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Digital Versus Analog: Which is Better for Productivity?

Digital Versus Analog_ Which is Better for Productivity_

Needle down. Crack… Pop…

“Let me tell you how it will be

There’s one for you, nineteen for me

Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman”

Sound from the spinning black circle filled our living room and it was fantastic. Not that The Beatles’ Revolver album could ever sound bad. But there’s something special about hearing it on vinyl for the first time.

The whole analog experience presents something different in a world moving increasingly toward the streaming of digital files, apps, and transactions in the cloud. The act of touching and experiencing something with all of your senses is becoming rare.

Which is why, last year, I decided to go analog in another area … productivity.

When it came to improving productivity, digital just wasn’t working for me.

I found myself tapping a list of things to do that would sync across devices and be wherever I needed it. But the list would just grow. It didn’t help me actually take action on the items on the list.

The to-do items existed on some digital plane that was easy to ignore.

That’s when I decided to move to pen and paper

A close up of a notebook sitting on top of a wooden table

I stumbled across the Bullet Journal system. And I’ve never been more productive.

The system uses a simple framework and core methods to get you started. It’s also extremely flexible, allowing you to make modifications based on what works best for you.

The key here seems to be in the reviewing of your journal. Every day I’m in the journal reviewing what needs to be done. And at the beginning of each month I migrate any unfinished tasks or strike them from the list if they’re no longer important.

The system uses a simple key to mark tasks, notes, and events. There’s a section for things you’re planning in the future and you can group notes on the same subject into collections if necessary.  There’s something about that tactile process that makes it work.

I’ve even started leaving my laptop behind when I go to meetings.

Instead, I just bring my notebook and a pen to capture notes and to-do items. I find myself paying closer attention and taking more meaningful notes and capturing to-do items with more clarity.

Now, I’m actually completing the to-do items on my written list. And retaining more of the information in my notes. That’s not really a big surprise considering studies have shown that students who write out their notes learn more than those who type them on their laptop.

Analog slows you down and makes you more thoughtful.

My wife and I discussed how choosing an album to play on the record player becomes a more thoughtful process as you’re not able to tap a screen to skip a track. All of a sudden, your music doesn’t feel disposable.

I’d say the same applies to better productivity. The act of writing with pen and paper commits you to the process. At Constant Contact, my team and I have even started to focus on tangible tools and worksheets to help our customers create an email marketing plan that they’ll actually stick to.

It’s not that there aren’t some great digital tools to help you organize, but …

I’d argue that digital software can also become an excuse not to do things.

“I’ll get started on that project once I figure out how to use this program.”

The procrastinator in each of us loves these new toys. Because it gives us some time to, well, procrastinate.

Everything old is new again

A close up of a record player needle

In the future, I may look for ways to integrate the paper and digital world. For now, I’m enjoying some time away from the constant distraction of devices and apps and focusing my efforts on being more thoughtful about what really needs to be done.

Even if that’s just sitting in my living room enjoying Revolver.

What about you?

Where do you manage your to-do list — in the cloud or on paper? What helps you be more productive?

Dave Charest

Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.


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