Do you consider yourself a “paper person”? Perhaps you’ve thought about using a digital task management system, but it seems too complex? You’re not sure where to start. Or honestly, you just like how paper feels? I get it. I also love paper; you don’t need to justify your preferences to me!
But, I don’t use paper to manage tasks. Anymore.
Why should your primary system for tasks be digital?
The more you have on your plate, the less likely paper is going to be capable of acting as a comprehensive system for you. Capturing the level of detail required to offload task, next actions, next action dates, etc. from your brain into paper just isn’t feasible with paper. You may have a basic list, but you end up storing all the details in your brain, meaning that it’s more difficult to actually focus on the task at hand.
Paper wastes time!
Using paper as the primary system ends up wasting a lot time. There’s a lot of writing and rewriting in a paper system, and it often devolves to an overwhelming list (or set of lists) instead of a true system that helps drive the work forward.
In a digital system, your tasks are easier to capture, meaning you’re more likely to add them to the system. They’re also easier to sort, prioritize, filter and reprioritize, so that you can reduce overwhelm by only looking at what you have to do right now, today, to move things forward across all tasks, projects and realms of life.
Paper can get lost!
What if you leave your planner on a bus? Or your bag gets stolen? The horror!! Or, what if you’re using post-its, and an important one gets tucked under the couch, or sucked up by the vacuum?
With the digital system, your tasks are stored in the cloud so you don’t run the risk of losing them.
“But, I like paper. Please tell me I don’t have to give it up altogether.”
You may have read the research that taking notes on paper is better for information retention. You might feel that it’s rude to type during meetings. Those are all totally valid reasons for using paper.
But you know what’s not a valid reason?”: “I’ve always used paper”.
When you “go digital” do you have to give up paper? Absolutely not. That said, I generally recommend that people use a digital system as their primary system and that paper can be an input or a supplement. There’s a place for paper in any system and I’ll show you how to use paper if you like it, while still embracing the power of digital systems. Not everything is either/or. You can have your cake and eat it too.
For me, paper worked…until it didn’t. As your scope increases (at work and at home), your system must evolve. But I haven’t abandoned paper, and you don’t need to either.
How to integrate paper with your digital system
Can paper be part of your process? Yes!
If you’re a self proclaimed “paper person”, but you’ve also got a lot to do, how can you incorporate paper into your system? Here are a few ways to do it seamlessly:
- Print your “today” list from your task system or transfer your “today list” to a piece of paper, your notebook, or your planner and physically cross off the items as you go. (End of day planning might take slightly longer, as you also digitally check off the items you already completed. But not that much longer.)
- Take paper notes throughout the day, and ensure that you transfer relevant action items and notes into your digital system at the end of every day. Bonus points if you can do this periodically throughout the day so that it doesn’t become a big slog at the end of the day.
- Use paper strategically for specific purposes to which it’s well suited. Do you plan visually? Do you like to mind map? Use paper when you need it for a specific purpose, and then take a photo and upload it to your digital system.