AI, Time Management

Pen. Paper and AI


Reply of Zaporozhian Cossaks, Ivan Repin, 1891

Calling yourself a pen-and-paper person and that this is the best way for you to organize yourself? Here is a test: quickly remember your Mom’s mobile and when you have last missed to call her which you had promised a week a so ago.

What does failing the test means? You have not connected to one of the most important persons in your life, you have missed an important commitment because you have probably been sidetracked but something more urgent and you could not remember the ten digit number because your phone does it for you, provided you have it on you. [Nervous tap on the pocket].

Now let’s look at it from the point of view of Stephen R. Covey’s fourth generation time management perspective. Quick overview first:

The First Generation and the agricultural and feudal epoch. Just make notes and cross them off. Done.

The second Gen. Calendars and planners, because you needed to remember when the steamboat would depart your port.

The third Generation. This is no so long ago: we just wanted to start planning our priorities (too many notes and not enough space in the calendars). Famous four quadrants: urgent, important and and not really.

Finally the fourth Generation combines all of the above and adds principles. They help organically organize our professional and personal lives into the second quadrant. Covey highlights these criteria and let us see which of the tools today have all or at least some of those features.

a) Coherence. Your toolkit is built with the consideration to your mission, your roles (current, short and long terms), your goals, your wants and disciplines. Notpads are great as it is a blank canvas, but they tend to finish with time and having to check your calendar for the next year against your mission statement you had written two years ago may become a hassle. I really envy persistence of Bullet Journal and Ryder Carroll’s fans. Simple digital formats are easier for references, i.e. Apple Notes or Google Keep, but they have more traditional linear notebook design. Recent upgrades allow for cross-apps interaction, but the online based apps still win.

b) Balance. Your professional and personal lives are in equilibrium. This is the source of the true effectiveness. Using an app like Trello, allows you to consider the balance factor. For some businesses security is an issue and probably you won’t want to keep your private notes, tasks and events close to where they may be visible by co-workers. I would have given its due to Quip, but not only it works better for work, it also does need Salesforce license to be efficient. Flows (Microsoft Flow, IFTTT, etc.) may be pushing your records to, say, your personal calendar on Google or Apple.

c) Focused on what is important and not urgent, or Quadrant Two. Weekly planning as opposed to daily planning, the latter is done in the context of your week. As Covey puts it “prioritize your schedule, not schedule priorities.” Here is the kanban idea of Trello wins again, or you can try and download Evernote’s template.

d) People. Schedules are subordinates to people, and your toolkit has to facilitate the implementation and not create inner guilt for not crossing the checkbox on time. Most of today’s tools allow for collaboration and integration of instant messaging services. Asana will probably be one of the best here.

e) Time. This is again about your tool being your servant. Allow for spontaneity, tailor it to your style and daily rhythms. Google Calendar app employs a lot of AI to aide you schedule your weeks and months based on the goals. Outlook, which is used by majority of nine-to-fivers is yet to be as convenient.

f) Portability. This is less about the form: you may be the one who likes to carry an A3 pad or Apple iPad Pro even to the dinner table. This is about accessibility. Most of the apps are able to work in online and off-line modes. Carrying around a vintage notepad is an option if you like accessories and arrange them in a nice order for your next instagram shot.

There is no one solution. Speak to your colleagues, friends, and you will understand that today all of us are going through the same trial and error motions: legacy methods have become too narrow, new productivity tools are too often insufficient for all one needs. The answer to this challenge is in the technology which is yet to come. A blank canvas, a reflection of one’s personality, learning vocabulary and understanding principles, able to produce a printed copy of one’s last year’s notes and diaries (paper and style to choose from!). I hope then, when booking my next meeting I would get a subtle alert that at the same time I have promised to call my mother.