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Keeping Pastoral Peace with the HP Palmtop

Keeping Pastoral Peace with the HP Palmtop

This Archbishop schedules business meetings and prayer meetings on his HP 200LX.

By Randolph W. Sly

"Just take it for a week and try it," Mike urged, handing me a black padded case no bigger than a Tom Clancy novel. Mike and I both use computers heavily in our work and I could always count on him to keep me up-to-date on the latest developments in technology.

I was somewhat familiar with PDA's, but had rejected them in favor of keeping my old faithful Franklin Day Planner. It seemed to me that PDAs were just cute little gadgets that were more trouble than they were worth and provided only limited flexibility in the planning and scheduling environment. As it was, I fairly lived with my paper-based organizer.

I am an Archbishop in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. As such, I travel a great deal, covering a region that stretches from Kansas eastward to Virginia and northward into New England. In addition to this, I am also the rector of a local church in Kansas City. Before the Palmtop, my Day Planner had been my constant companion filled with events, daily appointments, do lists, project planning, several extensive phone lists, and other miscellaneous information. As you can imagine, it was pretty hefty to carry around.

But after trying out the HP 100LX, I quickly became hooked and bought it. I began setting up separate calendars for the current year as well as 1996 and 97 and laboriously entering all my phone information. My notebook planner was then unceremoniously retired to the storage closet in my office.

After about a month of Palmtopping, I upgraded to a 200LX for a number of reasons, not the least of which was Pocket Quicken, which I used for tracking my discretionary funds bank account while on the road. I know Pocket Quicken is available for the 100LX, but I also opted for the HP Palmtop 200LX to get a better overall visual display and a more efficient DataComm system. I have since added a 5MB flash card, modem, VR100 <ON DISK ICON> (for reading Project Gutenberg electronic texts on my Palmtop), several games, and Buddy <ON DISK ICON> (which has really become a good buddy).

The HP has since become an important tool in my work.

Separating Appointments and Events

When I began to implement the planner activities on the HP, I found that the built-in Appointments application provided me with the same essential elements I had in my Franklin notebook planner, but with greater flexibility. I could separate events from regular appointments; permanently schedule repeating appointments; view my activities on a daily, weekly, or monthly display; track my "do list" and even write extensive memo's or take notes and attach them to any of these entries.

The appointment/event option is a very important function of the Appointment Book. In addition to listing birthdays, holidays, special activities, etc., the Events option (date, but not time-related activities) helps me keep track of such things as holy days, special activities, theme days, and lectionary references. For example, on the second Sunday after Pentecost I would mark the day in the events area (abbreviated as 2P) along with an abbreviation of the readings to be used. Having the repeat function makes it easy to schedule longer events such as Holy Week with only one entry.

To keep my Appointment Book .APB data file from growing quite large, I use one file for each year: 95APB; 96APB; 97APB, etc. I also enter major notes in Memo, rather than as long notes in the Appointment Book. For Board Meetings I use a diary approach in Memo, marking the date of the meeting with the Palmtop's Date key (FN)-(,) and then recording notes for that meeting. All notes for each board, committee, etc., meetings are then in one place. I can also use the same approach for journaling information during counseling sessions.

ToDo's reflect work style, not work load

The "ToDo" section needed some customizing in order to accommodate my complex work demands. Even though I might develop an orderly list of activities to be accomplished in each of my domains, that's not how I function. I don't work on Provincial issues, then church, then personal, then international. I usually do all phone calling at the same time, then letter-writing, etc. The ToDo list had to reflect my work style not my work load. Therefore I separated it by type of responsibility: Project, Phone Call, Letter, Miscellaneous. While additional categories can be used, these four seem to work fine for me.

I labeled each one by placing a letter in the priority box : A signifies a project to be completed, B is for calls, C labels letters to write, and D is for miscellaneous. After each letter I write a priority number. For example A is "Projects" on my list, so the highest priority projects are A1 and the lowest are A5. Then the Palmtop automatically places items in alphanumeric order.

Also, these major category headings are set to repeat daily, so they show up on future dates when I want to schedule a "ToDo" ahead.

Every time I enter something to do, I set it to carry forward, so my ToDo's "haunt" me until they are done. When I do finish, I highlight the ToDo and press the spacebar. It's a great feeling to watch the HP place the item at the bottom of the list with a check mark!

