My New Personal Organizer Tools – Palm to Web 2.0

I like to think of myself as an organized person.  I started using a paper-based DayTimer® back in the late 80’s.  I used hand written task lists – meticulously updated on a daily basis.

In 1994, I got my first PDA – a Palm Pilot.  It was awesome.. and I kept with variations of the Palm all the way until late last year.  Originally, I preferred using the Palm Desktop software to access my information on my laptop and synchronised religiously but eventually moved to Outlook.

Windows Mobile killed the Palm Pilot for me I think in terms of organisation.  It was slow and clunky – I had to start taking hand written notes sometimes as it was faster than switching on my phone and loading the task management software.  Although I did love the ActiveSync and the link with Outlook – that was a godsend for sure.

Its a brand new world.  I now have an iPhone (best gadget ever!) which created some challenges in terms of time management.  The primary issue is that the iPhone does not have a task database and therefore does not support Exchange Server synchronization for tasks – only email, contacts, and calendar.  The only choice therefore is to use a third party task manager/organiser.

If you wanted to continue using MS Outlook for your tasks, then you would also need to find some software to sync Outlook with the third party or use an intermediary app with your exchange server.. anyway, the basic message is that it starts to get complicated.

I decided to throw everything up in the air, look at the current market and start again.. rather than try to bolt on to my existing systems.  When I looked at the current Web 2.0 services that are available – I was amazed, impressed and could not believe that I had been so blinkered by Microsoft technology for so long.

For me, personal organisation (especially from a PDA) requires the following set of functionality: tasks/to-dos, calendar, email, contacts and notes.  As you can see – all of these elements are currently in MS Outlook in one form or another.  They were also all available in the original Palm Pilot.

As my email, calendar and contacts are still managed via Exchange Server and Outlook – my primary requirement was for a new task list manager and note organiser.   I tried a number of products/services, but settled on the following and am extremely pleased with both:

Toodledo. Task Management.   This is a web-based task management system that has everything you could possibly need.  The web interface is easy to use and extremely powerful.  There are plenty of tools available to import or synchronise your tasks with other devices too including an excellent iPhone App.  I started off using it alongside Outlook – but have more or less stopped using Outlook for task management now and relying completely on the web and iPhone app.  Works very well.

Evernote. Note/List Management.    I think that note taking and list management is an underutilised function with PDAs.  I used to use it a lot with the Palm Pilot – lists of goals, shopping lists, notes on gift ideas, topics for meetings (regular and future) etc.  Evernote is very useful and has revitalised my list making.. it has a superb web interface and an iPhone app.. so very easy to use.   I tried Google Docs for this previously – but you cannot edit these documents on the iPhone and so it quickly became less useful.  Evernote also allows you to share a list (or group of lists) with other people.  For example, I share a folder with my wife and we have a grocery shopping list that we can both update during the week.. easier than paper.

I think that I am slowly weaning myself away from an Outlook-centric model;  if I can find a replacement for public folders in Exchange server, I can see it being replaced pretty quickly.

So if you have been using the same mechanism for managing your time / tasks for more than five years, I would strongly recommend that you take a fresh look at the tools and web services that are now on the market.. you will be pleasantly surprised.

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