Unmana Datta

Why Paper is Still My Favorite Productivity Tool

By: Unmana Datta | September 18, 2013 | 
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Heap of notebooksBy Unmana Datta

In many ways, I’m a denizen of this age.

I scoff when others lament the demise of paper and print.

It’s all very well to talk about the smell and feel of new books when you buy two books a year.

I buy several a month, and in the good old days before handheld readers, would give away dozens of books to friends every six months or so, lest the house get overrun!

I do get paper books once in a while, still. I do like the smell and feel of some books: Especially books with a lot of art in them. I love getting books to review.

But you’ll have to pry my Kindle out of my cold, dead hands.

Notebook Love

However, one way in which I’m old-fashioned in the use of paper is to make notes. I have a lot of notebooks for a variety of uses.

  1. One memo pad to make daily to-do lists in and write short notes to myself and my team. It’s only a few inches long: Write a few lines and crumple and throw away the page when you’re done.
  2. One small notebook to write down what I’ve been working on.
  3. Another small notebook for household lists that we’ve had forever (it’s thick.)
  4. Another little notebook to carry in my small handbag, in case I should want to write down something in the middle of a coffee date.
  5. One more lovely little notebook where I wrote down the early notes about Markitty: Our ideas and plans and updates. Haven’t updated that in some months!
  6. One notebook for blog ideas, which I started after Gini Dietrich suggested it. I’ve found this really useful.
  7. One plain notebook  I’ve just started using to draw requirements for graphs I want to add on to Markitty.
  8. One notebook for everything. I’ve had it for a couple of years now, but haven’t made my way through a third of it. It has different sections for meeting notes and task lists (longer versions, that don’t fit into my little memo pad), ideas, and blog posts.
  9. A couple of older notebooks I have used for years now (but still have some life in them). I usually take them out to meetings so I don’t have to lug around the Giant Notebook!

This is all I use regularly (I think). The ones I use most are the little task list memo pad, the blog ideas notebook, the smaller of two notebooks I use for meetings, and the Giant Notebook of Everything. And of course, the accomplished-tasks notebook that I don’t update as often as I should.

Ten notebooks! I don’t blame you if you think I’m weird, but when I tell myself I should use fewer notebooks, I can’t settle on which one to give up.

Paper > Digital

I do use digital task management tools as well: Email, Trello, calendar, but I’m not giving up on paper. Here’s why:

  • It helps me focus. There is no Twitter to skip to or incoming email to catch my attention.
  • I love the satisfaction of physically checking off items on my list, and of crumpling the little sheet and throwing it away when I’m done.
  • It’s more versatile. I can start out by writing down what I want a graph to look like, but draw it instead. I don’t have to know Photoshop or figure out how to make the right kind of bar on PowerPoint.
  • For someone who spends most of her workday staring at her computer screen, any little time away from a backlit screen is a bonus!
  • It’s portable. If you’re like me and don’t enjoy writing long posts on your phone, and have no idea how to draw a graph on it… pen and paper really is the easiest recording tool to carry around. And if you forgot your notebook, there’s always a napkin around somewhere.

Are you holding on to paper too, or do you think I’m a troglodyte? What’s your favorite productivity tool?

About Unmana Datta


Unmana Datta is a marketing professional who loves writing. She writes about marketing on the Markitty blog and about other stuff on her personal blog.

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