Analogue vs Digital Organisation | Practicality + Sustainability

Analogue vs Digital Organisation is an issue of both practicality and sustainability. Here I discuss the pros and cons between the two. Is there a middle ground that can be reached?

When it comes to organisation, I am an analogue girl in a developers world. Or at least that’s what it seems like. I have always been an avid user of stationery, planners and bullet journals, yet now I spend my days staring at code on a computer. The need for an analogue way of organising, away from the screen has become even more appealing to me.

This led to me thinking about whether or not all the stationary is actually necessary. *gasp of horror*

Is this a sensible, sustainable and practical way of organising? Are my methods as efficient as I think they are?

Do I need the endless amounts of pens and notebooks I have piled up and ready to go for any occasion? Is it self-indulgent and wasteful? Should I be thinking more about our planet than my own need for beautiful new notebooks and coloured pens? Should I go digital?

Will digital be easier to keep track of, better for the environment, to declutter my mind and streamline the planning process? Or will I feel bored, frustrated by the lack of flexibility and uninspired?

That’s a lot of questions! Questions I ask myself at least once a week. Especially when the time comes around to sit and plan the week’s tasks and To Do’s in my current bullet journal set up.

Today I thought I would address these questions. Both for myself, and anyone else who has a similar thought pattern. Hopefully, we can find a reasonable middle ground between over consumption, enjoyment and practicality.

I have thought of as many different ways of how we document and organise our lives both in analogue (notebooks, diaries, bullet journals) and digital format (iCalendar, Dropbox). I will weigh up the pros and cons of each, with the aim of helping those of you who are undecided as well as myself, find a solution that is the best of both worlds.

Some things in life are unavoidable or just unrealistic for the average person, other things less so. I am in no way a saint when it comes to sustainability, far from it. I eat meat, I forget to turn lights off, use my car way too much and run an electricity guzzling computer for a living. These are all things that many of us (myself included) have to work on, but I do truly believe that every little helps. Sustainability is for everyone and ultimately, will affect everyone if nothing is done about it. So instead of placing blame on others, or trying to hold individuals to a standard that may not even be possible, let’s all try and do a little bit more to help.

This blog post is also a bit of an introduction and a toe dip – so to speak – into a mini series I will be doing here on the blog. Five Days to an Organised Life and Mind. I will go into more detail about the challenge before it launches, but this blog post should hopefully prepare you (and myself) for some of the parts of it!

That being said, let’s start with the pros and cons of analogue organisation.

Analogue Organisation

Bullet Journal and Planners
Pros:
    • Bullet journalling/planning can be an incredibly creative outlet. Although time-consuming, if you choose to view the time you spend planning, as your creative free time then you can essentially kill two bird with one stone. You sorted out your week but also gave your brain a break from screens by doing something creative.
    • Customisable and flexible. This is particularly true for bullet journals. If you forget to do something for a few weeks, you can simply pick up where you left off, without wasting paper or pages. This is much better for both your wallet and the environment.
    • Unique to each person. This is particularly apt if you use your bullet journal for creativity and journaling. It can end up being a unique scrapbook of your life and accomplishments, the ups and downs. You will be able to look at it in years to come, which places much more value on it than ‘just a notebook’.
Cons:
    • Depending on what you choose to journal in there are a lot of natural resources that go into creating a notebook/planner. If you buy a new planner each year, with predefined columns and dates, that you end up not using, it can be very wasteful. As these cannot be returned to. Bullet journals also use up resources and can be equally as wasteful if you don’t finish a whole notebook, choosing to buy a new one each year.
    • Planning everything out on paper can be incredibly time-consuming. Especially if you use a bullet journal and like to create layouts and monthly/weekly spreads. Even a predefined planner can be a nuisance to set up each week.
    • It isn’t always with you. This is an obvious one, but even the smallest planner/journal you can’t take everywhere with you. This means you have to find another way of taking down notes/appointments on the go to then transfer into your planner when you get the chance.  Also, if you do take it everywhere you risk losing personal and sentimental information if you accidentally misplace it.
    • Space! In a world where space is getting more and more expensive, minimalism is becoming more popular and the average person moves around far more times in their life than 30/40 year ago. You need to think of all the extra bulk that will come along with having planners. Do you want to go backpacking with 5 years worth of journals in your rucksack? Probably not.
To do lists and sticky notes
Pros:
    • Paper To Do lists are super quick and convenient. You can quickly jot lists down, take them to the supermarket/work/another room in your house. They are not battery operated so won’t be lost if your phone runs dry.
    • Visual. They can serve as inspiration. You don’t have to actively seek them out to see what you have to do that day. Simply stick or pin them to your mirror/notice-board/fridge to serve as an instant reminder.
Cons:
    • Using endless pieces of paper for little notes and tidbits of information can become very wasteful. Think of all the sticky notes you use and throw away in a day. Now times that by 365 and it all starts to get a little bit sketchy (no pun intended!). One here and there seems like nothing. But add them all up and you start to see the problem.
    • Sticky notes are very easily lost. You don’t have your thoughts and ideas in one place that can be accessed at all times. I know that I am much more likely to forget my paper shopping list than my phone on the way out of the house.
Notebooks
Pros:
    • Pretty/Aesthetically pleasing. Now I know this probably shouldn’t be a ‘thing’ but I think it is important. Beautiful notebooks, stationery and postcards can serve as inspiration. In a world where governments are trying to pull funding from anything remotely creative, we need a little more art and beauty in the world. It’s a small thing, but if having a beautiful notebook on your desk adds a little pep to your step, then I am certainly not going to stop you. (or myself clearly as I have about 20).
    • Another thing I use notebooks for is photography. Due to the nature of this blog, I have to take a lot of photos of a similar ilk and keep them looking interesting. Having lots of colours and prints to choose from helps with that.
    • If you like to compartmentalise the different aspects of your life. Whether it be different projects, school subjects, coding languages. Having multiple notebooks can really help to physically separate these. If you are the kind of person that can close a notebook and put that ‘subject’ away with it, whilst picking up a different notebook and be motivated for a new subject, then this is a really valuable thing to have.
    • There have been studies to suggest that the act of physically writing things down, helps you remember more easily. This might be why my parents can remember history facts they learnt in school 40 years ago and I can’t remember the code I wrote last week…
Cons
    • Hard to transport – the more notebooks, the more scattered, the heavier they are, the less likely you are to want to drag them everywhere with you. This can lead to random note taking on your phone/tablet that has no logic to it when you come to need it again.
    • Again, if you use multiple notebooks and don’t finish them, it can get very wasteful and expensive!

