In Defense of Pen and Paper (aka Old School Tools)







Image Courtesy of Dinuraj K

*TL;DR: Plan more productively by using a pen and paper (aka. Old School Tool).

In this post I am going to encourage you to do some regular planning, but on paper.

Electronic aids have become ubiquitous, but its time to give some love to the pen (oh, and the paper).

Recently I have been doing this to do my planning of blog scheduling, book writing, site upkeep and build-out, topic ideas etc. I found that in 2-3 hours, separated from my computer, I got much, much more done.

The computer does some things well, but not everything.

It’s a matter of style, but I find switching between documents, whether on cloud storage or even Evernote, it takes time and I have to categorize the note. Its disrupting to my personal flow.

Going to pen can dramatically increase your productivity in planning and strategy.

If you are sitting down to write a blog post, the computer is probably the best bet, but when there are several pieces of information you may be working at, paper is the way to go.

This is what happens when I do it:

  • I note my action items and prioritize
  • I may find I’m falling behind on blogging because I’m working on Project A
  • I write a list of topics for blog posts, but then find some of those may lend themselves to another sort of medium in the future (video, audio etc.)
  • I get inspired on developing ideas around potential video topics
  • I realize there may some topics that could be infographics or introductory videos, some are more comprehensive in scope
  • I now have  a list of potential videos, both single and multiple sessions
  • I think, maybe this would be better as a book, so I brainstorm book concepts
  • I go back and do an outline of a blog post, and realize, I need to create a template that I can use when developing a blog post idea. Could this be an infographic to help others?
  • Now I have a video list, book list, blog topic list, blog outline, list of potential infographics
  • I go back and look at schedule and set some targets for posting, writing etc.
  • I realize I need to keep some of these ideas for the long-term, so go back and put a note next to it, so I can transfer to Evernote later
  • I think of blog formats out of the blue. Maybe I should do a post on favorite quotes, or add in a regular post on Gratitude (Gratituesdays anyone?)
  • I think, some of the things I have been working on and planning have shifted a bit. I go back and revise prior projections

So now, in my ever grinding brain, have 5 or 6 lists of different data that I want to keep.

I have now:
  • Refined my schedule
  • Re-appraised my priorities
  • Have tons of new ideas for blog topics, book concepts, potential videos, helpful products like infographics
  • An outline of several blog posts
  • An extensive list of related blog topics that were inspired
  • Clarity on what I should be pursuing
  • A head start on blogging for the next week or two

What the heck happened and how do you do it?

I understand that not everyone likes to write and everyone has a system that works for them. I discovered the benefits to hand-written planning purely because I had to be out of the office for a couple of hours and found myself at the library without a computer, but the drive to plan, even if I couldn’t create. Now, every two weeks, I spend 2-3 hours, maximum, to do this type of planning.

  • Clarity of priorities
  • A refined and realistic schedule
  • A ton of new creative ideas in the hopper that can be drawn upon in the future
  • A head start on my blogging for the next couple of weeks
How to do it:
  • It’s up to you, but I’ve done the library (I hadn’t been in one in literally decades)
  • I’ve done it in the car, sitting under a tree and having absolutely no distractions
  • Uh, no distractions
  • Don’t bring a laptop and don’t look at your phone
  • It’s just you, a notebook and a pen
  • A couple of hours of time. Yes, I know, we are all busy. I’ve got a full-time job, a family and am starting a business on the side. I get it. But this really does pay dividends.

We all have seen mind-maps before, and have used dry erase or chalkboards (I’ll write about chalkboards in the future maybe?). Some tasks lend themselves to the computer. I write using Scrivener for example, but I like to brainstorm on paper.

I like a nice pen and good thick paper. It’s an enjoyable experience and much more tactile, for lack of a better word.

Try it, you may find that you get more done than relying on an electronic gadget.


Do it. I have 7 pages of notes and it looks like I barfed on the page, a total brain dump. I got more focused and more energized through the process. Maybe you will too.

“If you get stuck, draw with a different pen. Change your tools; it may free your thinking.” – Paul Arden

*TL;DR for you Luddites means ‘Too Long; Didn’t Read.’ It is a synopsis. I have started this as of this blog post because I know people are busy, and I want to give at least some distilled value in a short space.

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