Six More Reasons to Use a Paper To Do List

writing handYou’d think the proliferation of webware might make paper to do lists obsolete. For some people, though, no electronic task list can replace the joys of paper and pen. In my almost six months writing for Web Worker Daily, I’ve come across many appealing web-based to do list managers — Gubb and Remember the Milk are two especially nice options — but none that can overcome my commitment to paper to do lists.

To complement Five Reasons to Use a Paper To Do List, here are six more.

1. Gives you a reason to buy and try cool pens and notebooks. WWD reader Ryan loves his Namiki Vanishing Point retractable fountain pen, but I’m a gel gal myself. Zebra Sarasa gel retractables come in a multi-color tenpack of subdued and sophisticated colors, but for me, nothing beats the 0.7mm bold Pentel EnerGel in purple. Pilot G2 gel pens also come highly recommended; plus, they’re offered in a convenient mini size.

As for notebooks, WWD reader Tim recommends the Levenger Circa system while Danny De Wit likes Moleskines and letter-sized Mead Folios. I’ve been using 5″x8″ Cambridge Limited notebooks, also by Mead, and like their moderate size and decent quality at only $5 each.

2. You can doodle pictures or mind maps on your to do lists. C’mon, make your to do lists fun, because you’re probably going to be referring to them multiple times a day. Mind mapping guru Tony Buzan claims that creating organically-shaped and colorful diagrams engage your mind and help you learn and remember information better. Whether that’s true or not, there’s no doubting that for some people, creating a freeform task list with pen and paper makes the management of to dos more fun.

3. Paper and pen don’t set off the anti-electronics alarms of family and friends. Write your to do list on paper at the kitchen table and your spouse is unlikely to chastise you or tell your friend who calls that you’re doing crack (-berry, that is). If you’re putting to do items into your PDA at dinner time or worse, sitting in your office at your computer while the rest of the family hangs in the den, better watch out. You’re toast and not the kind made with bread.

If you’re on a device capable of surfing the web, people around you will think you’re checked out of what’s happening in meatspace. If you’re merely doodling on paper with your favorite pen, you seem relatively available for interaction. Given most of us web workers spend way too many hours online, it’s good to have something productive to do that doesn’t involve Internet access.

4. It’s so convenient to write stuff down. There’s no device to turn on, no application to launch, no account to log into. Just grab your pen and paper and go. Write wherever and whenever you want with no friction except the physical feel of the ink flowing onto the paper.

5. You can change your to do list “data model” at any time. You can use prioritization schemes like starring or circling items, add due dates at will, categorize however you like, and change the format again and again. You aren’t limited to just the fields a to do list app supports. You can rewrite at any time.

This is a drawback when looked at another way — because paper to do list items are much less queryable and sortable than electronic to do lists.

6. Forces you to limit your list and eliminate what’s unimportant. It’s really easy to add more and more electronic to do items; not so easy to do so with paper to do lists. When my lists start getting messy, I rewrite them, in the process eliminating or revising tasks that no longer fit my plans.

Of course, many people prefer electronic to do list managers to paper. How do you manage your to dos? Share in the comments.

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