Crosby_M (CrosbyM@po1.cpi.bls.gov)
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 12:10:50 -0500

Desktop Personal Information Managers (PIMs), appointment books and
to-do lists can be useful. I have built my own system using a
Hewlett-Packard Palmtop PC. I have dutifully digitized 'every' moment
of my waking life (and what I can recall of my nocturnal dreams) for
several years.

With this database, I can:

* Tell you the distribution of my waking activity last week: 30% work
(hours billable to my employer), 27% study, 21% 'maintenance' (mundane
health and household stuff), 8% family (direct, 'quality' time), 14%
'play' (events I categorize as personal and social entertainment). I
can also tell you that these figures fluctuate up and down by only a
few percentage points each week, on the average. (BTW, knowing
precisely how much time I 'waste' on the mundane stuff gives me a
benchmark for reducing it.)

* Quickly summarize the work I've been doing when status reports are

* Tell you exactly what I was doing at 8pm on Dec 16, 1994 (for no
good reason that I've yet been able to think of :-).

* Document every discussion with my associates, wife, or 'learning
sessions' with my daughter.

* maintain 'bookmarks' for thought streams that have intrigued me but
have had to be shelved due to the demands of work and family.

* Keep notes from books I've read as well as extracts from electronic
sources, such as the Web and mailing lists.

Of course, you might ask, what does this effort cost and is it worth
it? Well, several points:

* It takes roughly 4 to 6% of my waking time (less if I skip the
interesting details).

* Is it worth it? Well ... I enjoy it, it helps me organize my life,
track trends, recall the past - 'dumping' alot of the mundane details
to this archive seems to free up my mind for more creative thinking.

* Could I live without it? Of course! I always rely on my organic
computer for moment by moment insights and decisions. Still, without
this record I doubt if I would coherently remember most of those
priceless brainstorms I have when I 'extrope'.

I wouldn't expect many to become an obsessive diarist like me. Even I
don't much care that last Jan 22 I had rice with chicken, peas,
carrots and tomato sauce soup, with brocoli, for dinner. (It took
about 45 seconds to randomly select, load and find that entry.)

Still, for me, this is primarily an interesting experiment in the
mechanics of tracking experience that a digitized upload might have to
deal with.

Someone mentioned how paper-based approaches, like Day Timers, are
more reliable and accessible. This is certainly true for anyone who
has to commute to work and doesn't have a desktop computer in every

However, my HP200 LX with a 10 megabyte flash disk (40-50 megabyte
cards are common but still expensive) costs about $1000, operates on
two AA (1.5v) batteries for several weeks, even with heavy use, and
fits comfortably in my pocket. It can be used anytime, anywhere.
Well, I don't think I'd use it to try and record conversations at a
party in real time; but, it is great for recording that brilliant idea
you have just before falling asleep, without having to get out of

HP's keyboard, with sticky shift and function keys is an ergonomic
marvel - I can hold a magazine in one hand and type in some quotes
from an article with the other (while standing up on a crowded bus).
Most importantly, when I turn this pocket PC on, the database,
spreadsheet and word processor are instantly available, in the same
state I left them in when I last turned off the machine. You don't
get that kind of instant access with desktop bloatware; and, once you
get used to it, you don't want to settle for less.

Mark Crosby