, , , ,

I have a thousand things going through my mind and I need a nifty organiser to order them.

I toyed with the idea of retaining an assistant, preferably a female. It is not often that one comes across a successful man who has not been aided by his female secretary to parcel his time out in the most efficient manner. A personal assistant, meticulous to detail, efficient as a machine, one who can drive like a bulldozer and yet be generous and intimate – who but a biological complement can fill such a role? Alas, I let go of the idea even before it bred fantasies that dwelt more on personal rather than professional assistance. My mind still reeled of a thousand things and would do well to focus on getting things done.

I looked for alternatives and resolved to solve my problem in the only way that this digital age of ours dictated. I thought of an e-assistant, an entity of zeroes and ones that is unlikely to generate feelings of intimacy, real or virtual. I began to hunt for a digital assistant that would help me in sorting and organizing the myriad things floating in my mind, things that ranged from paying my bills to doing a project for the e-learning community.

I repose a great faith in the digital world. I especially like the ‘e’ that precedes its services, like email for example. The ‘e’ has a special meaning for me, much more than its naive expansion to electronic; to me it stands for ‘enabling’, something that enables me to do things that normally I wouldn’t do. I like to think that it enables me to speed up, to be more productive, to be alert and efficient in getting things done. And so I surfed the web for an enabling assistant.

I found a program and immediately started using it. I entered into it all the things that romped unbridled through my mind: a motley of bills due, house repairs, tracking child’s homework, reminders for anniversaries, tasks from work place, things to buy, catch up with reading, and a host of things too numerous to list here. The list got very long and soon I felt the need to categorize the items in it. This program lacked that feature.

The world wide web offers many programs for free and so I sat down before my desktop once again to hunt for the right assistant. I found one that allowed me to organize my TODOs under headings. Now everything looked pretty neat. All I need to do was fire up my computer every morning and pick some task to do and at the end of the day to strike it out from the list. As simple as it is to type www in the address bar of my browser.

I began attending to my list items and disposed of them in a way that best suited my mood. Not long after that I received a reminder from the electricity department to pay up or face a power cut. I hastened to my computer program and realized that it had no feature to alert me. Nor is there any way for me to prioritize my tasks.

I fired up Google and hoped I would get lucky this time. I found an organizer that allowed me to prioritize my tasks and set reminders. Nevertheless, I missed my tasks as ever before and found myself thinking about the problem. If I can solve this one problem all my other problems would resolve easily. There must be a simple solution to a difficult problem; otherwise, what is the point of progress anyway? After some thinking – I had temporarily pushed aside other things that kept pressing me for attention – I realized that unless my computer was up and running I would not get an audible reminder. Even if I did get it, I may not be close by to hear it. Even if I was within earshot, it might drown in the surrounding noise, which is usually the case – a blaring TV or the children battling it out for supremacy or more likely the wife is screaming her head off to get things done or me in the middle of one of those interminable meetings with my team at work.

An idea zoomed into my head: I must be mobile. Chained to a desktop is like a donkey tied to a post. It can go only as far as the tether permits; I must soar like the eagle in the sky. So I decided to purchase a mobile phone to organize my life. I spent a good deal of time looking for the right phone whose capability must include, among other things that I dare not mention here, a handy organizer. I purchased a smartphone with a built-in organizer. What an idea, Sirji, I told myself.

I loaded all my tasks into my smartphone, which faithfully provided the alerts I set for them. Very soon I ran into a snag. It beeped at the most inappropriate times. How could I pay my bill when I was engaged in another task, say a report to my boss, one that needed my attention right away? Or maybe I was at the wrong place at the wrong time? The tasks piled up and begged for my attention, but they will have to wait for a more intelligent organizer.

I Googled for inspiration and found enlightenment in David Allen’s GTD. Allen I learned was a corporate busybee who discovered a way to bail out struggling humanity burdened with tasks too numerous to attend to sanely and still stay healthy. Getting things done had always been my priority in life and so I started to hunt for a GTD app to run in my smartphone. I was overjoyed to note that there were many implementations freely available; I am a diehard believer in free enterprise and any application that is available gratis is bound to end up in my repertoire of useful programs. With a heartburn, however, I realized that no GTD program was ever written for my handset, except one that cost a bomb.

I returned to Google. I found that the world has moved away to more advanced systems: in the digital age, I remember someone pointed out, three calendar months equal one Internet year.

Being upwardly mobile I quickly jumped on the gadget bandwagon and got myself a tablet, pioneered by Apple: the iPad. Since Allen’s GTD app seemed pricey I looked for freebies and found one after a long search. The GTD app, loyally mimicking Allen’s philosophy, provided the feature-set that I had sorely missed during all these years.

I sat down with my handy brand new gadget and started to load my tasks into the app’s Inbox. Next I sorted them according to the features – Today, Next, Someday, Waiting and so on. But I realized – I am pretty good at realizing things pretty fast – that this was not going to work unless these tasks were also available in all other devices. After all, I am not using the tablet everywhere, not all the time anyway. I use the desktop and my laptop, too. My smartphone holds a lot of things to do, too. What I need, I told myself, is a way to synchronize all my tasks and ensure that they are available no matter which device I am working on at the moment.

I turned to Google for help. I learned that I am not the only person in the whole wide world to face this problem. A sizable chunk of humanity is struggling to meet this situation which has become a crisis. There is a way: trust human genius to come up with a simple solution to a difficult problem. The answer is in the cloud.

What I needed, what all the brothers and sisters (and wives and lovers) of the world needed, was a place in the cyber space that is accessible from any device. A place that you can call your own. The only requirement was that the device is Internet ready and the owner subscribed to a service provider. My joy knew no bounds for I had the right devices and the right connections. Now I must look for the right organizer that weaves my life through a myriad devices into a seamless whole. In an increasingly fragmented world, a cloud service is like a balm for the pain in the … ur … neck.

There were many cloud services to choose from and I selected one that was free. Never mind if your phone does not have an app for it, it is all there in the world wide web. You can reach for it any time and from anywhere, for the world is also becoming increasingly connected. I loaded all my tasks into a cloud organizer and at once felt at peace within myself and with the world. Now I am going to be more productive: after all, work is worship and I work hard to get things done. To get organized at any rate to get things done.

But the cloud organizer was not based on GTD, the task manager for the toiling humanity. Alas, no cloud service supported GTD out of the box. You had to invent ways to overcome the limitations of the service, get around its kinks, and setup a home-grown modus operandi that serves your needs.

I went back to Google and found a thousand ways to do it. I am still soaring in the cloud looking for the right approach for getting things done, the thousand things on my mind.