One additional item has been carried over from my days of using the Franklin Planner. When I listened to a tape on using the planner, the teacher explained the importance of listing "Planning in Solitude" as the first "ToDo" of the day. This reserves a period of peace and quiet for looking over the schedule for the day and the week. For my Palmtop, "A0 Planning in Solitude" is repeated daily, appearing at the top of my list to help me preserve that time. Single, unified PhoneBook

My address section in my Franklin Planner was quite large and contained several separate listings. The "Provincial" list included churches, clergy and key laymen from across the Province for which I am responsible. I also had a local church membership list, personal list, business list, and an international listing of our churches.

When I started using my HP Palmtop I discovered the Subset feature for the PhoneBook. I was able to place all my numbers in one master list and, when needed, separate them by category. This especially comes in handy for such things as comparing the Province list in my Palmtop with the master mailing list on another computer. I just call up the Provincial subset in PhoneBook and print it out.

The PhoneBook database was handy, but limited in its fields. I found a new template called "Newphone2" on one of the on-line services, which saved me the trouble of custom modification. Newphone2 has many additional fields which I found very helpful, including e-mail address, pager number, and voice mail address. I've added my own category list, including America Online contacts, church contacts, and several others.

From "Scan Cards" to NoteTaker

The greatest surprise came in the application called NoteTaker. Not heavily heralded (it doesn't even have its own blue key), this application has become one of my most important components.

In pre-Palmtop days, I was frustrated with inefficient methods for tracking tasks and delegating responsibilities. Although time-based planning systems, such as my Franklin Planner, are practical for scheduling responsibilities which can be related to specific times and dates, they are less useful for tasks or goals that are not tied to specific times. At one point, I decided to re-adopt an old "Scan Card" system I had used years before to help me with task-oriented planning. This system used small square cards in a notebook to store specific tasks and projects. The Scan Card company now had a software version that allowed me to "write" cards on my laptop computer. The system helped quite a bit, but was limited in its usefulness as I couldn't lug my laptop around all the time.

Instead, I now use my Palmtop's NoteTaker as my objectives manager. I am able to establish written goals and tasks, track assignments for my staff, keep incidental information, and document topical quotes for speaking and writing. I develop a separate NoteTaker file for each area I am responsible for, as well as for every employee. Each "notecard" then, becomes an idea, objective, project, or delegated assignment.

I also use NoteTaker To Document research notes for sermons and other writing projects, and to keep track of thoughts and ideas I pick up at conferences. One handy use of this application is my "grasscatcher" file where I record old or low priority thoughts, ToDo's, missed phone calls, desired meetings, etc. Going to this files reminds me of things I may still need to get done.

Continued blessings from the Palmtop

When I purchased the HP Palmtop, my friend included an HP Connectivity Pack for my PC. The ability to transfer information has been invaluable, as letters and other materials written on the fly can be imported to a word processing system for formatting and printing. While the DOS-based software is somewhat archaic in the world of Windows 3.X and 95, it works quite well.

The Database application works well for storing a detailed list of my sermons and other information. For my sermon database I created separate fields for title, topic, bible reference, type of sermon, an outline of what I plan to say, and location where I will deliver it.

Of course, Memo has become a valuable tool for a variety of tasks, such as writing sermons, letters, and articles (including this manuscript, crafted in the cramped quarters of an airliner's coach section). Lotus 1-2-3 and some of the other programs remained inviting yet untried areas of my newly-acquired palmtop.

The one feature I still want to find or write is a mileage tracking template for Lotus 1-2-3. Right now I am logging mileage in a Memo document. The Lotus worksheet could automatically total daily mileage, subtract commuting miles and store other information. I'm planning on purchasing a Bible program and a pocket modem. The Megahertz XJ1144 is currently in use but the pocket style is preferred due to battery drain from the PCMCIA.

The HP 100/200LX has dramatically changed my work styles. It has become my constant companion and my most used computer. I am always looking for resources to make it work better. Toward that end, my friend Mike, who introduced me to the Palmtop, gave me another invaluable gift -- every back issue of the HP Palmtop Paper. Thanks, Mike! I have become a subscriber -- and a contributing author.

 If your natural propensity is to complete all your phone calls first, then go on to your letters, etc., a labeled ToDo system works well. Here Alphanumeric codes entered in priority fields keep ToDo's organized by type. The numbers represent priorities. The letters represent categories: A for projects, B for calls, C for letters, and D for miscellaneous. The Palmtop automatically sorts them, making it easier to accomplish similar tasks at once.

 Newphone2 modified PhoneBook template gives additional fields for PhoneBook. You can load your PhoneBook .PDB file into the Palmtop's Database program and modify it to resemble this one.

 I use NoteTaker to simulate the "Scan Card" approach to organize tasks.

 A database for speakers, with room for an outline and other necessary details, here shown with a sample sermon record.

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