Tapping into my inner Luddite — Why I am returning to pen and paper for planning.

If you have been fol­low­ing this blog then you will know that I am no tech­no­log­i­cal lud­dite, with many of the most viewed posts deal­ing with Zotero, Scrivener and oth­er com­put­er based writ­ing man­age­ment soft­ware.

However, recent­ly things have been chang­ing, although per­haps not for the rea­sons that first come to mind. Perhaps a bit of back­ground is appro­pri­ate though. Like many oth­ers my age, I grew up with the bur­geon­ing com­put­er peri­od, but before they become so ubiq­ui­tous that we walk around with more pro­cess­ing pow­er than Apollo in our pock­ets. Being in this lim­i­nal space means a few things. Firstly, it means that while I have had a long string of com­put­erised assis­tive devices, I orig­i­nal­ly learnt to do most things with­out them. Secondly, I remem­ber how annoy­ing some phys­i­cal process­es were before the rise of easy digi­ti­sa­tion, gone are reams of paper, and in comes the iPad. Finally, I also spent a lot of time at a com­put­er with­out any par­tic­u­lar­ly good OH&S advice.

It is this last aspect that has been one for me of the dri­ving forces towards digi­ti­sa­tion over paper tech­nolo­gies. I have RSI and carpal tun­nel in one hand, and as a result don’t write a huge amount, and there­fore have exceed­ing­ly bad hand­writ­ing. Amusingly though it is also this aspect that recent­ly I have found myself ben­e­fit­ing from. Simply put, when i want to scrib­ble some­thing down it takes effort, and that effort means that I think things through a bit more thor­ough­ly. So when I am putting things in my diary, or mak­ing plans for dif­fer­ent things, the extra effort actu­al­ly helps in mak­ing good deci­sions or prop­er plan­ning. I have writ­ten in the past about how this relates to stu­dents using high­er cog­ni­tive load meth­ods for note tak­ing (see here for that post), but this is tak­ing the same mech­a­nism in a new direc­tion.

Therefore, this year–for the first time in about 10 years–I have bought myself a paper diary. While it is a pret­ty spiffy paper diary, and with all sorts of oth­er advan­tages, it has real­ly been help­ing me to pare back what I want to record and what I am plan­ning to do. Now I still use my dig­i­tal cal­en­dar for meet­ing reminders, and oth­er things like that, but as a plan­ner this mech­a­nism seems to be far more effec­tive for me at the moment.

The plan­ner I have decid­ed to use is the Ink+Volt Planner (I backed it on Kickstarter) that has a few spiffy fea­tures, but one of the best is that each day is just split into three sec­tions of time. This min­imi­sa­tion of the num­ber of things you can cram into a peri­od of time real­ly helps with plan­ning and exe­cu­tion of the things to do in a day. Note: this fea­ture can also be imple­ment­ed in oth­er plan­ners with a ruler and sharpie to lim­it the amount of space you have to write in, so give it a go and see what you think.

Im inter­est­ed if any­one else is expe­ri­enc­ing the dig­i­tal fatigue, and return­ing to pen and paper as well. Please com­ment below. Ill blog in the future about what using a pen and pad has done for my con­fer­ence notes.

Or per­haps I am just becom­ing a lud­dite hip­ster… after all I have redis­cov­ered my vinyl col­lec­tion too.

Chris

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