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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Need A Gal Friday? Meet My Friend, Sandy! (and a shout out to Mr. Tudball & Mrs. Wiggins)

How are you doing at getting rid of the floozies (those loose scraps of paper reminders) in your life?

Over the past few weeks, we've talked about why just sticking reminders on our desks or fridge doors is counter-productive, and how using digital solutions enables you to let go of things from your active memory while avoiding the paper pile-up.

Last week's fun tool was Jott, which lets you call from your cell phone (or any number you've registered) and tell a computerized digital assistant what to do: send you a reminder (via email), email notes to friends or colleagues, add items to a work, personal or project list or create a blog post by voice. Instead of jotting something down on a stray piece of paper (creating a floozy), you can make a quick phone call (while mobile) to get the right information to the right people while avoiding killing a single tree.

Jott is a personal assistant you contact with a phone call. This week, we're going to focus on Sandy, your private Jeeves (or Jeevette), whom you trigger with a quick email.

Sandy - your free personal email assistant

Sandy, a lifelike Gal Friday at IWantSandy.com, is set up to operate just like a virtual assistant. The twist? She's a virtual virtual assistant, made up of bits and bytes. Sure, if you have more heavy-duty needs, you'll want to find a reputable human virtual assistant through the International Virtual Assistants Association, but if you just need a helping hand (or a Helping Hannah) to remind you to stop blogging now and go pick up your kids from school, or to move your car to opposite-side-of-the-street parking, or to start working on your taxes (while avoiding the Floozy Patrol for paper pileups), Sandy may be your girl.

What does Paper Doll like best about Sandy?
  • The service is free.
  • There's nothing to install on your computer, PDA, cell phone or whatever gadget Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates are working on next. (Don't you hate having to install something before figuring out if you even like it?)
  • There's nothing to learn and no special "language". Contacting Sandy to get "her" to remind you of things is as easy as sending an email, and certainly you already know how to do that!
  • You can contact Sandy via email, texting, Twitter, Jott and an ever-expanding number of options.
  • You can skip extra steps -- in fact, you can let Sandy "eavesdrop" on an email conversation by CCing her, and "she" can read between the lines to figure out what you want her to do.
  • You're not weighed down with information before you need it. Sandy can be programmed to only tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it. That Post-It Note® on its last legs, hanging from the desk lamp to remind you to do something in September sure can't say that!
  • Sandy's system sets up a special personalized address to help prevent spam. So instead of the address to which you are sending Sandy a request appearing as [email protected], you actually get to personalize it with two elements, before and after the @ sign, so your address format might be @<2ndName>.IWantSandy.com. Thus, you could have an address like [email protected] to ensure that work reminders are a little more fun.
  • It feels like you're dealing with a real person. Sometimes, the reminders I get from Sandy say "Hi", but today, I got one that greeted me with "Merhaba, Paper Doll" (that's Turkish, for "howdy, partner!") and once I got one that said "Gruzi!", which I'll admit was a puzzle. But that's part of the fun!
Getting started is easy:

Sign up for a free account at IWantSandy.com and provide your preferred email address and password, and then agree to the boilerplate Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which seem to apply strict rules prohibiting doing mean or nasty things, a la Google's "Don't Be Evil" policy. Love that!

Sandy will then send you an email to activate your account. Click on the activation link!

Once you're activated--think of it as having completed Sandy's W-4, as if she'd been an actual employee--Sandy will email your personalized email address at which you can reach her. It won't be a fun address, but don't worry, you'll be able to log in to your account and change it. Other things you'll be able to do at this point:

Set up a nickname so Sandy will address you however you wish: Dude, Boss Lady, Mommy, Your Holiness...whatever you prefer.

Set up a secondary address, in case you can't access your primary address, such as when you're on vacation or your work account seems to have run away and joined the French Foreign Legion. (And in case you're wondering, you can even send Sandy messages directly from the website for those times when you've got web access but can't get into any of your 43 email accounts.)

Specify your time zone, as well as your preferred lead time to tell Sandy how far prior to having to take an action you want Sandy to remind you. If you're the type who forgets things 30 seconds after you're told, you'll want a short lead-time so you don't get distracted; if you prefer having a buffer of 15 minutes so you can wind up whatever work you're doing, you can schedule that, too.

Allow Sandy to send you SMS/text messages on your cell phone and/or generally tell Sandy where/when/how to reply to you.

You can also decide whether you want Sandy to confirm back to you that she got your message. Remember Mrs. (ha)Wiggins and Mr. Tudball on the old Carol Burnett show? (Trust me, click on that last link to give yourself today's laugh!) Poor Mr. Tudball would really have appreciated getting some sense that Mrs. (ha)Wiggins heard and understood what he said. I'm sure Murphy Brown would have appreciated the same thing from any of her revolving door of assistants. But maybe you trust Sandy to be your personal Radar O'Reilly and won't need any confirmations. That's up to you! And hey, even if you generally would prefer a reminder, but you know you're going to have a high-email kind of day, you can tag an item with @noreminder to override this setting and have Sandy skip the reminder.

You can twitter a message to Sandy. Are you a twitterer? Sandy can "follow" your tweets, enabling you to twitter her with your public or Sandy-only tweets to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

To can Jott a message to Sandy from your phone. If you've got a Jott account, call Jott as usual, and when Jott asks you whom you want to Jott, say "Sandy", and then proceed as usual.

Is your head spinning? Don't worry, you don't have to change or update all the settings at once. All you have to know to start is that once you have your personalized email address at which to send Sandy notes, you can tell her what you want, and she'll get back to you at the right time. You can tell Sandy to:
  • Remember a generic something: "Remember Stupid Airlines frequent flyer number is 6660666"
  • Set a specific reminder: "Remind me to take recycling to the curb on Sunday night"
  • Repeat a reminder, appointment, or to-do item by using the @ sign to designate frequency: "Remind me to pay Capital One Visa bill on 7/14 @monthly"
  • Add a variety of things like:
An appointment: "Remember Pilates class Tues 11 am"
A To Do: "Remember to change the oil @todo"
A contact: "Remember Mom's cell number is 716-555-1212"
Tags: "Remember to add tags @example"

Look around your computer. What "To Do" or "honey-do" notes do you see? How many of them have been there longer than two days? And how well are they doing at reminding you of anything? (In other words, did they become wallpaper two minutes after they were put up or laid down?) If you're not in the market for a living, breathing, taking-a-day-off-because-he-broke-up-with-his-significant-other kind of assistant, consider giving Sandy a try. You don't even have to buy her a holiday present, give her vacation days or pretend to be interested in pictures of her pet iguana.

Mr. Tudball, Murphy Brown and our friends and the 4077th would be so proud.

posted on: 6/24/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Peggy in Switzerland on 1/19/2009 3:06:51 AM:

I can put in the missing piece of your "puzzle"..."Gruzi" is "Hi" in swiss german dialect. Swiss German is to regular (High) German what a Bronx accent is to the Queen's English. If you really want to sound Swiss, say "Gruzi mit n and" which means "Hi, y'all!" I have just discovered your very helpful blog, via link on Jeri Dansky's blog. Thanks and "merci" ...swiss say it in French, rather than in German (way more info than you want to know)

by Julie Bestry (Paper Doll) on 1/19/2009 6:57:48 AM:

Gruzi, and thanks for that information, Peggy. How exciting to have readers as far away as Switzerland! Obviously the "Sandy" people were more linguistically diverse than Paper Doll. Sadly, "I Want Sandy" shut down in late December. Twitter has acquired the intellectual property and will probably re-Sandy the world soon enough, but it shows how quickly technology changes.

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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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