confused, need help with putting together hpda

I've read GTD. I've used Palm Pilots. I've been toting around a few cards held together with a clip. I'm still not with it. I'm disorganized when it comes to my household stuff (bills, to-dos) and I can't remember what I did 15 minutes ago. I'm a wreck when it comes to remembering more than one thing to buy at the grocery store. Basically I'm a mess and need help.

I've settled on going the Circa route. I just need to figure out an efficient way to use it.

After tons of printing out templates, I think the way to go is to have a bunch of lined cards with handwritten headings at the top (@_____). I'm not some power-user executive type with loads of contacts and appointments, I just want to remember to pay the bills, remember my son's many doctor appointment, have a place to jot down an idea or a website I saw, etc.

Can someone list a way to do this in a simple and efficient way?



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first step

collect... a blank card works best for me. no lines no headings... (some times I write "Inbox / Brain Dump" at the bottom to remind myself to dump EVERYTHING.

any time you think of something... dump it on that card. out of mind = more free RAM. lol.

the next step would be to process once a day ... (or more often if you need to I suppose).

You should have a "finance tracker" of some sort for bills IMO. I have one that I keep track of the due date, name of bill, amount, date paid, method of payment. No more late bills! If you have a monthly calendar you could mark a reminder also.

You could keep a "DONE" type list as well... for example, under @Home - you could list all the things you need to do (off your brain dump) and then even track things that skipped the inbox and were just completed. Like you realized the garbage was full and instead of writing it on the inbox and processing it - you took the few minutes and took out the trash. Mark down took out trash and check it off.

These things should help you keep track of what needs to be done and what you already have done.

I like a weekly calendar instead of the contexts (@___) since I don't have much going on lately. Ideally I want to use the week on the left and the blank on the right. that way things that get done that week are all kept track of with that week.

I'm toying with the idea of planning time slots for things - in an effort to get myself in gear and do them. I am afraid I won't do it and then I'll end up disappointed. I will probably try it - afterall can't hurt to try :)

I wish you much luck in your quest for organizational zen :D

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Other ideas


I got a great deal of inspiration from the Sidetracked Home Executives. (do a google search for their website/book.) Their method is around getting control over housekeeping, but once they did that themselves, they extended it to all the other areas they had to keep track of too.

They used an index card box with 1-31 and Jan-Dec tabs to keep track of what needs to be done when, each item on its own index card.

Their method would translate to Circa--just make a notebook in a convenient size, with the same tab set (and a few extras for special topics like contacts, ideas, gift lists, or whatever). Then grab a bunch of index card or business card blanks and punch them up. Just write whatever you think of on each card and file it in the right spot. Each day in the morning (or perhaps the night before) you look at the tab that corresponds to today to see what has to be done. You can pull out the cards, arrange them on a table, reorder them in priority or chronological order or whatever, and re-file them wherever they need to go.

The nice thing is that the cards are completely flexible because they basically have nothing on them to force you one way or another. If it's a contact or a shopping list or an idea for the kids' party or a reminder to call the exterminator, they all go on a card of their own and get filed in your book. Circa makes it nice because nothing falls out and it's easily rearranged.

Anyway, the point is not to mess with fancy forms. They'll bug you--you'll run out of the one you want and have to spend time printing it, or you'll have too many of something because you don't like it or don't use it. Just use blanks or lined until you get your feet under you.

When a bill comes in, for example, you jot down the due date, the amount, and which company on a card, then you file it under the day you want to pay it. When the day comes up, as long as you've checked your book, you know exactly what you have to do and when.

You can have extra sections for undated stuff you want to track--maybe a log of what happened at the last medical appointment, or gift ideas list or whatever. Those things can also be written on small cards and filed in those special sections.

After you've worked with the routine of writing stuff down and filing it, then you can worry about whether you want to change the footprint or deal with forms or switch to paper instead of cards or whatever you might want to tweak. The important part is developing the routine and habit of writing all the stuff down and sticking it where it will be useful when you need it. :)



Bills, IMO, probably will require differnt thinking. I've struggled with bill-paying for years, using Quicken's calendar, my iCal, Newton, Palm, and just plain paper--including a $20 Bill-paying booklet I bought from my bank!

