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10 Reasons Paper is The Most Flexible Productivity Platform

10 Reasons Paper is The Most Flexible Productivity Platform

notebook

    Lifehack’s theme for April is productivity without power. I don’t know about you but those words instantly bring one word to mind: paper. Whether it’s a Moleskine, index cards, a regular notebook or just loose-leaf, paper can be one of the most flexible tools in your arsenal. Let’s take a look at ten ways you can use paper yourself.

    Hipster PDA

    Here’s the thing you always know is going to be mentioned when an article’s title combines the words “paper” and “productivity” — it’s the classic Hipster PDA. Merlin Mann came up with the idea in 2004 when he got sick of carrying his Palm V around. Essentially, the “device” intends to replicate the organizational functions of a PDA without the electricity and is made from index cards.

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    Capturing Memory Leaks

    Often termed ubiquitous capture, there are a gazillion powered options for capturing ideas, forgotten tasks and other memory leaks in one of those “oh no!” moments. Nothing really does beat pen and paper, though — it won’t disappear when there’s no power or crash and freeze before you can hit the Ctrl+S. Paper is easily accessible and reliable. Unless, of course, you mix coffee, children and small spaces.

    Brain Dump

    In my mind, there’s something demanding about an empty word processor window, but something freeing about a blank sheet of paper. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I spend a heck of a lot of time working in word processors, but when I need to sweep my mind and get all the loose ends down the easiest, fastest, and most comprehensive way involves paper. I can empty my brain organically with lines and free association and all that literary-hippy stuff, rather than facing the cold, harsh linearity of the word processor.

    Task Lists

    I have always found that the most effective task lists for a one-day timeframe are paper-based. While I’ll use software to manage tasks in the greater scheme of things, my day’s plan of action is always mapped out on paper — at least those days where I’m reasonably effective are! You can read a bit more about my method of doing things here, and I strongly urge everyone to consider trialing this method. Task management software is so ubiquitous these days that many people don’t even give paper a week or two’s chance.

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    DIY Planner

    Here’s a resource that deserves a section of its own: DIY Planner. This website hosts a plethora of printables for all sorts of things — productivity, writing tools, psychology, and more. Unfortunately it can be a bit tough to separate the printables from the articles (not that there’s anything wrong with the articles, but sometimes you just want to get straight to the goodies). Despite that, it’s still worth a good look-through. Sure, you need a computer and a printer in the first place so it’s not exclusively powerless. Just make sure to stock up before the power grid explodes!

    Flash cards

    Every now and then we need to memorize things. Whether you’re learning some vocabulary in a new language or the lines in your presentation, sometimes the old-fashioned flash card method is the way to go. While there are apps for the computer and most phones that do this it can be simply more convenient to whip out a stack of cards in your wallet when you’re out and about. Why waste those idle moments?

    Idea Generation

    When my main income source was freelance writing, every couple of weeks I’d run dry on ideas. When you’re writing for more than fourteen hours a day it’s not hard to do at all. So I’d schedule a block of time every two weeks to sit down with a pen and one of those large drawing notebooks (like a Moleskine but with the wire binding) and brainstorm enough ideas to last a few weeks, and sometimes a month or two. I always kept the excess in an emergency reserve in case I came up dry two weeks later.

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    As I mentioned when I wrote about brain dumping, paper doesn’t have to be as linear as a word processor, so it’s that much easier to come up with more ideas on paper just by drawing lines and creating strange associations between ideas.

    Organize Contacts

    You could use an old-fashioned address book and put it by the phone. You could keep regular print-outs for everyone in your computer-based contact manager plus notes and client histories in a binder, since if your only backup of your digital address book was accidentally wiped you could be out of business.

    Or you could organize your contacts by throwing every business card you ever receive into a binder. Pretty cool, eh?

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    Organizing Your Family Life

    A whole lot of information flows through the family home. Important information from your doctor, permission slips to sign for the kid’s school, family events and birthdays to remember, the list goes on. Unclutterer offers an excellent paper-based idea to help you keep your home life as organized as your work life: the central home binder.

    A Funnel for Your Car

    We can’t finish this list without including one of the most common uses for paper that has persisted for decades.

    Well, not really — I’ve never heard of anyone doing this before, though I wouldn’t be surprised if I do end up trying one day since our car is so poorly stocked; Brett Kelly of Cranking Widgets brings us the index card funnel.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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