Five Reasons to Use a Paper To Do List

pen and paperAs web workers, we have access to many online to do list managers like Remember The Milk, 37Signals’ Ta-da Lists, and Zoho Planner. But I prefer pen and paper, and I’m not the only one. In his summary of Web 2.0 Summit demos, Richard MacManus admits he uses paper notebooks. Speaking about drawing his business card cartoons, gapingvoid’s Hugh MacLeod says “there’s a certain je ne sais quoi you only get with ink on paper.” And we all know people who can’t live without their Moleskines.

How is pen on paper better than online or electronic to do lists?


Using pen on paper just feels good. You need the right paper and the right pen–an old Bic on a decrepit yellow sticky note won’t get you to tactile nirvana–but with proper equipment, isn’t it much more satisfying to write a new to do item onto a piece of paper than to type it into your laptop or thumb it into your Treo? What about that triumphant feeling when you scribble off something you’ve finished? Clicking a checkbox with your mouse doesn’t compare.

You can’t beat pen and paper’s mobility and accessibility. Take your paper notebooks or your index cards or your looseleaf lists anywhere and use them anywhere, even if you don’t have network access, electricity, or battery power.

Never hassle over synchronizing your to do list across multiple devices again. If you do capture items here and there on bits of paper, consolidating is easy: just write it all onto your master list when you get the chance.

No application lock-in. Getting tired of Moleskines? Want to try something snazzier, like Paperblanks or Rhodia notebooks? No problem–just buy a new brand, transfer anything you need to by hand, and you’ve switched. No wrangling with data export and import, no operating system compatibility worries, no software installation or configuration required.

Pen on paper gets you away from the computer. It can be hard on your wrists, your eyes, and your back to work at a computer constantly. Using a Blackberry can leave you in need of a hand massage. Writing on a paper to do list might be just the ergonomic break your body needs.

Maybe one day I’ll switch to an online personal planner. Chris just reviewed Stikkit, which sounds pretty cool. Liz had some good ideas for integrating to do lists into gmail. For now, though, I’m sticking with paper and pen. What about you?

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