How do you manage all the information in your life? For a busy person — and who isn’t these days? — it can be a challenge to find the right information management system. It may help to know that no system is perfect — each has its pros and cons — and you might end up using a combination of several tools to create a customized information management system that works best for you.
Professional organizer Julie Morgenstern advises choosing a single system — paper-based or electronic — for managing all your personal data (calendar, contacts, "to-do" list, notes, expenses, etc.) Time-tested paper-based systems include the venerable Filofax, FranklinCovey, Day-Timer, and my favorite (and best-looking, in my opinion) organizer pages, Day Runner. Desktop software applications include the robust ACT! contact management software, Microsoft OneNote and IBM Lotus Organizer. And, of course, there is a plethora of handheld devices and PDAs to choose from.
Because each medium has its own advantages, I use all of these in conjuction:
- Microsoft Outlook as my desktop PIM. I used to use Palm Desktop until the sheer volume of data I was managing unleashed some sort of glitch that crashed the application with increasing frequency. (Perhaps this bug has been fixed in subsequent versions.)
- A Palm PDA, with the data synched to Outlook, thanks to Chapura PocketMirror.
- A series of Excel spreadsheets to manage my business data, fitness record, reading list, wish list and generic weekly schedule.
- A good old-fashioned notebook and pen — although I haven’t graduated to the Hipster PDA yet.
While it may seem complicated to use all of these tools, all of my information is well organized, and if my desk isn’t already clear, it’s very easy to tidy up.
Other resources worth considering:
- FlexAddress Systems: a paper calendar system with removable contact stickers for easy management. This system was created by Judith Moncrieff Baldwin, author of What Your Little Black Book Reveals: The Incredible Secret Power of the Addresses You Keep!
- Calendar Creator software: features include hundreds of templates, FranklinCovey layouts, Outlook support, calendar displayed as screensaver, images and more.
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen. This has been on my bookshelf for a while, but unfortunately, reading it is something I haven’t yet done. (If only I’d read it so that I could learn how to get things done — and then I’d find the time to read Getting Things Done…ah, the old chicken-or-egg problem.)