One of the best things about Playdate, Panic’s quirky gaming handheld, is that it only really does one thing: play video games. It won’t be blocked by other apps or features, so if you’re playing something like Crankin’s Time Travel Adventures, it is easy to focus on the game. It’s refreshing to have a device so single-mindedly focused on fun – which is why I found the idea of using the little yellow console as a personal organizer so intriguing. For the past week, I’ve been doing just that, and while it’s definitely not an option for everyone, much like the Playdate itself, it’s both simple and straightforward.
First, a few notes on context. First, it’s important to know that I haven’t yet found a to-do list app that I prefer to a paper notebook. I spent quite a while testing Evernote and Fantastical – once upon a time I used the RPG app Epic Win to keep track of things – but they were always too fiddly to bother with. For the past few years, my process has been simple: towards the end of each workday, I write down everything I need to do the next day so it’s ready for me when I check in in the morning. It’s easy and quick, and writing things down tends to help me remember them.
The second thing is that the app I’m using called Pocket Planner is still in a pretty early beta stage. It has three main features: a to-do list, a calendar, and voice notes. As it stands, you cannot add events to the calendar, and voice annotations have not yet been implemented. (Both features are expected in a future update.) So for now I’ve only used the to-do list tool.
Well, the Playdate might be a dedicated slot, but its screen is really great for things like that, despite its small size. The low-fi, black-and-white display (with no backlight) is reminiscent of a Kindle, which aims to replicate the reading experience itself on paper. So the Playdate is great for paper-like experiences. It’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed so many puzzle games on handheld and I’m dying for someone to develop a Sudoku app for it. And it works well to recreate the vibe of a classic physical organizer.
The to-do part of the app is extremely simple. You can create a number of different lists and add multiple items to each, each with a small checkbox next to it. Items can be renamed, deleted, or moved between lists. And really, that’s about it. For my purposes, I’ve made five lists, one for each day of the week, and—similar to my paper notebook—at the end of each day I add things to do the next day. Finished items get deleted, and anything I don’t finish I just move to the next day.
It worked well enough, and there are a few nice bonuses to using the Playdate – namely that it’s incredibly small and convenient to carry. I put it in my pocket and almost forget it. It’s also a very clean process to check items off or move them for different days. Another bonus: constantly having my work playdate nearby meant I was thinking about watering my virtual flowers in the playdate game bloom more often. The downside is the speed. One of the things I love about a physical notebook is how quickly you can just jot down whatever comes to mind. But typing on a playdate, which involves choosing letters from a carousel, is a much, much slower process. I have used a lot of shortcuts to speed things up.
It should be pretty clear by now that the Playdate will not be an organizational solution for everyone. It has a barebones list of features and doesn’t connect to other tools such as: B. a personal Google calendar. But if you’re looking for something absolutely basic – like me – it’s a pretty good substitute, especially given that it currently costs $1. I wouldn’t recommend buying a Playdate with big plans to turn it into a modern PalmPilot. But if you’ve managed to get your hands on one and have very simple needs to keep on top of your to-do list, it’s a solid option. Your bloom Flowers will probably thank you.