The Fight With My Wife: Please Help – Paper vs PDA

Updated – 13 Jan 2005
I woke up today, and grabbed my Palm Tungsten E off my dresser after a night of being charged. Before I shoved the PDA into my jeans – I turned it on to see the battery status.
Guess what? It would not turn on. I mumbled under my breath and my wife, once again, started listing why she loves paper more. I also got input from MANY others.
My wife says
Paper is more secure. Why? Many times I’ve typed up documents on the computer and have forgot to save it or have hit a button and lost my work. The worst that could happen with paper 1) it can be misplaced (and found) or 2) lost or stolen (never recovered). The same things can happen to a PDA or other technology. Furthermore, most likely someone would want to steal a PDA or computer instead of paper. The chances of theft of paper are much lower than with technology. With a PDA (technology) data can be destroyed due to technology failure – not human. You might wake up one day (as I did) and find your data lost.
Robert Levin, Editor-in-chief, The New York Enterprise Report
Digital (PDA’s etc.) have some clear, inarguable advantages:
1) They can be backed up so that if you lose your device, the information is available on your computer (or even via the Web if you use Exchange or certain mail servers)
2) The information in a PDA can easily be searched.
As business people, especially small business people, we are balancing so many different things at the same time. We need access to our contacts, data, ideas everywhere and at all times. Personally, I have set up my system to that things
are easy to search (I put kewords in contact information) and that it is easy to access over the web (I use Exchange). Cant get that from paper – besides, I can’t read my own handwriting.
Lisa Zaslow, GOTHAM ORGANIZERS… Creating order from chaos, (added 9 June 2005)
I’ve helped hundreds of people create systems to keep track of information, tasks, etc. and there is no one system that is best for everyone, but there is a system that is best for you.
Paper and electronic gizmos have different inherent strengths (and weaknesses), as people have mentioned. However, the key is finding an interface that best works with your own style, brain, manual dexterity, computer-comfort-level, etc.
For example, even if a Palm’s contact management feature offers more advantages than paper, if someone finds it too time-consuming or cumbersome to enter data via a keyboard or graffiti, they won’t do it, which will make the Palm’s huge memory wasted on them.
I will say that most of my clients say how relieved they are to see that I use a Filofax, not a PDA. They feel that somehow they “should” use a PDA (and many even have one) and that there is something wrong with them because they don’t. Not true!
My own reasons for sticking with paper:
I need to be able to see detailed info about my month’s schedule at a glance – the little dots on a Palm screen don’t do it for me. I need to be able to see the times of my appointments and where they are, so I can quickly determine if I have enough time to get from my midtown morning appointment to a client downtown by 1pm.
As a visual person, I like to use symbols and color coding — I draw rectangles around client appointments, bubbles around when I’m going to the gym, circles around social appointments. This lets me quickly see how balanced my month is. For my to dos, asterisks, arrows, etc. speak more to me about what I REALLY need to get done than does a “prioritized daily task list”. If I’ve pencilled in something, I know instantly whether I can schedule something else in that time-slot.
Again, being very visual, I tend to remember information based on things like where on the page I wrote it down, so the digital find feature of a PDA wouldn’t help me – I might not remember the name of the person, but I know that the phone number is in the bottom right corner of a left-hand page. Similarly, some people will remember the color or logo of a business card – so using a binder where they can quickly flip through cards will likely work better for them than an electronic contact system.
I prefer to write with a pen and pencil than to type.
It’s very satisfying to me to cross out a task that I’ve completed. (Actually, I highlight it in blue, but I’ll spare you the details of that system!)
In case anyone is wondering, I love the Daytimer Tabbed Month-In-View monthly inserts – you can flip to the month you need in a milisecond. To keep track of detailed to-dos and other dated information, I use the Filofax one page per day inserts. Yes, I have to write appointments in two places – which a PDA would do for me – but for me, it’s worth the trade-off.
I will say that recently I have been contemplating getting a PDA just for contact information.
Recognizing that no one system works best for everything, Filofax makes binders that have a spot to park your PDA.
Whichever system you choose, it will have some drawbacks. I can’t back-up my Filofax. But the one time I “lost” it, I got a call that it was found before I even knew it was missing. Papar or PDA, put a big label on the front of your device which says REWARD FOR RETURN and lists a phone number.
More than anyone wanted to know, perhaps, but it’s a subject near and dear to my heart!
Stephen Harris, Digital Grit (added 9 June 2005)
Vote for PDA – the dog can eat the paper. And having a PDA in a meeting makes you look cool.
