A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How does my new Macbook Pro fit into my pen-and-paper world? (and other ruminations on 2010's digital-to-analog changes)

The title of this post is telling. As the year started, I was asking how pen and paper would fit into my digital life. Now, it's the other way around!

I bought a new Macbook Pro three days ago because the motherboard in my old Macbook died. A year ago, I would have been fidgeting with excitement all the way to Fry's Electronics. But yesterday, I think I would have been far more excited about buying a new high-end pen.

So, what are some of the other signs over the last year that pen and paper are gaining more influence in my life at the expense of digital devices?  Here's a partial list:


Then: iCal, synced to iPhone.

Now: Junior size Circa, in a Circa Master Zip Folio, using templates downloaded from DIY Planner. The office uses Amicus Attorney practice management software, so I just check my paper calendar against the office's electronic master calendar. For a helpful view of upcoming events, Amicus can't hold a candle to a monthly layout in my planner.

Task Management

Then: Pretty much driven off my calendar. Then, I tried implementing Getting Things Done (GTD). First, in Things. A trial run on Omnifocus. Then, when I had to use a PC at work and my Mac at home, I tried assorted web apps so I could keep things synchronized. I tried around a dozen different online task management tools, each for anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks to a few months. The ones that didn't have too many bells and whistles did not have enough, and few satisfied me that their security was stringent enough for legal work.

Now: Junior size Circa notebook, with an on-again, off-again GTD-Booker hybrid system, without the overwhelming options presented by most online or installed applications. Definitely a work in progress, but easier to maintain than the digital applications and less prone to induce endless tinkering with the system. (I must confess that I keep toying with Remember the Milk. Like the theory that a monkey at a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will someday peck out the Great American Novel by accident, I keep thinking I'll stumble across the perfect task management setup in RTM. But the fact that I'm just playing around with it rather than trying to actually use it takes away a lot of the pressure.)


Then: Address Book on Mac and iPhone.

Now: Address Book on Mac and iPhone. I'm not about to copy hundreds of contacts into a paper notebook when they're already in my phone. Score one for digital.


Most of my email is business. In fact, I almost never initiate personal emails, unless its for something akin to something I would make a phone call for, but want to be less intrusive.

To keep family up to speed, I've been writing letters. Mom loves the letters, but she still likes me to call on the phone. Moms are moms.


Then: I devoured MacWorld and MacLife every month, going through each of them cover-to-cover, highlighting all those applications that were going to make my life better (worse yet, seduced by all the free utilities, actually downloading them, and even forking out dough for others), lusting after the latest release of a new line of computers.

Now: I don't read MacWorld or MacLife at all. Somewhere during the last year, I let both subscriptions lapse. I do not miss them. At all. I never would have believed it. I haven't subscribed to any pen magazines, though.


Then: Political blogs. Lots of 'em. Even had one myself. I could spend hours on those things. Sad, isn't it?

Now: Pen, paper, and stationery blogs. Lots of 'em. Even have one myself. I could spend hours on those things. Cool, isn't it?

Sleep (yes, sleep)

Then: hours every day on the computer, juggling emails, etc. left me fried, especially with several more "leisure" hours on the computer at home. Made me jumpy. Stayed up late.

Now: I was just kidding about all the hours on pen and paper blogs. I actually spend much less time on the computer when I am at home (and even less at work these days, too). That, and the fact that I find my letter-writing therapeutic, are two big reasons why I seem to sleep a lot better these days. I get to bed at least an hour or so earlier than I used to, on average. Then again, maybe I'm just getting old. Turned 50 this year.


Am I anti-digital? No. How anti-digital can you be if you have a blog? And I still have an iPhone capable of all sorts of things (but I mostly use it as a phone). Also, my dad gave me an Amazon Kindle for my birthday, and I use it all the time. I'm doing much more pleasure reading than I used to, with the e-books being so accessible and inexpensive. (All that reading is probably helping my sleep, too.)

I suppose it's always possible that I could still stumble across that magic software application someday, the one that will make everything come together. But that's unlikely . . . if it's out there, it will be hard to run across it, and if I do, I may not recognize it . . . because I'm not even looking for it any more.



  1. Wonderful article. I love how you did the THEN and NOW.

  2. I'm inspired by some of the things in this article, as I too have moved some of my digital life back to paper. Agree completely about the address book, though. Good luck, and keep us up to date during the year on these topics.

  3. We had similar years you and I. First, I relapsed into my stationery addiction, started a stationery blog, started using a Moleskine Weekly Planner, kept all my contacts on my phone and Gmail, tried to implement GTD ( all I have of that is the Tickler File and a To Do list ), I'm trying to get into Evernote but it's still touch and go as to when to actually use it instead of my pocket cahier, and my pen and notebook collections have seen a 1000% growth. Oh, and I'm getting a new MacBook Pro in a couple of days. Since I'm a video editor, I do all of my work on a computer.

  4. Thanks for the "then" and "now", NBE. My digital "needs" are very modest. Obsolescence, compatibility, flexibility, price, genuineness of need are real issues for me with digital stuff. "Playing around with it" pretty much describes some of my computer interactions; I'm thinking there's also a "visual addiction" effect with computers. I'm a book dude, but I've found myself sometimes going from site to site on the computer, a la channel surfing. Keep up the great work. Jack/Youngstown

  5. There are definitely some things best left to paper! I keep all of my UN and PWs on paper so there is no chance of hacking. Plus, you won't believe this, all of my grocery lists are paper only! How can you shop and look at your iphone list at the same time? Can't be done. Trust me, I've tried.

    I love the digital age, but paper is still the best for some things.