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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
JOTT this down: The Big To-Do About Your To Do's When You're On The Go-Go-Go!

Last week, we talked about how most of the make-shift systems we use for reminding ourselves to do things just cause a paper pile up. Consider:

  • expired coupons and forgot-to-attend invitations on our refrigerator doors
  • notes to ourselves piled in sedimentary rock-like layers on all horizontal surfaces
  • crumpled notes stuffed in pockets, ruining the lines of our clothing
  • curling, fluttering scraps blowing around the floorboards of our cars
Paper has important uses, but as we've discussed before, floozies, those loose papers designed to remind us to accomplish something usually become an urban blight on the landscape of our homes, offices and cars. Indeed, cars, where we spend an exceedingly large portion of our time--bemoaning the cost of fuel, pondering the relative vigor of our air conditioning and, unless we're inveterate texters and Blackberry aficionados, wishing we had a better way to make sure all our To Dos get To Done.

Similarly, when we're in meetings, traveling, or otherwise in transit, we need a better sub-system, running parallel and tangential to our main tickler and task-list system, to make sure all of our reminders get back to the in-office or in-home version of ourselves.

Let's face it--stuffing our pockets, purses, and backpacks with phone numbers, notes to ourselves and reminders is inefficient on many levels. Chances are, you've got no formal system or ritual for emptying your hidden cache of notes, smoothing them out and triggering action on your part. (At least men and purse-eschewing women generally empty their pockets of loose change each evening, but the notes probably get no further than the dresser-top!) But rarely do the notes stuffed in various locales get from their mobile start to their end location until at least laundry day, by which time the notes have often outlived their utility.

So how do we make sure our reminders meet us back at homebase when we cease being our mobile selves? A few options:

1. Call yourself!--Low cost, low complexity

When you're on the road, literally or figuratively, your mobile self can leave a message your "future" self will later retrieve. I've seen my business clients suddenly realize something they needed to do or buy upon returning home. They reach for a scrap of paper, see me watching them, drop it as if burned and smile, sheepishly: "No floozies! I know!" they groan. "But even if I write it in the notebook as I'm supposed to, I may not open my briefcase until after dinner (if at all)! How do I make sure I remember?"

So, I ask how they expect to remember a crumpled Post-It® stuffed in a suit jacket if they believe they won't even open a briefcase. Ouch. Instead, I suggest they simply pick up the phone, call their home number and leave a message for themselves. Assuming (and yes, it is a potentially flawed assumption) that people are more likely to listen to their phone messages upon returning home than flip through piles of notes, a few "Hi, Self. Don't forget to call Uncle Joe (he's movin' kind of slow) to see how he's doing."-styled messages will be heard and acted upon.

Similarly, a relaxing weekend need not be ruined by a search for paper or a computer to get down some ideas for a blog, report or client message. How much easier is it to call the office number, dictate what you want to accomplish, and then return to your joyful weekend, knowing the message will safely await you on Monday morning.

Advantages: It's quick, inexpensive, and you can use self-styled shorthand words, because you probably know what you mean when you say "Call the guy about the thing at the place!"

Disadvantages: You have to actually play your messages and then act. If you don't play the messages, you're no further along than if you don't declutter your papers. Plus, if you tend to transcribe your phone messages instead of acting upon them immediately, you'll still have the paper pileup! Finally, it's not safe (or always legal) to operate a phone while driving.

2. Call a buddy!--Low cost, low complexity, moderate imposition

I have my own personal GPS--he lives in Minnesota. This old college pal is almost always at his desk, mere inches from his computer and phone, and it's easy to call him to request an emergency Mapquesting or Google-mapping when I find myself hopelessly lost. It's not much of a jump to voice-dial him and say "Hey, will you email me something that says "account 773152" before I forget the number?"

If you're the type of person who won't listen to a phone message until it's too late to do anything about it but will check your emails when you get to your desk, this is a better option.

Advantages: You get a quick moment to socialize and a guarantee of a paper-free reminder.

Disadvantages: Use this option too often and your pal may feel put-upon.

3. Jott it down!--Free, moderate complexity, patience learning a new system

Do you Jott? (And do you, like me, remember when we didn't Twitter, Flickr, or otherwise noun-verb our way through life?) Jott is this so-far amazing little online application that converts your voice into emails, text messages, reminders, task lists and appointment notes.

I'll admit, I'm a novice at Jotting, but so far, I like what I see. To get started:
  • Sign up for a free account, associating your preferred phone (probably your cell) and your email address, provide your time zone and select a password.
  • Check your inbox for a verification link. Click on the link to get a four-digit verification code.
  • Call Jott from the phone number you've designated and provide the verification code.
That's it! It took me under three minutes. From there, explore the options:

Send email reminders to yourself:
  • Call Jott (from your registered number) at 866-JOTT-123 (For those of you who hate "reading" the phone, that's 866-568-8123.)
  • Jott's friendly voice asks who you want to Jott. You say "me" or "myself".
  • Jott will beep to signal you to record your message to yourself. When you're done, stop talking. (Duh!)
  • Jott will say "Got it!" and then you can hang up.
  • Jott will transcribe your message and send it to you via email.
You can also type a little note or reminder to yourself from the Jott inbox (yes, you get message in your regular email and an archive at Jott), but c'mon, if you could send yourself an email, you'd do it directly, right?

Of course, that's not all. You can also use Jott to:

Jott more specific reminders. Instead of Jotting to "me" or "myself", you'll jot to "reminders" and you'll be prompted to set the exact day, date and time you want your reminder to arrive. So, if you want to remember to call your client to discuss a project, but the client will be away until next week and you don't want to fill up her mailbox, no problem. Specify it, and Jott won't remind you until next week, at the requested day and time--so no cluttering up your inbox. Neato!

Jott items for a list of tasks. You can actually set up a series of task lists (list for work, for home, for planning an event, etc.) and Jott will maintain the lists in your account. Then, when you call Jott and are asked "Who do you want to Jott?", you say the name of the list, and Jott not only sends you the email reminder, but adds the message to the right list.

Jott to someone else--a person, or a team! With this cool option, you state that you wish to Jott to a specific person (whose name you've already set up in your account) just as you'd voice-dial from your cell phone. The transcribed message will be emailed to them--so you're not using up their precious cell minutes--with a linked option to listen to the recorded message online. (Of course, you can have the message texted, too, if you prefer.)

Jott to a link. Yes, bloggers, this is for you! You can set Jott up to transcribe your messages and deliver them (along with a link to the actual audio) to your blog, Yahoo! Groups, your Google calendar, your Twitter page, or any other link you choose.

Advantages: All of the above features and options, plus you won't feel silly saying you "jotted", because it doesn't sound like a silly, made-up web word.

Disadvantages: It's not entirely plug & play. The verification code didn't work on my preferred browser (Safari, on a Mac), though copying it into Firefox worked well enough. My Buffalo accent was easily accepted by Jott's voice recognition software, but a friend with a heavy non-North American accent has trouble being understood.

Being on the go is just no excuse for letting important tasks and reminders fall through the cracks. You still need a master list of tasks--we'll talk about To Do list options next week--and a solid system for dealing with your paperwork when you do make it back to your desk.  Until then, stay away from floozies, and talk to yourself (or your friend, or Jott) to stay on track.

posted on: 6/17/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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