BUT in “my” reality:
I have bounced back and forth between Pads and PDA. Why I prefer paper – I can write my notes much faster than typing or using Palm Script. I found myself missing key notes trying to fix my poor palm scripting.
then for some reason my Palm locked up. I had backed it up a week earlier but had to reset it, and lost all of the more recent stuff.
However, where i do like my PDA is in a place to upload & download contact info between outlook.
I do not like my PDA for reading documents (word, excel) – way to small
9 out of 10 times – you will see me with pad and pen in hand…. sorry Mr. Tech Ramon – I think that your wife wins.
Alon Koppel, FusionLab (added 9 June 2005)
I had a PalmPilot a couple of years ago. I was excited about the technology and the ability to keep all my contacts organized (and synched). I found that it’s easier to write in a small notebook instead (never crashes or loses battery power, etc.)
For real work away from the desk I use a a laptop. Also, I looked at the current selection of Palms and fiound them to be overpriced for the value. Not a lot changed in what they can do and the price is still too high. Palms should cost $99 with WiFi connection and $49 without. Then it will be worth getting one.
This digital vs. analog debate reminds me of the story about the space pen. NASA invested a lot of money in R&D to create a pen that you can use upside down and won’t leak in space. What did the Russians do? Use a pencil! Simple and effective sometimes beats tech.
Gladys Kartin, Career Strategist (added 10 Jan 2005)
I like paper because there is no learning curve to using it. It is a tangible, portable inexpensive item, if I lose it, no big deal. A lost PDA is a big deal because of the cost. I still use a rolodex because I can just flip it around to find what I need, my husband always has to turn on his computer to get a phone number – that simply takes too long for me. He has a PDA from several years ago, I don’t think he uses it often enough to have justified the expense. I also like paper because I do need the visual reminders and yes I do have too much paper.
The other side of the coin is that I don’t even know how much easier my life can be without all this paper. I know it can be better, I need to be shown how technology can improve my life and I could even learn to embrace it.
If you are gathering statistics on PDA users versus paper users, I believe my age could be a factor. I am 52 years young and have never been taught the proper use of a computer. Of course, that is my choice, but I am open to learning.
Adrian Miller of Adrian Miller Direct Marketing
My husband is a Blackberry fanatic. I use paper!
1. I can get my calendar opened faster than him.
2. His office has to load software. I just open the pages.
3. His is little and gets lost in the house.
4. Mine is big and is noticeable.
5. I keep pictures of my kids and things that make me smile (my son’s “I love you” written in kindergarten.) His is cold and impersonal.
6. Mine doesn’t crash.
7. Mine is tactile.
8. My calendar has appointments. tasks, memos, etc.
9. The Blackberry would make me psychotic rather than responsive. (Don’t you think I’m responsive:) ) without the technology?
10. If I were married to you I might regress and even use an abacus:)
Stuart Fine, CEO of Carpe DM, Inc
Paper never runs out of batteries! It doesn’t break when you drop it. You
can organize paper according to your own chaos theories.
Josh McCormack, TravelersDiary
I can write on paper faster than I can on a Palm Pilot, the way I want
(drawings, charts, outline, etc.). I’ve had Palm Pilots arbitrarily
reset and found this was not unusual with some models. There’s no start
up time for paper. People rarely bristle at you taking notes on paper.
No long, tiresome issues with synching. It’s cheap.
Jonathan Zacks,
I had a Palm Pilot 7 years ago. I stepped on it (accidentally). I bought a new one 3 years later. I left it on top of my car and drove away (accidentally). I’m considering getting a new one, but more for remote internet access if I need to do something quickly for a client and can’t hook up my laptop. Generally I don’t have a need for a Palm, but I think that may be due to my carrying my laptop around with me much of the time.
Scott Wolpow, Tech Tool Bag
I use my a paper pad to make my daily “to do” because I can change the structure of the list as needed. The other issue is speed, if I am in the middle of doing one task and I need to read my notes, I do not have to open or minimize anything. I suspect that people who learn to take notes on a pda from first grade will see the world in a different light.
The Technology Evangelist Concludes
Thanks everyone. But – paper is NOT the way to go for contacts, tasks, and memos. Digital is. You can sort it, delete it, add to it, export it, import it, back it up…I can go on. Sure, I use paper for meeting notes, telephone calls and other things like that. But anything that I need to KEEP track of – it goes into my PDA.
In any case, each to his own, as long as we grow our businesses. Right?