Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Turn Your Wallet into a PDA

Hey there. If you're reading this then you want to better organize your life. You realize that, by doing simple, every-day tasks more efficiently, you can free up valuable time for what's more important. What you DON'T want to do is spend a bunch of money on an expensive toy that won't help you. Here is my advice:

1) Write everything down and

2) prioritize

Of course, how can you write down your random thoughts unless you have a pen & paper on you all the time? If you're a guy without a purse this presents a problem. You could use your cell-phone to make verbal notes, but going back thru them later would take forever and you can't draw pictures with your voice. In addition, it is a great idea to have a pen & paper with you at all times anyway. What about when your friend is not home and you need to leave a note on his front door? Be great if you had a little post-it, wouldn't it?

Here's how it works:

Welcome to Carl's Wallet/Notepad

So many billions of people have asked me about this thing that I felt obligated to set up this blog to demonstrate my system. To prepare the wallet, I simply use a 3-fold wallet with a smooth surface on the left side. This is obviously important, as you need a flat surface to write on. I use two levels of about 3-5 1 1/2" x 2" post-its, as you can see. The pen is a tiny (3.5") ink cartridge that I have glued velcro to. You can see that I've used the pen so much it's bent. It's important that the pen be shorter than your wallet or you could end up with a stain on your pants.

The staple that you see next to the pen is helping hold the velcro to the wallet.I will often fill up both sheets in a day. I then have to unstick a piece & use a fresh one or write on the back. In the evening, I go over these notes and figure out everything, including what I need to do the next day. To keep track of important, time-sensitive actions, I circle stuff that needs to happen before I go home to do this evening ritual. Hence you see "Call Ryan" circled. I'm usually pretty good at remembering that I have to do something(I can just never remember what), so I can just check the wallet. However, if I think I'll forget a time-sensitive thing(phone call, appointment, ebay bid, etc), I set my phone's alarm. The folded wallet is absolutely no thicker with the pen & post-its, the white in the picture is the ends of my credit cards. If I got rid of all my wedding photos it would be thinner, but the pen & such adds nothing. The folded wallet is just under 1" thick.

This system is incredibly handy for writing down spoken directions, notes, phone numbers, pictures, maps, anything at all. I can't tell you how many times having a pen handy has "saved my ass." To give you an extreme example, in April of 2003, outside of Karballa in Iraq, my 1st Sergeant received word over the man-pack radio that we were about to receive an artillery barrage in the area. The occasionally-working radio gave the co-ordinates, but unfortunately his pen had dried up. Since we were away from the vehicle for a minute, he had no other ready and the other two soldiers nearby did not have one. No-one had one handy...but me. So I can honestly say that having that pen handy could have saved my life. You women reading this might find it easy to keep a pen in your purse, but most men do not keep one on them.

Improving this system
The pen-&-paper-in-the-wallet idea is useful, but if you use it with a calendar and something like the next system, your day will be 1000% more efficient.

As you can see, I make one of these for almost every weekday, and sometimes my weekend-days too, when they're busy. You may want to more carefully organize things; I've been doing this for years so already know exactly where to look. I follow a vaguely chronological sequence for my day. Top-left are the people to call(which I usually do first thing). Mid-way are the important places to go. Underneath are the less-important stops to make(if I am in the area or have the time).Top right are things I need to take that I wouldn't normally think of. Middle right are things I need to do upon getting home. Circled stuff means I need to do it at a certain time(I consider setting my cell-phone alarm for these items). If I am stopping by a store & need to get a lot of items then I wrote the list on the back. Every day I tear off this list and stick it in my wallet. Very important not to lose this list!!!

Every evening, when I go through my wallet notes, I quickly glance at this "To-do list" also and mark down what I didn't get to. I also check my calendar, of course.

It's not my intention to brag, but I believe this simple system has helped me become one of the most organized, efficient people I know. It has saved me incalculable time & frustration. If you have any questions feel free to give me an email.The white you see are my credit cards, not the post-its. The post-its and pen take up no space.


For more GREAT, immediately practical advice for organizing your life, check out the "Getting Things Done" method: