Systems: Planning on Paper

Over at Productivity 501, I just read a post about why you should use paper to do your planning, instead of, or before, working on the computer.

If you've been reading my blog, you probably have figured out part of my response: some things work for some people, other things work for other people. At which point, I want to encourage people to think about whether planning on a piece of paper would work better for you.

I use a few different systems for my own planning. I write myself e-mails with lists of ideas to work on, and reminders for myself for the next day (or next few hours). I have a paper calendar, but I have used a pda in the past; both work depending on my situation.

When I used to use Outlook or another calendar program, I would in fact often print out the current and coming week, and sit and look at it. That would help me plan. I could write in blocks I would like to do certain kinds of projects, and notes to myself. I often recommend that people use paper printouts, or big wall calendars, to look at what I call the "shape of time."

When I sit down to work, if I have more than a couple of things (or sometimes just a couple of things) I want to get done that day or look at that day, I tend to write it on paper as well, sometimes a scrap with a list written large with a fat marker. The process does help me think, and help me get clear. It does feel like it uses a different way of thinking or a different part of my mind than typing does. And I can put all the infinite distraction of the computer aside while I plan. I agree with the post that planning is a different kind of process and I like to give it that space. Even if it's only a few minutes. 

And all I want to do in this post is suggest that you think about it and possibly try it. We get so wrapped up in how "useful" computers are, or just get used to using them, that it's easy to forget that pen and paper sometimes just work better. Even if you type the list up afterwards.

What works for you?