I have always had a love/hate relationship with organization: I like organization and generally like organization in my life, but it is difficult for me to get organized 90% of the time. I tried to be organized with student teaching, but my cooperating teacher kept telling me that I needed to make more lists to be organized. I agreed, which frustrated me as much as it frustrated her.

The problem is that I have difficulty getting motivated to get organized. Last Christmas, the company I worked for gave out small planners (small enough to fit in my back pocket), and I vowed to use it to stay organized with dates, which worked to some extent but not as well as I would have liked (for one, the planner fell apart because it was cheaply produced). No other methods ever seemed to work for me, either.

When my college graduation began to approach, my wife started asking me for ideas for a grad gift. My first thought was “Technology!” and I went off to see what gadgets I might find to improve my life. My initial thought before this had been a PDA, but most retail outlets that we looked at didn’t carry them since most consumers in the market for something like a PDA will probably opt for a smartphone instead. (Smartphones haven’t been on my radar since I haven’t wanted to get roped down with a mobile voice/data plan. I rarely use my cell phone now, which is prepaid.) I had crossed it off my list, and when I started looking at E-book readers, my mind went back to PDAs as a solution for both my desire to read books portably and digitally and my desire to get organized.

To my delight, I found a used Palm TX on Amazon for approximately $150, and so I convinced my wife to go in with some other family to get it and a 2GB SD card (the TX has an expansion slot) as a gift. I got it right before graduation, and it has been a lifesaver.

The first thing that makes this work for me is the fact that the Palm is a way of using technology to get organized. I think I could have a deluxed “analog” organization system, and it would still fail to get me motivated; it’s the pure fact that it’s a cool tech gadget that keeps me interested in using it. It doesn’t hurt that there are a number of tools that are far more efficient than if I used other analog organization tools: Tasks, which allows me to make a to-do list that I can categorize and prioritize by date and rank (1-5), as well as setting repeat tasks; Calendar, which allows me to set up single and repeat events, which can also be categorized; and a tool I downloaded called HandyShopper, which is a database program intended for shopping lists (which I do use) but which can be modified for other types of lists. I set one up for books that I own as well as ones that I’d like to get, either for my home or future classroom library, and whether I’ve read them or not and if I’m currently reading them. I also downloaded Adobe Reader and put some free E-books on there, including Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (which I’m enjoying quite a bit). Perhaps best of all: all of this goes on a belt clip, in a nice little compact format.

It’s only been a few weeks, but everything has stayed together pretty consistently (as long as I keep my PDA on me, which – perhaps ironically – I managed to leave without today). Let’s hope that I can keep this organization going as I continue to prepare my four courses for the fall.