ProdPod: Episode 31 — Your Digital Productivity System Needs a Paper-Based Redundancy

Have you ever been at the bank and the power goes out? They can’t do anything! It’s quite frustrating and you basically need to step out of line and come back later. Period. Now, let’s jump over to your personal productivity system. You’ve set up the perfect system using your desktop or Web-based tools. You’re on top of the world. And, then, the power goes out, or you’re on the road and your smartphone runs out of battery life. What now?

Of course, the power going out isn’t the only frustration with digital productivity systems. If you have to work somewhere (like a satellite office location or a client’s office) that lacks Internet access to outsiders, proper cellular signal or (as in the US Department of Defense) permission to bring in electronic devices, how will you manage? What happens when you fall off the wagon? Projects and tasks pile up or stagnate on your digital lists, right? Are you going to trust your inboxes and lists to manage yourself at that point? Probably not.

These are just a few reasons I advocate that everyone who spends the effort developing a robust digital productivity system do themselves the favor of establishing a redundant framework in good old-fashioned paper.

Some basic questions to ask yourself about a paper-based redundancy:

  • Where will I put tasks and projects on paper should my computer or smartphone not be available?
  • Can my digital system print to a paper list format? I happen to think this is a critical determinant for deciding to use any desktop or Web-based tool.
  • How often will you test your paper system? Once a year, once a quarter or more often?
  • I think that how often you test is a result of this next question: what aspects of my system do I need if my paper system needs to be around (a) just for today, (b) for the next week or next few weeks, or (c) for the near long-term?
  • And, finally, how can I reduce transition cost (time, energy and other resources) between digital and paper?