To commemorate this august occasion, we’ve asked Douglas himself to share his thoughts on why paper seems to be making such a comeback (if it ever “went away”), including some insights into who this format may and may not work best for.

Great work all around, Douglas!


The D*I*Y Planner: Hipster PDA Edition

by Douglas Johnston

D*I*Y Hipster PDA In this day and age, paper-based planning (PBP) is a notion roughly analogous to horse-and-buggies, pneumatic networking, sliderules, and steam-powered lawnmowers — in other words, ancient technology.

So, why are we suddenly seeing a resurgence in paper-based organizational tools like planners, index card sets (a.k.a., the Hipster PDA), file folders, pocket briefcases, and honest-to-goodness real-ink pens? Outside of a number of philosophical reasons, I believe that it's ultimately a matter of knowing that these things actually work. After all, not even the trendiest tools last for more than a season if they don't deliver (and I have a junk drawer overflowing with orphaned gadgets to prove it). There's a proven track record behind paper-based planning, and an endless array of options for those people wanting to define --and redefine-- their systems.

Despite being an IT professional, I've found that the dozens of technology-based systems I've used over the years have never really been fully effective solutions for managing my time and projects, and so bits and pieces of my life are now scattered in a hundred incompatible systems, never to be seen again. The last straw was when several of my Palm databases became badly corrupted last year, the bad data having also spread to the desktop and the backups: needless to say, much was lost. I began to wonder if the Day Runner I used a lifetime ago could be resurrected and made useful again. This plan had its problems, however: not only was the nearest Staples a four-hour jaunt away, but their shrink-wrapped forms were quite limited in variety and usage, not to mention very expensive -- a typical pack of 20 To Do sheets was about $5 USD. The D*I*Y Planner project was thus born as a way of providing a wide assortment of forms at little cost. (Although, my wife might argue that I was just being cheap.) With the realization that others might find it useful, I decided to create a system that could be tweaked to suit almost any methodology or situation, relying heavily upon user feedback for ideas and direction.

The latest member of the D*I*Y Planner family is the Hipster PDA Edition, a set of 34 organizational and planning templates designed specifically for 3x5“ index cards. I've received hundreds of requests for a kit like this, many claiming it was an important option for creating an ideal customized system. At first, the demand took me by surprise; after all, why would you want to print so tiny on cards that contain so little information and are so hard to file?

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How are you using GTDTiddlyWiki?

GTDTiddlyWiki - all your tasks are belong to you

I’m really intrigued by GTDTiddlyWiki, which is a clever wiki for implementing David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. It’s fun to use and a bit of a technical marvel (tip: shutting off animations under “Options” greatly sped things up for me).

Since I’m in one of my periodic “No new tools!” modes, I’m really just playing with it right now, albeit enjoyably. But, from the popularity of the site, I gather that a lot of you are using GTDTiddlyWiki to implement your Getting Things Done system. I’m curious to hear how it’s going for you. Specifically:

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Anne Lamott: Put the puppy back on the paper

I’ve previously mentioned Bay-area writer Anne Lamott in the context of her fondness for index cards and her belief in the importance of capturing ideas at the moment they come to you (it’s something I also really believe in). It’s fun to hear her talk about this stuff, too. She has a discursive speaking style that’s, by turns, insightful, frustrating, and very funny.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading her book Bird by Bird a section or two at a time whenever I have a few minutes, and I have to say, it’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in a long time.

As a guide for young or aspiring writers, I’d put it up there with On Writing Well and Writing Down the Bones in terms of practical, really useful advice. She strips away so much of the pretense and BS about the writing process and encourages you to just start writing—focusing on small assignments (all you need to do is fill a 1″x1″ picture frame with words) and what she calls “the shitty first draft.” Great stuff.

But I think some of the most amazing passages in the book have little to do with writing, per se. It’s all about how we choose to look at the world and ourselves.

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The Globe and Mail on the Hipster PDA

Tralee Pearce did a nice piece on the Hipster PDA and adopting analog tech in today’s Globe and Mail.

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Custom index cards from your own printer

Neat, simple tricks for printing your own index cards--either as templates or as stuff you've been storing electronically.

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Anne Lamott on index cards

Lots of people had been suggesting I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (subtitled “Some Instructions on Writing and Life”) becaues she mentions how much she loves and relies on index cards for more than just composition.

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Lifehacker: Canadian Press Secretary on his HPDA

Gina talks with Ian Capstick, who coordinates complex press interactions for NDP party MPs using a favorite tool of ours.

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Remainders: Coin envelopes, sprints, binder clipping & more

Our usual Friday skip through the meadow of Merlin's marginally-productive brain.

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Using a kids' CD filer for organizing index cards

Locker CD holder is a simple way to keep your cards together.

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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.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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