Pen & Paper Mightier Than The App

Custom Planner
Photo: Mike Rohde

A few years ago I received a journal as a Christmas gift. I thought that I would use it very sparingly if at all. Little did I know that I would become a huge fan of journals. I am not talking about a book that a young girl would write about her crushes and all.

I’m a manly man! I started using the journal to just keep track of random thoughts, some business ideas, and my to-do lists. I had used and still do use some apps to keep notes and create to-do lists. These apps are great tools. But I have found pen and paper to be much more useful most of the time.

Custom Planner
Photo: Mike Rohde

After I got that first journal, I began to get more interested in how others used them. I found that Ernest Hemingway used the specific type of book that I had in my hands, a Piccadilly. That may be just some slick marketing…… don’t care. One of my favorite motivational speakers, Jim Rohn, kept tons of journals, and I found a cool system of “bullet journaling”.

I have tried multiple ways of keeping up with stuff on my smartphone. I use voice memos, which I hardly ever remember to go back and listen to. I used the default calendar app, which I never liked. Too many options for me. I have one task app called “Alarmed”, which is quick and easy to use.

In the past, I used a voice recording reminder, “VoCal” was the name if I remember correctly. This worked great and required hardly any screen touches. The problem was the reminder would go off in public places and my voice reminder would be played out loud.

calendar app
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It was kind of embarrassing a few times, to be honest. I don’t need my voice playing in a grocery store line saying things like, “don’t forget to make house payment today dummy.”

The biggest issue I have with using apps for reminders and to-do lists is that they are easy to ignore. No matter how the developer sets these apps up to be persistent, we can always shut them off. The more reminders we set, the less important they all seem to be. Timing is a big key as well.

Getting the reminder in the middle of a phone call is going to result in a click of a button to make the reminder disappear forever. So much for remembering to get that charcoal for the grill on the way home from work. The same goes for to-do lists kept on my phone. I rarely go over the lists to make sure I did everything on it. I think making the list is enough to make me remember I guess. It is not!

The advantage of writing things down in a journal is that the writing itself makes me remember it is important. Do I remember 100 percent of what I write down? No, but I remember a much higher percentage of written notes than I do of things I type into my phone.

Taking notes

Somehow the act of writing on paper with a pen makes the information stick with me more. When I took notes in a class, writing the stuff down made me remember it for tests even if I never looked over the class notes again.

I also find myself going back over my journal to see what I have written. I not only put down daily tasks in there but there are important ideas and happenings that I would like to reflect on in my rare downtime. It is like reading a book with me as the author. I wrote these things down as they were fresh in my mind.

As time passes I need to revisit some pages for some truly important tidbits. Many parts of the writings are just important for that one minute it took to write them. But other thoughts, I want to keep around forever.

I will always be using different apps to keep notes and stay on task. I’m aware that these apps will keep improving over time. I don’t see myself ever abandoning the paper and pen though. No matter how archaic it may look to my kids, I will carry that journal in my backpack wherever I go.

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Shane McLendon
Wannabe geek and FLOW Seeker