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January 27, 2012

On Paper

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

I am an avid reader of the Lifehacker website, a site that purports to supply its readers with tips and tricks to get things done. As someone who has been obsessed, though not very successful, at getting things done in an orderly manner, Lifehacker has provided me with endless ideas and suggestions on organizing my daily and business life. This morning, their lead post reminded me of something I re-learned last year:

It may seem like common sense that you need to get your ideas out of your head to act on them, but how many of us walk around with an always-updating to-do list in our heads only to forget one of them later? One of the basic principles of GTD (Getting Things Done) and many other productivity systems is that your first step is to get your ideas and to-dos out of your head and on paper or into some system as soon as possible so you have the clarity to actually work on them.

One of my most glaring problems as a pastor has been inability to properly organize my day ever since I started using online tools (Google Calendar, iCloud, Remember the Milk, etc.). I found that being overly reliant on electronic tools, though very cool, has caused me NOT to regularly check my typed calendar and lists that were supposed to keep me focused to actually accomplish them. I found it was so much easier to change the due date on a to do list item in Remember the Milk when my day came to an end and that specific task went unfulfilled.

Remember the Milk

However, with my cancer battle, my brain became lazy. To do lists in Remember the Milk, Tasks in Google Calendar, and the actual online calendaring systems I used, all became worthless. My not-accomplished to do list was deleted. I would forget to look at my phone’s calendar or look at my daily calendar each morning in iCal on my computer. My life had become a wreck. Until I started thinking about my pre-seminary life — my to do lists were actually accomplished. My calendar flowed so much easily each day. And I would remember details from events and meetings I attended.

How?

I used to write everything down on paper. Usually the night before, I would actually look at my to do list and when I didn’t accomplish something, I moved it to the next day — and I placed it at the top of my list. That put pressure on me to ‘get things done.’ Since my calendar was written down, I was more aware of my daily schedule. My comprehension level was always higher when I had to sit and write things down rather than relying on typing up notes.

Last year, I purchased a set of DayTimers and made a promise to begin writing everything down on paper. Sometimes, especially after meetings, I type up my notes and file them away electronically (or if my handwriting is really bad, I print them out and file them). My organization has become so much better since “going back” to pen and paper. Even my sermons — I know handwrite them instead of type them. My memorization is much crisper than it has been in years. While my nutritionist tells me I should thank my changed diet (eating a plant-based, whole foods vegan diet), I thank my increased comprehension level to the good old Pilot pen, my looseleaf and reporter’s notebooks, and my DayTimers.

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