5 Ways Paper Beats Your Tech for Productivity

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of technology.

However, my iPad doesn’t travel far without my Moleskine notebook.

When it comes to taking notes, I always end up back at paper.

The Productivity of Paper

Technology continues to replace paper.

I no longer buy paper books. And my iPad has long since replaced my Dayplanner.

However, let’s not write off paper just yet.

When was the last time that your (paper) notebook crashed?

Or you lost work because something you wrote down didn’t “save?”

Paper is reliable. Paper is always there for you.

And paper just gets the job done, plain and simple.

Here are 5 Ways that Paper Still Beats Your Tech:

  1. Brainstorming – Even the best mind-mapping tools still get trumped by a good pen and blank paper canvas. There are no limits to what you can visualize or draw. And sometimes scribbling creates ideas that you never knew you had.
  2. Crossing Tasks Off Your List - I use the Things app for my Todo list. However, there is something powerful about physically crossing something off a paper list. That is why we tend to make little lists on pads, Post-Its and scraps of paper. Because we like to take a big Sharpie marker and cross those things out.
  3. Note-taking - Even with Evernote, iPads, and more, nothing beats paper for ease of taking notes. And even though tablets have changed the culture of our business world, it is still not socially acceptable to be tapping away on your tech while in a meeting. However, people actually respect your actions if you are writing things down. This etiquette will continue to shift, but for now, it is still more socially acceptable to take notes on paper.
  4. Simple – Paper doesn’t waste your time with complex options and bloated features. I have watched meetings where half of the time is wasted dealing with the technology being used. After 35 minutes of fighting with an electronic white board system, a large paper flip-chart saves the day and gets the job done.
  5. Reliability – You know that your paper is going to be there for you. Not always true for your data. A client recently lost an entire year’s worth of project work due to a hard drive failure. All notes and documents had been electronic. (Of course, you should have a backup plan for your data…)

Gadgets Haven’t Replaced Paper… Yet.

Our technology has replaced paper in many areas of our work.

Textbooks, news, and more are quickly becoming electronic-only.

However, when it comes to notes, capturing ideas, and more, paper is still the go to solution.

Our tech may eventually displace paper, but for now, paper still rules.

Question: What uses does paper play in your productivity?

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  • BasementCornerOffice

    I totally agree. I like viewing things on paper…my brain still seems to process things better when they’re spread out on papers across my desk. I like highlighting important dates/phrases on a piece of paper, it seems to stick in my memory in a way things I view on the screen don’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joakimberglund Joakim Berglund

    Can’t say I agree with point number five. I don’t always have my paper where I’m at right now, but Evernote is in my phone, tablet, web and computer. Most often, at least one of those items is somewhere around me.

    Obviously if one doesn’t have backups you’re is going to have loss of data at some point, but isn’t the same true for paper? Fire, liquid… There’s loads of things that could destroy a paper too.

    • http://twitter.com/n8dunn Nathan Dunn

      I’m with you on #5, Joakim. I can’t tell you the number of times in a meeting that someone wants to remember something from a previous meeting, but they don’t have that particular notebook with them, or they can’t find it. But with Evernote, I can search and find the note in a matter of seconds, from any device. And I never lose anything, because it’s in Evernote.

      I’ll also mildly disagree with part of #3 — in many places, it *is* socially acceptable to use an iPad or other electronic device for note taking. In fact, in some places where I’ve been, it’s expected because of the use of Evernote and other tools.

      I certainly appreciate the need for paper, and agree that we shouldn’t give it up completely.

  • http://twitter.com/claygirlsings Janice S

    Paper is good for the easily distracted. There’s no worry about getting sidetracked by Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube cats, et al. You can focus on your writing (or doodling).

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Great point on the distractions… :) That should be on the list, too.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeFrancis00 Michael Francis

    I agree 100%. Tech geeks often are driven to move processes from paper to digital just because they can. Or because it makes the data available to a wider group of people. While this may be nice for the remote viewers of the data, they often take control of the process leaving the data authors in the lurch, dancing around to try to comply with multiple users of the data. What I am referring to is logging processes. Working in a real time environment, logging is extremely critical to illustrate chains of events and provide a record for those who take over our role. Moving from paper, phone in one hand, pen and pad in the other, makes the logging/data recording process one step further removed from its original intent. Requirements to categorize and fill in mandatory fields increasingly bogs down the process making it pretty meaningless.

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Great points.

      Often our systems provide too many requirements and structure. This can cause unneeded work, as well as limitations on our ability to get work done.

  • rgoldston

    Craig – Interesting post. Title caught my attention because I’m always torn between taking a notepad into a meeting or just my iPad. Note pads are great when you want to explain something technical or detailed to a client on the fly because I can just draw a diagram.

    Also, I remember reading somewhere, maybe Stephen Covey, not sure that writing somehow creates a mental connection that typing does not (making it easier to remember what we wrote).

    Last thing – I absolutely find writing to be easier for creativity. I can get my thoughts down more quickly. I find that I use both tech and old school writing. If I’m out on a walk and something comes to mind for the blog or client I record it into my iPhone.

    PS – Thanks for the follow on Twitter!

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Thanks, Rodney.

      Great additional point about the memory connection when writing things down. Not sure we get that same memory benefit from tapping on our tablets. :)

  • Bob

    Love both my iPad and Moleskine … As a former pastor I always used my Moleskine to collect thoughts, notes, quotes etc and then compose the message on my iPad or MacBook … I like seeing the birth of a poem on paper with words lined up, scratched through, arrows drawn with extra possible lines … then transpose it all to Evernote and eventually blog … There is a harmony between paper and technology I use and love.

  • Stacey Vulakh

    I agree that paper still plays an important role in productivity. I find that writing things down also helps me remember them better than if I just save a webpage to Evernote. And there’s certainly value in changing up your tools to help brainstorming and creativity flow! Many of us use computers and phones so often that simply writing by hand can be enough to trigger great ideas! And as you said, mind-mapping just can’t be replaced by an app. It may not always beat scissors or rock but it definitely has a leg up on tech :)

  • mattchapple

    Paper plays a huge role for me. I generally use Evernote for more long-term notes (such as books lists) but all my school notes are written down and I’m always writing lists of things to do and things I need to remember. Maybe I should invest in a Moleskine, they seem pretty handy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anitatlim Anita Lim

    Thank you for an interesting post. I’ve owned a filofax for about 3 years now & have found that a mixture of technology & paper is the best of both worlds for me. If I need to work something out I always reach for paper, but enjoy using my iPod touch or my e-reader

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