The 5 Day Analog Challenge: Becoming more productive by using paper 2

This morning I decided to do something different.  On the kitchen table right beside my morning cup of coffee, I sat down next to my paper calendar and my paper notebook.  In that notebook I looked back at the prior days worth of notes I had taken and the next actions that I set out to accomplish.  I wrote all of those on a new piece of paper in that notebook with the header of today’s date and the title, Things to Accomplish.  

The 5 Day Analog Paper Challenge: Becoming more productive by using paper
As I looked through the list of next action items I then moved my eyes to the paper calendar and scanned through the list of appointments that I have for today.  I scanned for available opened slots where I can accomplish some of those tasks and blocks of time in the next couple of days where I can accomplish others.
I was so keen on this idea of being able to quickly look through notes, identify next actions and place them in available slots in my calendar that as I took one more sip from my coffee and placed it down on the table, I could not help but smirk.  I was smirking because in our world of innovation and our world of app developers looking to differentiate themselves and one-up their competition in the productivity space, here I was just before the break of dawn relishing in the solace and tranquility of my paper based calendar and notebook.
But is it really all that ironic?  Is it really all that unbelievable that someone as technologically savvy as I am, as the author the best selling Evernote and Springpad productivity eBooks that I can enjoy and feel peace of mind with my analog tools?  I don’t think that there is that much irony at all.  In fact, I have written before about the beauty of a paper based notebooks and how the act of physically writing out our tasks and our thoughts can provide us a way of being able to get things done more efficiently.
Now, can someone who works in a collaborative team based atmosphere be able to just use a paper based calendar and notebook?  Probably not. Could someone who is a programmer be able to live just with a paper based calendar and notebook?  Probably not.
However, for the rest of us civilians it might not be that tough.  We scoff at the idea; however, here is my challenge to all of you. I challenge you to try it for 5 days.  Learn how to be an early riser with the help of my friend, Andy Traub’s new book, Early to Rise, and wake-up earlier then you normally would, grab your cup of coffee, and if you don’t already have a paper based calendar print out a copy of your work schedule for the week. If you don’t already have a notebook grab a legal pad or a couple of pieces of copy paper and begin to write out everything that is on your mind.
Set a timer for 10 minutes and just write.  Write about the outstanding projects that you have, write about the next action items, write about the things that you want to accomplish.  What are the outcomes that you want to achieve this week?  What things would make you more successful?  Write it all down as fast and as furiously as you can.  Then, take a look back at some of your notes from the prior week whether they’d be in Evernote or Springpad or OneNote or any other app or notebook that you might have used and look for all the open loops that you can close this week.  Find the places on your calendar where you can write down what it is that you need to accomplish. While you might have a laundry list of next action items, if you don’t balance that with the existing appointments on your calendar, you’ll never get anything accomplished.  So find those open spaces, figure out how long it will probably take you to accomplish some of those next action items, and then with your pen, shade out blocks of time for those particular tasks.
The challenge may be daunting and the longevity or sustainability of this one week exercise may not last forever … but I do challenge you to it.  I challenge you to think differently; to think outside of the box; and to think most importantly, outside of an app.  Because the bigger picture here figuring out what lessons did you learn?  What experiences did you savor?  What will you bring with you to the next app that you work on?  Look at this challenge as going way beyond just trying to see if you can go analog.  The challenge is to see how you can become more productive in the digital world by going analog.
Your next action:  Go by a paper based calendar and a notebook and live the challenge for a week. Use the comments in this post to share your stories, your thoughts, and your journey. Because together, we can make an incredible difference in each other’s lives!
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About Daniel Gold

Daniel Gold is a productivity coach, keynote speaker, author, and podcaster. He is most well known for his eBooks, Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, Simplify your Life with Springpad, and Make it Happen: How to Write, Publish, and Sell Your eBook. Daniel is also the co-host of the GTD® Virtual Study Group podcast.