Introducing Analog Attorney

Trending: Ditching Apps for Analog

By | Jul.21.17 | Analog Attorney, Daily Dispatch, Passions, Trends


Recently, I was scrolling through family photos on my phone when I found a very moving shot of my extended family at a dinner with their heads bowed. They looked so devout, so meditative, so centered and focused on the real.

Except they were looking at their phones.

I am a father and a competitive uncle and generally a professional old man and I have had it up to here with the internet.

I mean, I make my living on it, so don’t take the damn thing down just yet. But can we all take a step back and do some metrics on this miracle?

Yeah, it’s amazing that my refrigerator can talk to my phone. It’s really, really useful to have a pizza delivery tracker pinging me 14 times in 30 minutes while I’m waiting for my pie. Sure, it’s cool that I have an app that can find my friends. But couldn’t I just call them?

I was waiting to go into a meeting last week when a colleague whipped out his phone and texted “dude, when does this meeting start?”

I was standing right next to him.

I don’t mean to proselytize. The internet and its children have changed our lives for the better in countless ways. But I recently remembered something I missed that I wanted back.

I Like Doodling

notebook icons-analog attorney

This shows my “travel” icon on a page where I was planning a trip to Paris.

I really do. I used to have a giant desk pad calendar. I never used it as a calendar, I used it to help me listen. While I was on the phone, I’d fill the pages with crosshatching and cartoons and ardently illustrated exclamations.

In a culture of hyper-productivity, where every second of your attention is curated by a lifestyle app, a to-do app, Evernote and Google Calendar, doodling may come off as a quaint distraction. It doesn’t contribute to production so it’s useless. Except it isn’t. Doodling helps you think.

So I got a new desk pad and a pen and moved my laptop so I can draw squiggles and crazy cartoon faces. I swear, I’m more focused than ever and a lot happier.

What Else Have We Relinquished to the ‘Net

Which got me to thinking: What other helpful habits had I relinquished to the internet? A lot, actually.

  • I gave up my downtime.
  • I gave up the tactile delight of writing by hand.
  • I gave up remembering phone numbers.
  • I hadn’t written a letter in years.

Turns Out, I Am Not Alone: Analog’s Resurgence

Though it may seem like a trend among artists and hipsters, it’s not. The resurgence of old-school tools in the professional workspace is growing. People are choosing a pen, choosing a paper notebook, choosing to write a letter — not because they are faster or more efficient, but because they aren’t.

The popularity of the Bullet Journal among professionals proves people are preferring some operative tactile efforts in their workday. And their decision to write down their daily to-do list instead of barking it into Siri has real merit.

In a 2004 paper published by Applied Cognitive Psychology, researchers concluded: “The cognitive effort engaged by note taking is greater than learning or comprehension. This indicates that taking notes demands more of the executive than learning or comprehension alone, and supports the assumption that both of these activities are engaged.”

Ditching Apps for Analog Is a Business Trend 

Beyond the Bullet Journal, there is a world of practices dating back to the gaslight era contemporary professionals are rediscovering — and leveraging to develop their image, improve their performance, and inject a dose of the genuine into their business correspondence.

In future posts, the Analog Attorney seeks to explore this world and bring back those gems of the physical workspace that contribute to a well-run law practice, to the benefits of haptic engagement — and to the improvement of the mental performance of working professionals.

Also, fountain pens are just cool.

Do you BuJo? Are you a pen freak? Is the Cornell method your secret weapon? Let me know below.

Bull Garlington is an award-winning writer. His latest book, "The Full English," is a hilarious travel memoir about his family's trip to the U.K. His company, Creative Writer PRO, provides enterprise-level content for small and medium-size businesses. He is also the host of the members-only luxury pop-up dinner, Eating Vincent Price.

Illustration ©

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15 Responses to “Trending: Ditching Apps for Analog”

  1. Mark Olberding
    21 July 2017 at 8:28 am #

    When I want to know the time, I do not whip out my phone to get the time and then get lost in apps, texts, etc. I look at my wrist watch. It is faster than getting your phone and has none of the distractions. It also is analog and is even a wind up watch

  2. Joan Teich
    21 July 2017 at 9:08 am #

    I don’t know about calling something that has always been with us, even with all the high tech tools, as a trend, but agree that having the ‘hard copy’ version of things is still both pleasurable and useful. I still take notes and draft a lot of outlines on notepads rather than online. Same with my daily and overall to do lists as well as my calendar. Physical planners have remained very popular for years. These things are more effective and useful to me than app versions. Moreover when I see friends in a frenzy because their phone is lost or internet crashed, I can pull out my pen and paper and carry on.

