When it comes to most time and productivity stuff I couldn’t care less whether it’s done electronically or on paper. In fact I’m in the process of reading The Organized Mind by Prof. Daniel Lavitin. He makes a compelling case for using 3×5 index cards as the basis of your organizational system. Of course Merlin Mann was getting at something similar when he invented the Hipster PDA.
I understand the thinking behind this and am tempted myself. A paper-based system is simple, tactile, portable, foolproof (unless you lose it and it’s not copied) and offers fewer opportunities to get distracted. Detractors will point out that most incoming actions are electronic (emails, etc) so you waste time transcribing stuff. But putting it on paper gives you the opportunity to review whether it needs doing at all and allows you to think about things calmly, in the context of your overall goals, rather than immediately responding to “incoming”.
However I would venture to suggest that there’s one activity that should always be done electronically, and that’s scheduling meetings. Meetings are one of the biggest time wasters for most people and that time is double-wasted if you turn up at the wrong place, wrong time, or you are there ready to go and the other person fails to materialise. Using something like Google Calendar or MS Outlook means…
- You can check the availability of people in your organization. Less to-ing and fro-ing required.
- Everyone gets emailed an invitation. No-one can claim they didn’t know about it.
- You can attach the agenda. Everyone should know what it’s about and hence what to prepare.
- You can include details of the location and how to get there. Fewer late shows.
- You can set reminders for yourself and others.
- Your admin can share your calendar to help organize the meeting.
- Afterwards you’re automatically left with a log of who you met and when. Useful if you need to produce follow-up minutes, travel expenses, etc.
Having said this I suggest for “biggies” such as critical CxO level meetings you still confirm by phone and other means. Better safe than sorry.