6 daily applications where paper beats software

Recently, I’ve been noticing a backlash against the trend to do
everything on electronic platforms, and it mirrors some of the decisions I’ve
been making as well. Last year, for instance, I put away my IPAQ in favour of
paper organisational solutions.

Here are six applications we all undertake every day that work better
with the traditional paper and pen solutions than with electronic tools.

1. The task list. Web Worker Daily has an inspirational post on this subject. I
have found that the paper task list is simply a more effective way to organise
my work. I use a form of Bill Westerman’s great GSD system. My GSD book
is portable, works anywhere, has never crashed and doesn’t need a help file.

2. The daily schedule. I use a Moleskine
pocket diary
, in which I use a pencil to note my various appointments,
meetings and plans. I can quickly skip to any date and make changes easily
whenever I like. When people in the corporate world invite me to meetings in
Outlook, I write them in my paper diary when I accept the invitation. Other than
that, the only syncing I need to do is to pick up my diary and put it in my
pocket when I go out.

3. Meeting notes. For a while, I used Microsoft OneNote but despite the wonderful flexibility of the
application, the truth is it still isn’t anywhere near as flexible as writing my
own notes in a book or on paper. When I use paper, I can draw pictures, and
highlight relationships between ideas without even thinking about it. Yes,
OneNote can do that too, but while I’m thinking about the key and mouse actions
to make that happen, I’m not concentrating on what’s happening in the meeting.

4. Mind maps. There are lots of PC mind mapping
applications. I quite like MindManager. But after you’ve created a few mind maps on a
computer, you start to notice they all look the same. They’re nice and shiny and
professional looking, of course, but they aren’t memorable in the way a
hand-drawn one is. When you draw a bad picture of a factory on your paper mind
map, it’s more memorable that the perfect clipart one on screen. When your map
ends up asymmetrical because you overestimated how far a topic would take you,
it’s more memorable. The imperfections of the paper design create memory hooks
that the perfect computer versions just don’t.

5. Your journal. I’ve written about the value I get from
keeping a daily record of my life before, and I just can’t imagine doing
this in any way other than in a book with a fountain pen. I write more slowly
than I can type, and this allows me to record rather more fully-formed ideas
that those my keyboard produces. The journal can accompany me anywhere and I can
access it quickly in situations in which I’d hesitate to open a laptop. It’s
lighter, too.

6. Personal letters and greeting cards. Compare the
experience of receiving a hand-written note or card in the mail with that of
receiving an e-mail or an e-card. Someone took the trouble not just to click a
few keys, but to write you a personal message, put it in an envelope which they
then addressed, stamped and posted. Is that not a more valuable affirmation of
your relationship than a few on-screen dancing bunnies?

Ray Blake
Visit his blog, "Working on Me".

3 thoughts on “6 daily applications where paper beats software

  1. I agree with some of the sentiments here, especially the personal journal and greeting cards/letters.

    For me, Onenote is a great tool in meetings, combining the free form note and diagram capability of paper with easy conversion to documents or email if required. A Tablet PC makes all the difference (I use a HP TC1100). Another benefit is automatic backup, I don’t have to worry about losing my notes.

  2. I enjoyed your piece here, I agree with you on all you have said. I too have returned to using a paper diary & journal to inform myself of anything I need to remember or know. I have now started communicating with my son & daughter via letter not text, email, or messenger. Much more personal & enjoyable.

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