planning with paper vs. technology.Is technology for productivity? Most people find that technology does not work, so we are going to assess what technology systems are working to make you more productive with your daily planning

The Paperless Myth: Planning with Paper vs. Technology

Assess Your Productivity


A great thing to do every now and then is to stop and assess how you’re doing with your productivity. What does it look like? What am I using that is working best for me? And what isn’t working?

For those of you who are using your phones or tablets to organize every aspect of your lives – how is that going for you? Do you find that you’re less stressed or does it sometimes feel like you’re swimming under water? It’s not surprising that we think we should be using the latest technology to plan. But make sure to take time and see if that is really helping you.

Many of you know that I own inkWELL Press – a paper planning company, but I am actually not a “paper purist.” I use technology to help with certain areas of my productivity because I think technology and traditional forms of planning can work really well together.

A few years ago, I was not using paper for my planning. I was using my phone for everything because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do! I felt like I was doing okay. But one day, I came across my old planners and calendars and started feeling nostalgic. I realized I was way more productive when using these paper products. I wondered why exactly this was, so I did a little research…

“Writing forces you to be more succinct with your thoughts, so your thoughts go from being abstract to being a physical thing sitting before you.”


Your Brain & Learning Styles


Doing a little digging over the years, I’ve found that brain research is the key to understanding how to unlock your potential and your peak productivity. As with all things, it helps to start with a foundation of “why.”

“Why do we maybe need to lessen our dependence on technology as our sole productivity tool?”

“If it’s really not working for us, what can I do to create a system that does work for me?”

First, it’s important to note that people’s brains help them learn in different ways: kinesthetic, auditory and visual. These are the three big learning styles and most people are a combination of two or more styles, with one being the dominant style. What’s interesting is that writing actually hits all three of these styles. While technology does not.

Here a quick rundown of these three styles – see which one you think you fall under:

  1. Visual: you tend to retain information best when it’s presented in a visual form. You find infographics and illustrated steps helpful.
  2. Auditory: you tend to learn best through listening. You enjoy learning from lectures, books on tape and podcasts.
  3. Kinesthetic: you find physically moving helps you process your thoughts and ideas. You might listen to this podcast while exercising, or have found flashcards helpful in studying.

If you’d like an even more detailed description of these styles, listen to Productivity Paradox episode 011. But for the most part, I think many of us have an idea of how we learn best based on this rundown.


Your Brain as a Filter


As we go throughout the day, our brains are automatically consuming, filtering and sorting through information. When you use technology, it does this at a rapid pace. According to a report by Microsoft, people who were using technology were finding it difficult to filter out the irrelevant stimulus, causing us to be more distracted. Some of your thoughts start to be filtered out and ignored. Usually the ones being ignored are the creative insights and problem-solving thoughts.

When we write things down, the brain is completely occupied with this act and the flow of what we’re writing. It doesn’t filter out other thoughts, and instead unveils creative solutions and things we would otherwise set aside. It’s a physical action that engages you by using a totally separate area of the brain than technology does.

Writing forces you to be more succinct with your thoughts, so your thoughts go from being abstract to being a physical thing sitting before you.


Your Brain: Attention Span & Sleep


Another issue to consider is our attention span and the many disruptions technology can cause. Research shows that it takes 23 minutes to get really focused in on a task and do our best work. When we’re interrupted with beeps, dings, etc., that clock stops and restarts. We’ve taught ourselves to be a lot like Pavlov’s dog. When we hear a buzz or beep, we stop and take a look. I do this myself and have had to work really hard to break the habit.

I talked about this in a previous post and in episode 010 about monotasking. We need to shut off our distractions, which would be really hard to do if we’re only using technology/our phones to plan and organize. We need to pull ourselves away from constant texts, social media and apps.

Along with shortening attention spans, technology also causes us to be sleeping less. You may have heard before that the light emitted from screens can cause a reduction in melatonin – the hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles. So, not only are we finding it hard to stay asleep, it’s harder to get to sleep, too. When you’re working throughout the day, your brain is working too, and at night it definitely need to rest and recharge.

If you’re skipping out on sleep, you’re actually impairing your brain function across the board. Your ability to process information, problem solve, your productivity and creativity all suffer. It’s very important and helpful to lower your stress level before you sleep, so I encourage an evening “brain dump.” I’ll be talking about this more in another post and in episode 012, but for now, I suggest writing down in a journal your thoughts before bed. If you do this with your phone, you’ll end up more awake – so be sure to physically write it down. It’s a great way to de-stress and prepare for a good night’s sleep.


So What’s the Solution?


We need to find ways that we can use technology – because we can’t just get rid of our phones and computers all together, right? You need to create your own customized system using both in harmony. And I’ll be talking a lot about this and what works for me in the next blog post and in episode 012. I’ll be answering the question I often get about how I plan out my day, because I do have my own customized system. And I would love to hear about yours if you have one or any strategies you like to use.

Comment below which systems, products or devices work for you and why!

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  • Grace

    I love paper. I use my phone primarily as a phone. I also use my calendar on my phone to track meetings at church and Facebook events I’ve signed up for as well as birthdays and anniversaries. I also track all of my payment due dates on my paper calendar so that I can see what I need to pay and when.

    March 29, 2017 at 11:25 pm

  • inkWELL Press

    Hi Grace! It sounds like you have a great system of planning with both paper and technology that works very well for you! That’s great because I personally know how difficult finding harmony between the two can be. Those are some nice tips that I’m sure others liked to see and may just implement themselves!

    April 3, 2017 at 9:18 am

Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton