How to Manage Your Time & Get Control of Your Life

Use the HP Palmtop and these techniques to manage your future, rather than being managed by it.

By Tad James, M.S., Ph.D.

We've all wished we had more time and were better organized. That's one of the reasons we use the HP Palmtop. APPT reminds us where we're supposed to be. PHONE organizes contact information, and MEMO or NOTETAKER can store a raft of information about personal and business interests. As is, the Palmtop is a good Personal Information Manager.

 However, the HP 100/200LX has the potential to become a great, advanced time management tool, more sophisticated than the most advanced planning system on the market today. First, let's look at the basics of time management. Then let's see how you can use your 100/200LX to get control of your time and your life.

 The Basics of Time Management:

 There are four steps that are vitally important to successful Time Management. They are as follows:

 1. Know and write down your long-term goals

 Develop a written list of the most important things that you want to do in the next 3 years. If you are a business owner, writing goals for the next 10 years wouldn't hurt.

Suppose for a moment that you were in a boat about to set sail. The captain orders the crew to "weigh anchor," and then leans over to you and says, "By the way, I forgot to mention that we don't have a rudder."

 What would you do? Jump ship then and there if you were smart. Without a rudder or charts to guide your course, you don't have the slightest idea where you'll end up.

You also need to set a course in your life. Where do you want to be in the next three months? Six months? One year? Three years? Six years? Ten Years? How do you expect to get there unless you know where "there" is?

2. Have an effective daily calendar and appointment system

 You need to be able to keep track of your daily events and appointments. The system should be able to respond to your needs and keep you on time.

Those of us with HP Palmtops already have Appointment Book to keep track of where we want to go and what we want to do. However, we may still keep another calendar on the wall at home, or another electronic appointment book on our desktop at work. Appointments can get spread around in different places. The point here is use one calendar for all your appointments.

 3. Have a list of the items you need "To-Do" on a daily basis

 Again, Palmtop users have an excellent ToDo feature built into the Appointment Book, but may keep additional ToDo lists written down on a legal pad, or on little yellow slips posted to the computer.

It is very important that all your ToDo's are in one list. It is equally important that the To-Do list be in the same place as the daily calendar. This lets you look at what you need to do and easily schedule it, or compare it to what you already have scheduled. Having the To-Dos and appointments together creates a synergistic system that makes you more effective.

You should also be able to prioritize your To-Do list. That is, you should be able to designate the relative importance of each ToDo. You may designate a ToDo as an A, B, C, 1, 2, 3, or a combination of the two, like A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, etc.

 4. Integrate the above three

 The final thing we need to do is to integrate these parts of our time management system. As we plan our day's or weeks appointments and ToDo's, we check our immediate priorities and long-term goals. This helps us get beyond focusing only on immediate priorities and lets us focus part of our attention on where we are going, 3 months to 5 years down the road. This is especially important when we are 3 years out on a 5 year plan and have lost the "vision" of the big picture.

Long Term Goal Sheet: Graphic

 Creating your future: What are your long term goals?

 First things first -- write down your long term goals. What do you want to be doing in three years? Can you imagine in your mind what it is that you'll be doing three years from now? If you've never looked at what you want to do in your future, perhaps you would like to try an exercise I call "creating your future."

 Let's create our goals for three years from now. Imagine if you would, that the future is a road that stretches out before you. In your mind's eye, imagine walking out on that road to three years from now. As you walk down the road to your future, let your mind create for you the changes that you want in the future. When you get to the place that is three years from now, use the sample goals sheet above to write down your goals, or open up Memo and write down what you discover -- what you want to happen.

Title your notes, Goals for 3 years - Date 01/15/98, Age 47. 01/15/98 is the date by which you'll have accomplished the goals, and 47 is your age at that time. This information will help focus your attention on the goals. Then list your three-year goals.

 Do this process for 3 years at the very least and 1 year, 6 months, and 3 months if you can. If you're adventuresome, then also do 6 years and 10 years. Go over the notes you've taken and edit them down, or rewrite them until you are satisfied with the goals.

 Implementing our time management system on the HP 100/200LX

 After you've clarified your goals above, enter them on your HP Palmtop. You can save them in a Memo text file. However, the instructions below assume you are entering your goals into GOALSET.GDB , a special 100/200LX database file I've created for this purpose. A copy of GOALSET.GDB is available on this issue's The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK or in the 100LX General section of CompuServe's HPHand forum. I've displayed the GOALSET Data Item screen on the next page for those who do not have access to GOALSET.GDB and wish to create it on their own. (See "database definition" in the index of your HP 100/200LX User's Guide for information on creating or modifying a database.)

