I discovered Merlin Mann’s hPDA concept around the same time I discovered the Rollabind disc binding system, and for me the benefits of combining them were immediately self-evident. I hacked my first “field-strength” ring-bound hPDA using covers from an old poly folder, a strap made from an elastic hair band, and three small Rollabind rings; it proved to be rugged, reliable, and indispensable.
The only problem I had was that the thin covers allowed the rings to torque sideways when stored in my back pants pocket, flexing the covers and the cards at their weak hole joints. So when Levenger introduced its CircaPDA this past summer — using the same extra-thick clear poly covers as their other Circa notebooks — I quickly retired my original covers and have been proudly packin’ Circa ever since.
Quality-wise, it was like moving up from a kit car to a Lexus. But regardless of the bodywork, it’s what’s under the hood that ultimately counts. Here’s what’s under mine:
My hPDA is divided into three sections using tabs. The cards in the first two sections are available as templates on the Downloads page.
Front section — Reference:
- Cover (with hPDAphone on the front, of course)
- Address book
- Current calendar
This is where I put “quick reference” materials that I often need to consult in the field.
Middle section — Lists:
- Client to-do list
- General purpose list
- Capture notes
This is where I track things that I need to complete. Work-related items go on the to-do list, office supplies go on the general list, and other actionable tidbits (URLs, book titles, pithy quotes, spousal reminders) go on the capture notes card, to be acted on later.
Back section — Notes:
- Jotz Mini Lined Paper (2 sheets)
- Levenger CircaPDA Notebook Cards, White Ruled (2 cards)
This is where I jot field notes for transfer to the appropriate project or administrative folder upon my return. Obviously, the length of the note determines which size I use. Trip-specific information, such as map cards, go in this section.
You might wonder why a writer would carry only four blank sheets in his hPDA. The answer is: planning. If I anticipate that I will be going into a writing-intensive situation, I’ll bring my Levenger Circa Foldover (which configuration I will cover in a future post).
My hPDA is paired with a keyring-mounted Zebra F-301 Compact. I’ve been using Zebra’s 301 line since college, and aside from the classic Rotring 600 series you’ll be hard-pressed to find more durable writing instruments. I’ve tried many mini pens, but as cool as some of them are (especially the Inka) they all share the same Achilles heel: those darned micro ballpoint refills that need to be primed every single time you use them. So rather than resign myself to drawing circles for thirty seconds every time I take the cap off, I gladly traded a half inch of barrel length for the reliability and smoothness of a Zebra refill.
But I digress.
What’s in your hPDA? Post a comment below with links to photos and share what works — and doesn’t work — for you.