Blog Post

Paper, Pen and Blackberry

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

In these days of Internet busy-ness, it is difficult to keep track of things. Over on Web Worker Daily Judi Sohn is talking about tools that help you take notes, and keep on top of things. I typically use Bare Bones Software’s YoJimbo and Aquaminds‘ Notetaker to keep on top of things, squirreling away bookmarks, or notes to self and what not.

But in reality many of these tools are great for collection, not for constructive reflection. Anne Zelenka recently wrote and essay about how pen and paper are the most effective tools to get things done. “Writing on a paper to do list might be just the ergonomic break your body needs,” she says.

Paper, Pen & BlackBerryToday was one of those days, when I decided to shut the computer(s) down and walk over to the nearest cafe and build a list of things to do, and simply contemplate.

A simple Moleskin notebook (ultraportable), a Waterman pen (ultrareliable), and a Blackberry (just in case) to keep me company – I spent nearly four hours making a massive to-do list, thinking about tasks that need to be accomplished before the year is over. Little things that need to be taken care off, bills that need to be paid, and emails that need immediate attention.

More than anything, the act of putting pen to the paper, organic, when compared to a computer, is one that opens up brain’s windows. For instance, I have been thinking about some widgets related posts, a chip-sector thought piece, and several other essays that need careful contemplation.

The raw information is already there – I have been reporting for a while now, but have not been able to arrange the pieces and snippets in a manner that allowed me to tell the stories I wanted to tell.

The biggest upside of today’s get-out-and-think break: I have somehow regained my writing mojo. Memo to self: go offline often, and think. Wait, let me just make a note in my Moleskin.

15 Responses to “Paper, Pen and Blackberry”

  1. Paper and pen is a great way to jolt down our ideas just quick and easy, I’m totally agree with you. I’m always think a software for BlackBerry that help us to easily organize our notes is a chill. Love to see MindBerry at is going to be open for beta testing. I’m counting..

  2. What if one could seamlessly move from notetaking on computer to notetaking using pen and paper? What if one could use mind mapping templates for notetaking on a computer and, when not on a computer, use a (Moleskin) notebook consisting of mind mapping-templates? I believe that the bridge between thinking using keyboard and computer screen and thinking using pen and paper would be very short. Creative and reflective thinking on a computer would be as effective as using creative and reflective thinking with pen and paper. I’ve discovered that differences in thinking are due not to the medium (computer vs. pen-and-paper), but to the inconsistency of interfaces for capturing and organizing thoughts. If one uses a linear interface for notetaking on a computer and a non-linear interface for notetaking using paper and pen, there’ll certainly be marked differences in thinking.

    Best regards,

  3. Hey Eric

    What can I say – servers have a nasty habit of going down at the wrong time, and well news doesn’t necessarily wait. So BBerry as a back up. Regardless, it has been a trying few weeks, and I found the paper-and-pen therapy has me centered.

    The downside: I have a to-do list that is a mile long, but I will get it done.

  4. Its funny that you said “a blackberry just in case” because its usually the pen and paper that are used as a backup. Now the interesting part will be a follow up in January on how many items were crossed off the list.

  5. om,
    ever since reading about it at, i’ve become a disciple of the index card as a wonderful tool to put thoughts on paper. for the most part, i try not to leave the house without an index card and a pen. i’ve also found it to be a polite way to take notes during a meeting or breakfast/lunch – far better than pulling out the blackberry to e-mail oneself an idea. welcome to the P&P (pen and paper) world!


    p.s. i’ve embraced wordpress, moved my blog to let me know what you think!

  6. Hey Om, is it the “pen and paper”-ness, or the disconnectedness? I often step away from the computer with either paper in hand, or a whiteboard to write on. I also get a ton of stuff done on the plane… with my PC. Both are effective, just different.


  7. “Little things that need to be taken care off, bills that need to be paid, and emails that need immediate attention.”

    I hope that includes a reply to my mail :)

    Great writeup, I agree that sometimes it’s best to get away from the death machine.

    My mother calls it that whenever we talk because I don’t get away from it enough.

  8. Kevin

    thanks for the comment and good question. actually i have not used the 7 inch tablet PC. it hasn’t come up in my mind. i really think, that there is an element of distraction when it comes to computers. i guess that is why a lot of people talk about getting a lot of things done on the plane when they are disconnected.

  9. Happy blogiversary, Om. I bought a few new legal pads this weekend to write on because I’ve been spending too much time at the machine myself. I agree that putting pen to paper “opens up the brains windows” like nothing else.

  10. Great post Om and while I don’t dispute the need to unplug or go back to basics, can I ask a question? Have you recently used a Tablet PC or UMPC? My 7-inch touchscreen Tablet PC (a Samsung Q1) running OneNote can effectively simulate the personal nature of “pen to paper”; or in this case: screen. All of the handwriting is OCR’d in the background so I can search the handwritten text at a future date. Again, no argument on your main point…just curious. :)

  11. Om, we’re thinking along the same paths here. I recently picked up three pocket sized Moleskine journals plus some slimline bookmarker pens, and have the whole day Monday set aside for my 2007 todo list (and some 2006 clean-up as well). I’ll have my laptop with me, but like you, it won’t be out when I’m doing my planning. There is something about mind to hand to pen to paper that is very productive.

  12. Actually, what I do is taking the notes on a piece of paper, and them taking a picture of the paper with my camera phone.

    That way, you can carry the notes everywhere … :)

    You can even put as a phone wallpaper the page with the most urgent TODOs, so you keep it always in view …

    I use a SE K750i, great machine …