Ditching paper planners for Google Calendar-Android combo

EACH November, I’d eagerly start my annual search for the next year’s planner. It is a circuitous process that almost always ends the same way each year—I’d drool over one planner after the other, go on coffee binges to collect stickers for a free diary, and end up buying a Moleskine.

I’ve been regularly trying and experimenting with online calendars and task managers for years but never got around to using one for long, back when the only interface was a Web browser and you needed to have an Internet connection to be able to use the system.

Paper was more efficient, apart from being more beautiful.

Starbucks 2011 planner and Google Calendars on the Samsung Galaxy Tab

BLANK PAGES. My Google calendar items in the Galaxy Tab placed on top the blank pages of the free 2011 Starbucks planners that I got after a coffee binge. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge. (PHOTO BY MARLEN LIMPAG)

Last year, however, I started to gradually shift from using paper planners to online calendar services and a mobile phone.

I started with Nokia Ovi using my trustworthy-but-now-gone Nokia E63. If you have a Nokia phone, you have to use it with Ovi, a suite of online services that allow you to manage your phone’s calendar and contacts from the Web. Although I repeatedly encountered downtimes and syncing problems with Nokia Ovi last year, I found it useful enough that I migrated my office tasks and even marathon training schedule to the service.

With Ovi, you could enter tasks on the Web, set reminder settings and then have all these downloaded to your phone. Close to the end of last year, the service started allowing the sharing of calendar tasks and I was about to test it with the Sun.Star Cebu business section team when I lost my phone.

Then I got an Android phone.

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A graphomaniac’s wet dream

At last, Power Books has opened a branch in Cebu. The single storey outlet in the North Wing of SM City Cebu is heaven on a mall for book lovers.

I went to the shop when it opened, fought urges that were bordering on primal, and just checked on books that were on display. There aren’t computer or technology books yet. Members of the Power Books staff said these were still coming.

paperblanks handstitched notebook PAPERBLANKS NOTEBOOK. The pages of this handstitched notebook are acid-free and are held together by coptic binding. Paperblanks and Moleskine products are now available in Cebu, at the Power Books outlet in SM City’s North Wing. Click on photo to enlarge.

Last Sunday, I came back.

The store’s middle counter is a vortex. It drew me in. Around it were displayed several exquisite notebooks. For the first time, Moleskine (official pronounced mol-a-skeen-a) and paperblanks products are sold in Cebu. I went round and round the small counter, picking one notebook after the other.

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When a blogger strips

I’ve been tagged by Sol. The meme involves sharing eight facts that your readers don’t know about you. Here are mine:

1. The other woman

Rhythmbox says I have 243 Nina Simone songs in 20 albums. That’s 15 hours of the High Priestess of Soul’s music. As of last night, my Last.FM profile page said I’ve played Nina Simone’s songs 531 times in my Linux laptop (the only unit I use with my Last.FM account.)

In my Sony Ericsson K750i, I have at least 50 Nina Simone songs. I have several Nina Simone CD compilations I repeatedly play at home. When our youngest son can’t sleep, I play her music.

My wife, just last night, asked me “how many times have you been playing these songs?”

I first heard Nina Simone sing in, of all programs, BBC’s HardTalk. During the interview, she told Tim Sebastian, the program’s host then, “I need a cigarette. You’re making me hot.” The diva that she is, she smoked during the interview.

If you ask me my favorite Nina Simone songs, it would be “The Other Woman,” “My Baby Just Cares For Me,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Wild is the Wind,” “Sinnerman,” “I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl,” “Mr. Bojangles.”

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Using a TiddlyWiki: a video guide

I am a long-time user of TiddlyWikis and its various adaptations. Before a catastrophic accident involving the synchronization of various offline files wiped out my tasks list, I was an extensive user of GTDTiddlyWiki. After the accident, I moved to a server-side TiddlyWiki, alternating between Serversidewiki.com and ZiddlyWiki before finally settling with TiddlySpot.

I am also a long-time TiddlyWiki “evangelist.” Any chance I get to introduce TiddlyWiki, I’d show it off.

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Work on blog post ideas with Wridea

I seldom finish a blog post in one session in front of the computer. My typical blogging day starts with reading news feeds to check on updates on topics that interest me. Sometimes I get a blog post idea while reading RSS feed items and I’d write a note in my personal wiki about the topic.

