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

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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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