Why paper is the real 'killer app'

I run across these types of articles more and more often. And it’s interesting to me how often people make major adjustments in their lives just to accommodate paper as opposed to digital tech. The volume of articles about how “the Echo changed my life” and “the Hue made me more productive” are a dime a dozen. But I sense that the opposite is becoming more prevalent now as well.

That said, and if I’m honest with myself, I’ve considered a trial run with a paper-based task manager. I have no idea how it would work and I would likely hate it. But it’s an experiment I’m toying with.

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I think I’ve been attempting a mix of paper and digital. I use omnifocus as my trusted system to store all my tasks and projects. Then I use paper to create Today’s Action List. I’ll pick a bunch of overdue/due today/due soon tasks and then a few flagged tasks to create my action plan for the day. Optionally, I might just choose one project to work on for the day and focus on that.

My workday revolves on the paper list not my digital list. There’s just too many things in the digital list and it creates overwhelm. The paper list provides better focus and gives me bite sized chunks that I can handle.

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I do a lot of the same. But I’m serious when I say I’ve considered a “fully analog” task manager. I’ve enjoyed a lot of the benefits of paper for bits and pieces. The few places that are entirely analog show a lot of benefits. I can’t help but wonder if task management would be the same.

I say that and then I go work on an AppleScript for OmniFocus. :wink:

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Good luck on your paper-only experiment. I’ve always believed that beginners should be able to create a paper-based workflow first and then translate that into a digital version.

But there is this “shiny new object” syndrome that afflicts all of us. We see a brand new app and want to use it to create our productivity workflow. But our basic productivity foundation is flawed because we never worked it out on paper.

I remembered stepping back from the digital realm and tried to see if I could do it on paper. This involved going back to the original GTD book and using the 43 folders concept. Then I worked out the rest of my workflow. Afterwards, I tried to see if I could emulate that same system in my digital app.

But yeah, paper works best when we want to get back to the basics. It strips out all of that shiny new feature overload that we see in today’s digital app world.

Just to be clear, this is mostly a thought-experiment at the moment. Purely hypothetical. It may morph into something more than that, but right now that’s as far as it goes.

There’s a lot of value in doing this. I wasn’t able to truly use a digital calendar each day until I started writing out my day on paper. It took the analog process to help me grasp the subtleties of what I was doing. But after a run on the digital side I’m now back on paper for my daily schedule.

I think that’s what has me curious about it. The calendar piece on paper has shown me benefits that I wouldn’t otherwise have ever discovered. The mental exploration of a paper-based task manager is to see what benefits I may be missing out on.

It’s the core features of the digital realm that bring the power. Alerts and repeats. The big question I want to answer is this:

Will projects and tasks fall through the cracks if my system requires me to act in order to determine what comes next?