 1. Enter Goals into the Goals Database.

 The following instructions assume you are using GOALSET.GDB on an HP 100/200LX. Copy GOALSET.GDB to your HP Palmtop and press (CTRL)-(PHONE) to open the Database application. Then press (MENU) File Open, select GOALSET.GDB and press (ENTER).

 Now add the goals you have just developed. (There are 2 examples of goals already entered, so you can see how it works.)

 A. Press (F2) (Add) and enter the goal that you have written into the Goal field.

B. Tab to the Age field and enter your present age. This is to assist you in being able to appropriately contextualize the goal by reminding you of the age you will be at the time the goal is occurring.

 C. Tab to the Date Accomplished field and key in the date by which you want to accomplish the goal.

 D. Tab to Priority and enter the priority of the goal. (If you're not sure, come back to this one.)

 E. When you transfer each goal to your Appointment Book calendar, check the Entered in Calendar box.

Goals Database: Graphic

 F. Tab to Length of Time and select one of the choices. The Length of Time is the amount of time from now until you will accomplish the goal. This section will allow you to keep track of groups of goals that you write as you do this exercise.

 Repeat steps A-F, and enter all your goals into the database. We'll fill in the LastStep and Project fields later.

2. Transfer all appointments and ToDo's to the HP Palmtop.

 For this system to work as described, everything has to be on the Palmtop. Make sure that all your appointments are in Appointment Book, and not on PostIts somewhere. You'll need to do the same thing with your ToDo lists.

One nice thing about the HP 100/200LX is that it lets you prioritize ToDo's. From APPT, press (F10) (ToDo) (F2) (Add) and enter a description of the ToDo, Start Date and Due Date.

ToDo Item Entry Screen: Graphic

 Tab to the Priority field and enter any two alphanumeric characters (A, 1, A1, B2, etc.). The items in the ToDo List display are ordered by priorities, numbered priorities first, 0-9, letters next, A-Z (e.g. highest to lowest: 0, 3, 7, A, A1, A7, AA, B, etc.).

For more information on using these features see "appointments, adding" and "to-dos, adding" in the index of your HP 100/200LX User's Guide.

 3. Determine steps of action to accomplish goals.

In reality, this has to be done whether you are using the Palmtop, or writing things down on paper. Accomplishing any goal involves the creation of a plan, a list of things you have to do, people you have to meet, milestones you have to reach. Before you can move goals to your Appointment Book you have to flesh out each goal and write down the steps involved in accomplishing it.

We'll enter the steps of action in the LastStep and Project fields of GOALSET.GDB.

 A. Press (CTRL)-(PHONE) (both at the same time). If the GOALSET database is not already selected, press (MENU) File Other, move the selection bar to GOALSET.GDB and press (ENTER).

 B. Highlight one of the goals that you just entered into the Database and press (ENTER). Press (ALT)-(L) or tab over to the LastStep field and enter the last thing that has to happen so you know you have achieved your goal?

For example, let's say we enter Find New Office Space as our goal. The last step in that process might be signing the lease. So we enter We Sign the Lease in the LastStep field.

 C. Tab to the Project field and enter all the things you need to do to find a new office space.

First write down all the steps involved, even if you are not sure of the order. Then put the steps in the correct order (cut and paste if necessary) and assign dates by which each step must be accomplished. In the New Office Space example, we might have the following steps:

Event . . . . . . . . . . . . Date

 Find a Realtor . . . . . . . 12/15/95

 Look at Available Spaces . . 01/12/95

 Decide on the Space . . . . . 03/22/95

 Sign the Lease . . . . . . . 04/22/95

 Move In . . . . . . . . . . . 05/22/95

 The "Move in" date above is the critical one. All other steps need to happen before 5/22/95. If you finish an intermediate step later than you planned, you may have to adjust the dates by which subsequent steps must be accomplished.

 D. Finally, make the individual steps into concrete action items by cutting and pasting them into the Appointment Book application as appointments or ToDo items.

 Repeat the above steps for each of the important goals you have written. Be sure to fill in the LastStep field and enter intermediate steps and accomplishment dates in the Project example.

Review your results regularly

 You might want to review your goals and projects quarterly, to see how "on time" and "on budget" you are. If you are consistently underestimating or overestimating the amount of time needed, you may want to make a note of that and adjust your thinking accordingly. The same thing goes for budget estimates. My rule of thumb is that if you're within 10% of your predictions, then you can celebrate! (That means that if you thought it would take you 20 days to complete a project and it takes you 22, you're doing fine. Or if your goal was to achieve $100,000 in sales and you hit $90,000, pat yourself on the back.

 The system I described above works whether it is automated on a Palmtop, or entered by hand in a day planner. But the Palmtop makes it quick and easy. The above is one small, but important step in gaining control over where you are going, and what you want to have when you get there.