Ditching the Digital List

by Eric Jackson, an EO Nashville member and managing partner at Keystone Business Solutions, LLC 

Technology has been central to my life since the Atari gaming system, through the iPhone 6, and into the foreseeable future. My company – Keystone Business Solutions – is an IT consulting and inbound marketing firm; completely and totally enveloped in technology.

Today when I need to remember something, I reach for pen and paper to record my thoughts. There are several compelling reasons why I’ve ditched the digital list to get things done. 

I can engage people on a deeper level. 

You’ve seen it and done it:  the reflexive “go for the smartphone” movement that far too many of us seem to have. Who among us doesn’t grab our phone 50 times a day to read text messages, check email, or even answer a phone call? Some even do it while driving…I’ve heard.

When everyone else whips out their smartphone, I grab my hand-stitched Hellbrand leather Field Notes cover. Eyes light up when people see it and inevitably ask “Hey…what’s that? I thought you were a technology guy!” Inevitably, they want to know more about both the disposable Pilot Varsity pen and leather-bound notebook. It’s a chance to connect with the people I meet and have a deeper, personal conversation.

What else could I carry that is so useful and provides the opportunity to engage people in an interesting conversation? I tell them about my love of the handwritten word, the benefits of the Horween leather of which my Hellbrand notebook and my boots are made. Then there is my smooth writing Pilot Varsity fountain pen…which I usually gift to them. All of that makes a lasting impression about who I am and what is important to me; a benefit beyond the usefulness of pen and paper.

I don’t look like a texting schoolgirl. 

As the proud father of an 18 year old college freshman, far too often have I seen nothing but the top of my daughter’s head as she texts multiple people who knows what. As an adult and business owner, I certainly don’t want to leave that impression when I meet people. Physically writing on paper gives people the impression that I’m actually listening and getting things done.

I can track my accomplishments.

I derive great satisfaction when I physically cross off items on a written to-do list. I’ve tried it and that feeling simply cannot be replaced by deleting electronic text. Furthermore, when I look at the list again I can see what I’ve accomplished over time. Looking at all the tasks I’ve knocked out over the preceding days gives me motivation to press on and put the remaining items on my list under a thick, black line of accomplishment.

My notebook is great for storing the inevitable paper I receive. 

My day largely consists of meeting people and managing the various aspects of my business. Inevitably, I’m collecting paper in the form of receipts and business cards. Now instead of misplacing them, my travel notebook provides a convenient location for all these items to come together in one place. I’m never without my own business cards either. Because my notebook is such a vital tool in my day, I’m compelled to keep it neat and take care of the items I’ve collected throughout the day.

My notebook helps me beat procrastination.

Every day I start a new to-do list. Any items not accomplished the day before are crossed off and written again on today’s list. Write the same task often enough and you’ll be compelled to simply get it done. Sometimes after transferring the same task repeatedly, I’ll ask myself “isn’t there someone else better capable of handling this for me?” Delegating and managing are not my strong suits, so my notebook helps lessen my weaknesses.

My notebook and pen have been a game-changer for my productivity. If you find yourself blindsided daily by forgotten tasks, it could be the analog answer to your digital prayers.

Categories: Best Practices members Productivity Technology


4 Responses to “ Ditching the Digital List ”

  1. Mose Ramieh on

    Great to see your blog. Always important to remember that a short pencil is better than a long memory.

    Looking forward to your next blog.

  2. Philippe CLEMENCE on

    Hi Eric, nice to see I m not the only one doing this…writing into a notebook (or collection thereof) stapling business cards inside it, and despite being quite good and fast at texting, I still love to handwrite. Dunhill AD2000 for me, but still!
    I also agree with re-writing undone items onto next day’s page. If not they tend to get lost or conveniently forgotten…
    Thanks for posting, it’s refreshing.


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