Why Paper Works


This morning my daughter showed me a paper airplane she had made and then started flinging it around the dining room. It reminded me of the talk I gave at IdeaWave last year called “The Power of Paper”, and it gave me a further reminder of why I love paper so much.

Later on, I sat down and shut my iDevices and my MacBook Air for a good, long while. I’d say it was for at least an hour. I sat at my dining room table and grabbed my new Coleto multi-pen (thanks, Brad Dowdy…aka The Pen Addict) and my Maruman notebook and started to really break down a lot of what was going on in my head. I wasn’t mindmapping. I wasn’t outlining. I wasn’t organizing.

I was simply getting it all out.

I didn’t want to open an app to do this. My eyes didn’t want to stare at a screen and my hands didn’t want to type anything out. I wanted to mix it up a bit. I wanted to open a book and let the thoughts and words flow from my left hand onto the paper, without having to worry about battery life or if I was writing in the right place or not. I just wanted to capture things in a place that I could sit back and look at afterward – with nothing from the platform having the ability to distract me – and assess everything with an open and focused mind.

And it worked.

I saw that I could slot things in properly into my workflow. I saw that I wasn’t doing anything more than I could handle, yet I also saw what I could afford to give up if I that’s what I wanted to do. I saw in plain view what was the most important thing on my agenda, and was able to rank everything else accordingly. I was able to create a semblance of structure from something that initially had no structure at all: a blank sheet of paper.

Paper works because it is only limited by what you’re willing to put on (and into) it. Paper provides an escape from your devices and does so without compromising your ability to get things done. Paper is safe and secure in that it can be both lifesaving and disposable depending on the circumstances. Paper is versatile, compatible and portable.

Paper – simply put – just works.

So when you’re stuck (or need an escape from your modern personal tech), reach for technology that is just as personal. Grab some paper, start doing something with it, and enjoy.

Photo credit: Spectacles (CC BY 2.0)


  1. lacouvee says

    @Mikevardy I couldn’t agree more. In a high tech world, it’s a necessity to go low tech from time to time I’ve found. And, like you, nothing satisfies me more than words with pen, on paper – big words, little words, words all scrunched up – or streeeeeeeeeeeeetched out! OR ALL IN CAPS AND DON’T TELL ME IT’S SHOUTING! And words sideways – how do I do sideways on a computer – help!!!Thanks for the reminder!

  2. eperdu says

    I’m with you on pen/paper. There is a different connection that happens when you physically hold the pen in your hand. It connects you to your brain and thoughts. It’s visceral. I’ve not been able to capture that same feeling of freedom and flow that I have with pen and paper. For the record, Claire Fontaine is the paper of choice. :)

  3. postedpen says

    I am kind of stuck to pen and paper, because we aren’t allowed phone’s etc into my workplace due to the camera functionality, so all my notes are handwritten.I’ve deveoped my system over time, and don’t think I could move to a tech based system now.Indeed, it does just work!Oh, love the podcast too, great work!

  4. says

    […] as my alternative to what Im currently using to capture my thoughts, ideas and plans.You knowpaper.Photo credit: Leo Reynolds (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)1 Although if you want to add your list of things […]

  5. Simplify. Then Simplify Some More. says

    […] If you are bogging yourself down in bits, use paper.I’m a big fan of good paper and a nice pen. When you are so bogged down and “in the weeds” with a problem, pull yourself out of technology and allow yourself to use paper for a bit. You will be surprised at how much clearer things will get. This guy likes that too. […]

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