Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

AdChoices
In some cases, using paper actually makes you more productive. (iStock)
In some cases, using paper actually makes you more productive. (iStock)

How using paper can improve your productivity Add to ...

For years, we’ve heard about how a paperless environment is the wave of the future.

While this may sound like a good thing, the truth is, in some cases, paper actually makes you more productive. According to several studies, when you use a pen and paper it stimulates cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). Using paper literally can make you more creative, which leads to being more productive. Here are three areas where you should consider using paper.

Paper is ideal for the early stages of a project

When you are just starting a project, paper can help you sort out all of the tasks you want to accomplish. In most cases, an outline or mind map is ideal when brainstorming. Sure, there are mind-mapping tools and applications available, but it feels more natural to do these activities in an analog fashion. Once the mind map or outline is crafted, you can transfer it into the appropriate computer program.

Paper is ideal for capturing ideas and tasks

There is no feeling quite like knowing you have to do something but you just don’t know what it is. Or maybe you just had a great idea for your business but you didn’t write it down. Then something happens and you forget about the idea altogether. Paper works really well for those situations. While it is likely that you have your phone with you wherever you go, having a pen and notebook is very handy.

Keeping the notebook organized is essential. One way I arrange my notebook is to use the left-hand page for tasks. There I create four specific columns: M for Mode, A for Action, P for Project, and S for Schedule. The right-hand page is for notes/ideation. This ensures I don’t get tasks and ideas/notes confused.

Paper is ideal for note-taking

Let’s say you are attending a meeting – whether in a group setting or with an individual – and you have the option to use your computer or a notepad. Which do you choose?

While you likely will be able to get more words on the page using the computer, using paper can help you learn better and remember more information. Instead of just typing words on a screen, you are engaged more when you use paper. You have to listen, digest and then summarize the information in a way that makes sense to you. With words you write on the page, your brain is creating connections with the processed information.

Additionally, paper is a good alternative to the sound of clacking keys and eyes constantly shifting up and down from computer screens. Paper allows you to be more focused on the task at hand. When you use technology, there are many distractions, which are only a couple clicks away. Even if you are paying attention, it is very possible that others think you are distracted. Since they don’t see your screen, they may think you are actually checking your e-mail or social media.

As you can see, there are many ways that you can use paper throughout your life. In the examples listed above, the final step is to take the written information and to record it in digital form as well. This could be as simple as taking a picture of it with an application like Evernote or typing the information into a word processor. The copy then serves as a backup should anything ever happen to the physical paper document.

As you can imagine, paper is not going away anytime soon. Overall, paper provides an effective gateway for tasks, ideas, and information management. Try to use paper to your advantage so you can create the best work possible.

Mike Vardy is a productivity strategist and the founder of Productivityist, a company that offers services and products to help people be more efficient.

The Globe and Mail Small Business Summit brings the brightest entrepreneurs in Canadian business to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto for an inspiring day of keynote talks, workshops and networking. Full lineup at http://globesummits.ca/.

Report Typo/Error

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeSmallBiz

Next story

loading

In the know

The Globe Recommends

loading

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular