Palm Pilot? Try high-tech pen, paper


I SEE WHERE there's a new Palm Pilot organizer on the market that costs $450 and is supposed to do everything but lube your car for you.

But before you plunk down that kind of iron for an organizer, you should think about trying my system.

I've used it for years. It's called: a pen and a piece of paper.

Here's how it works:

First thing you do is, get yourself a piece of paper and a ballpoint pen.

(I'm not telling you where to shop, but you can get a whole notebook at Rite Aid for 79 cents. It has 90 sheets of paper, too. Calculating this on a per-sheet basis, that's what? Eight-tenths of a penny per sheet?

(As for the pen, you can get a 10-pack of Bics for $1.89. So a single Bic will cost -- let's see, 189 divided by 10, carry the 8 ... well, it's real cheap. And remember, it says right there on the package: "Writes first time, every time!")

OK, so you've got the pen and the piece of paper. Now here's what you do next.

Whatever you want to remember, you just write it down on the piece of paper. Make yourself a little to-do list, is what I'm saying.

For instance, let's say you wanted to remember: Call Earl's Dog Grooming. Because your dog needs to be clipped.

Well, you'd just write it down on the piece of paper and keep the paper with you wherever you go.

(I like to keep my paper in the breast pocket of my shirt, although this is strictly a personal decision. You may want to keep yours in your pants pocket or purse or jacket pocket. Hey, this isn't Cuba. Keep your list wherever you want.)

Then, whenever you find yourself thinking: "Gee, wasn't I supposed to do something today?" you just pull out the piece of paper.

And there it is, right there in nice blue ink at the top of your list: Call Earl's Dog Grooming.

Schedules, to-do lists, they're all right there on a folded piece of paper in your pocket. You can't beat it for convenience.

(By the way, don't get freaked out over the folding of the paper. This isn't origami. If you buy the right notebook paper at Rite Aid, you only have to fold it once to fit it in your shirt pocket.)

One thing I've learned over the years is that there's a tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes with crossing something off your to-do list once you've actually done it.

Drawing a nice, neat line through, for example, "Call Earl's Dog Grooming" -- well, there's no better feeling than that.

(To cross something off your to-do list with that fancy $450 Palm Pilot, you have to take that little pencil-looking thing -- what do they call it, the stylus? -- and put an X in front of the item you want crossed off.

(What kind of fun is that? Heck, if you get a big kick out of that, they must have to shoot you full of Thorazine when you play tic-tac-toe.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit there's a downside to my pen-and-paper organizing system.

Pretty soon you'll end up with little scraps of paper all over your bureau when you empty your pockets at night.

But that seems like a small price to pay for the beauty and simplicity of the system itself.

Now, let's say you're thinking: Gee, I don't know, your system sounds fine for schedules and to-do lists and the like. But I need something to keep phone numbers and addresses.

OK, I've got you covered there, too.

Here's what you do: Get in your car and drive down to Rite Aid and get this thing called an address book.

(Hey, I'm not flacking for Rite Aid here. There just happens to be one near where I live. It's open 24 hours, too, although that's neither here nor there unless you need to buy a Bic and notebook paper at 3 in the morning or something.)

Anyway, at Rite Aid, they sell these little address books for $3.49.

How can you beat that? And these books have loads of pages for phone numbers and addresses -- 60 or 70 pages, easy, although I didn't really count them all, since I was sort of in a hurry.

But let's face it: How many phone numbers and addresses do you really need to know?

If you're like most of us, there are only about 10 people in your life who really matter to you.

Look, if you want to spring for the Palm Pilot, hey, knock yourself out. I'm just trying to show you a better way, maybe save you 400-some bucks.

I should patent this pen-and-paper thing, I really should.

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