 

Now onto the problems and benefits of using digital organisation;

Analogue vs Digital Organisation is an issue of both practicality and sustainability. Here I discuss the pros and cons between the two. Is there a middle ground that can be reached?

Digital Organisation

iCalendar and Google Calendar

Pros:

    • Syncs to all devices. This is one of the best things about going digital. If you are a busy person or move around a lot, then being able to have all of your appointments and tasks, synced to all of your devices is a real bonus. It makes you much less likely to miss something.
    • Jotting things down in your calendar, assigning it a colour and a type such as work/study is so quick to do. It takes about five minutes to set up a calendar system and away you go.
    • Again, with the digital calendar, you can have multiple different calendars to organise your event types all in one place. Which means no drawing out/colour coding 5 separate calendar grids in a bullet journal every month. It’s there for you already.
    • Better for the environment long term (if we don’t go into the whole, how computers are made and where the components are sourced issue) compared to paper.
Cons:
    • With a digital calendar, you do have less creative control. The way they are organised is predefined by who built the software and there is very little you can do to fix this. This takes away from the creative aspect of planning. You can customise colours, but again, this is often restrictive and purely for practicality rather than artistic license.
    • Just like you can leave your planner or journal lying in a coffee shop, you can also lose all of your online data. There is a risk of hacking that doesn’t come with analogue methods. You are much more likely to get your journal back from a kind member of staff in a cafe, than your personal details from a hacker.
    • There is a restrictive way of inputting information to a digital calendar. If you don’t type things in a certain style it can look a bit messy. Digital planning only really allows for short notes and titles, so if you’re like me and you want to put in extra information, it can all get a little too convoluted.
Google drive
Pros:
    • Google drive, saves documents as you go, which has been invaluable for me. I actually prefer using it to the WordPress editor as I have a habit of forgetting to save my blog posts, or WordPress might have a glitch and revert to an earlier draft.
    • I can access google on my mobile if I want to edit a post or document on the go and it is very mobile friendly and uncluttered.  
    • This is great for its ability to sync across all devices so I can access my work/blog posts/ideas wherever I am. Even on a borrowed computer.
Cons:
    • To access your files that haven’t been downloaded you need access to the internet. Although this is far more common these days, there are still many places where this isn’t available. So if you are on holiday and get some inspiration, you may just be better off having a notebook.
    • You have to put your trust in the company that provides the software. If you become reliant on something, there is always the possibility that they will change how it works. Whether this is a new user interface that you hate, or even beginning to charge for formerly free features. You always run the risk of having to put up with changes or find something new to use.
Dropbox and Online File Storage
Pros:
    • Generally reliable and secure.
    • You can share documents and files with multiple devices as well as others.
    • It comes with a lot of free storage and you can upgrade for a fairly reasonable price as needed. I believe you can also get extra free storage by referring others.
Cons:
    • At risk of hacking, any company this big will be at risk of being hacked as they will be storing enormous volumes of information. Although they will also have huge security budgets to make sure this doesn’t happen, it may be worth backing your files up to an external hard drive too.
    • Again, Dropbox requires the internet. If you want to access a file on your computer to work on, but have no internet connection then it doesn’t leave you with a lot of options.
Having gone through and thought about all of this information. I will tell you my main take aways and how I hope to conduct things in the future.
In terms of the analogue side of things, this is what I will do;
    • Continue to bullet journal and fill these up until the end, but stop buying any pre made calendars.
    • Take analogue notes for learning, but use Google Drive for writing down blog ideas and other notes.
    • Limit use of post-it notes, a luxury rather than a necessity!
and in terms of digital;
    • Start using google calendar to organise my life, to see if it is something I could transition to at some point.
    • Use Google Drive more for work related communication and backup files to Dropbox
    • Switch to paperless statements*

*To quickly touch on ‘life admin’ related paper. I have been resisting switching to paperless statements for years – literally. I don’t know why, but I hate that the bank is in control if I need to request a statement. Or even worse, charging me a stupid amount of money for the privilege. If I am a little more rational about it, however, and think about the number of times I go back to look at statements (none) compared to the amount of wasted paper and space they take up, then I think it might be time to switch!

I realise that in the grand scheme of things, whether or not I use a notebook or a computer for organisation isn’t important. I am privileged to even have one of them let alone the option. That aside, hopefully, these small changes can help me to be more conscious of what I consume day to day. With the idea of becoming more and more sustainable over time.

Let me know if this is something you have thought of. Are you an avid user of planners and notebooks like myself, or are you firmly in the digital category?

 

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