Analogue productivity in a Digital World

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

Endless digital systems, software tools and apps exist to help our lives run more smoothly, but there’s a community of people who have opted to go back to analogue. They’ve abandoned notifications and updates in favour of a pen and paper.

What is analogue?

Analogue is working offline with pen and paper. It can feel a little clunky in comparison to digital working, which gives us endless possibilities and endless amounts of space, but don’t dismiss it just yet.

Reasons to go analogue

The psychological paper ‘The pen is mightier than the keyboard’ states that in three separate studies students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. Laptop note takers have a tendency to copy word-for-word, whereas notes taken by hand are reframed by the writer it in their own words. The bottom line: writing down your own notes helps you to retain that information better.

What else?

Going analogue also forces you to cut out the things you don’t want to do or will never have the time to do. If you look at your task list right now, is it more of a wish list (things you hope to achieve but probably never will) or a realistic set of tasks?

Even the act of writing something down creates friction (resistance) that should signal to you whether it’s adding value to your life or not. Digital working can make our lives a bit too easy at times. Allowing us to add more tasks to our to-do lists in a split second, without giving them any thought. Your task manager and your calendar are sacred. Anything that wants to get on there needs to have a very good reason for doing so.

Analogue systems

Here are some analogue systems for you to try. Out of the four listed below bullet journaling is probably the most common in the productivity circles I mix in. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. Don’t be afraid of trying out all of the systems below and using the one that works best. Or even creating a hybrid version.

1) Bullet journaling – a modern Filofax. A place to dump all your thoughts, and organise yourself. There is a detailed explanation of the method here.

2) White board – be more intentional with your task list and put a white board on your wall. Create three columns: to do, doing and one. Write your tasks on sticky notes and move them across the columns as you complete them. 

3) Mind maps – write your main theme in the middle of a sheet of paper. Then branch out with other smaller ideas.

4) Standard day planner – buy yourself a ‘day to view’ diary. The constraints of the physical space will force you to be ruthless in what you can set yourself to achieve.

Does this mean giving up digital altogether

No! As with most things in life – it’s a balancing act.

Digital tools give you the freedom to access information everywhere and that’s useful when you’re a remote worker. It’s also pretty useful that they can be backed up (although there is something liberating when you lose lots of data and have to start from scratch).

I use a digital calendar, but I don’t have any email or social media alerts switched on my phone. I also tend to do any planning work offline. Find the balance that works for you and that lets you be in control of your day.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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