Getting a PDA can be one of the worst things you can do for your time management.
Do I hear some of you screaming in protest, “I love my iPhone!” “I love my blackberry!”
Yes, a PDA can be very effective if used correctly, but if used incorrectly it will waste MUCH of your time.
What are the big problems with using a PDA?
The main problem comes when you start to use your PDA for emails.
Emails are most effective when dealt with in batches. When replying to one email here and there, you spend 30 minutes of focused time. However, when you use your PDA to handle your emails, it becomes a much slower process. Also, you need to consider the pure speed of typing on your computer versus on a PDA. Yes, you can type at an average speed if you use it enough but invariably you are much faster typing on a computer keyboard. This extra time it takes to type up your emails adds up. Two minutes here and there throughout the day and soon you're talking about an extra three or four hours a month in typing time.
In addition, if you use a PDA for email, you will receive messages 24/7. So, if you're out to dinner with your partner you may be interrupted by messages from work. When you have a PDA and an email (or text) notification comes in, there's such a strong desire to look at the message. It's hard to overcome with willpower alone, but the only way to make sure you don't check your emails in your down time is to make sure you don't get them on your PDA in the first place.
However, this rule does not apply for all people with PDAs. For example, if you receive less than 10 emails per day then getting emails on your PDA may not be a big problem. Also, you might have a specific type of job where you don't use a computer much at all and you receive only a few emails, in this case a PDA will not be a problem neither. In fact, it is probably more productive than a computer. Nonetheless, if you receive many emails each day and you handle them all on your PDA it will be a disaster for your effectiveness.
So how do you use your PDA effectively?
Use it for your calendar and contacts and synchronize it with the calendar and contacts on your computer. PDA's are very effective for this.
If you do want to receive some emails on your PDA, you can restrict it to a special email address that is specifically for high priority emails. For example, if you have an assistant they could send an email to your PDA with anything that's of high importance. Or if you are a sales person, you can receive sales inquiry messages to your PDA so you can respond immediately. Just don't get your normal emails sent to your PDA.
Here are some other tips for your PDA:
- Turn off the sounds for new email notifications. They are very distracting. The exception would be if you use your PDA only for important, time sensitive issues such as new inquiries from potential clients.
- Consider turning off sound notifications for text messages also (this depends on the type of text messages that you receive).
- Turn your phone off during your relaxation time or during times that you are focusing on a project.
- Use your PDA to answer emails on the train or bus. This could be an effective use of time that might otherwise be considered “down time.” It's certainly a lot better than checking it multiple times throughout the day.
- Use your PDA for appointments reminders that are coming up. Set a reminder for the time you need to get ready for the appointment and not the actual appointment time. For example, if you have a meeting downtown at 5pm and it takes you one hour to get ready and drive there, set a reminder for your phone to buzz at 4pm, so that you will be on time and you don't have to think about it until the time comes.
So again, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for handling emails. However, this will give you something to think about so you can see for yourself how to use your PDA most effectively.