The day I ditched software for a paper planner


Organizing a life

I have been trying to organize my life for many years. It was so exciting at first. Then GTD came and a million applications emerged to fill its tool-agnostic void. It was then when I fell into oblivion.

After years of trying and implementing ‘systems’ I found out that without having specifically defined your needs, the system in question cannot be functional for long. In other words, you shouldn’t adjust your needs around a specific system. It has to be the other way around.

I wish I knew that, before wasting so much time on this particular concept. Fortunately, it came a time when I burned out. Nothing worked for me anymore. After many changes and setups, I got so disorientated that I didn’t know what I wanted. That was the time for me to erase everything. And I did it. I uninstalled apps, archived folders of data that I used to keep in my Dropbox account and cleared my Emacs bookmarks. It felt great! But I had to start over. As expected, I came to feel a bit insecure. I had no idea of my appointments in the next week so I proceeded to analyzing my most immediate needs.

Starting all over

I picked up a 5 EUR paper planner (it wasn’t a time to be fancy) and sat on my desk. A made a list of all my appointments in a piece of paper using the data from my google calendar. I transferred only the ones I could not live without, into my new planner. Next, I made another list for my tasks. I looked at them one by one and transferred only the ones I have decided to really take action on a specific date into the paper planner. As it turned out, less than half of my data was useful. Having used so many systems and applications over the years, I came to gather lots of junk. The projects I would never start, stalled tasks, and years old someday items which I came so tired to see in front of me.

Everything was clearer and I felt lighter and immediately more focused.

Now I sit with my planner, wherever I like and make plans for the next day or the next week without having to over analyze trivial processes.

I don’t still use this system, but I still consider the planner as a failsafe device for when it get too much with the digital counterparts.