  3. Randy Coleman
    21 July 2017 at 9:40 am #

    You can do both! With a laptop convertible or “paper” sized tablet, and an Active Pen/Stylus, you can doodle, draw, make notes, do your to do list (especially with Microsoft One Note), and save every last bit of it in a searchable format. I find it the best of both worlds.

  4. Laura Mitacek
    21 July 2017 at 10:37 am #

    I am so so torn on this topic. I love technology and am mesmerized by what some apps are capable of doing. I love it when a client calls and I can search the last four digits of the phone number and almost immediately come up to speed on what the issues are. On the other hand, I bullet journal, love fountain pens, good gel pens, and relish great writing paper. I even listen to a podcast entitled The Pen Addict! But I cannot continue to do both, digital and analog, for this is truly a waste of productivity. Perhaps Mr. Coleman is correct, an iPad Pro with an Apple pencil is the way to go.

  5. Rob Jacobs
    21 July 2017 at 10:37 am #

    Great perspective Bull.
    I’m pulling out my old journal book today so I can start doodling again.

  6. Bill Honaker
    21 July 2017 at 11:02 am #

    I am a fountain pen fanatic. I have many that I chose between on a daily basis. I also started bullet journaling this year. I was looking for yet another solution to getting better organized and found the bullet journal. It has been great. My biggest realization is that I get a tremendous amount done when I write down what I want to accomplish in a day, that is with pen and paper, and then begin to check them off. If I have a list, I am focused, if I don’t I wander and lose time. I know it is quaint and obvious, but it really works.

  7. Joan Feldman
    21 July 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    Can’t live without my apps (Evernote, Google Drive), but I am so much more productive when I write down my next day’s todos each night. (Target’s greenroom recycled brand notebooks — thin-ruled, spiral-bound, purse size — stacks and stacks of them.)

  8. Bull Garlington
    21 July 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    I think you make a great point, Mark. There’s an economy of effort in analog that beats digital in many instances. Your preference for your mechanical watch exemplifies this perfectly. What kind of watch is it?

  9. Bull Garlington
    21 July 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    Good point, Joan. I guess it’s more of a trend of rediscovering the usefulness of hard copy tools and methods. And you’re so right about the frenzy in losing one’s device. Same with losing power! You’ll never see me wandering through an airport looking for a place to charge my Moleskin . . .

  10. Bull Garlington
    21 July 2017 at 12:58 pm #

    I believe there’s a healthy and productive middle ground. I’m certainly not promoting the idea of leaving every application in a digital dust cloud. But I do feel — and I believe recent studies back me up here — that when one can choose between digital and analog, analog tends to deliver more benefits. No professional could ever ditch all their electronic tools. Ie: the laptop and wifi I’m using to respond is also the tool I use to make a living, bill clients, do my bookkeeping, and research stories. However, in those instances where I can use analog–-creating a to do list, managing my time, doodling–the benefits of haptic feedback, the cognitive spike from the micro decisions required in deciding which notes to write and which to discard, and the simple pleasure of penmanship make for a richer experience, better recall, and ultimately higher productivity.

    I don’t think a combination of analog and digital is a waste of productivity–and neither do cognitive scientists who’ve been studying non-digital tools and skills recently. Ultimately, such a combination may improve your productivity.

  11. Bull Garlington
    21 July 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    Pictures or it didn’t happen 🙂

  12. Bull Garlington
    21 July 2017 at 1:07 pm #

    Bill, stay tuned! I’ll be writing about fountain pens more than once in upcoming columns. As for bullet journaling, I am a huge fan of the concept and a huge fan of customizing that concept to fit how I work. But the index, the future index, the keys — these were all game changers for me. I’ll share some amazing bujo hacks in future columns.

  13. Bull Garlington
    21 July 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    Notebook brand loyalty. It’s a thing. Giving up my National Brand 33-004 notebooks was emotional for me! It was like breaking up with an old friend. Hmmm . . . could be a column in that!

  14. Mark Olberding
    21 July 2017 at 1:57 pm #


    I prefer Waltham watches from the 50’s and early 60’s.

    I want to thank you for your mention of bullet journals; I had never heard of them and looked them up. Looks like it could be useful for me.

    Lastly, I wholeheartedly agree with the advantage of writing notes down on paper.

  15. Jerry Geiger
    29 August 2017 at 3:01 pm #

    I think there is room for both digital and analog. Using Omnifocus on my iPad and iPhone keeps me on track of all of the many deadlines in a litigation practice. Mindmapping using iThoughts helps me brainstorm. However, my love of fountain pens and the gorgeous variety of inks available is my way of slowing down and thinking out more complex issues. It appeals to my artistic side. It’s also the only proper way to send out a “thank you” note. Now I have to work on my handwriting.