Reconsidering Analog Productivity
Patrick Rhone has a very simple productivity system. He writes three things he wants to get done on an index card, and he keeps a running journal in a notebook with a system he calls â€œDash/Plusâ€. Iâ€™m not so good at remembering to write things down, but Iâ€™ve taken the idea of Patrickâ€™s â€œToday Cardâ€ and incorporated it into OmniFocus, flagging three important things I want to get done today. I donâ€™t always succeed at all three, but getting at least one done means Iâ€™m moving in the right direction.
But reducing the power of OmniFocus to something as simplistic as a single window with three things to click off has me reconsidering my stance on analog productivity. It hasnâ€™t helped that Iâ€™ve spent a little more time in book stores, recently. The stacks of square-ruled Moleskine notebooks have been taunting me to pick them up and try using the Bullet Journal system during my day. I also notice my poor Hipster PDA, getting battered in my pants pockets, its bright white index cards tarnished and batteredâ€”but ink free. (And not because I donâ€™t carry a pen.)
When I wrote about eschewing analog workflows back in March, the focus was on sustained writing, but some of the points extend to purely â€œgetting things done,â€ too.  The default behavior when I have any new stimulus that needs capturing, is to whip out my phone and type it up as a note in Drafts. Itâ€™s my instant collection bucket, no more than two taps away from sending it where it needs to be.  Itâ€™s ingrained enough that it’s second nature, and why I make sure to keep Drafts in my iPhone and iPad docks.
But the siren call of a low-tech solution to keeping track of things still appeals to me in some way. I look at the piles of stuff in OmniFocus, and wonder if I need such hyper-detailed lists of tasks for some of my projects, especially if Iâ€™m just doing three â€œthingsâ€ per day. I wonder if I couldnâ€™t just train myself to reach for a pocket notebook and pen when I need to take something down, instead of my phone. I wonder if I could actually improve my atrocious handwriting with the practice. I wonder what Iâ€™m missing out on by not having a hard copy record of my day, my ideas, and my life.
And I also realize that twiceâ€”more than twiceâ€”Iâ€™ve â€œburned my lifeâ€™s work.â€  Iâ€™ve turned piles of my writing from adolescence and (very) early adulthood into nothingness with a keystroke, but I have a small stack of half and quarter full notebooks that remain. Theyâ€™re full of journal entries, snippets of fiction, doggerel verse, and random notes. The digital fragments of my old lives were much easier to destroy.
In all honesty, I do need the hyper-detailed task lists I keep in OmniFocusâ€”at least for some things. I do find it easier to write with a keyboard on my computer or iPad instead of on paper. I have a system that, more-or-less works. I also donâ€™t have to completely give it up to try going analog for some things. Perhaps Iâ€™ll indulge my curious impulses, buy a new, empty square ruled notebook, and give the Bullet Journal system a go. A hybrid system may work, or it may not. It would be foolish of me to dismiss it without trying it first. Iâ€™ll report back on my findings.