It was nearly 5 months ago I gave up my Palm PDA for a custom Moleskine planner, and shared the experience and my approach on this blog.
So, it was a nice surprise to hear from my friend Davy McDonald, that PDA 24/7 founder Shaun McGill just traded his PDA for a paper planner. Shaun embarked on a week-long experiment using only a paper calendar and a mobile phone, while intentionally avoiding his PDA.
It all began with he post The pen is mightier than the stylus, where Shaun shared his move from a Nokia E61 to a Moleskine planner for his calendar:
Over the past two years I have at times suffered from stress which is not due to work or family and it is still something I have not worked out but I am 100% convinced that my obsessive reliance on PDAs is a part of the problem. It is not the devices issue, it is mine but a longing to carry so much data and have every appointment and task noted and alarmed has not been healthy for me.
Shaun extended his experiment and began to see how things changed when using paper in The experiment (part one):
All bills continue to be paid on time, all tasks completed as needed and strangely no stresses with regard to remembering things. What has really surprised me is how much more time I have without using a PDA.
It has become apparent that I spend ages tweaking it and checking records when I don't need to, I play games on it if I am sat at home rather than just relaxing in front of the TV to watch a good film and I keep referring to it for no real reason.
The amount of time I have spent in the past freeing up memory and recovering from resets is just silly and took away any efficiencies the PDA gives. For a man who lives and dies by his PDA this is a truly strange experience but a good one.
In The experiment (part two), Shaun writes:
The experiment is going well and avoiding my PDA has become surprisingly easy. As the days have passed I am starting to realise just how much my life seems to revolve around my PDA rather than how it should be- my PDA should be helping me manage my life.
So well said! I always like to say you should choose the right tool for your needs, and this falls into place in Shaun's situation. He's found that the PDA had become his "hammer" and that every situation began to look like a nail.
In his third post, The experiment (part three) Shaun writes:
I was going to make this a series of five articles looking at life without a PDA but this will be the final part. I will revisit this subject at a later date but safe to say that at this time I am going to try living without the majority of PDA functions for a while to come.
Wow. I think it's safe to say Shaun has gone analog.
Shaun's conclusions after a week without his PDA:
I do not miss it at all
I have a lot more free time (due to not recovering from errors and tweaking it constantly)
I appear to have more control- writing things down makes the information stay in my head and I remember what needs to be done. After so long just typing away and forgetting the entry until the alarm pops up I had lost that ability
I am surprisingly a lot more relaxed about things. I do not try to do too much and just refer to my notebook on occasion to check some details
Paper does as good a job for personal information management as a PDA
Excellent observations — I agree! After almost 5 months of using a paper planner for my personal schedule, I'm much more relaxed. I capture more of my ideas. Now my schedule lays on the desk before me, always on and ready for viewing or additions.
I don't feel compelled to "keep up" with the latest mobile technology. Emails for the "latest and greatest" software for the Palm doesn't entice me. In moving to paper I no longer need to maintain my PDA knowledge edge.
When my wife's Zire 72 battery konked out and I had to try and restore from backups, I was reminded just how much I DO NOT MISS fixing, restoring, tweaking, caring for and feeding a PDA.
I want to end on this final insightful comment by Shaun, which has had me thinking ever since:
The PDA made sure I forgot nothing and subsequently turned me into an organic version of itself. That may sound ridiculous but it is how I feel and for the moment at least I will do my best to avoid mine.
Oh how often we allow our tools, toys and gadgets to rule us. it's often subtle, but quite real. I felt the same way about the "care and feeding" needed to maintain a my PDA. When I was in the PDA "care and feeding" mode I didn't realize how much mental energy I expended just keeping up. But when I stepped away from maintaining a PDA, I immediately saw how much energy I was saving.
I hope that if anything is passed on from our switches from PDAs to analog tools, it would be to now and then, step away from your treasured tools and see what life is like without them.
You may switch away — or you may find that your treasured tool is treasured for good reason — because it really suits your needs better than anything else.