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