The D*I*Y Planner: Hipster PDA Edition: "So, why are we suddenly seeing a resurgence in paper-based organizational tools like planners, index card sets (a.k.a., the Hipster PDA), file folders, pocket briefcases, and honest-to-goodness real-ink pens? Outside of a number of philosophical reasons, I believe that it's ultimately a matter of knowing that these things actually work. After all, not even the trendiest tools last for more than a season if they don't deliver (and I have a junk drawer overflowing with orphaned gadgets to prove it). There's a proven track record behind paper-based planning, and an endless array of options for those people wanting to define --and redefine-- their systems."
Over the past few months, I've returned to paper based planning / thinking / etc, carrying a pocket moleskine in my back pocket and using assorted other notepads in the office and in the home/studio. Paper's not a perfect solution - filing, portable storage, etc, bog down. But it's always on. Writing is always natural. Drawing always works. It allows me to focus on writing something down or thinking something out without worrying about how to write it down and think it out. If what I produce needs a longer life span, I can transfer it to a computer.
One thing that I tried recently was a variation of Getting Things Done with Index Cards. I only applied this to one project, but it worked great for what I was doing. I had many tasks to get done, and new ones that would pop up in the queue as I thought things out. Normally I like using an outliner program for something like this, but sometimes I just get overwhelmed by the outline. I forget to pop the outliner app back to the front, or I end up spending too much time looking at the tasks ahead and thinking about them and effectively distracting myself from the task at hand. With the index cards, I could keep the current task on top. I could reorganize and insert new cards as needed when I needed to look ahead at what was coming next. But for the most part, I could confidently keep my mind on the one task in front of me. When it was done, I ripped up the card and tossed it in the trash - a very satisfying (albeit a bit wasteful) way to mark a task as complete.
It doesn't work for every project, but it worked out great for that one.