You just can’t beat digital for many things:
The easy selection and streaming of music instead of carrying around your entire CD collection.
GPS enabled maps instead of paper.
Email versus snail mail.
But for planning and organising yourself and your day, there is a major argument for doing away with those digital lists and phone apps. Getting back to our roots and actually writing – you know, with a pen and paper – might be one of the best ways to truly stay on top of what matters and be more EFFECTIVE rather than just efficient.
For quite a while I went completely digital – even taking notes on my iPad and drawing outlines for articles and workshops on drawing apps, as well as always reading books on the kindle app for iPad. But I felt that something was lacking. I didn’t feel as connected or creative about what I was doing.
I started reading physical books again and found I not only processed the information better; I enjoyed the experience more as well. I actually wanted to read more when I had a physical book in my hand. I also went back to pen and paper for jotting notes and ideas and found that I felt more creative (I was also less distracted by digital notifications).
So, I have been meandering toward this for a few years now. After all, it’s why we created the Focus Planner as a physical journal rather than a digital app. But I had kept a hold of some of the digital crutches that I thought helped me be more efficient. The biggest item was my to-do-list. I was using an app called 2-Do in order to get down all my thoughts about what needed to be done and when. When I all of a sudden remembered something else that needed to be done, I could just pick up the iPhone and add it to the list.
But about eight months ago I bit the bullet. I deleted the app from my phone and went back to using my Focus Planner solely. Here’s are five reasons why I did it and how it’s been working.
1. We remember things we write down
There are plenty of studies that show the value of writing things down and how it commits things to memory. When we write down what we need to do for the day, it helps these things stay front of mind. I am definitely more aware of what needs to be done and I can even picture how it looks when I think about my list when I am driving or walking back to the office from a meeting. This stops me from getting distracted or over-committing to extra things during the day.
At the end of the day, when I write down things I need to do tomorrow, this helps me let go of those things and switch off from work.
2. Planning becomes mindful – no distractions
I think this is one of the biggest benefits of going analogue. My morning planning ritual is no longer interrupted by the odd glance at an email or answering a direct message. I am immersed in the process which allows me to give it my full attention. It is a great time to brainstorm uninterrupted
3. Bigger investment of time and effort
This sounds like a downside, but I have learnt that it is really a benefit. When we have to invest more in writing down our day’s plan or our day’s (or week’s or month’s) to-do list, we really start to think if it is worth doing. After all, we only have a finite amount of time during the day to work (and I, for one, would rather go work out or spend time with my family or friends) so we need to resist the temptation of doing everything that comes our way. The fact that I can’t just easily add another thing to my list – that I have to commit to writing it down – means that I sometimes do a double-take on whether this task is worth my time, can be left to another day when I’m not as busy, or if it really needs to be done at all.
Creativity is a skill. And if you don’t use it, you don’t develop it. If you think you don’t need creativity in your job, you might want to think again. Sure, you may not paint or write fiction, but I bet you need to problem-solve. There are some statistics that show that 85% of all new jobs created in the last ten years require some sort of abstract thinking. When you put pen to paper, start doodling, add some colour or just start jotting down ideas, you continue to build your skill of being creative.
Over the last two years my Focus Planner has seen many iterations in the way I handle meeting notes, lists, weekly plans and projects. I now have a system that works entirely for me and the way I like to visualise and organise things. While most apps are somewhat customisable, there is no way I could have learned so much about how I work and what I need to be organised if I hadn’t switched to analogue.
Finally, let me add one more benefit: REWARD. Sure, it feels great to click that little box on your app when you finish a task, but nothing beats physically crossing something off that you yourself wrote with your own hand.
If you haven’t tried going analogue, then I strongly encourage you to do it. If you’ve just dipped your toe in the water and you like it, then try to go all-in for a while and see if it works for you… it certainly worked for me.
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.