Paper vs Tablet: Why it matters for GTD

There is something fundamentally limiting about the typed English language that dances across the screens of the world. I have all the technology that would make going paperless as easy as possible, yet sitting in front of me is still a book full of scrawlings.

Paper gives me more working space. It can be used for doodling, or just jotting down random ideas, but I always find myself referring back to it. I don’t have to try and rephrase what I’m thinking in to words, I can just express it exactly as I imagine it. It is this kind of freedom that allows me to produce work of a higher standard. I almost use paper as a draft, something that I will later refine into structured and typed thoughts. So where does GTD come into this?

A computerized GTD system is great for organizing things, but it doesn’t implicitly allow for the incubation of ideas on a short term scale. You may argue that GTD is all about focusing your energies: but by immediately focusing yourself, you rule out possibilities that may only arise from being exposed to two different concepts at once. My paper notebook becomes my brainstorming book: it is with me throughout the day, and it catches all of those small little things that come to mind that don’t even justify a place in my inbox. The paper notebook offers something that computerized systems just haven’t been able to match: flexibility.

I use and love my Tablet PC, yet I find myself preferring pen and paper. For some reason paper just feels better – its much more accurate and precise. It also gives more tactile feedback adding greatly to the experience. Although similar in use, paper is a more flexible medium just due to those factors alone, which makes using it quick and painless. I don’t have to turn my laptop on, then swivel it round into tablet mode, and then write. Its simply flick to a page and begin.

While I am a huge advocate of computing in general, until tablets offer the same experience as pen and paper, computerized GTD systems will not be complete without at least one paper inbox.

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