PDA to Paper Planner

I need a little advice: my PDA died yesterday morning in a meeting and it's a goner. I can't afford to replace it right now and need to have a portable system. I'll be making my Day-Timer my daily driver for the forseeable future.

Does anyone have any advice for me as I set up a paper system?

One of the challenges I see is the 750 tasks I now have on my lists. My hand is tired just thinking about copying all of those onto paper!

I've moved all my calendar items to the paper planner and am typing up weekly reoccurring appointments in a WORD document to put in the planner. I'm just now catching on to DIY Planner pages.

Any help you can give will be much appreciated!

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Don't copy, print


If you've got your tasks in software now, don't write them into your planner. Print them out, cut them out, and stick them down or put them in a pocket.

Export your list to Word or Excel so you can mess around with the page size of your print.

You can hole-punch the printout, or you can cut apart the individual task items or clusters of items, then stick them down with removable double-sided tape or regular clear tape.

That's if you follow the covey-style or page-per-day type system.

If you follow the GTD system, then you just print out the various lists on the right size page, hole punch them, and stuff them in the right section. That is, a page full of 'next actions' goes behind the 'next actions' tab, a page full of 'someday maybe' goes behind the 'someday maybe' tab.. The schedule is in a separate spot and you've already got that part done.

If necessary, you can change the margins of your document page and cut the page down with scissors to get it into your binder.

If you've already got your lists in software, DON'T rewrite them. Play crafty kid one day with your tape or rubber cement and scissors.




If I were in your position, my friend --and I was a couple of years ago, when this project started-- I'd ask myself how many of those 750 tasks I *actually* needed.

In switching to GTD, I've learned that my "project" lists become generalities (e.g., verify sources for report) and my Next Action lists are specific, trim and agile, with no more than 20 items at a time, taken from the project lists (e.g., verify source #23 with writer Joe).

Of course, this is just the way I've learned to work since switching to paper. If nothing else, it certainly lends focus, and it's an excellent way of implementing GTD. Your mileage may vary.

all my best,

Doug: Most of my lists are


Most of my lists are Someday/maybe (300+) and a long Objectives catch-all list. I think I need to get ruthless now and delete those that I could add later if they really are that important to me.

Doug, have you really been able to replace your PDA with paper and have it work just as well? It's a big step for me, for sure, to make this move.

From PDA to paper

Yes, I certainly have replaced my PDA. My only bit of "cheating" is to keep my mega-list of contacts on my iPod. My main contacts are on paper, though.

The switch to paper is a great opportunity for getting back to the Zen notion of the Beginner's Mind. (See this article, for what essentially started the D*I*Y Planner.)

Good luck, my friend. It's not altogether an easy journey (especially for a person technically inclined), but the benefits are many.

all my best,

Thanks, Doug. Thankfully I

Thanks, Doug. Thankfully I too have an iPOD that I'll be using to keep my contacts list current and with me.

I'll look forward to reading the article.

I'll report back in a month or so and let you know how the transition has gone.

Thanks, everyone!

Learning curve

The advice I would give is that you try to keep as little as possible in your planner. If you're like me (if anyone is) then you probably hang on to as much "stuff" as possible. Avoid the temptation. You certainly want the calendar, and you'll also want various lists, but one thing you don't need is a ream of extra paper. If the thing gets too big and too complex, you'll be tempted to ignore it.

As far as technology goes, I've found that spreadsheet software can be used very effectively for form design. And if you're good with formulas, you can quickly format whole months or even years of recurring appointments &c. I used OpenOffice to create a template spreadsheet that generates a whole month's worth of daily pages--with nifty mini-calendars on each page and all--with only a few user keystrokes.

Good luck with the switch. You may find that paper suits you better than the PDA. (It's certainly cheaper to replace. :)

Thanks, Lima!

Thanks, Lima!

No Looking Back

My PDA has been dying a long, slow death for a while now. I only keep it around because I can't make myself throw away something I paid $400 for. I haven't used it in two years. When the PDA started "forgetting" the date, I switched back to paper. I keep my lengthy task list in Outlook, but work primarily from note cards on the runway. With reliable filing systems (both electronic and paper-based), I can operate within a paper world quite nicely.

A Smooth and Effective Switch to Paper


The transition to paper has not been difficult as I originally thought it might be. While I miss the ability to carry many files around wth me, the reality is I have never had to access one of them since I made the change!

I have my Projects List in MindManager and all my Next Actions are on paper now.

I love the security of knowing that dates are anchored and not exposed to the unexpected antics of my desktop and PDA syncing software.

All in all, a pretty smooth and effective switch to paper for this long-term PDA user.

Doug, thanks for the encouragement to try - it's been a good thing!