Can old-school paper to-do list increase productivity?

Zanny Minton Beddoes – The Economist
July 28, 2016
How morning routines can help you to be successful
August 12, 2016

People and businesses are constantly looking for new tools and apps that help them become more productive in their day to day lives, and new productivity tools and apps emerge in the market on a regular basis.

We’ve come to believe that technology can solve all of our problems in the most effective way possible, and the simple to-do list recorded using pen and paper is often overlooked as a result.

However, the paper to-do list is still the best option in many ways. Here are a few reasons why:

#1 You can create your to-do list however you want to on paper

, rather than having to adopt to the method or style used by the particular productivity tool you are using. Create your own productivity tool that suits your way of working.

#2 It’s much more satisfying to physically tick or scratch something off your to-do list with a pen

, rather than just clicking on it with a mouse. It makes you feel like you’ve earned it, giving you a greater sense of achievement and providing you with more motivation.

#3 Online productivity tools are at risk of failure

– if you can’t connect to the internet, if your battery dies, or if there are some other technical issues, then you might not be able to access the tool that you rely on day in and day out. This could seriously hinder your productivity if you have no other way of keeping track of what needs doing.

#4 With all the different digital and online tools we use on our computers

, tablets and smartphones, our screens become cluttered with all the different icons associated with these tools. As a result, our minds may become more cluttered. A paper to-do list is completely separate from anything else and therefore stands out more and is more memorable.

#4 With a paper to-do list, you can keep a record of everything you have achieved.

Each day, you can see the list of what you have already achieved and what you still need to achieve, and you can store these lists in a binder to look back on everything you have achieved up to that point. With many online productivity tools, a task disappears into the ether as soon as you tick it off, so you can only see what you have left to do. The paper method can, therefore, be much better for motivation levels.

Still not convinced? Try ditching the online productivity tools and go back to pen and paper for a week or two, and see how it compares.