I’d then work on the post in the office, right before the newsroom goes into overdrive chasing page deadlines and after I’ve finished my pages and while waiting for pages assigned to me for line-reading. I’d then publish the post at home, after my early morning meal–that’s dinner for all you morning people.

Most of the time, however, I’m working on several projects that can generate several blog posts. These projects are experiments on content management systems, blogging, wikis and anything that might be of use in a newsroom environment, particularly that of a small community newspaper.

I keep my technical notes on these experiments and my to-do lists in various personal wikis, including a txt file in my K750i. But for blog post ideas, I may have found the best notes repository, for me, in Wridea. (Click on photo to view larger image)

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Organize your life with Google

Google Calendar, launched just a few days ago, is a service I see myself using extensively. The first thing that grabbed my attention is the typical (for Google) uncluttered and simplified interface. Google Calendar is powered by Ajax, a web technology that allows the updating chunks of information in a web page without having to reload the entire page itself. This makes adding and editing calendar entries easy and unobtrusive.

The interface is intuitive and adding an appointment is easier than writing an email, which should be the case. To add an entry, you simply click on the box beside the time in the day column and type the details. You are not forced to configure the event like set up reminders or enter such details as venue or attendees. You can configure these things only if you choose to do so.

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Printable CEO goes online: Color-code and assign points to your tasks

David Seah’s Printable CEO is an effective productivity tool. It allows you to focus on important tasks based on your hierarchy of values. The color-coding and the assignment of points make it easy to decide which tasks to prioritize. The accompanying tasks tracker helps you keep tab on the things you’ve done and the points you’ve earned.

I’ve long wanted to implement online the concept behind the Printable CEO. I’m not very good at doing things on paper, despite the fact that I work for a newspaper. I’ve frequently lost notebooks and pieces of paper containing jottings, notes, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. The longest paper-based organizer I’ve kept is my Pocketmod “Sony” edition. I keep a lot of blank Pocketmods in case I need to brainstorm when I’m away from the desk.

I already keep my notes online through ZiddlyWiki and it doesn’t make sense, at least for me, to depend on a paper-based task tracker.
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Wiki on a K750i? A txt file will do

I’m a huge fan of TiddlyWiki, a standalone web page that you can edit through a browser for just about anything: to-do lists, notes or any other text data. I’m an extensive user of one of its derivatives: the Zope server-based ZiddlyWiki but before that, I used GTDTiddlyWiki, a version that incorporates a getting things done menu and is formatted for easy printing on index cards.

ZiddlyWiki fits my need for a server-side notes taking and archiving solution that is accessible anywhere. I host my ZiddlyWiki on a free Zope hosting account with Objectis. I needed a server-side solution because I wiped out a lot of notes trying to synchronize the GTDTiddlyWiki in my home PC and in my office PC last year.

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Starting the year with a massive traffic spike

The start of the year saw a massive (for me) traffic spike for this blog. My previous post on using the Xinha Here plugin to color code Backpackit.com tasks using The Printable CEO as guide was featured in life hacks portal Lifehacker.com. For a while, it was even on the popular page of del.icio.us. The post was also linked to by the Backpack blog.
Before I found a way to use color coding in my Backpackit.com tasks, I relied solely on Rememberthemilk.com to keep track of things I should be doing. But after more than a week of using the Backpackit plus The Printable CEO system, I find that I am able to prioritize my tasks better.

The install link of version 0.5 of Xinha Here, however, is broken (as of this writing) . The Mozilla addons page for the extension is still at version 0.3. Version 0.5 offers options on themes and plugins for the what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editor.

Color code your Backpackit.com tasks using The Printable CEO as guide

David Seah’s printable CEO is an excellent guide on which tasks to tackle first and which distractions to deal with later. It lists various answers to the question: When is something worth doing? The answers are color coded and come with points, ranked based on their importance to your goals. Seah uses it to track his tasks using a printable progress chart that he fills up.

I use Seah’s printable CEO as guide but I do not keep track of the scores of my tasks. Instead, I use it as guide on which tasks to perform first. I organize tasks by topics and use color code, based on the printable CEO, to prioritize.

I then implemented this in BackPackIt using the Firefox extension Xinha Here, which launches a visual HTML editor for any text entry area (screenshots below). I edited the main page of my free BackPackIt account and used it as dashboard. For the body text, I entered my version of The Printable CEO and used color coding.

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