Digital vs. Analog Productivity System
Welcome to this post about the digital vs. analog productivity system!
This idea was first introduced to me by Nathaniel Drew, and I have been thinking about it ever since. It’s a new dilemma that a lot of people have faced with the rise of technology over the last few decades…
Which is a better productivity system: digital (technology) or analog (paper)?
Personally, I love aspects of both systems. I think each one has advantages and disadvantages which is what I want to discuss in this post.
I do want to mention that when I say “system” I am talking about the general tools you use to be productive and organized in your life. For me this includes a bullet journal, daily to-do lists, a Google Drive storage system, and Google Calendar. Notice how some of these tools are analog and some are digital, later in this post, I’ll explain why.
I’m also prompted to write this post after I had an unfortunate thing happen to me the other day. I was cleaning out and reorganizing some of my Google Drive folders. When I was done I emptied my trash to free up some storage.
The next day I noticed that I couldn’t open the link to my “College” spreadsheet as it said the file was deleted. I was able to find the document on Google Drive but it had somehow been reverted to a 6 month old version of itself.
This spreadsheet had all of my research, login info, and scholarship information for college. It looked like everything was gone and I was extremely stressed about it. I thought I had a backup of it, but it turned out the backup was just a link to original file, which had been deleted.
After several hours of troubleshooting by myself, with others on the internet, and a Google representative, the file was luckily restored. We’re still not sure exactly what happened, but Google’s file restoration tool was able to do the trick.
It made me start to question the validity of a digital productivity system when one of my files seemed to vanish into thin air.
Nonetheless, I was feeling reflective and curious about this subject so I did a little research and decided to write a post about the advantages and disadvantages of both the digital and analog productivity systems.
Advantages of The Digital System
First things first, let’s talk about the advantages of the digital system:
By far my favorite part about the digital world is how easy it is to organize everything. Because you can edit anything at any time, you can always reorganize things fairly easily.
For example, on my calendar, I can add, edit, and delete events without making a mess of a paper calendar. If I were to do the same with a paper calendar, I would edit up with a bunch of events scribbled out and tons of words crammed into a small space.
I also enjoy how fast I can work with technology. My least favorite part about bullet journaling is the time it takes to set it up. Having to create new annual, monthly, weekly, and daily spreads takes forever and is very counterproductive.
Of course, I try to go as quickly as possible, but I still am a perfectionist and need to have things laid out in a neat manner. It seems to be a lot easier to pretty up digital documents with a few clicks.
One of the obvious benefits is that a a digital productivity system is accessible anywhere on any device. How many places do you go where you don’t bring your phone? I’m going to guess very few.
As long as you have your phone you can access just about every website, app, or feature you would need. If your entire productivity system was analog and you didn’t have your notebook with you, you’d be out of luck.
Quick Note Taking
My mind is always spinning and I seem to always be coming up with new ideas, thoughts, and to-do list items. Trying to keep all of that information in my head overwhelms me and stresses me out. Therefore, I try to write almost everything down.
Piggybacking off of the previous point, it’s a lot easier to do note taking on a device that is with you all of the time. If you kept all of your thoughts on paper and you forgot your notebook one day, you’d be in trouble.
The digital system has the capability to be automated, while the analog system can’t be. No matter how much you try, you’ll still have to manually write down everything.
You can make use of recurring events on your calendar. Reminders can be sent to you via notifications so you don’t forget to do something. Finally, you can copy and paste templates for emails and documents that you use often.
Long Term Storage
The digital system is better for long term storage. There’s no way you can keep all of your documents, emails, and events that need to be referenced later in paper form.
In addition, your computer takes up the same amount of space whether you have 1 GB of storage or 100 GBs of storage on it.
In theory the digital system is more secure as you can’t lose things as easily and there are backups available. Your analog notebook could be lost, stolen, or caught on fire and you wouldn’t have any way of ever seeing that information again.
However, I say “in theory” because as I mentioned at the start of this post, one on my documents mysteriously disappeared the other day. I ended up recovering it and learned a valuable lesson that my backups weren’t working, but needless to say, the system isn’t perfect.
A huge advantage to using a digital system is the fact that everything is searchable. If you’re looking to find something, you can type in a few words and find it instantly. Whereas in an analog system, it could take you awhile.