However, this past year, I decided to go back to the old-fashioned envelope system--with a twist. Maybe my solution will help you.

Actually, I have to credit Levenger with the idea! I saw their beautiful and elegant Victorious Station (link) and realized that this is what I needed. It would sit on my desk, and be "in my face", plus the dates for the bills would help remind me. However, I don't really have that many bills as the web page shows. ;-) Plus, it took up too much space on my desktop. Believe it or not, I didn't think the cost was an issue--just think, two months of saved late fees, etc. for one bill could pay for it! ;-)

but in any case, it got me thinking. I found a more normal vertical letter holder (slots that hold your envelopes upright) that took up almost no desktop space, but which allowed me four weeks worth of bills. Secondly, I bought a bunch of clear, plastic envelopes standard, A4-sized (like business sized--don't know if you can get these in the US, but they are everwhere here in Krakow)

I next went onto my computer, and printed out the names of my bills, due dates (by week and date--Third week, 20th of the month), and cut them apart, and slipped them into the envelopes--one envelope per bill. (you could handwrite these labels, but my handwriting is horrible!)

Now, when a bill comes, it goes into its envelope, with the envelope in the proper week--but wait, it gets better. As the weeks go, and bills get paid, they get shoved to the back, and the next week gets moved to the front. This way, the latest bills (to get paide this week) are at the front. Because the envelopes are clear, I can't help but see them! Plus, they are on top of my desk.

The "system" really is that simple, but it works for me! Maybe it will work for you, too.


Your system should suits your life

Whatever planning system you use has to suit you. Yes, you can change to suit the way you want to plan but that takes lots of small changes to work best.

I suggest you create a couple of pages that help summarise everything for the week and get you into the habit of using your lists.

For appointments etc you could make up a single "index" or summary page for each week with a list of the doctors, companies that send you bills, etc for regular events with space to add the 'one-off' events.

When you add an event to your @____ list simply circle it on the summary page for that week.
For example, add a Doctor's appointment etc to your @____ list, circle the Doctor's name on the page for the week the appointment is due, and perhaps even note the apoointment day beside the circle.

The weekly summary page would help remind you to check you @_____ pages for that week and could be the top page of your planner. It would also help you get into the habit of using your @_____ pages.

You could minimise the hassles you have with grocery shopping by creating a list that you can carry with you. Again you could circle the things you need to buy when you notice you've running low on those items.

To work out what you need on your master list you could read through your grocery shop dockets for the last few weeks and make up a list of things you always buy. Then check the kitchen, the laundry, the bathroom etc and add in any things that you buy semi-regularly (eg. toiletries).

That way the groceries take care of themselves, and you don't have to focus on that.

I hope that helps,

Thanks for all the input

Thanks for all the input everyone. Keep it coming please.

Sara, I'm now a fan after checking your site

Also, I just bought a Rolodex Business Card Punch(67699)at Staples for about 7 bucks which works really well with the Circa setup.



Thanks much! :blush:

I think another member RobertoNotecardo uses a rolodex hack too :)

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Tickler file!

It's been said in various forms here already, but I now live stress-free due to my tickler file (43 folders: 1-31 for days of the month, and twelve monthly folders), my inbox, and my stack of scratch paper.

Everything I think of gets noted on its own piece of paper and dumped in the inbox, or "mailed to myself" in the tickler file. As I work through the inbox, I will copy the item to the right place in my planner, or do it, or whatever.

As my needs become more clear I add things to my planner, but the "one idea per piece of paper" trick works best for me. I have major category pages in my planner for all the random stuff that I can never remember -- shopping lists, movies to rent, books to read -- but it always hits a piece of scrap paper first for capture.

If I'm away from my desk, I'm using a well-scribbled "inbox" page on my planner or a blank "inbox" card on my hPDA. The important thing for me is -- all the rough capture happens on something I don't care about, but can see and touch and file. When it comes time to Do Something, it gets copied to the planner or paid or put in the Real Place.