Unleash Your PDA’s Power

Like most personal digital assistant users, Anthony Griffin, the Beverly Hills plastic surgeon seen on ABC-TV’s Extreme Makeover, primarily used his handheld device as an electronic address book and calendar. But after he attended a Franklin Covey time management seminar that included PDA training, Griffin discovered a new world of built-in applications. “It just makes your life so much easier when you use it properly,” says the physician, who upgraded to a Palm Treo 650 Smartphone for PDA Internet access.

PDA trainer David Pope, owner of The PDA School in Fairport, New York, says Griffin and others like him who understand the importance of getting the most from their PDA are the exception rather than the norm. “Most people have no idea what their PDA can do,” Pope says, adding that training can make a difference. In just three hours, Pope can transform a basic PDA user into a mobile technology sophisticate who can use her PDA to access a PowerPoint presentation on her desktop computer, make last-minute changes to the file, then beam it to a projector for a meeting.

The capabilities of a handheld device depend on your PDA’s features, though. The least expensive devices don’t have built-in WiFi or cellular technology to access e-mail or download directions to a restaurant. Still, Pope says that most users — even those with the simplest devices — can maximize the potential of their investment by learning more about their handheld’s capabilities.

As with all technology, it is possible to overdo it once you’ve discovered the possibilities. Griffin says his wife frowned when she saw him checking e-mail messages at a recent Oscar party. Still, that’s what he likes most about his PDA. “Mobile e-mail on my PDA really improves my productivity,” he says.

Here are a few suggestions for getting the most from your PDAs:
Assign a color category for each calendar item. “The different colors for the categories let me scan the day’s events to see whether I have a conference call or I’m taking the cat to the vet,” says Palm Treo 650 Smartphone user Nyree Wright, senior director at McGinn Group, a crisis communications firm in Arlington, Virginia.
Use the task application as a project management tool. Assign each project a category name before listing the tasks for it. Prioritize each task using the PDA’s numbered system and add a due date.
Use the repeat calendar function for birthdays and anniversaries. Wright has birthdays of friends, relatives, and associates repeated annually. “When I send a quick birthday e-mail, clients are so surprised that I remembered. It’s a great customer service tool,” she says.
Investigate the “add-ins.” There is a myriad of additional software and hardware that doesn’t come with a PDA. Yvonne Shortt, client services director for Small Biz Booster in Rego Park, New York, added Laplink Everywhere software to her HP Ipaq rx1955 Pocket PC so she can access files from anywhere. “I can get the most up-to-date version of client survey results right from my client’s office before a meeting,” she says.
Wright’s wireless keyboard