Advertising
Advertising

When a Paper Planner Can Be Your Best Productivity Tool

When a Paper Planner Can Be Your Best Productivity Tool

There are a lot of elegant tools for your OS and online that help you keep track of all your commitments, projects, tasks, goals, checklists, etc. Each of them have their own set of awesome features as well as their weaknesses.

I remember around a year ago when I was lost in the sea of productivity applications (if you have been there yourself, I totally feel for you). This mostly happened because I would find an app that I would like a lot and then find one or two things that it just couldn’t handle in my workflow. Because of that I played around with a ton of productivity applications and wasted a lot of my time procrastinating on projects.

Here is what I found

There is no perfect productivity, todo list, or Getting Things Done application for everyone.

Sorry.

Advertising

But wait, before you leave and go Google something like “best GTD app -lifehack.org”, I have to tell you that there is one tool that led me to find a productivity application that worked perfect for me.

My travels through the sea of endless list making apps led me back to where I started my journey with productivity and Getting Things Done: pen and paper.

Why it works

    There are a lot of things that paper doesn’t have that digital tools do including ubiquitous search, automated repeats, nesting of tasks, quickly changing lists and due dates, reminders, etc. But it does have one thing over digital tools that makes it one of the best ways to start being productive; unlimited flexibility.

    Advertising

    If I want to take a note about a certain task in a digital tool, I have to invoke some sort of option in the system to say that I want to make that note. I type the note, and if the system is good, it will save it automatically. Otherwise I have to tell it to save the note about the task.

    With paper and pen, I locate the task and write something near it. Or, hell, even on top of it if I want.

    Paper planners work because they are flexible and with that flexibility eventually comes an awareness of how you work your productivity system, not how it works you.

    There is nothing to learn really (that is if you aren’t implementing GTD or some other productivity system) and you can start with the tool immediately.

    Advertising

    This doesn’t have to be permanent

    I was so against using paper after using digital tools for a number of years. But what it came down to was that I needed to re-learn how to create and use a system. Paper is awesome for this because it helps you identify precisely what you need (as well as the things you don’t need at all) and helps you concentrate more on organizing and checking things off of your todo lists rather than figure out the exact taxonomy for your project on saving the world.

    When you fiddle with your tools you aren’t saving the world, you are fiddling.

    As you gain a better understanding of what your tools need to do to facilitate your workflow, you can start to see which digital systems can match that feature specification.

    Transitioning from paper to digital

    Now that you have figured out what you need in a tool and what you don’t at all need in your productivity system, you can start your search for a digital tool and transition to it. That is if you want to.

    Advertising

    I have met a lot of people that are just as, if not more productive with a paper and pen than I am with OmniFocus on my two Macs, iPhone, and iPad. I believe that it has a lot to do with them being very intimate and close with their system, where as a digital tool can feel somewhat sterile and binary.

    The easiest way to transition is to start dumping your paper planner’s contents straight into your new tool and set it up relatively close to what already have. If you use a bunch of different lists for each area that you do your work in (contexts) and also a list of all your projects and reference materials, make sure that your desired digital tool can handle it.

    Slow down to speed up

    Paper may not be the most powerful productivity tool you can get your hands on, but it sure will show you exactly what you need and don’t need in a productivity system to make it work for you.

    I spent a good 3 months working with a paper planner through college and a full time job at the same time. It was annoying to have to rewrite things every once in a while, but it made me realize exactly what I needed in a productivity tool and helped me stop spinning my wheels trying to find the perfect digital tool.

    Sometimes we have to use the most basic tools, understand how are productivity system is supposed to work, and then make it work with a decent digital tool that fits our needs.

    If you are roaming around in the digital todo list and productivity tool jungle, give yourself a break, grab a crappy notebook and start getting some work done.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

    5 Project Management Tools to Get Your Team on Track To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Simple Tweaks to Make Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better

    Trending in Productivity

    1 10 Best Task List Apps to Boost Productivity in 2020 2 Delegating Work: What to Delegate and What Not to? 3 6 Delegation Examples that you can Follow 4 7 Comprehensive Methods on How To Meet Deadlines 5 74 Healthy Habits That Will Drastically Improve Every Aspect of Your Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on December 4, 2020

    10 Best Task List Apps to Boost Productivity in 2020

    10 Best Task List Apps to Boost Productivity in 2020

    Organizational drag is anything that eats up time and keeps people from getting things done in time. Companies that wish to boost productivity do so by creating more efficient processes.

    This also applies to individuals, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. Whether you work alone or as part of a team, it is important to use the right tools to boost productivity, and having an accessible and easily manageable task list can go a long way.

    Here is a list of the top ten productivity apps that you can use to achieve more.

    1. ToDoist

      ToDoist is an awesome to-do task list app that is used by over 10 million people. To use the app, you just have to write down all the activities that you plan to do. The software will then interpret these activities and categorize the tasks accordingly.

