Going Analog – Why Paper Planning is Far More Productive For Me

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Hey! This article is a little old. I’ve finally gone digital with my planning and you can read more about one of my favorite tools by clicking here.

I was fumbling through my phone trying to capture a great point that was just made during church and that was the last straw.  I had to wake up the screen, go to my calendar, open it up, find the appointment time, open the notes section – and by then the point had been all but forgotten. Have you ever tried to type notes from a great sermon in to a smart phone?  What about meeting notes?  Well, I have, and I can tell you I hate it.  I love my Droid, but after years of futile attempts at using an electronic planner I’ve decided to switch back to my old faithful paper planner.

I’ve used all kinds of planners over the years. I had a Palm Pilot, a Compaq PDA, a couple different Blackberries, and now my Motorola Droid, but I keep coming back to a plain paper planner. There just isn’t any good alternative that I’ve found that does everything that I need. So after lots of experimentation with different electronic planning platforms I’ve gone back to my old standard – a Franklin Planner. I still use my Google calendar, and my Microsoft Outlook – there is no better way to set up bill and appointment reminders than using those tools in my opinion. But, for everything else, I’ve decided that there just isn’t a better tool than an old fashioned paper planning system. Here are the reasons that I decided to swich back to a paper planner.

Managing Tasks

In my experiments with the different electronic solutions I’ve seen a ton of awesome applications. Don’t Forget the Milk, the Outlook Task Manager, the ones in my old Blackberry and Droid are all great. However, they just don’t match up with a pencil and paper. It’s become a regular practice for me to go over my days’ work and write a list of everything that needs to be done during that day, and it’s just not the same doing it on anything but paper. It’s so much faster and easier just to write it down and keep moving.

Taking Notes

Have you ever tried to take notes for a meeting in some sort smart phone? It’s ridiculous. I attend a lot of meetings and have numerous conversations where I have to take notes.  I have regular appointments with clients on the phone and there is always a need to capture points of action.  In short – smart devices just don’t do it for me. It’s so much easier just to write it down where it’s manageable in my planner than to try to use my fat thumbs to add those things to my calendar notes field. Same goes for going to church. It’s so much easier to write it down. I still carry my "analog" bible with me, and it’s just natural to be able to write down the salient points as you hear them instead of chasing applications on your phone.

Managing Projects

I’ve got tabs in my planner that allow me to keep track of my ongoing projects.  I’ve got task lists for all the things I’m working on, new websites, projects that are in progress, my values and planning guidelines etc.  All this stuff just works better for me. None of that takes away from my Google docs ideas document, or the different documents I have that I use to capture ideas. The portability of Google docs can’t be missed and I use them all the time. But for the essential core stuff it’s much easier for me to have it in my own handwriting in front of me.

Managing My Day

I start my day by writing out everything that needs to get done, then prioritize and get to work. This planning includes all my stuff for work at home and in the office. Once I get these things done then I move on to other more leisurely activities, kind of using them as a reward. For instance, on Saturday, I was in a position where there was much to be done. I’ve got client work that I’m trying to finish and several other things were on my list. I worked through them, got to a good stopping point, then enjoyed the rest of my time with my wife and daughter and thoroughly enjoyed watching FSU DESTROY the canes on Saturday night. The same thing goes for my regular work days. It makes getting things done so much easier. I try to hold to a couple of Ben Franklin’s virtues, they really resound with me and I really do try to live by them.

  • Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

So I’m happy to have made the transition back to a paper planner.  Some jobs may not lend themselves well to this approach, but for my work and life there isn’t a better solution. Next time I’ll be posting about where I’m still digital and the advantages it has over analog.

How do you plan? What do you use? I’d love to have your feedback in the comments below.