COLUMN: An index card a day

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An index card a day is helping to better organize my life and reducing some of the clutter on my desk at work and at home.

There are innumerable ways to keep tabs on time and what needs to be done in any given day. Some people rely on calendars – I have one of those – personal digital assistants or cell-phone apps that help users log appointments and to-do lists. The programs can synch with phones to send a variety of tones, sirens, chirps or beeps – to remind users as they are doing something are expected somewhere. An entire industry of personal-digital assistants do the same thing.

I’ve tried all of those and never found a method that really worked. Some PDAs required too much time to program and I felt I was spending too much time organizing my time. I pretty much stuck with my desk calendar and try to keep it updated. But the calendar didn’t provide the room for a listing of what I needed to get done that day.

The simple index card does.

More commonly used for recipes or craft projects, the cards are small and fit into a shirt pocket and a slot near my computer screen. One side is lined and other is blank. Every morning, I list on one side what I need to do that day.

The other side is my “idea list.” When an idea for a story pops up in my mind, I write it down. When someone calls and leaves a message, at least a short one, I’ll write down a few words. That’s the reminder to file in a more permanent way the story idea or full message later in the day. The system keeps me from forgetting good ideas.

I restrict myself to one card per day. Major notes or phone conversations go into a notebook, but a small index card can hold a surprising amount of information.

I keep the card until the next morning. Things that didn’t get done one day are listed on the next day’s card.

My index-card system is only as good as my efforts to use it. Just last week I was in a hurry and forgot to jot down a photo assignment at Community Christian Church. If anyone has photos of the giant banana split made that night, please drop off or email us a couple.

I’m in no way the first to use the index-card system. I’ve read that administrators of multimillion companies who lead hundreds if not thousands of people and who are surrounded by human and computerized assistants keep an index card in their pockets.

My Friday card read as follows:
Finish column
Finish Monday issue
Grocery store
Drug store
Mow grass
Drink a beer

Sometimes the better chores of life have to be planned out, too.