      For instance, if you create a task to go for lunch at noon with a friend, the app will automatically categorize this task as a meeting and will send you a reminder at the right time.

      However, this app is more than a personal activity planner. You can use it to plan activities for the entire team. It is also good for planning entire projects, discussing details about the project, and monitoring the deadlines.

      The basic functionality is free, but you can unlock premium features for $36 or $60 a year for full access.

      Available on iOS and Android

      2. monday.com

        This productivity app lets you manage your workflows and tasks. It is a great tool for creating a task list and helping you have a clear view of your work and the status of each task.

        Advertising

        The app is a bit similar to a spreadsheet. However, it looks much nicer, and it allows you to toggle between multiple views. It gives you alerts and notifications, and it allows you to attach files as well as communicate with colleagues.

        The features of Monday.com include a task board that can be customized to manage due date, hours spent, task status, and much more. Users can upload and attach files, make comments, mention members of their team, and more. It can also be integrated into Google Drive, Slack, GitHub, Jira, Dropbox, and many other platforms.

        If you have problems setting it up, you can contact the customer via email or phone.

        Available on iOS and Android

        3. CloudApp

          CloudApp is a great app for boosting productivity. It offers highly intuitive communication, which can help you save up to 56 hours a week. Your only problem will be deciding how you can utilize all the extra time.

          Whether you are talking with a customer, colleague, or client, this app has all the features you need. With GIFs, screenshots, and image annotation, you no longer have to write lengthy emails. Instead, you can show people what you want them to do.

          The app has over 3 million users. It has proven quite reliable when it comes to helping users to boost productivity. You can opt for the free version or you can opt for a $9 a month upgrade to access premium features.

          Available on iOS

          4. Quip

            If you are working closely with members of your team, Quip is a great app for team activities. The platform combines spreadsheets, documents, slides, and chat. Its main strength is that it comes with a suite of Live Apps. You can use them to increase the functionality of Quip.

            Advertising

            Moreover, you will waste less time by being able to streamline the use of various tools. Quip is one of the most adaptable productivity apps in the world.

            There are options to use connected tools to track time, manage work, and much more. Some of the integrations of Quip are Dropbox, Github, Slack, Salesforce, and much more. The app costs just $30 a month for 5 users.

            Available on iOS and Android

            5. Trello

              Trello is an app that makes managing projects an easy task. This is made possible by the app’s Kanban philosophy. It is a visual and intuitive platform.

              Users can break huge tasks into small chunks, making it useful for creating a task list. This is made possible by creating cards for each task. The cards can be organized into different columns, which are representative of various stages of the project. Once a task is complete, a card is moved from one column to the next.

              The app is free but it comes with a premium plan with $9.99 a month.

              Available on iOS and Android

              6. Focus Keeper

                This app is perfect for those who wish to improve their work habits and minimize distractions while maintaining focus on current tasks. Focus Keeper is based on the Pomodoro technique. This method utilizes timeboxing to ensure each task is complete.

                This is more than a task list app. If you wish to understand how you work best, the app delivers a suite of tools that you can use to set up your workday. It tracks your hours, analyzes, checks interruptions, and much more. Some of the integrations of Focus Keeper are Trello, Asana, Todoist, Basecamp, Outlook, Google Keep, and many others.

                Advertising

                The app costs $2.99 a month for those who wish to access premium features. It is accessible on Linux, iOS, Android, web, macOS, and Windows.

                Available on iOS and Android

                7. Quire

                  This app is designed as a professional and personal to-do task list manager. The app has a very efficient and optimized design due to the developers’ philosophy on visual task management. It allows you to easily get updates and work with your teammates.

                  The app also allows users to customize and choose templates based on their preferences. It is easy to use, but it helps you get things done. The app is currently free.

                  Available on iOS and Android

                  8. Asana

                    This Kanban-style app is quite popular. It helps you visually organize your tasks. With this app, you can set deadlines, tasks, assignees, and visualize your workflow. It is quite popular and used by many people.

                    The app features a sleek clutter-free design and comes with several integrations. As a result, it can be adapted to a wide range of projects. The app costs $9.99 a month.

                    Available on iOS and Android

                    9. Toggl

                    Advertising

                      You can use this simple time tracker to help boost your team’s productivity. It works on different devices across several platforms, and it comes with numerous friendly reminders to ensure that you remember to keep it on. It usually sends you a report once you complete a task to help you make improvements next time.

                      The app is free and those who wish to access premium features pay $9 a month.

                      Available on iOS and Android

                      10. Omni Focus

                        This app is considered the gold standard of the to-do apps. Omni Focus delivers a huge number of features that can be used to sort, prioritize, and plan tasks. It features several ways to categorize tasks such as location, energy needed, and priority.

                        It is only available on Apple devices and it costs $39.99 for the standard package.

                        Available on iOS

                        Summary

                        All the apps above are great for boosting productivity. However, you will need to pick one that best suits your needs. Try a number of them out before you decide to settle on one.

                        More Tools for Productivity

                        Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

                        Read Next