The Pencil and Paper App

I’d like to let you know about a phenomenally productive app aimed at hacking your mental clarity.

You won’t find it in the app store or on Google Play.

There will be no affiliate link.

The app is called “Pencil and Paper,” and it doesn’t even require a data connection.

The catch is it requires its own hardware, but the hardware is widely available for free or for cheap, although as with any other product, there are luxury options available.

If you’re on a budget, grab a pencil out of your junk drawer and maybe a dozen clean white sheets of paper out of your office printer. If you’ve got a bit more to spend, there are some excellent pocket notebooks and high-quality writing utensils out there, but this sort of thing is secondary.

You can use the pencil and paper app to:

Distill your thinking into bullet points
Sketch diagrams
Copy inspiring quotes
Keep running tabulations
Read instead of your cellphone
Keep a diary

And, of course … the pencil and paper app excels for Making Lists.

Let me share one great way I’ve used the pencil and paper app to make Digital Detachment a better blog.

I keep a running Google Doc of post ideas, links, concepts — really anything related to Digital Detachment… But because it’s so easy to type, cut, and paste, this document is unruly and contains a lot of information I will probably never use.

Don’t get me wrong. The doc is essential, and a simple “Control F search” is usually enough to bring order to the chaos.

However, as a “blue sky” brainstorming tool, this document is certifiably lousy.

First of all, there’s too much information there already. Second, it’s usually accessed with an internet connection, which is extremely distracting for all but the most detached writers.

Enter this simple exercise with the pencil and paper app.

1. I take out my “Field Notes” pocket notebook.

2. Across two pages, I write out the alphabet in descending columns.

3. I find a quiet place.

4. Thirty minutes later, I have a post idea for each letter of the alphabet. (A=”Aimless Browsing Compulsion” H=”Hindu Nature of Internet” X=”Xerox as Original Superfluous AutoSave” … and so on!)

You can use this method for almost any pursuit requiring “brainstorming” …

Need to find some fun things to do with your family? Fire up the pencil and paper app with an ABC list. Looking for new things to learn in the next calendar year? It’s as simple as the alphabet, a number 2 pencil, and some processed wood pulp.

I can’t claim this technique as uniquely my own. The A-B-C idea I cribbed from James Altucher. And the power of physically writing things down is well-documented.

But so far as I know the modestly-clever concept of the “Pencil and Paper App” is my own.

As you may have guessed, it showed up under “P” on my first A-B-C list for Digital Detachment.

How do you use (or plan to use) the pencil and paper app?

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