Pen and Paper

Published: Wed Feb 14 2024


Pen and Paper… Such ancient tools, some might think. I had similar thoughts as well, however I came around to using them in the recent weeks and months.

Digital before analogue

I am of such age that I’ve, except for drawing, used the computer before using pen and paper. Since those times, I grew up around or with the computer, which entertained me as much as it allowed me to find information I was interested in online.

As I grew, it became clear from my childhood artwork that I won’t be the next Michelangelo. My handwriting, as my teachers often said, was terrible as well. Later on it’s been explained to me that I was dysgraphic, whatever that meant.

Long story short, my experiences working with pen and paper haven’t really spoken to me.

Purely digital

My “productivity system” for a long time comprised of the Joplin application for note taking, and Thunderbird for my calendar and I must say, I still love both.

Thunderbird lets me organize my time on a daily, monthly and yearly basis and together with my phone calendar reminds me of things I wish to be reminded about, even years ahead of time.

Joplin lets me write down and store a ton of notes on different topics, in the wonderful Markdown format and sync those notes across all my devices seamlessly.

As awesome of an application as Joplin is, it still didn’t feel quite right for daily tasks, meeting notes and general remarks still.

Commitment and freedom

Here, I decided to experiment with pen and paper once more. Instead of buying a new Moleskin planner right away with the intent of being the most productive person on Earth with that tool, I instead opted for an upcycled notebook of my girlfriends’, that she hasn’t started using yet:

The notebook

The notebook doesn’t contain anything fancy. It’s lined, and that’s about it as far as features go.

Here is a short “demonstration” of what I do with my notebook:


Nothing from the above would be groundbreaking for most, but for me, it kind of was.


Suddenly, I can’t just delete or reorder what I write down. When I write something down, I feel like I commit to what I’ve written more than I would have, have it been written in a digital notebook in which I would be able to move or delete it with a keystroke or two. This feels just right for daily tasks, which I really should just get done instead of reason about them.


Another thing I try to demonstrate in the above picture is the freedom paper gives. I can draw freeform anything I want, in any direction I want. The only limitations are my imagination and the size of the canvas.

I could get similar abilities from a tool like Miro with virtually no spatial limitations. For myself though, I feel like having such absolutely massive canvas and countless shapes and tools at my disposal would just hinder my thinking process, which pen and paper only naturally enhance within the borders of their physical limitations.

Digital is here to stay

I will continue using my digital tools in tandem with pen and paper going forward. The downsides I list above don’t apply in most cases; in most cases, the ability to re-order, to re-plan, to copy and paste and to share your work with others is highly desired.

I urge you though, consider jotting down your plan for the next day on a piece of paper in the evening prior, instead of defaulting to your computer. Maybe the format will surprise you as well.