The Most Valuable Productivity Tool Ever

During my recent vacation, while setting up my Evo smartphone's WiFi hotspot so I could connect my MacBook to the Internet, I asked myself: "What is my most valuable workplace productivity tool?"  It is not my smartphone or laptop. It's my paper notebook. 


1. As I go through my day, it is my small paper notebook that I refer to more than anything. It's easy to always have by my side.

2. When I need to capture ideas, my notebook is always on and ready. It needs no batteries or charging -- or even activation.

3. When I need to review prior recorded thoughts, it never lets me down. The pages never crash and they are easy to thumb through and scan.

4. My notebook enables me to record thoughts faster than can I type them on a keyboard.

5. Unlike any digital device, my notebook enables me to easily complement my textual notes with quick drawings and intensified underlines.

6. My notebook does just one thing -- capture ink -- and that focus results in great productivity.



7. With my notebook, I can easily rip out a page and leave it behind, or give it to someone else. That tactile nature is more soulful and impacting.

8. My notebook, by definition, requires handwriting. "Writing it down" is a conscious act that results in deeper cognition and memory (at least for me).  

9. My notebook archives are more likely to be read by me and made sense of than my own email archives, or other digital message archives. It's even enjoyable to flip through old notes.

10. Embracing a notebook in a meeting commands attention and suggests focus and importance, while the presence of a digital device suggests distraction and disrespect.

11. I can spill a drink on my notebook and it will look ugly, but it will still dry out and work well. That's why I often take my notebook to places like the beach or my boat -- unlike my smartphone or laptop.

12. A paper notebook model today work equally well 10 years from now -- it won't become outdated.

13. If I want, I can scan my notes into digital archives pretty easily.

I love my notebook. 

How about you? What's your most valuable tool?

15 comments about "The Most Valuable Productivity Tool Ever".
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  1. Claudette Archer, August 20, 2010 at 9:59 a.m.

    Never a truer word spoken. I still carry a pocket Filofax and it goes everywhere with me. Timeless, reliable, dependable!

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 20, 2010 at 9:59 a.m.

    Truer words are hardly written.

  3. Norman Berns from ReelGrok, August 20, 2010 at 10:03 a.m.

    For a look at the tools filmmakers use in the field, check the blog at While low tech items ranged from paper to brains, the list quickly grew much more interesting.

  4. Thomas Capone from MTP, August 20, 2010 at 10:05 a.m.

    That was brilliant. I sell technology for a living, and I think I will start giving away a leather bound notebook with every sale.

  5. Pamela Principe-golgolab from PNA Associates Inc., August 20, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.

    As I finish reviewing and responding to emails and get ready to head to the beach, I couldn't agree more. Yes, my notebook and Papermate are in tow for some planning and creative RxR under the sun. Thanks for grounding us all!

  6. Ron Hebert from The Windsor Star, August 20, 2010 at 10:53 a.m.

    Have considered ditching the notebook in favour of a digital device on many occasions. Still cannot bring myself to do it.

  7. Joshua Chasin from VideoAmp, August 20, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.

    Agree re: paper notebook.

    Second place: air conditioning.

  8. Linda Lopez from Independent, August 20, 2010 at 12:07 p.m.

    Pen and paper are still the most elegant solution. After five thousand years of writing it down, our minds are probably hard-wired that way.

  9. Aaron B. from, August 20, 2010 at 12:43 p.m.

    Crazy. I had a conversation about this with some co-workers only two or three days ago. Specifically, we were all using the same type of notepad from the company's supply closet, and we somehow came into discussion of what to do when we fill the notepad entirely. Do we tear out individual sheets when they are filled? Do we dog-ear the corners, or use other corner markings? Do we write on both sides, or just one side? And where do we store filled up notepads?

    Our answers varied, and were in a few ways tied to our individual preferences for personal organization. But altogether we agreed the notepad was ideal for consuming the most spontaneous pieces of information.

  10. Eric Steckel from Turnpike Digital, August 20, 2010 at 7:12 p.m.

    I have stacks of old notepads- Sales Call Lists, "To Do" lists, meeting notes etc. For me, the pen and paper will never be completely obsolete.

  11. Mike Bloxham from Magid, August 20, 2010 at 9:52 p.m.

    One of the best User Experience summaries I've seen in a long while - it encompasses more than just the interface and takes into account the context of use etc. And to date, despite our collective love of all things tech, there's a reason why the notion of a paperless office remains a fantastical delusion so many years after we started talking about it.

  12. Greg Alvarez from iMeil, August 20, 2010 at 10:22 p.m.

    Memory... and not that ROM or RAM... the one I refer to is that " surrounded by the sound, vision and more neural body systems, tupped, covered with a bunch of strips called 'hair' "

  13. Joseph Philip, August 21, 2010 at 7:29 a.m.

    This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone.

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  14. Michael Senno from New York University, August 21, 2010 at 1:25 p.m.

    Sounds like someone was short on ideas or content this week...

  15. Terry Jinks from Organic Communications, August 27, 2010 at 12:27 p.m.

    Yes. Handwriting even the day and date in my notebook gives a stronger connect to "this day in time" as a task done check mark deepens its sense of worth. Yes!

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