Your computer file explorer, cloud storage system, email, etc. are all searchable! It’s great for finding information when you can’t quite remember where you stored it.
Obviously, digital files can be shared much easier than paper ones. There might only be one copy of a notebook, journal, or other paper. But, there can be an infinite number of copies of digital files.
Advantages of The Analog System
Now, let’s talk about the advantages of the analog system:
Satisfaction of Checking Things Off
My favorite thing about the analog system is the immense amount of satisfaction you get from checking things off of your to-do list. Nothing you can do on a computer gives you the same satisfaction and feeling like you are making progress.
I create weekly/daily to-do lists either in my bullet journal or on a sticky note and I love getting to see everything that I got done that day/week.
There’s also something powerful about having your productivity system being tangible. It’s nice to have some sort of physical documentation of things that you are working on.
I think it’s easier to stay focused on what you’re doing when your goals and to-do lists are actually in front of you.
An analog system also is much more customizable than a digital one. While technology is always improving, it seems like there is always another feature that you want your favorite apps, software’s, and websites to add.
With a analog system, you can create a system that works for you. One that can have every feature that you can dream of. Of course it’s a lot more work, but for some people it’s worth it.
Prioritization is another one of the benefits of an analog system. On a digital system, it’s easy to fill your calendar and to-do lists when as many items as you want.
However, there’s only so much room on a stick note or piece of paper. It forces you to only write down and work on tasks that are of the utmost importance.
One of my favorite things about the analog system is the ability to review past goals, thought processes, and systems. On a digital system, everything is always edited and optimized and there’s no record of what things used to be like.
In my bullet journal, I can go back and see what I was doing a long time ago. You can look back and see what worked and what didn’t.
In it’s simplest form, the analog system is much faster and easier to work with. If you have a paper and pen, you can have a to-do list cranked out in seconds.
However, if you are like me, it can take a lot longer because I have to layout things in an organized manner. If I don’t, it turns into a giant mess. On a digital system you don’t have this problem as you can always edit it later.
So what I would recommend is to try to keep your analog productivity system as simple as possible. Don’t feel the need to make everything perfect. The goal is to write things down quickly and move on. After all, the whole point of productivity is making the most out of time.
As research suggests, you remember things better when you write them down. It’s one of the reasons I try to write down all of the thoughts, goals, and to-do list items I think of in my phone.
However, when you write things down on paper you are even more likely to remember them. I feel like I remember things better when I make physical to-do lists. Even though it’s repetitive, it does seem to be worth it to me.
Finally, the analog system has way less distractions associated with it. On your phone and computer, it’s easy to be doing one thing one minute, then a completely different thing the next minute.
By getting away from our devices, we can be a lot more focused on what we have to do.
The Hybrid System
As you can tell, there are advantages to each system. I think the best system is a hybrid one that utilizes the strengths of both. Here is how I think it should break down:
Note Taking – I’m not sure if analog or digital works better for this one. I use a brain dump on my phone to write down thoughts I have. However, I still prefer taking notes on paper for school.
Planning – For any type of long-term planning, I’d recommend using the analog system in the form of a bullet journal. It really helps you layout a well thought out plan. Also, it’s great for reviewing your goals later on.
Calendar – I think your calendar has to be digital in day and age. You need to be able to access it on any device and edit events easily without making a mess.
Daily To-Do Lists – I’m not sure about this one just yet. I know generally what I have to do each day on my calendar. But, I still like to copy the agenda into a physical daily to-do list just to have a clear picture of what needs to happen and the order of which it needs to happen in.
File Storage – Without a doubt, your file storage needs to be digital as well. You need to be able to access files anywhere and have a good organization system for them.
There’s No Perfect Solution For Everyone
While I just laid out some recommendations, there is no perfect solution for everyone. What works well for some people won’t work at all of others.
Some people like their system to be fully analog, others like it do be fully digital. I think most people will find that a hybrid system works best for them.
At the end of the day you won’t know what works best for you until you try. I just wanted to lay out a few advantages of each so that you can find the system that works for you!
Check out more posts about productivity.
That’s it! There are the advantages to both the digital and analog productivity systems. I believe that the best solution is a hybrid one. However, you don’t know what’s best for you until you give them a try. Let me know if you have any comments or questions down below! Otherwise, best of luck on your productivity journey!
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