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Paper or computer? The eternal battle

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  • Paper or computer? The eternal battle

    I like paper because:

    - At some meetings (like church meetings), it's not culturally normal to pull out a laptop computer
    - I can drop physical papers (tickets, flyers) into my system with no fuss
    - I don't have to boot up my planner
    - Paper looks more artistic, and I like my handwriting
    - You can't delete writing on paper (for example, I cross out meetings I can't attend - and then I can still see that they're there, unlike in Outlook, which deletes them when I decline)
    - If I drop my planner in the bathtub, I can still read it

    I like computers because:

    - I can copy-paste information
    - Very easy to organize and search
    - better for the environment
    - I can back them up
    - Faster to type than to write
    - With software like ThinkingRock, it's easier to see the relationship between projects and actions
    - I never have to re-write anything
    - I'm less likely to forget to write down a reoccurring appointment. (With tickler files, it's not very likely, but it can happen)

    WHICH ONE? It seems I keep switching back and forth.
    I lean toward paper, but it's hard to associate projects with actions on paper and that's my big hindrance.

  • #2
    re: Paper or computer?

    You will have to find the best hybrid solution. Everybody goes through the process of trying to go all-paper or all-digital but inevitably one has to find a solution that will make the best of both.

    My own story recounts what I imagine most GTDers experience at some point, though each one finds (or makes) the solution that best suits his/her own needs, eventually. This is part of the trial-and-error nature of applying the principles: Your solution will evolve as you move along and experiment with various options and see what the strengths and weaknesses are for your own style of work. One computer program may work for the first couple of months and then fall short when the nature of your work changes. Paper may work well until the first day you leave your binder somewhere never to be seen again. And then a web-based solution may work until that one time you have no internet access or the company's servers go down. It's all going to depend on what works for you now -- and what works now may not be what works later. The key is to learn the principles and apply them to your own unique work. Only then will you know whether this or that form or tool will work the best for you. But in the beginning, it is usually best to start with paper so one can get the basics down first.
    Last edited by Todd V; 08-08-2012, 01:01 PM.


    • #3
      "I lean toward paper, but it's hard to associate projects with actions on paper and that's my big hindrance."

      The Weekly Review will help you associate projects with your next actions. When you really practice the WR, it's amazing how well you know the state of your projects and NA's!


      • #4
        I use both. I carry a Markings (moleskin clone) that I use as my capture device, approximate size (3.75" x 5.75") in my back pocket. Lot faster to scratch down a quick note/trigger than it is to turn on my Palm TX & open BeyondContacts (Outlook clone) & then have to either type or write w/ graffiti 2.

        At the end of the day I copy the information from my Markings to Outlook on my desktop & then sync the information to my Palm TX. I've tried using only a paper system, not convenient enough for me. I've tried the digital method but this one is too slow.

        The Weekly Review is done using a template on Mindmanager 7.0 Pro & Outlook.



        • #5
          Let me second what Todd has already said: you need to play around with various options and find your own groove. For me, my system is like a pair of shoes, I have to try several on to find the best one I like then break them in to see how really comfortable they can be. Even then, life changes and I have to change out the shoes I've had for a while to get a new pair for new needs. There are pros and cons to every implementation of GTD. It's what works best for you that matters.

          Now, for me, I feel like I've tried practically everything. It seems as if I've tried almost all the GTD techie tools out there. Finally, I could find nothing that did it exactly the way I wanted and went headlong into paper. Certainly, I still have email and the associated @Action and @Waiting For folders, but practically everything else is paper for me. Do I miss the electronic pluses? Yes, sometimes. The ability to search my whole system easily or copy and paste stuff from an email right into a project or having a backup out in the cloud. I mislaid my planner at work one day recently and didn't realize it until I got home. I nearly went nuts with anxiety about all the stuff in my life that would be thrown into chaos if it was gone for good. Fortunately, I found it the next morning. Although I haven't found a good way to "back up" my planner yet, I'm much more careful about not letting my binder out of my sight.

          But that's me. Someone else will tell you how they've implemented a nearly all electronic system and how great it works for them. It's up to you and, Todd's right, it will likely not be a choice between one or the other but a mixture of both in the end. Please let us know how your implementation grows and develops and good luck.


          • #6
            I've had a thought that one way to "back up" a paper planner is to take a digital photo of my upcoming calendar, project list, and next action lists once a week (maybe right before the weekly review). It would take just a minute or two and though it would be tedious to rewrite if I lost my planner, I wouldn't lose more than a week's worth of data.

            I actually have been doing GTD for a couple of years now, and I really love it. I think I tend towards digital when work gets really crazy, and towards paper when work is more relaxed.

            I think ultimately I'll end up using mostly paper, and keep ThinkingRock and mind mapping software on my computer for temporary use when work gets crazy. As long as I ultimately reflect my projects on paper so I have visibility, I think this will work best.