There's no denying the power of digital information storage. Automated reminders, synchronized family calendars, searchable document archives and cloud storage are all phenomenally helpful for any modern professional. As someone who travels full time, I find them particularly so. So why do I find myself still swimming in an endless sea of sticky notes, project notebooks, receipt files and paper task lists? Clearly, paper still has a role to play in my world. If all of these things are issues for you too, you may find yourself struggling with a question I have been asking myself for some time. Is a completely digital traveling office the right move?
Speed: While digital may be faster than pen and paper when it comes to searching for phrases, sending copies and the editing of final drafts, paper still takes the cake when it comes to certain tasks. Referencing shopping lists, story notes and master task lists is far faster when I only have to flip open a notebook as opposed to firing up a device, logging into it, finding the app, launching it and finally locating the particular list I am looking for. It's also extremely convenient to jot down thoughts from a brainstorming session on paper when battery power and internet access aren't available.
The one area where things can get a bit tricky is the scheduling calendar. Being able to jot down an appointment on paper might be markedly more convenient than keying it in on your phone with two thumbs, but you will still need to migrate the information to your digital version at some point, particularly if you share an online calendar with others. Personally, I made my peace with this when I realized writing things down by hand first helps me remember them more easily. Also, by using the paper option for other types of notes, I avoid the digital distractions of incoming messages, technical snafus and social media updates.
Storage: By opting for a day planner system with a zippered binder to keep all four sides secure and contained, I've been able to cut down on the number of other small bits and bobs that have been floating around my messenger bag for the last several years of full-time travel. Because Franklin Covey was the day planner system I had used prior to attempting a completely digital office, that's the one I felt most comfortable reintegrating. It also provides inside zippered pockets and slots for writing instruments, adhesive notes and even a place to secure a notepad so I can keep everything in one place. Not only do my neon sticky squares now get placed in a secure spot where I will see them every morning when I unzip what I now consider my portable desk, the zippered storage binder keeps my planner pages from getting tattered and torn.
Additions: Modifying your day planner of choice with additional inserts is a great way to customize it to meet your specific needs. For me, those inserts include a small, hole-punched clasp envelope to store receipts, a clear zippered pouch for additional loose items such as stamps and tickets, and hand-sketched data capture charts to support my goal setting. I also purchased a magnifying page at the dollar store and cut it to fit. It comes in handy when digging for my reading glasses isn't convenient. Other options I've seen integrated include page lifters, calendar stickers and even coloring page inserts as a stress management tool for those who don't want to carry a separate book.
Frequent travelers who find digital record keeping alone is falling short have other options at their disposal. While carrying around a full file cabinet certainly isn't a viable option, the proper day planner setup can provide reference lists, a temporary filing system and even storage for minor supplies. The addition of such a mobile office support system might just be the final piece in your personal productivity puzzle.
(Lifestyle and travel expert Myscha Theriault blends thrift and luxury to live well for less around the world. She has sold her home, all her furniture and most of her other belongings to travel the world full time with her husband. You can follow her adventures on Instagram via @MyschaTheriault.)
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